Neatly tucked away along the tree-lined southern shoreline of Lake Superior lies a city called Marquette, MI and a community of people that call it home.
For some, life in Marquette is defined by early morning drives along Lakeshore Boulevard, because catching a glimpse of the sun rising over Lake Superior is always worth the five-minute detour. For others, life in Marquette is marked by the contagious energy that can be felt during each and every visit to a locally owned cafe, outfitter or art gallery.
Although we all interact with Marquette in our own unique ways, the one thing that remains constant is the hard work of entrepreneurs that have helped make Marquette a magical place to call home.
Here at Innovate Marquette SmartZone, we are in the business of positively impacting the greater Marquette community through uplifting the entrepreneurs that have built and continue to build Marquette.
To generate the greatest positive economic impact possible, we have decided that it is time to add another change-maker to our team and with that a new, cardinal position dedicated to connecting, educating, and supporting those entrepreneurs through their journey, start to finish. With this person’s focus on building a robust, supportive business and start-up ecosystem they themselves must carry that kindred spirit and adoration of our community. Innovate Marquette would like to warmly welcome to the team Dave Kronberg, Director of Entrepreneurial Outreach and Services.
WHO IS DAVE KRONBERG?
Dave Kronberg is an Upper Peninsula-born designer and business professional. If you live in Marquette or have visited the Upper Peninsula, there is a good chance you have interacted with some of his professional work. Over the past 20 years, Dave has designed interpretive environments including the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, The Olympic Village at the Superior Dome, and Munising’s Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center.
For as long as Dave can remember, he has been creating things with his hands. While reflecting on his early days Dave stated, “Growing up, my dad had a workshop and I spent almost all of my time there. I would be at his elbow in his workshop, learning how to make things and how to use tools and most importantly, how to be resourceful in solving problems. It came naturally to me. Spending a lot of time in his workshop probably kept me out of a lot of trouble in high school.”
Throughout years of hard work, tinkering and toying in his father’s workshop, Dave developed a strong interest in design and technical drawing. Combining these two passions, Dave attended Northern Michigan University where he earned Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Arts (MA) Degrees in product design and education. Describing his experience at Northern, Dave stated, “My education prepared me to be an entrepreneur. The key takeaways from my BFA and MA experiences at Northern was to be creative and to pursue my career in an entrepreneurial way.”
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL WAY OF LIFE
Dave, seated in the “Huck Finn”, a wooden lapstrake boat he built with his son Solomon.
To Dave, entrepreneurialism is a way of life. He became entrepreneurially minded at a young age through sage advice from his father. At fifteen-years-old, Dave became fascinated by bicycle touring and “needed” a serious upgrade in his ride. Rather than giving him cash or telling him to get a job to pay for a new bike, Dave’s father encouraged him to start his own business.
“At a young age, taking on the mindset that starting a business is something that I could do just kind of set the stage for the rest of my career. Starting a business is just a decision and begins with the confidence that it can be done. So I did. My first business was a boat cleaning business. And in the course of the summer, I made enough money to buy a secondhand French touring bike and gear.” said Dave, reflecting on his experience and the lessons learned.
“STARTING A BUSINESS IS JUST A DECISION AND BEGINS WITH THE CONFIDENCE THAT IT CAN BE DONE.”
– DAVE KRONBERG
Throughout his 25+ year career, Dave has designed immersive educational and leisure experiences as an entrepreneur himself, and for entrepreneurial start-ups.
Directly after receiving his BFA from Northern, Dave received an invitation to design architecture for an entrepreneur in the Tahitian islands who bought property from the famed singer/songwriter Julio Iglesias. This entrepreneur had plans to build a fantasy island resort and wanted Dave to join in designing and building it. Thrilled, Dave leaped at this once of a lifetime opportunity and was part of the team developing various architectural projects for the resort.
Another notable startup Dave participated in that is close to all of our hearts is the development of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. When asked about this experience Dave expressed, “I always had a real interest in product design and architecture, so when a local visionary decided to start a children’s museum, I introduced myself to her and became the founding exhibit designer for the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. I worked very closely with Nheena for about six years to fleshing out the vision and helping get the Children’s Museum up and running.”
INNOVATING COMMUNITIES THROUGH THOUGHTFUL DESIGN
Being a designer is a large responsibility. When done poorly, design can push people away from enriching experiences. In Dave’s words, “The game is to connect with people in a way that’s engaging and memorable. It takes empathy and attention to learn what people are interested in and how to connect with them. When designed poorly, a product or environment can really turn people off.”
