About

InvestUP

Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund Team and Board

InvestUP

InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization focused on driving economic prosperity across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and three regional universities, its mission is centered on the people, projects, policies and promotion necessary to drive prosperity across the Peninsula.

Learn more about InvestUP at https://investupmi.com/

The Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund is a $3 million investment fund dedicated to fostering the growth of early-stage startups in outdoor innovation and recreation technology across Michigan.

The outdoor recreation and tourism industry is a strong and rapidly growing sector in Michigan and the state’s outdoor recreation economy contributed $10.8 Billion in value-add in 2021, supporting 109,595 jobs, and $4.7 billion in compensation to employee households. There are more than 7,000 Outdoor Recreation Industry companies in Michigan, ranging from manufacturers, service providers and facilitators to retailers and wholesalers. Learn more about Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry.

Michigan Innovate Capital Fund

The Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund was created through funding by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and administered by the Michigan Strategic Fund, through the statewide Michigan Innovate Capital Fund (MICF). MICF initiative provides awards to eligible non-profit organizations to make investments in pre-seed and early-stage companies. The primary objectives of the MICF is to:

  • Increase the amount of capital being invested in Michigan-based competitive edge technology companies that are in the earliest stages of commercialization;
  • Create a capital climate that supports the development, retention, and attraction of venture-backed competitive edge technology companies in Michigan; and
  • Build a pipeline of high-growth, competitive edge technology company deal flow for the subsequent stages of funding, attracting investments from inside and outside the State of Michigan.

Learn more about the MICF program at https://www.michiganbusiness.org/public-notices-rfps/michigan-innovate-capital-fund-program/

Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund

Team and Board

Marty FittanteMarty Fittante – Board Chairman

Marty is the Chief Executive Officer of InvestUP and is also the former chief of staff for Michigan State Senator Tom Casperson. His legislative works spans numerous industries, including forestry, mining, and health care. He was previously external affairs director for the House Policy Office, a position that he held after serving as legislative director during Senator Casperson’s terms in the Michigan House of Representatives. As a policy advisor, he managed three statewide task forces that addressed job creation, education, and agriculture.

Marty and his wife Lisa also own an accounting firm in Iron Mountain that serves small and medium sized businesses.

Marty is the inaugural recipient of the Jon Farley Michigan Legislative Staff Award, given to an exceptional staffer who is motivated by a dedication to service and a desire to foster an environment in Lansing based on merit and results. He is also the recipient of the Michigan Junior Chamber of Commerce President’s Award of Excellence, and the Daily Press Neighbors Award, presented to residents who “give the Central U.P. its heart and soul.”

Marty is a graduate of Bay College, Ferris State University, and Wayne State University Law School.

Marty FittanteMarty Fittante – Board Chairman

Marty is the Chief Executive Officer of InvestUP and is also the former chief of staff for Michigan State Senator Tom Casperson. His legislative works spans numerous industries, including forestry, mining, and health care. He was previously external affairs director for the House Policy Office, a position that he held after serving as legislative director during Senator Casperson’s terms in the Michigan House of Representatives. As a policy advisor, he managed three statewide task forces that addressed job creation, education, and agriculture.

Marty and his wife Lisa also own an accounting firm in Iron Mountain that serves small and medium sized businesses.

Marty is the inaugural recipient of the Jon Farley Michigan Legislative Staff Award, given to an exceptional staffer who is motivated by a dedication to service and a desire to foster an environment in Lansing based on merit and results. He is also the recipient of the Michigan Junior Chamber of Commerce President’s Award of Excellence, and the Daily Press Neighbors Award, presented to residents who “give the Central U.P. its heart and soul.”

Marty is a graduate of Bay College, Ferris State University, and Wayne State University Law School.

Jim BakerJim Baker – Fund Manager and Board Member

In addition to his duties as the Fund Manager of the Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund, Jim serves as the Associate Vice President for Research and Co-Director of Husky Innovate Michigan Tech University. His responsibilities at Michigan Tech include technology commercialization, intellectual property management, startup business development, sponsored research contract and grant management, as well as campus-wide innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Jim is actively involved in the economic development and business service provider community as a board member of Invest Michigan, Operation Action U.P., and the Michigan Small Business Development Center, and past president of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance. In addition to his university responsibilities, he is also co-owner and vice president of a small Michigan-based outdoor products manufacturing company.

