Gateway Grand Rapids

Browse this Section...
Home » Economic Development » Gateway Grand Rapids

Gateway Grand Rapids

In conjunction with the City of Grand Rapids and it’s Local District Financing Authority (LDFA), the Gateway Representative program is funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and is managed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Entrepreneurship and Innovation division. This program provides funding for a Gateway Representative (GWR) at each SmartZone.  The responsibility of the Gateway Representative is to help early stage companies connect with the many MEDC programs.

The GWR is responsible for the local SmartZone client services including:

  • Welcoming and introducing the technology-based start-up to the local ecosystem
  • Providing an overview of the Michigan statewide tech ecosystem
  • Recruitment and development of tech companies in the local SmartZone
  • Local SmartZone business development activities
  • Vetting of local tech companies
  • Providing strategic business guidance and helping companies with fundraising efforts.
  • Connecting companies to the various MSF funded entrepreneurial resources available to tech
  • companies across the state.
  • Supporting the start-up companies’ applications to MSF funded entrepreneurial programs such
  • as the Business Accelerator Fund, First Capital Fund and the Preseed Fund.
  • Supporting the start-up companies’ applications to federal funding agencies and programs such
  • as the SBIR/STTR program.
  • Support start-up companies through other SmartZone specific services or expertise.


AgHelp connects growers and agricultural workers

Pack Elephant brings sustainable business model to west Michigan crafters


Winsome Kirton: Entrepreneur In Residence

Winsome is the CEO & Founder of Pack Elephant, a corporate gifting service that connects artists and creative entrepreneurs – makers – with high volume buyers that want their gifts to represent their social values. Passionate about empowering underrepresented creative talent, she provides access to sustainable business to artists, craftsmen and creative entrepreneurs through this vehicle of corporate gifting.. Originally from the East Coast, she earned her BA in Visual Studies from UPenn and her MBA from NYU Stern.

Winsome was born in Rochester, NY and grew up… almost everywhere! She’s lived in 7 states and now calls Grand Rapids, MI home where she’s become an active community member and advocate for the arts. She graduated with a Visual Studies degree from UPenn and quickly realized just how difficult it is for makers – all artists and craftsmen who create with their hands – to find a sustainable living. This trend surprised her as an observer of our high consumption society while living in NYC and became even more pronounced while working in advertising, witnessing the true spending power of corporate on gifts, events and unfortunately, cheap swag. How were so many creative communities – artists of color and from other underrepresented backgrounds – suffering right in these companies’ back yards? Shortly after going back for her MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Pack Elephant became Winsome’s brainchild and passion project. Since 2018, she’s been on a mission to stop starving the artists by simplifying socially responsible gifting with a unique platform that puts community impact first.


James (J) Kevin McCurren, Commercialization Program Director, Gateway Grand Rapids

J. Kevin McCurren is the current Commercialization Program Director for the Michigan State University Gateway Grand Rapids. The Gateway program consults with early stage entrepreneurs and helps develop capital plans.  He is also helps West Michigan corporations and organizations connect with MSU resources in East Lansing.  Prior to the Gateway program, Kevin was the Program Director for the Ag & Bio MTRAC, a program that commercializes Ag & Bio research at Michigan public universities.  Prior to joining MSU, Kevin served as Clinical Faculty in Entrepreneurship at the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at GVSU.  In his role at GVSU, Kevin also served as the founding Director and President of GR Current, a community life science and technology incubator and e-Merge West Michigan, an economic development organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in West Michigan.   

Kevin has over 25 years of combined corporate and entrepreneurial experience. His start-ups have included a medical management company, a dental laboratory company, and several biomedical companies. As an investor, Kevin has been involved in several angel investment groups and venture clubs including the Grand Angels and served as a Board member of the Venture Club of Louisville, KY. Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science and Master in Public Health and Health Services Management from the University of Missouri.          

Phone: (616) 234-2870

Weian Ou, Grant Manager for the MTRAC program and MSU SMART ZONE

Weian Ou is the Grant Manager for the MTRAC program and MSU SMART ZONE. Weian joined MSU Technologies from FRIB: Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, where he worked as project coordinator II in Project Controls. Previously, Weian has managed multiple projects, including grant management software in a Michigan based company and automotive component projects in two Tier I Suppliers. He received a master’s degree in Industrial Mathematics and a master of science from Michigan State University.

Phone: 517.884.1659