LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — State officials and business leaders want Michigan to lead the way in new technology, with five sites vying for billions of dollars in federal funds.
The Lansing region is one of a handful of locations pitching to become the center of research for new materials.
Business leaders say the Eagle Township “mega site” is part of the bigger picture of Michigan becoming a leader in high tech manufacturing. It’s a vision some say is being driven by innovation and research happening at Michigan State University.
“It’s kind of leveraging all the things that are unique of MSU; research, assets that we’re seeing commercialization but maybe not as much as what could potentially happen,” said Keith Lambert, the chief operating officer of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.
LEAP is one of several groups supporting an effort by the Michigan State University Research Foundation to bring federal dollars to boost new material research and development.
From military optics to semi-conductor chips, business leaders say research at MSU has already made an impact and can do even more.
Regional Technology Innovation Hub Program
The proposed Lansing tech hub is one of five Michigan pitches already submitted to federal officials. The proposals are part of a national contest where 20 regions around the country will be picked to get $10 billion dollars over five years to support the high-tech economy.
The proposal from the Detroit-Ann Arbor area looks to research mobilization and electrification. The greater Grand Rapids proposal is being led by Grand Valley State University with a focus on battery production.
State officials say the Discover Blue Consortium bid has a goal of investing in water technology in Northern Michigan. They add that the Skylift bid, which is being led by Western Michigan University, has a goal of innovating aircraft design with a focus on vertical takeoff and landing.
Lambert says the Michigan Manufacturing Innovation Campus in Eagle Township is part of the larger high-tech goal and fits well with the proposed Materials Advancement and Research Hub. He says it can also attract high-tech manufactures.
“The advance material and niche technology and brain power that we have in the Lansing region are going to serve and coalesce with that of a user. So, it’s going to strength our case. Landing the tech hub will make us more competitive to land something great at that piece of property and vice versa,” Lambert said.
Michigan Manufacturing Innovation Campus
The campus, also called the Eagle Township mega site, has been the center of heated township meetings since January. Tensions have also sparked recall efforts directed at township board members, including the supervisor.
While some see a bright future for the site, people who live right down the road, say it brings dark clouds instead.
“People live in Eagle Township for its rural character, and what’s being proposed will destroy all that,” said Mike Dyer.
Dyer lives near the mega site in a neighborhood dotted with signs opposing the project. He has many concerns others have shared during open houses and township meetings.
Some people have shared concerns of the environmental risk as well as decreasing housing value. Dyer says if the goal is to bring more jobs to Michigan, he thinks there are many other places that are need of the jobs. He says farmland is just part of what’s at stake.
“I grew up on a gravel road in the country, we chose to live on a gravel road in the county, and we’ll lose all that,” he said.
Lambert says it will take some time before regions are picked for the billions of dollars in federal investments. As for the mega site, he says they are proactively running environmental tests and checking for archaeological significance ahead of any possible development.