SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority

SmartZone RFP

The SmartZone LDFA invites proposals from qualified respondents and/or collaborators with an established entrepreneurship support network, proven business development success and real estate asset management experience to partner with the SmartZone LDFA in the operation of our Incubator. Details are provided on the RFP and the deadline to submit proposals is April 16, 2021 at 5:00 pm.

SmartZone RFP(PDF, 205KB)

SmartZone RFP Q&A and additional resources(PDF, 112KB)

Department in Charge of This Board

Economic Development

About the Board

We provide support to high-technology entrepreneurs and businesses. We do this by working to enhance the environment and resources they need for success. This helps them leverage technology, start companies, and create new industries. It also keeps our economy strong and prosperous.

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About the SmartZone

A SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) is an economic development tool. It allows us to capture increased property tax dollars. We then reinvest that money to provide support to high-technology entrepreneurs and businesses.

Founding Partners

The following partners established the Grand Rapids SmartZone LDFA in 2002:

Board Composition

We have 11 members:

  • 7 members are appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the City Commission
  • 1 member is appointed by the Kent County Commission
  • 1 member is appointed by the President of Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC)
  • 2 members are appointed by the Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS)

Strategic Priorities

Our guiding document is a Tax Increment Financing Plan and Development Plan(PDF, 5MB). We amended our Plans in 2016 and established the following strategic priorities:

  1. Inspiration, mentoring and access to resources
  2. Infrastructure and physical resources
  3. Connection and awareness
  4. Talent

SmartZone Boundaries

We have two distinct boundaries. Our Authority District encompasses the entire City of Grand Rapids. Our Certified Technology Park(PDF, 1MB) (CTP) is a smaller area within the City. We only capture tax increment revenue in the CTP. View our interactive map.

Enabling Legislation

Michigan Public Act 57 of 2018 is our enabling legislation (formerly Act 281 of 1986).



FY2019 Activities

Through our contracts we provided incubator spaces and offered connections to support services for high-technology startups. Promotion of the CTP as an outstanding location for new and expanding high-technology businesses reached national and international audiences at SXSW, MD&M Minneapolis, MD&M West, and MEDICA. The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded us a 2019 Business Incubator Grant, and we selected Michigan State University as our subcontractor. More information about these activities is available under the "Contracts" tab. A full list of investments is available in the FY2019 Final Financial Statements as of June 30, 2019.

The SmartZone LDFA does not have tax increment revenues which have not been expended within 5 years of their receipt. More information about tax increment financing is available in the FY2019 PA 57 Annual Report.

Residency Requirement

There is no residency requirement to be a member of this board.

Term Limits

Each term lasts 4 years. There is no term limit, so you can serve an unlimited number of terms.


There is no compensation for serving on this board.

Board Rules

Wayman Britt

Representative of the Kent County Board of Commissioners
Term ends: 12/31/2020

Keith Brophy

Mayoral Appointment
Term ends: 12/31/2021

Gerald Callahan

Mayoral Appointment
Term ends: 12/31/2023

Lisa Freiburger

Representative of Grand Rapids Community College
Term ends 12/31/2019

Kristian Grant

Representative of Grand Rapids Public Schools
Ward 3 Resident
Term ends 12/31/2021

John Helmholdt

Representative of Grand Rapids Public Schools
Term ends 12/31/2021

Mark Holzbach

Mayoral Appointment
Ward 1 Resident
Term ends: 12/31/2019

Commissioner Joe Jones

Mayoral Appointment
Ward 2 Resident
Term ends: 12/31/2021

Jerry Kooiman

Mayoral Appointment
Ward 2 Resident
Term ends: 12/31/2021

Therese Thill

Mayoral Appointment
Ward 3 Resident
Term ends: 12/31/2021

Dante Villarreal

Mayoral Appointment
Term ends: 1/31/2020

Current Contracts

We use contracts to engage partners in our work. Review our current contracts below.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The MEDC gives us the authority to operate the Grand Rapids SmartZone LDFA.

Learn More

Holland SmartZone LDFA – Satellite District

We partner with the Holland SmartZone LDFA and Lakeshore Advantage on regional initiatives.

Learn More(PDF, 396KB)

Start Garden, Inc.

We partner with Start Garden to provide a variety of services to high-tech entrepreneurs and businesses, including incubation, ecosystem development, 5x5 Night, and The 100.

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Michigan State University

We partner with Michigan State University to provide gateway services, including the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) program, under a grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund.

Learn More

The Right Place, Inc.

We partner with The Right Place to market the SmartZone to high-tech entrepreneurs and businesses and to support to MiDevice and the Technology Council of West Michigan.

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applied Medical Device Institute (aMDI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU)

We support aMDI’s work piloting a 3D additive manufacturing program and producing pre-validated FDA packaging solutions.

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Spectrum Health Innovations

We support Spectrum’s work creating new medical devices with GVSU and Kendall College of Art and Design.

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Keller Family Businesses

We support Keller's work creating new business models for high-tech startups with GVSU and Talent 2025.

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West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT)

We partnered with WMCAT to open a local Cyber Range Hub and to support the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium.

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Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS)

We are partnering with GRPS to construct a state-of-the-art engineering lab at Innovation Central High School Academy of Modern Engineering.

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Grand Circus

We partner with Grand Circus to fill the tech talent pipeline by providing basic and advance coding training.

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Michigan House Creative

We support Michigan House at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference.

Learn More