DETROIT — Linda Daichendt, a small business consultant, was frustrated a couple years back when she kept coming up empty in her quest for mobile businesses based here in her home state of Michigan. With large, national associations barely touching the state or local level, she saw a large need that wasn’t being met and decided to form the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM).
Beginning with a Mobile Monday chapter in Ann Arbor in June 2010, followed shortly after in Detroit, Daichendt and her colleagues sowed the seeds for what has grown into a 700-member strong organization with chapters gearing up in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Kalamazoo. “It’s sort of just blowing up, but it’ a lot of fun. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in 20 years,” she told RCR Wireless News on a recent visit to the region. After building up an audience, MTAM started hitting its stride in the last few months with a mission to create jobs and help small businesses get off the ground in Michigan. Under that framework, MTAM facilitates training classes in mobile development and marketing. It also supports startup incubators that specialize in mobile technology. Daichendt said she hopes to kickoff a statewide campaign around mobile technology soon as well. "Michigan is actually a state that has a much lower rate of (wireless) penetration than the national average,” she said. “It’s all about creating demand.” According to her research, every mobile job that’s created in Michigan leads to the creation of 3.9 jobs elsewhere in the state. “People are seeing the opportunity that mobile can provide as a career,” Daichendt said. There’s no question that mobile is a game changer, she continued, and with MTAM facilitating networking and education, she’s confident it will help with the state’s economic turnaround. "We can have the same impact on the state that the manufacturing industry can,” she said. MTAM has a goal to create 9,015 new jobs in mobile by 2015, which in turn will lead to 35,000 non-industry jobs and $1.7 billion for people that work in the state, she added. Currently, there are 47,000 professionals working on mobile to varying extents in Michigan and the talent pool is deep, Daichendt said. "I wasn’t surprised at the level of technical talent. I was surprised at the existing interest in mobile,” she continued. "I think what you’re seeing here is what you’re seeing in other parts of the country where mobile is taking off.” Because “there’s not a lot of formal training in mobile,” Daichendt has found that “a lot of the mobile developers are self taught in mobile.” One of MTAM’s goals is to spur more opportunities through training and business development. “The people that are coming out of the universities because there’s not a lot of courses in mobile, they’re basically coming out with some modest level development skills… But they’re really not taught how to make a living from it,” she said. While there are people that were laid off large local companies like Ford Motor Co. (F) or General Motors Co. (GM) that want to move into the mobile space, there is still a talent vacuum. “Every day I get calls looking for people,” Daichendt said. "There aren’t enough of them to go around.” Far too often, small and medium-sized businesses perceive mobile to be something that can only be had by the big guys, but MTAM is working to change that. “Mobile technology can help a small business get on an equal footing with a large business. They just don’t know it yet,” Daichendt said. “Mobile provides opportunities for them to become equalized.”