The State of Lansing Business with Tony Willis

By Jane Whitttington on January 5th, 2016 / Comments

LEAP is a coalition of leaders in Clinton, Ingham and Eaton Counties who, along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, works to build a prosperous region where businesses can thrive. LEAP helps entrepreneurs start new businesses, helps existing businesses grow and attracts new businesses. We asked Tony Willis, Director of the New Economy Division at LEAP, some questions about business in the tri-county region.tony

What do you do as Director of the New Economy Division? In my role, I oversee the operations and lead the charge for LEAP’s entrepreneurial, small business and innovative programs.

What did you do before you came to LEAP? I was Business Development Officer at MSU Federal Credit Union. I am a proud Spartan, with a BA in communications with specialization in public relations.

What is the state of business in the Lansing area today? The state of business in Lansing is definitely positive. We have seen a boom in creative and artisan eateries like Saddleback BBQ, Creole and Lansing Brewing Company to name a few. Large companies like Jackson National Life Insurance and General Motors continue to expand in our region, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem is buzzing with activity and innovation.

What are challenges businesses face in the region? Challenges are always tied to opportunities, and I believe that businesses in our region have the opportunity to further capitalize on the talent within our region both from MSU and Lansing Community College.

What partnerships are especially important to LEAP? LEAP partners with many organizations including those represented by our board members. These are primarily private sector companies but also include municipalities and other groups.

The New Economy Division also works very closely with Spartan Innovation, MSU Broad College of Business, and the Capitol Region Small Business Development Center. We come together to develop and implement programs such as Business Boot Camps, Pitch Competitions ( , Startup Weekends and speaker series.

What areas of business do you think are positioned to grow? We are expecting continued growth in the industries of insurance, particle acceleration (FRIB* and cyclotron**), and manufacturing/auto suppliers.

What changes do you see over the next year? Our region is launching two business accelerators. LEAP is launching Lansing PROTO, Michigan’s first physical product business accelerator ( ) and MSU is launching Conquer ( We see these as resources/tools that local entrepreneurs and startups to take advantage of to push their businesses to new heights.

For more information, go to

*The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will be a new scientific user facility for nuclear science, funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), Michigan State University (MSU), and the State of Michigan.

**The National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory is located on the campus of Michigan State University and is the leading rare isotope research facility in the United States.

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.