Redefining the Classroom

LSSU, Sault Ste. Marie EDC break ground on entrepreneurial center

Posted: April 26th, 2012

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University and the City of Sault Ste. Marie's Economic Development Corporation broke ground April 24 on a building that will house fledgling industries and will serve as a center point for the Sault Ste. Marie SmartZone that was established in 2008.

Known as a "breeder building," the facility provides start-up space to help entrepreneurs learn about and select manufacturing methods and business methods appropriate for their ventures, and to build initial production runs in preparation for moving into a facility such as the EDC's Industrial Incubator, which houses new businesses as they get a foothold in the community.

The Sault Ste. Marie SmartZone – known as Sault Ste. Marie Advanced Resources and Technology Inc. or SSMart – will have offices at the building and along with the EDC and staff of LSSU's Product Development Center will work together with start-ups and small businesses in the new facility to increase business activity in the area.

DIGGING IN -- Administrators from Lake Superior State University and the city of Sault Ste. Marie turn the first bits of ground at the city's air industrial park in preparation for construction of an entrepreneurial center that will offer services for small business start-ups. Construction begins May 1 and should be completed by mid-February. The building is part of Sault Ste. Marie's SmartZone, which brings together the Sault Economic Development Corporation, LSSU's Product Development Center and more to promote establishment of businesses in the area. From l-r with shovels are: Eric Becks, co-director of the LSSU PDC and president/CEO of SSMmart; Sault Mayor Tony Bosbous; LSSU President Tony McLain; Sault EDC Chair Jeff Holt; Sault EDC Director Kristen Claus and David Roland Finley, dean of the LSSU College of Business, Engineering and Economic Development. (LSSU Photo by John Shibley)

A print-quality version of this photo is available here.

"We look forward to watching the building rise up from an empty lot and even more so to the opportunity to see new entrepreneurial ventures become part of the local business community," said Eric Becks, president and chief executive officer of SSMart, who also co-directs the LSSU PDC with fellow engineer David Leach.

"It is exciting to see the SmartZone breeder building project begin to come to life," said Kristen Claus, executive director of the Sault EDC. "The EDC is proud to be a partner to foster, support and grow our local entrepreneurs and businesses."

Jeff Holt, EDC board chair, added, "The EDC continues to enhance business opportunities in Sault Ste. Marie, and with the collaboration of LSSU, we look forward to assisting more entrepreneurs."

"I'm excited that we're finally able to move forward on this project," said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Tony Bosbous. "This is a great example of what cooperation can do. I can't wait to see where we're at five years from now."

LSSU President Tony McLain agreed, and he gave credit to city and LSSU staff who have worked on the project.

"It's a great partnership, and that's one of the most interesting things about it. Lake Superior State University is proud to be a part of it."

Amy Berglund, representing Sen. Carl Levin out of his Escanaba office, said, "This type of partnership is not as common in other parts of the state. On behalf of Senator Levin, who has been very interested in seeing this project come to fruition, congratulations."

Established in fall 2008, the Sault Ste. Marie SmartZone is one of only two in the U.P. and 15 statewide. SmartZones are technology centers designated to promote resource collaborations between universities, industry, research organizations, government and other community institutions, establishing technology-based business and jobs. The Michigan SmartZones have created thousands of jobs and produced more than $1 billion in private investment in technology-based companies since their inception in 2002.

Nomad Construction begins work on the new building on May 1 and is projected to finish by Feb. 21, if not sooner. -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315,; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Kristen Claus, Sault EDC, 635-9131,; Eric Becks, Sault Ste. Marie Advanced Resources and Technology (SSMart Zone), 635-2301,