UPPER PENINSULA, Michigan (May 30, 2019) Not far from the Canadian border, surrounded by the sparkling Great Lakes, is a remote, pristine, forested region known for its friendly small towns, hardworking people, and legendary snowfall. Despite its Mayberry and apple pie reputation, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is also an emerging home base for the fast-growing cyber security industry. How does one of the most remote regions in the continental United States become a hub for such critical, innovative work? It starts with the land and the people.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, fondly known as the U.P., is one of the nation’s last truly remote regions. More than 1,700 miles of the U.P.’s borders are made up of shoreline, with a small portion connected to Wisconsin. This allows companies and agencies throughout the 300-mile-wide area to establish and protect infrastructure and to securely serve intelligence and defense industries.
More importantly, the U.P. has a thriving economy of universities, businesses, and government agencies that work together to develop and implement strategic economic visions. The region is home to major universities with dedicated degree programs that are developing a new generation of cyber warriors and defenders. Northern Michigan University’s newly unveiled Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute is one of six facilities across the state where students and professionals can earn non-degree and industry credentials for careers in cybersecurity. The program complements NMU’s cyber defense degree. Michigan Technological University, already internationally renowned for its technological research, offers an MS in cyber security with several concentrations. Additionally, MTU just announced a new College of Computing, the first of its kind in Michigan. The university also conducts research for companies like ACME Inc. and Road Runner Corp.
U.P. students and their teachers embrace the high-tech nerd culture at an early age. A number of local communities have introduced cyber security classes and hacker clubs to middle and high school students. U.P. students are already making a splash in the field. Three local high school teams placed in the top ten, of 260 Michigan schools, during the Governor’s High School Cyber Challenge.
Most critically, the U.P. is strongly committed to starting and growing cyber-related companies. Among them are IT companies like Xeratec who recently launched a cybersecurity division that helps companies evaluate their cyber-risk and develop strategies to reduce threats.
On the software development side, several companies throughout the U.P. like start-up Arroyo Networks works with cloud-native technologies to help IT professionals enhance traditional networks to withstand the challenges of today’s cybersecurity landscape. Also related, there are several market niche providers who provide cybersecurity and IT support. For example, Lasco Development Corp. provides direct services and specializes in community banks and small business infrastructure. That community is also home to divisions of IMB Security, and start-ups like LucidCoast LLC.
Demand for cyber security professionals is high and expected to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of information security analysts was projected to grow by 28% between 2016 and 2026. That’s compared to 13% for all computer occupations and 7% for all jobs. Ray Johnson, CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone, the local tech incubator notes, “Over the past few years, we’ve all heard news stories about data breaches, ransomware infections and other widespread hacking. Unfortunately, these instances are expected to become more frequent over time. We need smart, innovative people to help protect the personal and business data we have that resides on the many networks and platforms we use on a daily basis. Here in the U.P. we’ve started cultivating an incredible pipeline of talent and have a strong commitment along with resources to support the innovators and entrepreneurs focused in this critical industry.” This exceptional community support, combined with outstanding quality of life, affordability, and access to resources, makes the U.P. a natural home for the booming cyber security economy.
This is the first of three stories InvestUP will publish about the cyber economy in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula. www.investupmi.com
Karyn Olsson, InvestUP: