SmartZone designation could help in tech field

ALPENA – Target Alpena Development Corporation has received conditional approval by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to become a SmartZone. The designation could help to cater to specific fields of technology wishing to market, promote or build a business involving ground breaking technology.

Target Executive Director Jim Klarich said a lot of work was put into getting the application filed with the MEDC. He said he, Alpena Community College President Olin Joynton and Alpena interim City Manager Greg Sundin among others came together to help get Alpena designated a SmartZone. Klarich said each SmartZone is unique to its regional need and includes business accelerators and incubators that supply support for startup businesses.

“SmartZones were set up to identify technologies and commercialize them,” Klarich said. “From our standpoint with the drone project in the county and the use of ORV technologies at NOAA they are very similar, one flies in the air and the other operates underwater and they work well.

“Other technology includes the biorefinary and some of the programs at ACC. Those are all things that are Alpena specific. The SmartZone will give companies or entrepreneurs a chance to commercializes in those types of areas, here in Alpena.”

Klarich said if Alpena is awarded the designation, it could help to land one of the six Center of Excellence for drone testing and training the Federal Aviation Administration awarding.

“I look at it as another opportunity. If a company wants to set up operations here we would be able to provide them with people, like students for instance to do some of the work needed from a research standpoint,” Klarich said. “Really what it is all about is economic development and job creation and having our kids stay here instead of having to move away to find a good job.”

Klarich said the MEDC has approved the request with conditions that some other issues be addressed. He said he doesn’t anticipate any snags and hopes the designation becomes official late this summer. One of those conditions include making Target an entity that can collect tax money with a tax Iincrement financing plan.

“We have to develop and work with the city and the townships to develop a TIF plan like the DDA to capture school taxes and to take a snap-shot of the revenue stream,” Klarich said. “We also have to create an advisory board and the SmartZone will also have to have a full-time director, so we will have to hire a full-time director. I think we will be able to do those things and have a formal announcement about the SmartZone on about Sept. 30.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at