Central Upper Peninsula Small Business Support Hub

In November 2023, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced $73 million in grant awards to establish Small Business Support Hubs across the state. A group of local economic development organizations collaborated to apply for funds and were awarded a total of $3,426,015 over three years to set up and operate the Central Upper Peninsula Small Business Support Hub (“the Hub”), covering Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, and Schoolcraft counties. This page provides updates on the status of the Hub to keep all interested stakeholders informed and ready to access its resource once it is operational. 

The Hub is made possible through collaboration with many partners including the Lake Superior Community Partnership, Accelerate U.P., Innovate Marquette SmartZone, Northern Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Small Business Development Center Upper Peninsula Region, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and Sault Tribe Inc.  

The purpose of establishing hubs across the state is to streamline delivery of resources and support to small businesses in Michigan. Far too often, small business owners simply don’t have time to use the resources which already exist due to confusion about which organization to go to, a lack of time to even research options, a lack of match for grants, or programs that are too narrow to help with general needs for business growth. The Hub aims to address these by placing boots-on-the-ground in seven counties throughout the central upper peninsula and custom tailoring services to each county. 

In recognition that the central upper peninsula is already home to many organizations which offer some type of support for small businesses, the Hub’s main goal is to expand access to those instead of building new programs. In general, resources and support fall into three categories:

  • Technical assistance including 1:1 coaching, educational events, handbooks, guidance documents, webinars, etc.
  • Assistance in pursuing outside financial resources (loans, grants, etc.)
  • Direct grants via the Hub (must be allocated in 2024)

Existing programs from partners including the LSCP, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, Accelerate U.P. and the Small Business Development Center (among others) will be available in addition to services from local economic development organizations as well as state and federal organizations. It will also help connect teams of students from Northern Michigan University to local businesses via the NMU Main Street Program, a new program that has been in development for years and the Hub finally provides an opportunity to bring to reality. Tribal businesses will also have a dedicated Small Business Navigator and be able to access resources and support from tribal governments and organizations, including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Sault Tribe Inc.

More than $400,000 will be available in direct grants to those businesses who work with their local Hub Small Business Navigator to identify needs. At this time, we are awaiting more details from the MEDC on allowable uses but expect them to be a maximum of $20,000 and include capital investments, training, building improvements, and more. Due to federal funding rules, the funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 (and spent by 2026), so the Hub will prioritize maximizing this resource in 2024. Grant approvals will be made by the Hub’s Strategic Partners Advisory Council and administered by the LSCP. 

The Hub will report data quarterly which will appear here after the first report is completed.

Is my business eligible to use the Hub? 
If you consider yourself a small business, then you are likely eligible to utilize the Hub. The MEDC uses a definition of any business with less than 500 employees which covers 99% of businesses in Michigan. The Hub will work with businesses in any industry and at any stage of its development. Program requirements also include that all businesses must have been impacted by COVID-19; the entire seven county region of the Hub falls within a geographic definition of impacted communities.  

How much of the Hub funds are going to administrative support? 
Administrative overhead is common in grants and a real cost to any organization implementing a grant-based program. However, due to federal restrictions, no funds from the grant can be used for administrative overhead. Instead, the LSCP will operate the Hub as an essential part of its 2024 – 2026 Strategic Plan focus area for Retaining and Growing Businesses. Over the course of the three years, approximately 14% of the funds will flow directly to five strategic partners in return for expanding access to their programming to support the Hub’s efforts; those funds may end up in operational budgets depending on each organization’s financial processes and strategies. 

When will the Hub be operational? 
As of 11/28/2023, we expect the Hub will be operational January of 2024.  As of 2/5/2024 we have hired a Program Manager. On-the-ground Navigators in each county should be hired and trained in the first quarter of 2024.

How long will the Hub operate?
Funds from the MEDC are committed for three years so the Hub will operate at least through the end of 2026. Part of our mission is to sustain as much of the Hub as possible following expiration of the funds.  

How will the Hub operate with other local economic development and business development organizations? 
The Hub is intended to complement, not replace, local economic development organizations. Oftentimes in rural areas, a local EDO is staffed by a single individual who is focused on strategic economic goals and simply doesn’t have enough capacity to support every single business. The Hub will help local EDOs expand their capacity to support local small businesses specifically. Local EDOs will have regular communication with their Hub Navigator and work hand-in-hand to plan local events and customize resources. 

Where can I learn more about the overall Small Business Support Hub program? 
You can learn more directly from the MEDC at https://www.michiganbusiness.org/services/small-business-support-hub/.

You can send any questions related to the Hub to erica@marquette.org