Jim has been involved with a number of early-stage technology companies across a number of sectors as a board member, founder, or advisor. Jim is a registered U.S. patent agent and Certified Licensing Professional and holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Michigan Tech.  In addition to his professional duties, Jim is an active outdoor enthusiast and leader of volunteer organizations associated with outdoor recreation.  He is a life member of Trout Unlimited and Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a founding member and former president of the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited and founding member of the Copper Country Walleye Association.  He also served for a number of years on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Western Upper Peninsula Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

Jim BakerJim Baker

Fund Manager and Board Member

In addition to his duties as the Fund Manager of the Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund, Jim serves as the Associate Vice President for Research and Co-Director of Husky Innovate Michigan Tech University. His responsibilities at Michigan Tech include technology commercialization, intellectual property management, startup business development, sponsored research contract and grant management, as well as campus-wide innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Jim is actively involved in the economic development and business service provider community as a board member of Invest Michigan, Operation Action U.P., and the Michigan Small Business Development Center, and past president of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance. In addition to his university responsibilities, he is also co-owner and vice president of a small Michigan-based outdoor products manufacturing company.

Jim has been involved with a number of early-stage technology companies across a number of sectors as a board member, founder, or advisor. Jim is a registered U.S. patent agent and Certified Licensing Professional and holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Michigan Tech.  In addition to his professional duties, Jim is an active outdoor enthusiast and leader of volunteer organizations associated with outdoor recreation.  He is a life member of Trout Unlimited and Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a founding member and former president of the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited and founding member of the Copper Country Walleye Association.  He also served for a number of years on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Western Upper Peninsula Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

Meredith LebeauMeredith LeBeau, PhD – Board Member

Meredith Ballard LaBeau is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and on the strategic leadership team at Calumet Electronics, a leader in manufacturing high-performance Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and IC Substrates for defense, aerospace, medical, power-grid, commercial, industrial controls, and space applications.

Meredith is the technical lead and manager of Calumet’s Process Engineering and R&D teams. She also is a member of two international standards committees: IPC and the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP), an IPC Board Member and plays a critical role in developing standards and PCB manufacturing quality and criteria for the electronics industry. Meredith was recently elected to serve as an inaugural member of the Industrial Advisory Committee for CHIPs for America, providing advice on science and technology needs of the nations’ domestic microelectronics industry.

Meredith received her PhD from Michigan Technological University in Environmental Engineering focusing on the integrated assessment of anthropogenic, climate and policy induced changes on phosphorus export in the United States Laurentian Great Lakes watersheds. Meredith’s education includes a masters’ degree from Michigan Tech in environmental engineering for the performance and systems analysis of wastewater treatment systems and potable water in rural Bolivia. This research was conducted in three rural towns of Bolivia over a three-month immersive period. During her academic career, Meredith earned awards for S-STEM research, integrative graduate education and research traineeship, international sustainable development, 1st runner-up for best student paper at the International Association of Great Lakes Research and a summer Vespucci institute scholar. She currently holds 5 publications focused on watershed research, phosphorus, and the Great Lakes. Prior to the advanced degrees, Meredith completed a bachelors’ degrees in biomedical engineering, also from Michigan Tech.

Prior to her advanced education, Meredith was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Eastern Coal Regional Roundtable in Charleston, West Virginia.  This work consisted of developing and managing a consortium of watershed groups, state and federal agencies, conservation districts and other interested parties in coal and water restoration and conservation issues in Appalachia. Following this service, Meredith managed the North Fork Watershed Project in Thomas, West Virginia, orchestrating a major restoration project for the remediation of acid mine drainage.

Meredith LebeauMeredith LeBeau, PhD – Board Member

Meredith Ballard LaBeau is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and on the strategic leadership team at Calumet Electronics, a leader in manufacturing high-performance Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and IC Substrates for defense, aerospace, medical, power-grid, commercial, industrial controls, and space applications.

