Michigan a security hotbed?

Michigan Security Network looks to FastTrac homeland security technology
Monday, October 19, 2009

DETROIT—Fighting this area's well-documented economic struggles, industry leaders are looking for innovation that will help jumpstart the economy and get people working again. To that end, 16 Michigan-based companies and universities have founded the Michigan Security Network, which offers entrepreneurs and established companies sector-specific consulting services and access to a comprehensive database of homeland security-related funding sources, in-state research and development projects, and other opportunities.

The latest opportunity involves access to Wayne State University’s TechTown in the form of two FastTrac programs, which provide hands-on business development skills for managing and growing businesses. FastTrac was created by the Kansas City-based Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundation, a TechTown partner organization that specializes in entrepreneurship education, research and growth.

Leslie Touma, CEO and founder of Michigan Security Network, said Michigan not only has a large technical talent pool, but also has the largest commercial border crossing in the United States and the only company—Emergent BioSolutions (based in Lansing)—that makes the Anthrax vaccine. That led Michigan Security Network to focus on border security technology, bio-defense applications, and cyber security.

“I think people from outside the automotive industry don’t understand the wealth of technical talent that is in there,” Touma said, “and now many of them are focusing on new ways to deploy technology outside of a vehicle. A number of them have gone into the defense industry ... and those people are very knowledgeable, from the technology and engineering aspect.”

MiSN’s next step is the Homeland Security Market Leadership Conference, taking place on Nov. 4 at the Dearborn Hyatt. Conference attendees can begin the registration process that will be used to select qualified participants for the homeland security FastTrac programs. The training is scheduled for early 2010.

“New companies need to know,” said Touma, “do they have good technology? Is it viable? Do they need financing? Do they need more robust management? Then we spend extra time connecting them to the marketplace, both the government and the commercial side. We also have a list of companies that we’re adding to all the time, several large Michigan-based companies that might want to be subcontractors to them.

“We’re trying to present them with opportunities.”