The mission of MTEC SmartZone is accelerating high-tech business growth to build a prosperous regional economy.


Transform the Upper Peninsula into a world-class technology ecosystem. MTEC SmartZone demonstrates relentless, positive action that yields a vibrant technology sector, driving Michigan’s innovative leadership and economic growth with sustainable opportunities for companies and their employees to prosper.

The MTEC team, consultants, and board members work together to help bring innovations to life!

Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC) SmartZone is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entrepreneurial support center. We provide entrepreneurial services to facilitate the commercialization of technology emerging from Michigan Tech Research and private companies.

We exist to expand educational opportunity and knowledge pertaining to scientific and technological research and development among public and private entities. Our focus is on commercializing ideas, patents, and other opportunities surrounding corporate, university, or private research institute efforts.

MTEC SmartZone is the leader in entrepreneurship and high-tech business acceleration in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. We collaboratively work with the cities of Houghton and Hancock, Michigan Technological University, and Finlandia University to provide facilities and resources to help businesses flourish.

David Rowe, CEO

David is a multi-disciplinary professional with an extensive background in business and product development, management, finance, and market research. He has a successful track record of developing community relationships and strategic partnerships. David has held multiple senior-level positions throughout his career, including Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Business Development, enabling him to lead the growth and development of a large multi-state enterprise and a local high-tech manufacturing company, where he leveraged banking and outside investment opportunities to structure project financing and the commercialization of products from emerging intellectual property. In his most recent position with one of the nation’s leading energy products companies, he established and directed an engineering services office in support of a 750+ employee manufacturing facility. David’s expertise centers around all aspects of business development, often resulting in significant growth in market penetration and operational excellence. David has volunteered his expertise in serving as a director on various boards – including the Michigan Tech Fund, Innovation Shore Angel Network, and several charitable organizations. David is a Calumet, MI, native whose passions include skiing, ice hockey, fishing, and boating. He resides in Dollar Bay, with his wife Mary, daughter Sarah and son Matthew.

Cheryl LeClaire, Vice President of Operations

Cheryl manages the operation of the MTEC SmartZone including accounting, budget and control, audit, compliance, funding and grant disbursement, and information systems. She is also responsible for procurement, risk management, human resource policy, facilities, auxiliary services, safety and security, and payroll.

Jason Mack, Vice President of Business Development

Jason provides one-on-one mentoring to early and mid-stage start-ups. He understands how to start, grow, and scale new businesses and has relationships in various industries that allow him to provide practical support for MTEC clients.

Patrick Visser, Chief Commercial Officer

Patrick works with our transformational technology clients to help commercialize their disruptive start-ups. He is also involved in driving MTEC SmartZone strategic initiatives. His expertise areas are strategy, ideation and innovation, commercialization, product/business development, and capitalization advising.

MTEC SmartZone Board of Directors

This MTEC Board of Directors is the governing body of our corporation. The board is made up of representatives from the City of Houghton, the City of Hancock, Michigan Technological University, and the Keweenaw Economic Development Corporation (KEDA). This managing board meets on a quarterly basis to review the business and affairs of the corporation.

Eric Waara, Chairman
Eric is the City Manager of Houghton. Prior to that, he was a Civil Engineering Project Manager focusing on large municipal projects throughout the Upper Peninsula for more than 20 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan Tech and is a Registered Professional Engineer. A lifelong resident of the Keweenaw, he and his wife have three children.

David D. Reed, Treasurer
David is VP for Research at Michigan Technological University and a professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. He has been a principal investigator and co-investigator on projects involving researchers from Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University, among other institutions. In 2000, he received the Scientific Achievement Award from the International Union of Forest Research Organization.

Mary Babcock
Mary is the City Manager of Hancock Michigan.

Tom Merz
Tom is an Emeritus Professor of Economics, at the College of Business, Michigan Technological University, and currently serves as the Chairman of the City of Houghton Planning Commission. He previously served as Houghton City Mayor from 1996-2006 and the Associate Dean of the School of Business and Economics from 2008-2018.

Fred Molnar
Fred is the Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Previously, he served as the Biotech Venture Director at the MEDC. He was also the Vice President of North American Sales, Marketing, and Service Operations at Sony Biotechnology Inc. and the Chief Commercial Officer at iCyt Mission Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Wayne State University and an MBA from Eastern Michigan University.

Jeff Ratcliffe
Jeff is the executive director of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, a private, non-profit economic development organization focused on business retention and attraction, community redevelopment, and infrastructure development. He has over 30 years in community and economic development working almost exclusively in rural Michigan communities. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Northern Michigan University and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from The George Washington University.

