In the wake of her State of the State Address, Gov. Jennifer Granholm held a roundtable at TechTown near Wayne State University to discuss those tools available to help small and mid-size businesses grow.
TechTown (or Wayne State University Research and Technology Park) is a 12-block area that concentrates on non-automotive, non-manufacturing fields, such as life science, advanced engineering, alternate energy, information technology, and homeland security.
The governor was joined by representative of the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers MI-SBTDC) and the Michigan Credit Union, as well as small business owners who’ve used the FastTrac NewVenture program, which is designed to help entrepreneurs learn how to successfully launch and grow a new business.
Granholm said TechTown is the first place she came to after the State of the State Address because focus must be on creating jobs by creating employers, in addition to bringing employers to Michigan.
During the address, Granholm said we need to consider changing the culture in Michigan. She reiterated that point at the roundtable, saying families in Michigan have traditionally worked for someone else. She cited her husband’s family working for Ford as an example.
“You always go work for someone else,” she said. “Why not be that someone else? Why not have all these new college graduates come out and consider starting their own business?”
She also suggested that those workers who have taken buyouts use and multiply that money by starting their own businesses.
Granholm described TechTown as a prime example of how to spawn new industries. She also said the state is going to use the network of the Small Business Technology Development Centers and the FastTrac training programs to take this state-wide, with help from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“We want to let people know that this training exists, and let them know the experience of those who have taken it,” Granholm said, adding that this would remove some of the fear that might be there with regard to starting one’s own business.
She added that credit unions across Michigan, in partnership with the MI-SBTDC, will be able to create the opportunity to have $43 million worth of loans to small businesses.
According to Carol Lopucki, state director of the MI-SBTDC, the SBTDC has been working with TechTown and other partners, and rolled out FastTrac quietly over the last year.
“In 2009, we had 527 people go through the new venture, growth venture, tech venture,” Lopucki said.
She added that this is the fastest rollout the MI-SBTDC has ever seen, and that within 90 days after the business owners finish the course, between 15 to 30 percent of companies start up and begin hiring.