BAY CITY, MI — Budding entrepreneurs in Bay City will soon have a place to grow and develop their businesses alongside likeminded people.
Officials from the Central Michigan University Research Corp., a business incubator headquartered in Mount Pleasant, announced Thursday, Aug. 11, an expansion into Bay City and one other city in the Great Lakes Bay Region, which they declined to name. Midland is already home to the MidMichigan Innovation Center.
Local officials said the Bay City business incubator will be located at the Uptown development with a timeline to open in January 2017.
CMU Research Corp., which was created as part of a Michigan Economic Development Corp. initiative, brings together experts from higher education and the private sector to help startups or existing businesses grow and create jobs.
Erin Strang, president and chief executive officer of the Research Corp., likened the incubator to a gym membership.
"This is a place for entrepreneurs who might be working out of their home, but they want a location to utilize as a working space," she said. "They'll have access to internet and a conference room and all of the amenities you would need in an office."
Those who use the incubator also have access to a team of service providers, from web and graphic designers to computer programmers, at the office, Strang said. There will also be roundtable opportunities with business experts to give entrepreneurs a chance to bounce off ideas and get advice.
Mark Litten, chief executive of Bay Future Inc., Bay County's public-private economic development agency, said bringing a business incubator to Bay City was part of the agency's three-year strategic plan.
"Right now, we have a gap for anything that helps our entrepreneurs," Litten said. "Our hope is that these folks who go to the incubator will grow their business, spin out and get their own place. Hopefully, that's in Bay County, or at least in the Great Lakes Bay Region."
Trevor Keyes, vice president of economic development for Bay Future, said a bulk of Bay City's entrepreneurs today are retail-based.
"With this incubator, we want to see not just retail, but also more offices and advanced technology," he said. "We want to ramp that up."
The Research Corp. operates one center at its Mount Pleasant headquarters. Over the past few years, entrepreneurs have launched a variety of companies, including a cherry concentrate company, an air quality testing analytical startup and a home healthcare technology company.
Strang called Bay City a "unique area" that has "a lot of entrepreneurial excitement already happening."
"Bay City has really bred a good foundation for entrepreneurship," she said. "We think it's only going to get better."
Strang declined to identify the other city her firm plans to expand into in the Great Lakes Bay Region, but hopes to have it up and running by July 2017.