LAKE LINDEN, Mich., Nov. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- In the world's largest business plan competition, a by-product of the once booming copper mining business may help one semifinalist pump life – and possibly hundreds of jobs - into Michigan's remote Keweenaw Peninsula.
Almost 150 years ago, the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts out into the upper regions of the vast and formidable Lake Superior, was once the nation's leading supplier of copper. But since World War II, the mining business here has kept only a faint pulse, barely clinging to life in large part thanks to the remnants – stamp sand – from copper veins. Stamp sand once drew the attention of Native Americans 1,000 years ago when they created tools from the mined semi-precious metal.
Today, GreenSand Corp., located in Lake Linden in the heart of Keweenaw's "Copper Country," has created a plan that might wrest copper mining from its decades-long slumber and pump new life into a region beset by economic challenges that have languished here for years. The company is led by entrepreneur Domenic Popko, who has his company on the verge of winning the $500,000 grand prize in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, an international business competition designed to highlight Michigan as a robust and vibrant venue for innovation and business opportunity.
The competition targets mid- to late-stage businesses with potential to generate an immediate impact on Michigan's economy. Fifty-three companies have been named semifinalists for the competition, which awards more than $1 million in prizes. The semifinalists will deliver their business pitches to investors on November 16-17 at the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Marriott at Eagle Crest.
"Michigan has always been fertile ground for entrepreneurs and this competition will jump-start new entrepreneurial opportunities here by providing access to early capital and business acceleration assistance," said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan's lead economic development agency. "The winning business plans will open doors and wide-ranging investor and business development support to put these plans into action. Every participant will benefit from this competition and Michigan benefits most by inviting and celebrating innovators who will create new jobs, and perhaps new industries, in our state."
The competition is led by the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan (composed of Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and TechTown) in addition to the New Economy Initiative, Business Leaders for Michigan and the University Research Corridor (Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University) with funding support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. These groups have aligned their efforts to bolster and advance Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem through a variety of collaborative initiatives, including the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.
For GreenSand, the plan it submitted in the competition is pretty straight forward.
GreenSand intends to recover stamp sand, crushed copper-containing sand, as raw material for the manufacture of a variety of products. The copper in the stamp sand acts as an algaecide and is an ideal additive in construction materials to prevent algae and mold growth. This material, marketed under the name G-Sand, can be used as surface granules on asphalt roofing shingles and as filler material in the shingles. A number of major producers of roofing shingles have already expressed interest in exploring the use of G-Sand in their products.
The commercialization of the G-Sand material could create more than 80 new jobs in the Upper Peninsula area in the near-term, and hundreds more if the plan's proposed asphalt shingle manufacturing plant becomes a reality.
SOURCE Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition