I-69 Thumb Region Selects Smart Shelf of St. Clair County as Winner of the Catapult Business Plan Competition

Seven businesses vied for the top spot in the 2017 Catapult Business Competition, with Smart Shelf LLC, an incubation client at The Underground Business Incubator in St. Clair County winning first-place and taking home the $5,000 grand prize.

The final round of competition was held as part of the 6th Annual Regional Summit, hosted by the I-69 Thumb Region at the Lapeer Country Club. Cash prizes of $3,000 and $1,000, respectively, were awarded to second-place winner Town to Town Gourmet Pastries (Shiawassee County) and third-place finisher Thumb Roast Coffee (Sanilac County).

Each of the seven competing businesses advanced to the finals after winning the county-level contests. The I-69 Thumb Region includes Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron and Tuscola counties.

The other contestants were: Happy Little Greens Farm (Genesee County); Simply Enjoyable Snacks (Lapeer County); Imperial Sauces (Tuscola County); and Kyle’s Kindling (Huron County).

Judging the final round were: Dom Holmes, Manager of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Automation Alley; Neal Bishop, Area Manager, Local Government and Community Affairs, International Transmission Company; and Peggy Nolde, Director, Genesee County Equalization Board.

“It’s always exciting to be part of the small business competitions in our region such as GreenLight Port Huron and Catapult.  It's even more rewarding when we see our local competitors win additional funding and validation for their business concepts outside of region," said Tina Frazer, EDA Marketing Manager and Moderator of the Regional Catapult competition.  "There were several great business pitches from I-69 Thumb Region entrepreneurs at yesterday's event.  In my eyes, they are all winners and I hope they continue to work toward product launch or growing their small business ventures."  

Director of Entrepreneurial Services at The Underground, Quentin Bishop, added how proud he is to have Smart Shelf representing both the county and the new regional  business incubator.  "Smart Shelf is one of five clients in the incubation program that have an advisory board wrapped around them to assist them with their business venture.  We take the incubation process very seriously at The Underground, and work hard to help our clients reach milestones, overcome obstacles and obtain funding."  For more information about The Underground space or programs, visit:  www.startunderground.com        

The competition was created in 2016 to help entrepreneurs and small-business owners reach the next stage in growing their businesses. The prize money is designed to help winning contestants retain and grow Michigan businesses by providing capital to launch, expand production or hire staff.

The half-day regional summit was also used to recap major projects and successes of 2017, and feature panel discussions on development tools and incentives, and housing development in the seven-county region.

The I-69 Thumb Region is a partnership of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, Flint & Genesee Chamber, Lapeer Development Corporation, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, Sanilac & Huron County Economic Development Corporation and Tuscola County Economic Development Corporation.

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Wright Plastic Products Company Investing $3.275 Million and Adding 19 Jobs in St. Clair, Michigan

St. Clair, Michigan  

Wright Plastic Products Company plans to add 14,400 square feet to its St. Clair Facility, investing $3.275 million and creating an additional 19 jobs in St. Clair County, Michigan.  The company, which specializes in plastic injection molding, produces a variety of custom plastics parts in the automotive, recreational vehicles, marine, and consumer markets. 

A $160,000 performance-based grant has been approved by Michigan Strategic Fund Board (MSF) a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).   Michigan was selected over a competing site in Tennessee (where the company has a location).  The City of St. Clair has offered a “staff, financial, or economic commitment to the project” in the form of a tax abatement estimated to be worth $143,000.  These incentives will help offset overall costs of doing the project in Michigan.   

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$121,000 Gatekeeper Grant Awarded to EDA for The Underground Business Incubator & Service Center

The Michigan Strategic Fund has approved a $121,000 two-year Gatekeeper Grant to the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County.  The EDA will use the funds to hire a manager for The Underground Incubator and Business Service Center which is located in the basement of the Sperry’s Building at 301 Huron Ave. in Port Huron.

“Gatekeeper Grants play an important role in building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem across our state,” said Fred Molnar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MEDC. “The Gatekeepers that have been funded to date have been highly successful in connecting entrepreneurs with the resources available to them, and we’re looking forward to seeing similar results in Port Huron.”

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I-69 Thumb Region Announces 2017 Catapult Business Competition - Call For Entries

The I-69 Thumb Region, a seven county partnership, today announced the launch of the I-69 Thumb Region’s Catapult Your Business Competition.  This unique competition is both local and regional.  Each of the seven counties in Region 6 will host a local competition, and the winners will move on to the regional competition.  There will be cash prizes for the local and regional winners totaling $30,000.  The competition has been expanded upon a version held last year specifically for Craft Food & Beverage businesses.

