Muskegon Business Incubator Is Ready for Business

By Jane Whitttington on November 21st, 2015 / Comments

Although it’s called the Muskegon Area Renewable Energy Center (MAREC), the staff there wants you to know it’s not just about energy. While that will remain an important part of their mission, MAREC is expanding its mission and will also serve as a business incubator for other kinds of emerging businesses.

Thomas Hopper, Associate Director for Business Development at MAREC, says, “When we opened in 2003, under the auspices of Grand Valley State University, the City of Muskegon and MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation), MAREC was intended to be both a business incubator and an energy demonstration and development center.  However, the energy side of things developed, and the business incubator side was not as robust as we would have liked. Now we are rebranding and, while we will still continue to encourage energy-oriented businesses and projects, we will encourage other types of businesses to use our facility and our services.”

The building, on the shores of Muskegon Lake, is sleek and modern. It has received a Gold LEED Certification and is equipped with energy efficient touches like solar panels and nearby wind turbines. GVSU pays for the operation of the facility and has lent an impressive amount of art to make the building aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

Hopper says, “We offer many services to those who use our facility for their start-ups. First of all, we have ample rental space, both large and small conference rooms equipped with all the electronics needed to conduct business today. This rental space is also available to the general public. We offer a lot of networking opportunities, both in terms of specific networking events as well as connecting our entrepreneurs with helpful resources. We can connect with potential customers, funders or businesses that may be able to help them with a particular need.”

He goes on, “We also have some marketing assistance; consulting services and skill-building; and training through organizations like SBDC (Small Business Development Corporation, ) SCORE (a volunteer organization which helps small businesses achieve their goals), and others. Additionally, we have some help with funding, either through networking with possible investors, helping them to write grants or, as part of a SmartZone, connecting them with funding sources. These services are available not just to our tenants but to other entrepreneurs as well.”

The building has 25,000 square feet of space, 14,000 of which is available for tenants.  The City of Muskegon owns the land and the building; GVSU pays for the administrative and operational costs; and the MEDC plays a lesser but still important role, particularly in locating funding. Other organizations also lend their support.  MAREC employs four people and sometimes has interns from GVSU.

Hopper says that MAREC are in the process of setting up a co-working space with an open concept and collaborative environment specifically to benefit their business-oriented clients. This space will be available in 2016.

Hopper says, “We want to make sure the businesses who come to us are the right size, that they are new enough that our services will benefit them, and that they are on a growth curve. Usually, our tenants will stay with us between two and four years, but there’s nothing that says that isn’t flexible.”

At this time, all the tenants in the building are energy-related, but Hopper is looking forward to welcoming other clients to the enterprise.

MAREC invites potential businesses to investigate the opportunities available at MAREC. Starting a business is difficult, and MAREC can ease the process, give assistance along the way and maximize the potential for success.

Visit their website at


About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.