High-tech skatepark could spark Grand Ledge development

Sep 3, 2015

Many businesses get their start with the help of an incubator, a company that offers support and training to startups. Current State talks to some of the people behind Grand Ledge Fledge, a local incubator trying to enhance the culture and fill vacant storefronts in the city's downtown.  

The team at Grand Ledge Fledge builds what will be their skate park's first "smart spot." It will be equipped with sensors, solar power, and kinetic energy.
Credit Jerry Norris

How difficult is it to start your own business? 

The answer to that question varies wildly depending on where you are and what kind of business you’re trying to start. 

One place entrepreneurs can go to make the process easier is a business incubator. That’s an organization that provides training, workspace and other resources to new businesses.   A new local incubator is working to help “fledgling” businesses in Grand Ledge get off the ground.  Current State learns more about Grand Ledge Fledge from founder Jerry Norris, and, Chris Andrews, who started his own business there.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

One business evolved from your incubator called ‘Yoor Mom Skateboards.’ What’s its story?

Jerry Norris: About four years ago, we were at a skateboard competition that my son was competing in. I took a bunch of skaters up there with me and they were thinking this is the great life, “We’d love to keep doing this.” They said they wanted to be sponsored and we came up with the phrase “Sponsor yourself” and created that skateboard company that night.

You’re the founder of an app development company called “Green Sweater Knitting.” How did that happen? 

Chris Andrews: When Jerry took me in to give me a tour of The Fledge, he started talking about creating the longest, most hi-tech skate park in the world in Grand Ledge. He was saying in order to do that we’ll need some sort of mobile app to interface with some of our smart skate spots. And I said okay. I’m the one who’s going to make that mobile app. And I’ve got a company that I’m going to create around that. 

Primarily, (the app) keeps track of the location of all of our spots. And it will keep track of which ones are active so that we can have cameras at all of our spots. As soon someone starts skating it, we’ll detect that, and start streaming that to our mobile app.    

Tell us a little more about these “smart spots” in the skate park.    

 Norris: Well, what we’ve been doing is we’ve been teaching people how to weld masonry and woodworking for the last several years. And that was independent of The Fledge.  (It was) part of Yoor Mom Skateboards. 

Then what we decided to do is start to place the things we’ve been building all around the city and the wide trail of Grand Ledge and thus, the longest skate park in the world. We’ve been using circuit board prototype technology,  something called “Arduino,” to build a circuit board ourselves with sensors on it so we can detect vibration, loud noise, temperature, and humidity. And that’s how Chris’s app knows that somebody is skating there is because we detect the vibration and then we start flashing on a map that somebody’s there.