Lansing To Build Industry Around MSU’s New Atom Smasher

LANSING — The Lansing Economic Area Partnership, the capital area’s economic development agency, has rolled out a new strategy for business recruitment surrounding Michigan State University’s current National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, its successor, which is now under construction.

LEAP has received a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to conduct a study of this growing new industry and the opportunities to develop it in the Lansing region. LEAP worked closely with many regional officials as well as Grand Ledge-based business management consultants Kuntzsch Solutions to develop the strategy, which was presented to the Accelerating Capital Task Force Tuesday morning.

Through LEAP’s Accelerating Capital Task Force, efforts have been made to expand on the potential economic activities that would and will potentially spin out of the NSCL as well as the future FRIB. LEAP will recruit and grow private companies as well as manufacturers and suppliers to the Lansing region.

“Through assets like the Cyclotron and the FRIB, we know that the Lansing region can be North America’s number one accelerator region. In fact, we might already be that,” said Bob Trezise, LEAP President and CEO. “We intend on using this new strategy to attract and grow an entire private sector industry around the Cyclotron and FRIB.”

The report identifies three areas of focus:
* Assessing the Lansing region’s ability to grow the particle accelerator industry
* Identifying targets for business attraction
* Establishing marketing and outreach strategies to promote the region.

Members of the advisory of committee on the report were Brad Sherrill, Ph.D., director of the NSCL and Director of Users at the FRIB; Janet Lillie, PhD., Assistant Vice President for Community Relations at MSU; John Melcher, associate director of MSU’s Center for Community and Economic Development; John Vincent, Ph.D., vice president of engineering and new product development at Ionetix Corp., a San Francisco, Calif.-based developer of cyclotrons that produce materials used in nuclear medical imaging; and Ray DeVito, Ph.D., technology manager for MSU Technologies, the university’s tech transfer and reasearch spinoff manager.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy selected MSU as the site for the FRIB, a $730 million project expected to be complete by 2022. This particle physics research center will be far more powerful than the current NSCL and will further advance groundbreaking discoveries in physics, healthcare, materials science, manufacturing, national defense, and more.

The Lansing region has more than 50 years of history in innovation, research and discovery at the NSCL. Research completed at the NSCL has led to breakthrough discoveries such as the inner workings of the big bang theory, the structure of atomic nuclei, and the fundamental laws of physics. In addition, faculty at the NSCL were responsible for revolutionary applications of particle accelerator and cyclotron technology, including development and installation of the world’s first superconducting cyclotron for cancer treatment at Harper Hospital in Detroit in 1991. Former members of the NSCL faculty have also started multiple spin-off companies in the Lansing region.

The research, innovation, and talent produced by the NSCL has led to a unique particle accelerator industry cluster in the Lansing region. The FRIB award spurred LEAP and regional stakeholders to mobilize around strategic opportunities to make the particle accelerator industry a cornerstone of future regional economic development efforts.

The study found Lansing has many advantages for the industry, including a quality work force, a reasonable cost of living, a diverse population and high levels of educational attainment. More work is needed in developing workers with advanced degrees specific to the industry, as well as on communication and transportation infrastructure. Future steps involve setting up industry groups, creating industry events, and telling the region’s particle accelerator industry story through various media.

This strategy is one of LEAP’s five targeted business attraction strategies, which also includes General Motors and auto suppliers, insurance companies, corporate talent portal, and food product-based businesses related to the Michigan State University Food Product Innovation Center.

“To develop this strategy, we had to define the characteristics of what makes up the particle acceleration industry,” said Steve Willobee, COO of LEAP and chair of the task force. “We’re defining an industry that hasn’t yet been defined. We had to use a finely tuned process to identify the proper companies to engage with globally.”

To download a copy of the summary report, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.