Macomb-OU INCubator to dole out defense dollars

By: Terry Oparka | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 12, 2013

Macomb County businesses that serve the defense industry and other high-tech companies could get a boost from research and development grants totaling more than $1.26 million that the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator will administer.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently selected the Macomb-OU INCubator to administer the $776,036 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Federal Matching Program grant for the state of Michigan. In addition, incubator officials are finalizing details with the MEDC to administer another $500,000 grant, Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool said. 

The Macomb-OU INCubator opened its doors in July of 2009 and is a joint venture between the county, city and Oakland University to bolster startup businesses in three emerging sectors — defense/Homeland Security, advanced manufacturing and alternative energy with support in marketing, money and planning.

“The whole idea is to work with startup businesses and hopefully spring them off into larger businesses, hopefully in Sterling Heights,” City Manager Mark Vanderpool told the Sterling Heights City Council at the March 5 meeting.

Vanderpool said that the incubator was chosen to administer the DARPA grant because of its contacts with the defense industry in Macomb County and strong ties to the manufacturing, electronics, life sciences and information technology sectors. The grant will support research and development, spur new job creation, assist in innovations and provide the incubator the opportunity to expand the high-tech and defense businesses within the community, he explained.

Local established businesses serving the defense industry include General Dynamics in Sterling Heights and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren.

“To date, the incubator has helped businesses secure $3.2 million (in) capital that helps pay for a variety of needs, including certifications that are essential to conduct business in the state,” Vanderpool said. “We are one of 13 cities in the state to have an incubator,” Vanderpool said.

The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the grants as part of a $5.25 million Entrepreneurial Services Program that sought applications from nonprofit organizations and universities across the state that wished to provide support to entrepreneurs to launch and grow high-tech companies. The MSF awarded nine grants from the 24 applications received.

“By funding these types of innovative programs, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and the MEDC are helping to further their brand and amplify Michigan as a high-tech business environment,” said Larry Herriman, director of the Michigan DARPA Matching Funds Program and assistant director of the Macomb-OU INCubator, in a prepared statement. The $766,036 DARPA grant will be allocated throughout two years. “Having the foresight to encourage these cutting-edge, advanced-research activities, like the ones typically undertaken by DARPA, are what will define Michigan as a state with an inspiring entrepreneurial environment and a promising future,” Herriman said.

According to the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, in the last 10 years, Michigan businesses have garnered more than $41 billion in defense contracts, 63 percent of those in Macomb County.

The $500,000 grant was awarded through the Michigan Strategic Fund to the Macomb-OU INCubator to assist startup companies not specifically in the defense industry, said Cathy Fagan of the MEDC communications office.