Lee Rouse
Lee has a background in Engineering, Organizational Development, Quality Management, and Business Management with over 25 years of experience working in the corporate industry and nonprofit consulting. She has worked as an engineer for both General Motors and Dow Chemical Company before starting her own consulting company and later merging with Omni Tech International, Ltd., where she is currently a principal owner and President/CEO. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University and has taken classes toward her MBA from Central Michigan University.

Alan West
Alan was the first CEO of MTEC SmartZone. A known entity to the Keweenaw, Alan has extensive knowledge of Michigan Tech, the Copper Country, Life Sciences, and commercialization. He is currently the Resident Entrepreneur at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. Previously, Alan served as COO at Carmell Therapeutics Corporation, a spin-out of Carnegie Mellon University. Alan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University and a Master of Science degree in Design Engineering from Tufts University.

Steve Zutter
Steve began his career as an Edward Jones financial advisor in 1984, opening the firm’s first branch office in Hancock, MI. The company has grown robustly, leading him to invite another financial advisor to join him in the community. Today, there are four Edward Jones branches throughout the Copper Country. A 30-year resident of Hancock, Zutter is an active member of the community, serving on multiple boards and holding the presidential position in different organizations.

Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) Board of Directors

The Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) provides funding for MTEC SmartZone. It is chartered to fund the creation and promotion of high-technology activities. The LDFA board has seven members, three members from each community – Houghton, Hancock – and an independent member.

Dan Crane, Chairman
Dan is Regional Account Executive for Upper Peninsula Power Company. He is a member of Houghton Portage Township Schools Board of Education, Hancock Rotary Club, and Chassell Lions Club. A graduate of Michigan Technological University, he and his wife Mary have two daughters.

Robert Backon
Robert has served as Houghton’s Mayor since 2008. He is a former U.S. history and government high school teacher.

Jim Hainault
Jim grew up in White Pine, Michigan when the copper industry was at its peak. He earned a BS degree in Industrial Management from Michigan Technological University in 1971, worked at White Pine Copper Company, and as Ontonagon County Controller, Comptroller of Wedtech of Michigan, and served 22 years in varying capacities at MTU including manager of the Student Union. Jim retired from Michigan Tech from his position as Associate Director of Auxiliary Services in 2010. He and his wife Kathy spend summers at Portage Entry south of Chassell, MI, and winters in Tucson, AZ.

Mike Hauswirth
Mike is Executive Vice President – Chief Operating Officer at Superior National Bank. He has spent the last 11 years working for Aspirus Keweenaw, starting as the Chief Operating Officer in 2007. He added COO responsibilities for Aspirus Ontonagon in 2011 before being named CEO for both locations in 2016. During his tenure, Hauswirth oversaw the construction of a brand new clinic in Houghton, the implementation of a new electronic health records system, and expansion and renovations to both the Aspirus Keweenaw and Aspirus Ontonagon Hospitals.

Doreen Kramer
Doreen is the Superintendent of the Houghton-Portage Township School District and has been an administrator with the district for 20 years. Originally from Algonac, MI, she first came to the Upper Peninsula to attend NMU where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 1989, a Master’s Degree in 2000, and Education Specialist in 2004. Doreen has been a board member with the Barbara Kettle Shelter Home and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Omega House.

George McNulty
In July 2019, Dr. George McNulty became the president of Gogebic Community College where he continues his commitment to the community college mission and is a passionate advocate of education. Dr. McNulty previously served as the Vice President of Student Affairs at Colby Community College and held roles in academic advising, adjunct faculty, counseling, and financial aid at Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College.

Robert Megowen
Robert serves as Mayor Pro-Tem for the City of Houghton. He is an owner/partner of Douglass House Saloon-Armando’s Restaurant and General Manager of Houghton Housing Associates. He is a graduate of Michigan Tech, where he studied Mechanical Engineering. Mr. Megowen has been a volunteer member of the Houghton Fire Department for over 35 years. He is married and has one child.

Steve Patchin
Steve currently serves as Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. His previous career endeavors at the higher education level have focused on developing pre-college outreach programming to infuse interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into K-12 youth. His education team’s mission is to engage every student, every day in their own education.

Dan Salo
Dan was born and raised in the area and enjoys being involved with the community. Now Retired Dan is a Veteran having served with the U.S. Navy SeaBees Construction Battalion for 25 years. He also has an extensive background in big organization finance and budgeting which he developed through his involvement with unions throughout the state. Salo currently serves as a member of the Houghton City Council.

Whitney Warstler
Whitney Warstler has a background in communications and government; she holds an MS in rhetoric and technical communications. While attending Michigan Tech, she fell in love with the Copper Country. After years of living overseas, she is happy to be back in the place she always considered home. Through her work on the city council and her business, she prioritizes the community.


LDFA meeting agendas, minutes, and other information can be found here: