Some mid-Michigan companies might soon be in the running for contracts with the U.S. defense industry and Homeland Security. Middle Michigan Development Corp. has received a $100,000 Defense Industry Growth Area grant on behalf of the Michigan Defense Center, located at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in Lansing. The local agency is one of four statewide to receive grants, as the state puts more emphasis on rural areas and the role they might play in the defense industry. It will be used to support defense industry growth in Isabella, Clare, Gratiot, Arenac and Gladwin counties.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase the businesses and manufacturers located within our region,” said Jim McBryde, president and CEO of Middle Michigan Development Corporation. “But it is also a chance to provide greater assistance to area businesses looking to diversify their customer base and the products they manufacture through defense opportunities.
“We are very happy to receive this,” he said, noting they didn’t know what their chances were for getting it when they applied. “… One of the things I knew that they would be looking for would be not just for our two counties, but how could we help some of our neighboring counties in Region 5?”
Region 5 is one of the state’s economic regions, and includes Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties, along with the other five counties. He said he believes this is the largest grant MMDC has received in one lump sum. McBryde hopes that eventually 12 companies will be found that will be interested and that it will create 50 jobs.
Of the $100,000, up to $50,000 will be used by MMDC to hire someone who has government contracting experience, for a one-year position. The goal is to have that person on board no later than the end of November.
The remaining $50,000 will be divided among the five counties for administrative support to work with MMDC on the project, with $10,000 going to Greater Gratiot Development, $10,000 going to Arenac County Economic Development Corporation and $10,000 going to Gladwin County Economic Development Corporation. MMDC, which serves Clare and Isabella counties, will use the remaining $20,000.
They will identify companies within each of their counties that would be “interested in and capable of pursuing federal contracts. This is not going to be every company. There would have to be something that they’re doing that would be of interest to the Defense Department or Homeland Security,” McBryde said.
McBryde said that for the most part, local companies are not part of the defense industry, with one exception. Michael Engineering in the Enterprise Park in Union Township does some, he said. However, he thinks there is the potential for more.
“Our goal is at least 12 companies in year one. We believe that we will find 12 companies. Some obvious ones that would come to mind that we want to talk with, would be our two companies here that do wood chippers. I know the whole aircraft focus in Gratiot County would be an area as well. But that’s not to say that there aren’t going to be other areas that we’d look at.”
If they succeed, they likely could get follow-up funding for the next few years, and the person they hire this year could stay on the job longer, McBryde said.
“It’s a great opportunity. I understand why the Michigan Defense Center and the Department of Defense like finding smaller companies they haven’t worked with in the past, in maybe more rural areas. A little more secure, a little more diverse, a little more spread out, so they’ve got products coming in from a variety of companies,” he said. “I think that’s kind of the trend right now.”
“We are so pleased that Middle Michigan Development Corporation pursued this grant,” Sean Carlson, executive director of the Michigan Defense Center, said in a press release. “We have been looking for an economic development partner in Region 5 that we can work with to support Michigan’s businesses interested in growth within the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security industry growth sectors.”
Besides working with the economic development corporations in the other counties, MMDC will work with several other organizations. The Central Michigan University Research Corporation will be promoted as a high-tech innovation center for the region.
Other partnering agencies contributing to the project will be the Central Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Small Business Development Center, Mid Michigan Community College, Michigan Works! Region 7B, and the Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works!, according to the press release.