Camille Hoisington: Small-town startups, big-time innovation | Business


Don’t let the “village” deceive you. Despite our location in northern Michigan’s landscape, the Traverse City area has evolved into a hub for entrepreneurial minds.

Not surprisingly, the surrounding natural beauty, four seasons of outdoor recreation and a thriving cultural scene over the years have attracted creativity and entrepreneurs.

However, in recent years an exceptionally favorable business environment has developed, making Traverse City a popular place to create new business ideas. Investors – such as Northern Michigan Angels and Boomerang Catapult – have invested about $ 15 million together in more than 50 local startups.

In addition to local investors, 20Fathoms and TCNewTech programs and services create connections for ideas.

Traverse Connect’s own Scale Up North Awards ceremony offers another way to convene Traverse City business leaders, drive new ideas and celebrate innovations emerging from northern Michigan. Former competitor Scale Up North ATLAS Space Operations knows what it takes to implement an idea in rural Michigan, and the hard work it takes to grow.

In 2015, ATLAS Space Operations was founded to shake up the space communications industry, bringing the rapidly growing Michigan aerospace industry.

Hailing from Gaylord, co-founder Mike Carey and his partners set up a company on the West Coast, but felt the urge to relocate their family back to their home state. After receiving funding from angel investors in Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Angels in Traverse City, the company moved its headquarters to northern Michigan.

Despite its remote location, the founders believe that northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula could become a thriving part of the aerospace industry, attracting more space-related companies and jobs to the region.

“Northern Michigan is filled with a wealth of natural and human resources. All it takes for the space industry (to grow) is to focus on that segment, ”Kerry said in a Petoskey News-Review article.

ATLAS participated in the 2020 Scale Up North Awards to draw attention to the innovative work being done here.

“ATLAS participated in the competition to publicly demonstrate our talent and the global space market, which we serve from our headquarters in Traverse City,” said co-founder Mike Carey. “We expected that we would need to communicate our unique value proposition and learn from other competitors … and our expectations were exceeded.”

Startups face particularly dynamic obstacles, so in the early years it is necessary to have an ecosystem of support.

“The judges had authenticity that prompted us to continue to address the issues we faced,” Kerry said. “We competed in 2020, the year COVID-19 hit. It was a scary time, and (Scale Up North) helped us see our resilience by challenging us to report our way forward. ”

After overcoming the challenges of the past two years, ATLAS is now looking to expand its team in Traverse City by considering an influx of applicants from the country’s best technical institutions. Kerry said they had no problem attracting talent to Traverse City, and even with ground stations around the world ATLAS remains rooted in rural Michigan.

In water there is something that not only attracts inquisitive minds but also promotes a culture of cooperation.

The Scale Up North Awards use this synergy to enable local businesses to learn from each other and become stronger.

“Many of the challenges we face at ATLAS are common to different areas of Traverse City,” Kerry says. “However, we are truly a community of leaders who can help each other.”

What’s more, Traverse City attracts problem-solvers and leaders who work together for the benefit and growth of the community as a whole.

“Northern Michigan has many like-minded companies that want to collaborate and improve the entire business community as the best way to achieve their own goals. So refreshing, ”said Chris Tether, owner of Higher Grounds, a finalist in the 2020 and 2021 Scale Up North Awards.

Traverse Connect is looking forward to the opportunity to reunite the business community to compete and celebrate during the 2022 Scale Up North Awards this spring. Join the dynamic community of small business leaders today and apply for the Scale Up North Awards.

Camilla Hoysington is Traverse Connect’s Director of Ecosystem Development.


Leave a Comment