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GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Grand Rapids is contracting with Spartan Innovations and Start Garden to support entrepreneurs and start-up companies in the city.

On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the city’s Local Development Finance Authority signed off on a three-year, $5.5 million investment with the two organizations to run the city’s SmartZone Incubator and support services.

Under the terms of the agreement, the organizations will coordinate and collaborate on entrepreneurship services as well as address business development needs and services for high-tech, high growth businesses.

“This partnership gives Grand Rapids’ SmartZone a competitive advantage,” said Jeremiah Gracia, the city’s economic development director. “It melds the distinct and individual expertise of two partners to benefit and energize the local economy. We are pleased of the synergy that will be created from this collaboration.”

The contract begins Sept. 15 and runs through June 30, 2024. Spartan Innovations will receive $761,000 per year for operations and Start Garden will receive $739,000 per year for operations. Spartan Innovations is owned by the Michigan State University Foundation.

Beyond the annual $1.5 million in operations costs, the budget won’t exceed $1 million a year in capital and start-up costs.

“Whether coming from a university or a neighborhood, the goal is for Grand Rapids to be the best place for an innovative entrepreneur to start and stay,” said Paul Moore, director of Start Garden.

The city issued the request for proposals to run the SmartZone Incubator earlier this year.

In the request, some of the identified goals were supporting entrepreneurship and innovation as a pathway to wealth creation in historically marginalized communities and diversifying the city’s economy through entrepreneurship, high-tech startups and small businesses.

“This is an exciting initiative and Spartan Innovations, along with the MSU College of Human Medicine and our other affiliated entities, are thankful for the opportunity to work with LDFA and the Grand Rapids community partners to help build out a world class entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Jeff Wesley, executive director of Spartan Innovations. “All of the components are here and we can’t wait to get started!”

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