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South Bend's start-up scene grows at Innovation Park

For years Silicon Valley has set the standard by pushing out successful start up companies

And now Notre Dame looks to bring some of the west coast synergy here to Michiana.

“We think there are smart people everywhere, motivated people, who really want to grow their local community,” said David Brenner, executive director of Innovation Park.

And the local community is starting to see the benefits the dozens of new companies are bringing to south bend.

“We're obviously trying to attract people to not only come here but to stay here and build their companies here,” Brenner said.

Innovation park is a major incubator on campus that brings together cutting-edge businesses.

Springboard Engineering is one of those start-ups and it turns other companies ideas into working prototypes using 3D printing technology.

“Our primary purpose is to support inventors and small companies that want to bring up new products, but they don't yet exactly understand how to build their prototypes and bring their products all the way to the market,” said Bob Sutton, managing director for Springboard.

And while the technology is exciting to forward thinking inventors, springboard makes it clear it will take on old and new ideas.

“We've done a prototype for a local business for a new type of comb,” said Kerry Wilson, managing director of Springboard.

Just like innovation park, Springboard hopes its services will spark more local entrepreneurs.

“We realized we had the same idea, that we wanted to support growth with start up companies in this area,” said Sutton.

Directors Sutton and Wilson also searched the area for recruits.

“We hire from the universities in the area and that's always interesting and we love being mentors to them and making them grow,” said Wilson.

And they made sure each intern felt like they, too were a part of the team.

“I felt like i was really contributing to their work.” said intern Catherine Bentzen.

“It's just something that you don't see when you're sitting in the classroom," said intern Casey Donnelly. "it's something invaluable for an undergraduate.”

For Bentzen, a senior at Notre Dame, her post graduate career is uncertain.

“I don't have a plan yet," said Bentzen. "I'm applying to jobs.”

But Sutton thinks start ups can keep talented youths like Bentzen in south bend.

“Hopefully we can bring them in and keep them in Michiana rather than have them ship off to parts further away.”

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