Meredith is the technical lead and manager of Calumet’s Process Engineering and R&D teams. She also is a member of two international standards committees: IPC and the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP), an IPC Board Member and plays a critical role in developing standards and PCB manufacturing quality and criteria for the electronics industry. Meredith was recently elected to serve as an inaugural member of the Industrial Advisory Committee for CHIPs for America, providing advice on science and technology needs of the nations’ domestic microelectronics industry.

Meredith received her PhD from Michigan Technological University in Environmental Engineering focusing on the integrated assessment of anthropogenic, climate and policy induced changes on phosphorus export in the United States Laurentian Great Lakes watersheds. Meredith’s education includes a masters’ degree from Michigan Tech in environmental engineering for the performance and systems analysis of wastewater treatment systems and potable water in rural Bolivia. This research was conducted in three rural towns of Bolivia over a three-month immersive period. During her academic career, Meredith earned awards for S-STEM research, integrative graduate education and research traineeship, international sustainable development, 1st runner-up for best student paper at the International Association of Great Lakes Research and a summer Vespucci institute scholar. She currently holds 5 publications focused on watershed research, phosphorus, and the Great Lakes. Prior to the advanced degrees, Meredith completed a bachelors’ degrees in biomedical engineering, also from Michigan Tech.

Prior to her advanced education, Meredith was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Eastern Coal Regional Roundtable in Charleston, West Virginia.  This work consisted of developing and managing a consortium of watershed groups, state and federal agencies, conservation districts and other interested parties in coal and water restoration and conservation issues in Appalachia. Following this service, Meredith managed the North Fork Watershed Project in Thomas, West Virginia, orchestrating a major restoration project for the remediation of acid mine drainage.

Bob LehtoBob Lehto – Board Member

Bob Lehto is the President, CEO and majority shareholder of TriMedia Environmental & Engineering. Since 1995, TriMedia has provided high-quality, cost-effective professional services to help their clients create safe work environments. Bob’s experience prior to TriMedia spans the public and private sectors, holding progressive leadership roles in Tribal government and Fortune 500 energy production and delivery companies. With TriMedia, Bob aims to serve its global client base in power generation, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, construction, institutional, and healthcare markets.

Born in Newberry, Michigan, Bob is a graduate of Lake Superior State University and the University of Michigan. He is a Global EHS Board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), Canadian Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH), and Certified Safety Professional (CSP). Bob is a graduate of Lake Superior Leadership Academy and member of Marquette Rotary. He is proud member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians and has served on the board of Invest UP since 2023.

Bob and his wife, Pam, along with their two children reside in Marquette and are avid outdoor enthusiasts. When he isn’t spending time with his family, Bob enjoys volunteerism in his community.

Bob LehtoBob Lehto – Board Member

Bob Lehto is the President, CEO and majority shareholder of TriMedia Environmental & Engineering. Since 1995, TriMedia has provided high-quality, cost-effective professional services to help their clients create safe work environments. Bob’s experience prior to TriMedia spans the public and private sectors, holding progressive leadership roles in Tribal government and Fortune 500 energy production and delivery companies. With TriMedia, Bob aims to serve its global client base in power generation, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, construction, institutional, and healthcare markets.

Born in Newberry, Michigan, Bob is a graduate of Lake Superior State University and the University of Michigan. He is a Global EHS Board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), Canadian Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH), and Certified Safety Professional (CSP). Bob is a graduate of Lake Superior Leadership Academy and member of Marquette Rotary. He is proud member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians and has served on the board of Invest UP since 2023.

Bob and his wife, Pam, along with their two children reside in Marquette and are avid outdoor enthusiasts. When he isn’t spending time with his family, Bob enjoys volunteerism in his community.

Jim-TenzilloJim Tenzillo – Interim Fund Manager

Jim is a venture investor, community builder, and startup advisor. He has spent the past 10+ years working both as an investor and an operator. Jim was most recently the Managing Director of an early-stage investment firm Invest Michigan, a non-profit pre-seed/seed stage fund focused on Michigan-based tech companies that made 132 investments into 56 early-stage Michigan tech startups. Jim helped launch and manage the Invest Michigan initiative which became an evergreen fund that sustained itself with $15.2M in capital over the past nine years. Invest Michigan’s portfolio companies raised over $765M concurrent of subsequent to the firm’s investment, generating leverage of more than 50:1.

