ALMA — Alma College and the city of Alma, along with several regional partners, will benefit from a $2-million earmark in the federal government funding bill signed in March, which is going toward development of a state-of-the-art, regionally-focused small business hub.

Among the goals for the new Center for Small Business Innovation, Incubation, and Development (BIID) for Mid-Michigan are to support and enhance the launching or growth potential of small businesses and entrepreneurs in critical sectors of the mid-Michigan economy. The hub, which is slated to be located in the former Brown Printing building in downtown Alma, is expected to be operational 18 months after the earmark is received.

“Institutions of higher education, such as Alma College, must be critical players in the development of vibrant economic ecosystems in our local areas. Through this partnership with the city of Alma and our community stakeholders, the BIID project will create an infrastructure that is responsive to the mid-Michigan region’s economic needs,” said Alma College President Jeff Abernathy.

“We are pleased to see the federal government funding bill signed, and grateful to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, for his support in seeing this earmark through. We are grateful to those who laid the groundwork for this project, including our former chief operating officer Raymond Barclay, and to our local partners, especially the city of Alma. We look forward to launching this project in days to come.”

The BIID project involves a number of key employers in the manufacturing community of Gratiot County; including Alma College, the city of Alma, Greater Gratiot Economic Development Inc., Gratiot Technical Education and Alma Public Schools, Merrill Technologies, Mid-Michigan Community College and Montcalm Community College.

The BIID project represents the latest in a growing list of partnership initiatives between Alma College, the city of Alma and local stakeholder groups; including the Alma Aspires project, the Center for College and Community Engagement and the Wright Leppien Opera House. It will fill a currently vacant building in the city’s downtown business area and bring people every day to shop, dine and live locally.

Alma City Manager Aeric Ripley said the state-of-the-art center will bring small business owners into the city’s downtown area, in order to grow and sustain their businesses. It will also offer opportunities for students from throughout the region to develop their competencies in technical, business, and engineering-related skill areas for small and medium-sized businesses.

“The BIID project provides another positive economic development project and jobs to continue the rejuvenation of Alma’s historic downtown,” Ripley said. “Providing these opportunities to learn and grow their business ideas demonstrates that our community finds value in these types of individuals. We hope the clients and students alike will develop their business acumen and ideas or carry forward their talents, aspirations, and plans here in Alma and the surrounding area.”

College and high school students from across the region will have opportunities to participate in tailored instruction, customized training and short courses through BIID. Besides those education opportunities, meetings are ongoing to determine how exactly to use the earmark to most effectively help benefit small business development in the space moving forward.

Peters, an Alma College alumni from the Class of 1980, cheered the passage of the spending bill, which included several local projects and issues and important to communities across Michigan like Alma.

“This bipartisan legislation delivers critical resources to communities across the state of Michigan and our entire country. It will help protect the Great Lakes, secure our borders, strengthen our national security, drive economic growth, and expand access to quality, affordable child care. It shows how much we can do when we put politics aside and bring home commonsense solutions for the American people,” Peters said in a statement.