Small businesses embrace technological opportunities

February 22, 2010
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When the economy moved from a dive to a freefall last year, business owners came together in a number of ways. Entrepreneurs and industry leaders as a group are not prone to wait for “something” to happen — they are that “something.” Networking and partnerships have been at all-time highs, especially in West Michigan. National data analysts expect that this year will see a record number of IPOs. Business Journal readers have seen any number of headlines reporting that competitors in almost every industry are creating teams to address specific problems, one of which has been how to retain and recruit employees.

The impact of the Great Recession in Michigan is gradually abating, and the measure of that is not only the purview of esteemed analysts, but of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, led state-wide by Carol Lopucki of Grand Rapids. The local office is housed at Grand Valley State University.

While several area programs have been formed to encourage entrepreneurial efforts, Lopucki has been at it for more than 10 years. The program this year will create 30 small businesses across the state with an economic impact of $2.25 million, $3 million in revenue and 50 people employed. Business owners know the domino effect. Consider this, too: In the Grand Rapids region, MI-SBTDC will train 100 entrepreneurs — 1,000 statewide.

But the best part, for maligned Michiganians, is that even as the network of such councils across the U.S. expressed pity for Michigan, Lopucki said her response has been that while Michigan will take longer to pull through the recession, it will come out further ahead than other states. Lopucki last month held a “boot camp” for six states the MI-SBTD-deemed ready, training representatives to develop strong commercialization programs and grow tech companies.

“We started this (technology designation) six years ago when things were just humming along, and here we are now at a time when everyone’s in the doldrums and we still have wonderful companies that are bubbling up all over the state,” Lopucki said.

As 2009 ended, BDO Seidman held its economic overview breakfast during which speakers pronounced a lethargic pace among business owners last year “who were still afraid of the economy” and thereby stymieing recovery. And the advice given: Get ready to do business.

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