Jim is also a co-founder of VentureNext, Inc., a non-profit professional peer group of rising venture capital investors who work with, manage, and run venture capital investment funds across the Midwest. The mission of the organization is to elevate Midwestern VC’s and start-ups through capital, community, and collaboration. The VentureNext community will be an important factor in assisting the Fund with deal flow leads, syndicate investor partnerships, and supporting the Fund’s outdoor innovation portfolio companies with follow-on investor connections across the Midwest region. The community consists of over 300 members across 200 firms and offers its members opportunities to share deal flow, syndicate funding rounds, provide or receive mentorship, and attend VC-related networking/educational events.

Jim-TenzilloJim Tenzillo – Interim Fund Manager

Jim is a venture investor, community builder, and startup advisor. He has spent the past 10+ years working both as an investor and an operator. Jim was most recently the Managing Director of an early-stage investment firm Invest Michigan, a non-profit pre-seed/seed stage fund focused on Michigan-based tech companies that made 132 investments into 56 early-stage Michigan tech startups. Jim helped launch and manage the Invest Michigan initiative which became an evergreen fund that sustained itself with $15.2M in capital over the past nine years. Invest Michigan’s portfolio companies raised over $765M concurrent of subsequent to the firm’s investment, generating leverage of more than 50:1.

Jim is also a co-founder of VentureNext, Inc., a non-profit professional peer group of rising venture capital investors who work with, manage, and run venture capital investment funds across the Midwest. The mission of the organization is to elevate Midwestern VC’s and start-ups through capital, community, and collaboration. The VentureNext community will be an important factor in assisting the Fund with deal flow leads, syndicate investor partnerships, and supporting the Fund’s outdoor innovation portfolio companies with follow-on investor connections across the Midwest region. The community consists of over 300 members across 200 firms and offers its members opportunities to share deal flow, syndicate funding rounds, provide or receive mentorship, and attend VC-related networking/educational events.

Joe ThielJoe Thiel – Board Member

Joe is the CEO of the Innovate Marquette SmartZone and is well known as a supervisor, sales executive, management executive, board member, serial entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, public speaker, coach, and mentor. While working on small and large-scale national and international projects, Joe obtained macro and micro perspectives of nearly all aspects of small and big business. Joe has managed, reviewed, and evaluated large corporate budgets and acquired significant capital funds for numerous projects.

Joe has procured tens of millions of dollars in grants and/or public funding domestically and internationally. He has successfully coached countless employees, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and students. Throughout his career, Joe wrote, collaborated on, and was named in numerous US and international patents. He received top awards in innovation and has been recognized/requested to speak, coach, consult, and create as an expert, in energy technologies, advanced battery technologies, advanced sound technologies, complex mobile applications, complex wireless RF systems and platforms, advanced large scale thermal transfer technologies, advanced security and encryption technology, capital management, grant writing, legislative and permit process, advanced certification process, business/financial documentation, business advisement, product marketing, manufacturing and production design and processing, mechanical design, SEO services, and capital acquisition at all levels.

Today, Joe serves as CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Executive Director of Invent@NMU, a Northern Michigan University idea incubator whose mission is to position Marquette as a premier city for innovation and business development through their process to identify, nurture, and cultivate the growth and success of technology-based innovators, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups throughout their community. By adopting these leadership roles that enable accessibility, sustainability, and creativity within our region, Joe is positioned to act as a resource with our partners to build opportunities for the careers of the future, while honoring the roots and natural wonders signature to Marquette.

Joe ThielJoe Thiel – Board Member

Joe is the CEO of the Innovate Marquette SmartZone and is well known as a supervisor, sales executive, management executive, board member, serial entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, public speaker, coach, and mentor. While working on small and large-scale national and international projects, Joe obtained macro and micro perspectives of nearly all aspects of small and big business. Joe has managed, reviewed, and evaluated large corporate budgets and acquired significant capital funds for numerous projects.