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Blue Meets Green Announces New Regional Priorities

Port Huron, MI –May 2  2017---   With feedback from 90 stakeholders at a half-day retreat held in February, Blue Meets Green (BMG) has announced their fourth round of regional priorities for St. Clair County.  Among 13 possible new initiatives considered and evaluated by the group, the top 7 new priorities will be;

  1. Michigan Stage Festival
  2. A new regional brand and communication strategy
  3. Launch a coding school or boot camp
  4. A new Main Library in Port Huron
  5. County-wide business plan competition for K-12 students
  6. A new pre-seed investment fund for business start-ups
  7. A Transloading & Crossdock facility
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Emerge Fund Winners - $20,000 Awarded to Area Entrepreneurs

St. Clair County, Michigan – The Underground business incubator and business service center is awarding a combined $20,000 in entrepreneurial assistance to four area entrepreneurs as a result of an Emerge Fund pitch night held on Wednesday, April 12, in the new facility located below Sperry’s Moviehouse.   

During the event, a business pitch was made by each of the four small businesses in front of a review panel; along with other invited spectators, including Community Capital Club (C3) members to determine eligibility for emerge funds.

We are pleased to congratulate all four companies on an outstanding job and approval of emerge grant funding and acceptance into the Underground virtual incubation program. 

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US Farathane, LLC is expanding in Port Huron, Investing over $15 Million and adding 205 Jobs

US Farathane, LLC - is a global automotive supplier that supplies to the automotive industry, including OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. 

“The company has been awarded several new contracts to manufacture interior and under-hood components and plans to expand two of its Michigan subsidiaries,” said CFO of US Farathane, Jim Gregory.  As a result, US Farathane Port Huron plans to lease an additional facility in the city of Port Huron, investing up to $15,065,000 over the next 3 years and creating 205 jobs.

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Michigan Specialty Coatings, St. Clair, MI - Receives Two National Awards

St.Clair, Michigan – April 24, 2017  

Michigan Specialty Coatings, located in St. Clair, Michigan has been recognized with two national awards from CoatingsPro Magazine.  Industry winners were recently announced in New Orleans at the 2017 inaugural Contractor Awards Program designed to showcase and recognize the projects and crews that demonstrate excellence in the field of high-performance coatings.

The first award received by Michigan Specialty Coatings was a second place award in the Industrial Concrete category for the company’s adept plastics containment trenches (view here).  The company also received a third place award in the Commercial contract Category for Brondes Ford Project  (view here).   

CoatingsPro Magazine is a bi-monthly publication ready by more than 26,000 industrial and commercial contractors, engineers and specifiers in 16 unique market segments of the coatings industry. 

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P.J. Wallbank Springs, Inc. - Honored as One of the 2017 "Michigan Companies to Watch"

(Port Huron, MI) – P.J. Wallbank Springs, Inc. has been recognized as one of the 2017 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch,” an awards program presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business.

P.J. Wallbank Springs, Inc. will be honored at an awards ceremony during the twelfth annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business gala event, May 4, 2017 in Lansing, Mich.

P.J. Wallbank Springs, Inc., founded 35 years ago in Port Huron, is the global leader in the design and manufacture of spring packs for automatic transmissions. An engineering focused company, the organization started by designing and building its own proprietary manufacturing equipment in order to produce its spring packs, a strategy it continues to utilize to this day. Today, the organization exports 40% of its production outside of the United States, with over 60% of its export volume being shipped to China. Core to the organization’s long term success, has been the organization’s people.

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Community Capital Club (C3) grants $20,000 to Entrepreneurial Emerge Fund

St. Clair County, Michigan -- The Community Capital Club (C3) of St. Clair County is pleased to announce it will grant $20,000 in pre-seed funding to the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County to support entrepreneurial development in the region.  The grant and additional funding from EDA will form the new Emerge Fund in support of virtual clients of The Underground Incubator and Business Service Center.

The Community Capital Club is a component fund of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County. “We’re proud to be part of the effort to grow our local entrepreneurial community,” said Mike Wendling, Chair of C3 and a board member of the Community Foundation.  “Local entrepreneurs are often deeply vested in their communities and its people.  If an entrepreneur becomes successful and we are able to be a small part of that, it’s like the gift that truly keeps on giving.  The dividends back to our community have a return on investment that cannot be measured simply in jobs or new business starts."

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