One of Dave’s favorite career experiences was when he worked for the State of Michigan as a Designer. In this role, Dave led the planning, design, and construction of complex interpretive projects for the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
One large project under this role Dave completed was what is now known as Mill Creek Discovery Park. Formerly a superb natural history site with declining attendance, Dave was a part of the team that developed and implemented a plan to reinvigorate the site with outdoor adventure activities. The plan included a three-story tower with an innovative interactive climbing wall, a rope bridge and zip line following the course of the creek. Dave reflected, “The leadership there was very supportive of the innovative human-centered ideas that I wanted to try out. I would have the winters to brainstorm and prototype, and the springtime to experiment with my ideas for the steady stream of over a million visitors a year trying out my designs.”
Have you ever visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore? Next time you visit, make sure to check out the Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center. In 2018, Dave, his partner Mary and their company Van Abel and Kronberg Design LLC set out to complete this significant community project. This installation tells the story of Munising and Alger county and is the culmination of almost one hundred hours of interviews among the local community and research with the Alger County Heritage Center and Marquette Regional History Center. The production and installation was facilitated by talented scholars, craftspeople, trades, and contributors from across the UP.
On this project Dave shared, “I learned a lot about the history of the town. I specifically enjoyed learning about the history of outdoor recreation in Munising. It was a really unique project that involved many interviews with locals to really learn their story. As designers, our responsibility is to learn everything we can so we can tell their authentic story and not our story with our own biases.”
Another point of pride in Dave’s career is his participation on the City of Cheboygan Planning Commission where he served for fourteen years as Commissioner, six of those years as Chairman, with the goal of amplifying prosperity for the community. He was also a founding member of the city’s Port Commission, created to leverage the town’s deep water port potential. Community service and participation is an important part of Dave’s life.
Dave has also made significant accomplishments for employers as a business developer. Dave was a founding technologist for an advanced manufacturing start-up that invented and commercialized an innovative fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite material. His team developed several interesting applications for this recyclable and reusable material including lightweight crash bars and engineered reinforced molded panels for automotive, but the idea with the most commercial potential was a corrosion-free high-pressure coiled pipe product for gas and oil gathering applications. This innovative idea, backed up with five years of testing and validation led to the sale of the company to a Chinese entity. Dave led the transfer of technology and laboratory facilities to the new owners.
More recently, Dave played a key role in connecting a Finnish machinery manufacturer with a rural Northern Lower Michigan fabricator to introduce an innovative shallow water dredging vessel to the US market. “The North American business entity, first-rate entrepreneurs, saw an opportunity to introduce a Finnish engineered vessel to the U.S. market. However, because of the Jones Act, a law intended to protect U.S. shipyards, the equipment needed to be made in the U.S. After visits with the OEM engineers and fabricators in Finland and Estonia, an agreement was made to produce the inaugural vessel at a plant in rural Northern Michigan.”
“IT TAKES A GREAT DEAL OF EFFORT AND COOPERATION TO ATTRACT AND SETTLE NEW BUSINESS IN RURAL NORTHERN MICHIGAN – HOWEVER IT CAN BE DONE AND WE’RE DOING IT”
– DAVE KRONBERG
With a deep love for the city of Marquette paired with experience in product design and large-scale community projects, Dave is an incredible talent and asset to the Innovate Marquette team. And he is happy to be here! On his return, Dave joyfully remarked, “I can’t express what a good feeling it is to be living in Marquette once again. Even after 20 years, Marquette is still the coolest place I’ve ever been. It’s become more evident than ever that it really needs care and thoughtful planning to keep it that way.”
As Director of Entrepreneurial Outreach and Services, Dave has two main roles. First, Dave is responsible for directing the operations of Invent@NMU, where he will provide the student project management team and program clients with valuable entrepreneurial resources and relationships with local entrepreneurs. Second, Dave will work to support Innovate Marquette by working with high-tech business entities with the goal to foster a robust, supportive business start up right here in Marquette.
“I wish somebody would have thought of Invent@NMU 25 years ago when I was an undergraduate student! Invent@NMU successfully breaks through the academic bunker and puts students together with professionals in the real world where they can find out how business is really conducted.” Dave stated when asked about his thoughts on Innovate Marquette’s partnership with the Invent@NMU program.
Dave, welcome to the team. Innovate Marquette is thrilled to welcome yet another Yooper back home.
To meet the rest of our management team, click here.