Vision & History

The Jutila Center Philosophy and History

In 1995, Finlandia University (then Suomi College) committed to assuming a leadership role in the Upper Peninsula’s economic development. As a member of the U.P.’s educational consortia, Finlandia recognized several facts: that graduates seeking to invest their lives successfully in a rural region would likely start their own businesses or work for emerging firms; that several peer educational institutions offered training to sustain local businesses, but that few peer institutions were devoted to understanding how to help smaller businesses innovate or to achieve competitive advantage through strategic product differentiation.

To fill its niche among post-secondary educational peers, Finlandia began studying economic development based primarily upon the theory of expansion through innovation, export and import replacement. Finlandia found that in Finland, as in the Upper Peninsula, businesses were encouraged to cluster in networks to share industry issues and research. Unlike Finland, however, in the area of innovation there were no professional product development or industrial design services in the U.P. The International School of Art & Design was set up to fill this need.

The Jutila Center Philosophy

At Finlandia University’s Jutila Center, design and business interact to create thriving companies based upon the Finnish higher education model and best practices for innovation and environmental sustainability. Regional companies benefit from services provided by the Jutila Center including design and business consulting, rapid prototyping and training. We provide a cross-disciplinary design and business curriculum, and engage our students in real-life design problems that require innovation in their problem-solving approach. The on-site incubator eases the transition from graduation to entrepreneurship by providing a supportive environment in which to develop business start-ups.

Sustainability and Green Design at the Jutila Center

Somebody famous once sang, “it’s not easy being green,” but the Jutila Center makes this easier by offering design services that make green money from green design, environmental sustainability directly affects economic sustainability by enhancing marketability, reducing long-term costs and expanding your consumer base. Finlandia University students and faculty, in the spirit of good Finnish design, are committed to applying their skills and knowledge towards design that makes sense for the client, for the business and for the environment.

The Jutila Center Mission

  • To create a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in the community
  • To nurture students in their transition from college to business
  • To provide a collaborative environment for students, faculty and industry to learn and apply the best sustainable business practices

What we do

  • Provide on-site incubation support to entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Provide guidance to designers in the process of bringing new product designs and innovations to market
  • Assist manufacturers and business owners in the utilization of design to develop more competitive products
  • Connect businesses with students
  • Promote the economic value of design and environmental sustainability
  • Provide rapid prototyping services

Our Sponsors and Collaborators


In fulfilling its mission, EDA is guided by the basic principle that communities must be empowered to develop and implement their own economic development and revitalization strategies. Based on these locally and regionally developed priorities EDA works in partnership with state and local governments, regional economic development districts, public and private non-profit organizations, and Indian tribes. EDA helps communities address problems associated with long term economic distress, sudden economic dislocations, recovering from the impacts of natural disasters, the closure of military installations and other federal facilities, changing trade patterns, and the depletion of natural resources.