Food Service & Agriculture, Lakeshore, and Small Business & Startups

Great Lakes ag business incubator opens

Ottawa County project could bring more business and jobs to the region.

November 28, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners is attending the grand opening of the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator today at the county’s Fillmore Complex in West Olive.

The county-sponsored incubator is said to be the first of its kind and is aimed at bolstering the local economy by leveraging its strength in agriculture and manufacturing technology. The project has been in the works for over a year, and is organized as a nonprofit corporation. It will provide farmers and entrepreneurs with hands-on support as they learn to navigate the complex process of commercializing inventions related to agricultural processes and products.

Special guests expected at the event include Rep. Bill Huizenga, Senate Majority Leader-Elect Arlan Meekhof, Rep. Roger Victory and Rep. Joseph Haveman, who will be making a major announcement involving the Ag-Tech Business Incubator.

Many of the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator’s clients, sponsors and partners will also be at the event, sharing their comments about the innovative partnership.

Mark Knudsen, director of the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department, said the incubator’s board of directors will be introduced. The board is comprised of both private and public sector professionals who will direct and oversee the incubator.

Entrepreneurs, farmers, and business owners with equipment, machinery, software or other agricultural specialty product ideas may apply for services from the facility.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data in 2013, Ottawa ranked second in annual farm receipts in the state at $391 million, slightly behind Allegan County’s $398 million and ahead of Ionia County’s $201 million.

As reported in the Business Journal a year ago, a pilot project was underway involving instructional support for three small start-ups in Ottawa County: GrassRoots Energy, Fodder Efficiency and an innovative freezer racking system. Since it was a pilot project, they were not charged for the help they received.

Knudsen said the county has only invested minimal general fund revenue in the incubator but has contributed in-kind services through existing staff.

He said the grand opening will reveal a sustainability plan for financing the incubator in the future.

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