Lawrence Tech, Southfield launch manufacturing accelerator
Lawrence Technological University and the City of Southfield are teaming up to help grow small manufacturers and entrepreneurs.
The university said Tuesday the partnership is launching the Centrepolls Accelerator housed in the Mark Plaza building on Lawrence Tech's campus to provide companies access to high-tech resources. The 6,300-square-foot center is set to open in the spring.
Dan Radomski, who is leading the partnership, said while the state of Michigan has a strong incubator system for software development, the Centrepolis Accelerator will fill a gap for those who want to create a physical product.
"Michigan has never had a hardware accelerator, which is interesting with our heritage in product development and manufacturing," Radomski said. "There’s a wave of all these new products right here in Michigan. We not only want to help them develop here but develop it successfully, design it, manufacture it, test it right here. That’s how you will create jobs."
Shelly Freeman, Southfield's business and economic development director, said the city is using tax captures from its designated SmartZone to invest up to $1 million to renovate the space and purchase new equipment. Additionally, it is matching an annual grant of $100,000 to the program from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The accelerator also has received grant money from the New Economy Initiative, a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan that seeks to grow entrepreneurship.
The accelerator will replace the LTU Collaboratory, a similar program to support small businesses. Southfield's investment, Radomski said, is helping the university to broaden and rebrand the collaboratory and add shared working spaces and a product prototyping lab.
The accelerator also will provide clients and partners access to office space, workshops, mentors, technical and business services, a digital design lab, a mixed reality lab and other resources including 3-D printing. It will be a venue for students to launch their own companies and network, as well.
"You have these students that are doing wonderful things at Lawrence Tech, coming up with creative and cutting-edge things," Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said. "A lot of It is beyond me. The city is very pleased to be a part of this. We see it as retaining and growing talent in Southfield."
Radomski was most recently the chief strategy officer for Plymouth's Optimal Inc., an advanced engineering supplier, and formerly the vice president at Detroit's NextEnergy, the state of Michigan's advanced energy industry accelerator.
Lawrence Tech bought the 5-acre Mark Plaza site in 2015 from KLM Ventures LLC for $3.6 million. The accelerator will share the first floor with the Southfield Michigan Works! office, which is moving from its location at 8 Mile and Inkster.