Joe has procured tens of millions of dollars in grants and/or public funding domestically and internationally. He has successfully coached countless employees, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and students. Throughout his career, Joe wrote, collaborated on, and was named in numerous US and international patents. He received top awards in innovation and has been recognized/requested to speak, coach, consult, and create as an expert, in energy technologies, advanced battery technologies, advanced sound technologies, complex mobile applications, complex wireless RF systems and platforms, advanced large scale thermal transfer technologies, advanced security and encryption technology, capital management, grant writing, legislative and permit process, advanced certification process, business/financial documentation, business advisement, product marketing, manufacturing and production design and processing, mechanical design, SEO services, and capital acquisition at all levels.

Today, Joe serves as CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Executive Director of Invent@NMU, a Northern Michigan University idea incubator whose mission is to position Marquette as a premier city for innovation and business development through their process to identify, nurture, and cultivate the growth and success of technology-based innovators, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups throughout their community. By adopting these leadership roles that enable accessibility, sustainability, and creativity within our region, Joe is positioned to act as a resource with our partners to build opportunities for the careers of the future, while honoring the roots and natural wonders signature to Marquette.

Jennifer Watson – Board Member

Jennifer C. Watson, CUCE – CEO – Limestone Federal Credit Union | LinkedInJennifer C. Watson has been serving as the CEO of Limestone Federal Credit Union since April 2003. She embarked on her credit union career in 1991 and is a 1996 graduate of CUNA Management School, a credit union management program offered by The University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Business. Under Watson’s leadership, Limestone FCU has experienced remarkable growth, increasing its assets from $18 million to the current $64.8 million.

Watson and her team are dedicated to implementing innovative approaches for educating individuals in personal finance, employment skills, and youth development. Limestone FCU has been a pioneer in student education, establishing real-world youth opportunities through initiatives such as EEE Spirit Store & The Grind Coffee House, intern programs, and financial reality fairs. These initiatives aim to equip students with valuable skills such as entrepreneurial ventures, credit management, budgeting, and the importance of saving for the future.

Beyond her role at Limestone FCU, Watson actively participates in local, state, and national events to support the credit union movement. She advocates for common-sense regulation and brings high-quality education and programs back to the community.

In her leisure time, Jennifer, alongside her husband Dale Gould, enjoys traveling and spending time with their four children and four grandchildren.

Jennifer is deeply engaged in the community, serving on multiple non-profit boards, and actively engaging in community development. Current volunteer efforts include service on the following boards and committees; Upward Community Youth, Inc, Schoolcraft Tourism & Commerce, Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital Finance Committee, Schoolcraft County Economic Resiliency Committee, Michigan Credit Union Foundation, Manistique FolkFest Committee, & Manistique Merchants Committee. Passionate about business and community impact, Watson is committed to making a difference, one person, action, and project at a time.

Jennifer Watson – Board Member

Jennifer C. Watson, CUCE – CEO – Limestone Federal Credit Union | LinkedInJennifer C. Watson has been serving as the CEO of Limestone Federal Credit Union since April 2003. She embarked on her credit union career in 1991 and is a 1996 graduate of CUNA Management School, a credit union management program offered by The University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Business. Under Watson’s leadership, Limestone FCU has experienced remarkable growth, increasing its assets from $18 million to the current $64.8 million.

Watson and her team are dedicated to implementing innovative approaches for educating individuals in personal finance, employment skills, and youth development. Limestone FCU has been a pioneer in student education, establishing real-world youth opportunities through initiatives such as EEE Spirit Store & The Grind Coffee House, intern programs, and financial reality fairs. These initiatives aim to equip students with valuable skills such as entrepreneurial ventures, credit management, budgeting, and the importance of saving for the future.

Beyond her role at Limestone FCU, Watson actively participates in local, state, and national events to support the credit union movement. She advocates for common-sense regulation and brings high-quality education and programs back to the community.

In her leisure time, Jennifer, alongside her husband Dale Gould, enjoys traveling and spending time with their four children and four grandchildren.

Jennifer is deeply engaged in the community, serving on multiple non-profit boards, and actively engaging in community development. Current volunteer efforts include service on the following boards and committees; Upward Community Youth, Inc, Schoolcraft Tourism & Commerce, Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital Finance Committee, Schoolcraft County Economic Resiliency Committee, Michigan Credit Union Foundation, Manistique FolkFest Committee, & Manistique Merchants Committee. Passionate about business and community impact, Watson is committed to making a difference, one person, action, and project at a time.