Redefining the Classroom

MEDC, LSSU, City of Sault Ste. Marie announce SmartZone

Posted: October 17th, 2008

GOOD NEWS FOR THE SAULT AND LSSU -- LSSU President Rodney Lowman, at podium, joins Michigan Economic Development Corporation officials and government representatives in announcing a new SmartZone for Sault Ste. Marie. Next to Lowman, l-r, are Jim Hendricks, director of the Sault's Economic Development Corp.; State Rep. Gary McDowell; and James Epolito, director of MEDC. (LSSU Photo by John Shibley)

A print-quality version of this photo may be found here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) President and CEO James C. Epolito today joined state, local and Lake Superior State University officials to announce a new SmartZone in Sault Ste. Marie.

The new economic development zone, put together in a proposal by the City of Sault Ste. Marie and LSSU, was established following a competitive application process approved by the legislature and administered by the MEDC. SmartZones are technology centers designated to promote resource collaborations between universities, industry, research organizations, government and other community institution, establishing technology-based business and jobs.

“Growing high-tech businesses and jobs is critical to diversifying our economy and staying competitive in the global marketplace,” Epolito said. “I applaud state, county and local officials for working together to win this SmartZone and the innovative businesses it will support.”

SmartZones were established to foster collaborations between industry and universities aimed at the commercialization of research. Since the inception of the SmartZones program in 2002, more than 845 businesses have located or expanded in the zones, resulting in more than 16,359 jobs and $1.1 billion in private investment. The Sault SmartZone is the second to be established in the UP.

Epolito and other government representatives in attendance, including Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Anthony Bosbous, State Rep. Gary McDowell and Sheri Davie, representing US Sen. Debbie Stabenow, commended the group that put the SmartZone proposal together.

"Our committee looked at each of the submissions and your plan included the collaboration and the ability to incubate new businesses, consult with them and help them grow," Epolito said. "Your efforts with the community bolstered the plan and brought it to the top of our list."

The Sault SmartZone proposal was put together by Jim Hendricks, director of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Morrie Walworth, director of LSSU Intellectual Property and Economic Development, and Eric Becks, one of the project managers at LSSU's new Prototype Development Center. The proposal was supported by David Leach, PDC project manager, and Jim Devaprasad, professor of LSSU Engineering and Technology.

"We're excited about this news," said LSSU President Rodney L. Lowman. "A SmartZone in the Sault is just the economic boost we need to take our economy in new directions."

Lowman pointed to LSSU's expanding enrollment, a proposed new navigational lock and the establishment of a new biofuels plant in Chippewa County as several signs that there is much about which to be optimistic in the Sault.

"This is a time when the Sault is going to be growing and blossoming and developing and it's largely because of efforts like this where we put the pieces together in different kinds of ways," he said. "Things that we've been quietly doing at the university are a very important part of the proposal," he added, noting that Walworth's team's earlier successful 21st Century Job Fund proposal brought the PDC to campus. The PDC is a collaborative effort between LSSU, the MEDC, and the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing and commercializing their ideas.

"We're trying to change the area to be much more focused on entrepreneurial development," Lowman continued. "This project was truly a model of cooperation and we are wonderfully pleased at the results."

The opening of the Sault Ste. Marie SmartZone is the latest addition to the network of 15 SmartZone technology clusters around the state. Supported by LSSU and officials from the city of Sault Ste. Marie, the zone will stimulate the growth of regional technology-based companies. It will focus on injection-molded plastics, precision-machined surgical tools, precision bearings and electronic manufacturers, and robotics.

“High-tech initiatives like the SmartZones program enable our colleges and universities to become partners with communities and innovators to commercialize cutting-edge research into new businesses and jobs,” Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm said. “This SmartZone will be a huge asset to Sault Ste. Marie and Michigan.”

“This is very exciting news,” said Hendricks. “This partnership between the city of Sault Ste. Marie and LSSU is going to help launch our technology sector into the 21st century. We’re extremely enthusiastic about the outcome.”

The 15 SmartZones throughout the state represent collaborations between universities, industry, research organizations, government and other community institutions intended to stimulate the growth of technology-based businesses and jobs. The focus is on commercializing ideas, patents and other opportunities surrounding corporate, university or private research institute research and development efforts.

At the conclusion of the Wednesday's announcement, two LSSU senior engineering students, Mark Morris of Harbor Springs and Adam Smith of Mt. Pleasant, presented their senior research projects, the first to be done under the direction of the LSSU PDC. The projects, which will produce electronic components for a remote-controlled vehicle, a wristwatch-type device worn by athletes, and a medical tool used for treating skin, will involve students not only in engineering, but biology, chemistry and business.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a partnership between the state and local communities, promotes smart economic growth by developing strategies and providing services to create and retain good jobs and a high quality of life. For more information on MEDC initiatives and programs, visit For more information on the LSSU PDC, click here. –LSSU-