Michigan launches ‘Shark Tank’-style competition to meet state’s transportation needs - TAI News
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Mackinac Island, Michigan, on May 30, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Roth/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Michigan is looking to award $100,000 to entrepreneurs and businesses with a winning idea on how to enhance the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the launch of PitchMI on May 30 during her keynote speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference, an annual event that draws lawmakers and political pundits to Mackinac Island to discuss Michigan’s economic future. 

PitchMI will be a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition with a theme based on a problem Michigan is facing. The state will partner with outside organizations to hear pitches and fund the most innovative idea. Not only would the competition provide entrepreneurs with access to capital, Whitmer said, but it would also give their businesses exposure. 

The first competition will give $100,000 to an idea that answers the question, “How will you help Michiganders get from point A to point B safely, affordably, and efficiently?”

“Is it a new way to fix the roads? Maybe it’s improving the range and efficiency of electric vehicle batteries, connecting public transit systems,” Whitmer said. “To everyone out there who eats, sleeps and breathes fixing the damn roads, now is your chance.”

According to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council’s 2023 roads and bridges annual report, the state’s roads are deteriorating faster than they can be fixed. The report states that 33% of federal roads and 47% of local roads in Michigan were determined to be in poor condition last year.

Finding additional ways to generate revenue to build stronger road infrastructure has been a top issue for Whitmer and other state officials over the years. Most recently, Michigan lawmakers proposed adding $5 million to the state budget for a pilot program that would evaluate the use of a mileage-based road fee instead of the state’s current gas tax model.

Whitmer also announced during her keynote address other actions the state is taking to spur innovation. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be bringing on Ben Marchionna as the state’s first chief innovation ecosystem officer, with a mandate to build a “community of innovation.” Marchionna currently works as the director of technology and innovation for an aviation company.

Additionally, Whitmer directed state agencies to begin taking inventory of technology, equipment, and facilities across the state and to work with the property owners to make it available to entrepreneurs who lack access. The state will also enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Whitmer said, to make military infrastructure available to entrepreneurs so they can test their ideas.

“As the economy grows, investment in entrepreneurship is required in order for the state to thrive,” Wafa Dinaro, the executive director of the southeast Michigan-based New Economy Initiative, said in a statement. “The Governor’s initiative will help entrepreneurs reach their goals, especially those in underserved and under resourced communities.”

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