|LANSING—The Lansing-East Lansing Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties, has been ranked No. 25 among Midwest cities on the Midwest Startup magazine’s 2020 Midwest Startup Cities Rankings, rising seven spots from its No. 32 ranking in 2017.
“Just 12 years ago, there were no pitch competitions, no accelerator programs, no investment funds, no incubators or youth entrepreneurship opportunities—no net—to capture and support entrepreneurs with the knowledge, network and seed funds that help turn good ideas into great companies,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. “This ranking validates the work our region has done and we’re making major progress.”
Along with the Lansing-East Lansing MSA, four Michigan communities were ranked within the top 25 on the Midwest Startup Cities Ranking (Ann Arbor-6, Detroit-9, Grand Rapids-23) and five were ranked within the state overall (Traverse City-34). Ranking among the 59 Midwest competitors which made the list was based and weighted among three essential variables of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem: startup activity (41%), business climate (17.5%) and access to resources (41.5%).
“Over many years, LEAP has been working to create a support system for startups in our region,” Trezise said. “Today, LEAP’s corporate innovation accelerator (PROTO Accelerator) is successfully connecting regional businesses to global startups and helping establish corporate innovation programs, the Fledge and MSU Foundation’s TIC and wet lab space are all excellent productive incubators, MSU Foundation’s creation of investment funds has taken hold, SBDC’s counseling of startups is outstanding, Capital Area Michigan Works’ IT Council and LEAP’s RING are important networking opportunities. “LEAP’s Hatching business pitch competition continues to provide validation and a launchpad for a diverse array of startups and entrepreneurs, we’ve been the top ranked SmartZone in the state for acquiring state funded Business Accelerator Fund grants for high-tech companies for three years in a row and most recently we launched One&All, one of the few inclusive entrepreneurship programs in the country, which just last week graduated 17 entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations.”
Midwest Startup defines startup activity as the level of activity within a city’s tech community and the size and strength of the startup network. Ranking in the startup activity category was considered based on the number of startups, number of exits, growth in formation and the scale of success of those companies. Access to resources refers to the talent ecosystem, presence of investor activity, accelerator and university and government support. Business climate refers to economic environmental factors which contribute to a community’s ability to attract and scale businesses, including variables such as cost of living and labor, business tax climate, population and gross domestic product per capita, access to airports and highway infrastructure and the quality of internet access.
Many of the variables considered in the ranking are becoming increasingly important as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, and they also happen to be areas where the Lansing region delivers value and opportunity. One trend accelerating in coastal communities with historically vibrant startup scenes, is a residential exodus as Americans increasingly seek communities with less population density and across-the-board affordability. Earlier this year, Business Insider ranked the Lansing-East Lansing MSA No. 22 on its list of best places to live in the United States following the COVID-19 pandemic due to attractive cost of living and durable employment opportunities. Lansing has now moved up the list to No. 18 since the list’s initial publishing in July 2020.
The Lansing region is also home to two educational powerhouses, globally ranked research institution Michigan State University (MSU) and nationally ranked Lansing Community College (LCC), another important factor attracting and driving success for startups in the Lansing region.
“Many people are not aware of this, but Larry Page—THE Larry Page of Google—grew up in East Lansing,” Trezise said. “Sadly, we weren’t ready for him. LEAP’s work, and the work of every partner who has invested in building the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, recognizes we can’t let this happen again. We’re not going to let another unicorn like Larry slip away.” Trezise concluded.
For the full data set of all ranked communities, methodology, and past rankings, visit this link.