Funding awards help small businesses hire summer interns

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Emily Gruss sitting at a desk in front of two computer displays.

Emily Gruss, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, interned at Tekna in 2017.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For the seventh consecutive year, small businesses in West Michigan can apply for matching funds to help them hire Western Michigan University student interns in the science, technology, engineering and math—STEM—disciplines.

Businesses interested in hiring interns for this summer through the Small Company Internship Award Program should submit their funding applications by Thursday, March 1.

"The program provides matching funds to help small businesses with 250 or fewer employees hire WMU students to work on STEM or STEM-related projects that are both beneficial to the company and academically relevant to students," says Lisa Garcia, director of WMU's Business Connection, an office dedicated to strategically matching WMU's resources to the needs of the local business community.

The matching money is again being provided by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. through the Michigan Corporate Relations Network, a program that connects industry to critical university talent in ways that will help the state's economy grow and prosper.

"The Small Company Internship Program is key to supporting the growth of small businesses and helping retain talent in Michigan," says Denise Graves, university relations director at MEDC. "In 2017, more than $412,000 in MCRN and matching money from companies funded 134 internships at 117 companies throughout the state. And after completing their internships, 83 students retained their jobs, 27 of them on a full-time basis."

Internship Award Program

Mitchell Bingaman and his internship supervisor posing in front of a poster displaying key points in Armstrong International's history.

Mechanical engineering graduate Mitchell Bingaman interned at Armstrong International with the company's Mickey Gaines.

The program provides up to $3,500 in matching funds for a company to hire an intern for summer 2018. Companies may apply for funding for up to two interns from either one or two MCRN schools. However, the maximum award for a company is $3,500 from each school providing an intern.

Garcia says WMU has $35,000 to disperse this year, enough to support about 12 to 14 internships at the recommended rate of at least $12 per hour. She adds that there are few restrictions on who can apply, but the MCRN funding is targeted toward companies in Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties that would like to hire a WMU intern.

Prioritized preference is given to small companies that focus on innovative work in STEM fields, provide an internship in which STEM skills are employed and have yet to receive an internship award.

To download a 2018 internship award program application, visit WMU's Business Connection at and click Recruit. Completed applications should be emailed by March 1 to Lisa Garcia. She can be reached by email at or by phone at (269) 387-6004.

Business development partners

MCRN was established in 2011, with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund Board and is supported and administered by the MEDC. It helps promote innovative research and economic growth in the state by creating partnerships that connect Michigan's corporations to key university assets.

MEDC is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community and talent development with the focus on growing Michigan's economy.

For more information about MCRN, visit More information about MEDC is available at

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit