Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Loan Program + NASA Talent = Major Improvements For Cleveland Businesses

In an under-the-radar story move that I cannot for the life of me comprehend why media outlets have allowed to be under-the-radar, the Magnet Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network  teamed up with NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland back in January to implement a program that will provide local and Cuyahoga County businesses with a total of 400 hours of technical consulting from NASA engineers and scientists.  The program is one example of NASA's recent trend to integrate its institution more with day-to-day small business and manufacturing communities.

Here's how it works: the city of Cleveland and its county are providing the capital in a $450,000 loan pool that Magnet combines and delegates to vetted candidates.  NASA's Glenn in turn provides the talent with each engineering or science expert giving 40 hours each in working with a selected business on a project or product that they can help in technical advice.

I don't know about you but these are the kind of brainstorm, real-world solutions that make my foot tap in a quick staccato as I write this (or it's the Jimmy Cobb drum solo pounding through my Pandora app.  I choose the former).  In a political climate where all you see on TV and the innernets is people arguing over whether the private or public sector does a better job for US growth and innovation, it's important to keep in mind stories of both sectors coming together to assist small businesses directly and immediately- like what Magnet, NASA, and Cleveland/Cuyahoga- are out there and happening as we speak.

So out of 21 proposals, 9 companies will be qualified for the program, among those:

Gotta Groove Records:  Believe it or not, they still make vinyl records out there.  In fact, Gotta Groove has seen an increase in sales recently, with its President saying there's clearly a renewed interest in music off of vinyl these days.  Consequently, Gotta Groove's vinyl printing process- pretty much the same process used since the 70's- stands to improve greatly.  And that's just what NASA's Glenn personnel can do, as well as find new ways to increase productivity and modernize the business's software.

Boundary Systems:  This company that creates parts for manufacturing companies to mass produce wants to know ways it can cool its printing molds faster. 
NASA CTO Peck and Glenn Research Center Director Lugo
tour Cleveland's Magnet Headquarters...
Zuga Medical: A Cleveland based dental business, Zuga is specifically looking for recommended materials to use for its dental implants.

BioInVision:  This company specializes in camera imaging for microscopic biology.  There's lots of room to improve the cameras used in standard cell labs. 

Vadxx Energy:  Perhaps the boldest undertaking, Vadxx is a company seeking ways to convert plastic back into oil with fuel potential.  Vadxx thinks NASA can assist them in refining the process of shredding the plastics.

In the larger scope of things, this may seem like a day at the beach for your run of the mill NASA engineer.  That's kind of the point.  These experts are probably saving these businesses an untold amount of time and money on long reports that take even more time to implement.  I also find it refreshing to see public assistance to a business community which turns over allocation of loans to a group in Magnet that's closer to the actual community in understanding where they should properly go, instead of just throwing money at a large and bureaucratic kickstart.   


Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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