NMC joins coalition in applauding $15M in state funding for Freshwater Research & Innovation Center

TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Freshwater Research & Innovation Center on West Grand Traverse Bay is set to receive $15 million as part of Michigan’s fiscal year 2024 budget passed by the Legislature on June 28. The budget now heads to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for a likely signature.

Once complete, the Freshwater Research and Innovation Center will establish the Grand Traverse region as a global hub for applied freshwater innovation, offering research, education, commercialization, new business incubation, and startup accelerator programs. Housing the Research and Innovation Center on the geographic epicenter of the Great Lakes will further solidify Michigan’s leadership in the freshwater blue economy, which for NMC traces back to 2004, when the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute opened at NMC’s Great Lakes campus on West Grand Traverse Bay, southeast of the planned Innovation Center location.

The project is a collaborative effort of 20Fathoms, Discovery Center & Pier, Michigan Technological University, Northwestern Michigan College, and Traverse Connect. Last month, NMC named a three-person team to explore a joint venture structure with the Discovery Center for the project as it moves forward.

The Discovery Center and Pier owns the land, and is the fiduciary of already-secured private, public, and federal funding, as well as the $15 million. NMC and Discovery Center & Pier plan to be the fiduciary of future federal and other public monies. Other entities could potentially buy into the joint venture, which would:

  • Own the Dockside Learning Center building and new Freshwater Center building(s), which will be used by NMC for its Marine Technology bachelor’s degree program as well as professional development training
  • Develop business plans for Dockside Learning Center and Freshwater Center
  • Continue to pursue funding for the Freshwater Center Phase 2 of the property

“This is an exciting opportunity to build upon the expertise and proud history of NMC's Great Lakes Water Studies Institute. By taking a regional and collaborative approach, we are able to leverage all of our strengths for the benefit of the community and make a difference on a global scale,” said Jason Slade, NMC vice president for strategic initiatives and a member of the joint venture team. It also includes Vice President for Finance & Administration Troy Kierczynski and Board of Trustees Vice Chair Rachel Johnson.

Matt McDonough, CEO of Discovery Center & Pier, said, “This level of support from our local legislators and the Governor is really remarkable. The State’s investment gets us significantly to our goal for the Center’s first and main facility which will get us up and running.”

The $15 million secured this week will be used to launch the first phase of the Freshwater Research & Innovation Center facility housing research, lab, and business incubation space, as well as the completion of Discovery Pier, which will provide dockage for research and education vessels and a four-season marine technology classroom and laboratory. The research and development of freshwater technology, combined with private sector investment, incubation, and acceleration of startup companies will generate significant return on investment from regional and state economic growth, the formation of new advanced technology businesses and the creation of high-paying scientific, technical, and professional jobs for Michigan.

“By co-locating research, education and commercialization partners, this new facility will generate tremendous opportunity for job creation, business development, and economic growth,” said Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect.

“In recent years, 20Fathoms and our partners have proven that Traverse City can incubate successful, growing startups,” said Eric Roberts, Executive Director of 20Fathoms. “The Freshwater Research and Innovation Center will generate significant research, leading to additional startup and small business opportunities that will allow our community to build a robust startup ecosystem and accelerate the growth of new businesses.”

"Michigan Tech is pleased to collaborate with the team in Traverse City in the creation of the Freshwater Research and Innovation Center," said Rick Koubek, President of Michigan Technological University. "This new center represents another step forward in our growing relationship with the Traverse City region in support of our Great Lakes."


Release Date: June 29, 2023

For more information:

Jason Slade
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
(231) 995-1995


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