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Is your company a cool place to work?

Does your workplace have groovy couches, an endless supply of soft drinks and hi-tech nap rooms?

Or maybe your boss is a saint disguised as a senior project manager.

Crain's Detroit Business is looking for the coolest places to work in Southeast Michigan. Teamed up with Southfield-based American Society of Employers, the business publication is looking or employers that have created work environments that attract and retain quality workers, especially younger workers.

The competition is dubbed "Cool Places to Work."

Anyone may nominate a company or nonprofit organization for the competition. Online nomination forms can be found at www.crainsdetroit.com, under the "Forms and Surveys" headline in the left hand column on the home page.

The deadline for nominations is May 1. Winning companies will be recognized in the Sept. 3 issue of Crain's.

Only companies located in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Washtenaw counties are eligible.

For more information contact Shawn Selby, Crain's Business Lives editor at sselby@crain.com or visit www.crainsdetroit.com

Detroit Chamber returns from India with economic prospects

The Detroit Regional Economic Partnership, part of the Detroit Regional Chamber, recently teamed up with Oakland County to visit India in order to attract new businesses to Southeast Michigan.

Headed by Partnership Executive Director John Carroll, the ten-person delegation included representatives from the Detroit Regional Economic Partnership, Oakland County, Global Services Resources, LLC, Acro Service Corp. and Stonebridge Business Partners, a company that now has offices in two cities in India, Pune and Delhi, following the 2006 trip. 

The late March/early April visit was an aimed at building build on the success of the Partnership's 2006 mission to India. The group spoke with newspapers, held cocktail parties, hosted seminars and spoke to companies and people on a one-on-one basis through four cities.

Carroll said that having a high Indian population in Detroit was an advantage, and that many in India became interested in what they were doing and offered their assistance with the trip.

"We aimed to improve upon Detroit’s image, " said Carroll, who added the company has what he calls "28 good leads," which is what he refers to as businesses interested, as well as two "prospects, " which he calls companies that could potentially be moving offices to the East Michigan area within the next year or so. Although he could not give specifics, he did mention that one company was looking to bring around thirty new engineering jobs to the area. 

"The most important part of all of this is the end result, the ultimate deals, " said Carroll, who added the Partnership, which has created nearly 8,000 new jobs in the Metro Detroit area in the last decade, will continue talks with the Indian market, as well as local groups such as the Indo American Chamber of Commerce, in the hopes of securing these deals.

Source: John Carroll, The Detroit Regional Economic Partnership

Home composting the easy—and non-smelly—way

If you're at all like me, gardening is a warm-weather activity that brings you great satisfaction. I am always looking for ways to improve my vegetable garden's output, but I'm not willing to kill myself over it. I use bagged manure for fertilizer, and that's kind of the end of it.

I've been thinking it might be time to start a compost pile for a couple of reasons. First, to help my garden grow, but also as a useful waste-reducer. I will admit, though, I've always been a bit scared of the smell and of pests.

To alleviate my fears and help me get started, I spent some time talking with Leah Retherford, an Americorps member working with the Greening of Detroit in their education and urban farming programs. She maintains compost piles in her backyard and one at the lower Cass Corridor community garden for which she volunteers, and she teaches students at Our Lady of Guadalupe Middle School for Girls in Southwest Detroit about gardening and ecology. I figured, if she can teach junior high kids, she'll be able to break down (no pun intended) the compost concept to me.

What it all comes down to, Retherford says, is recycling and replenishing. "For me, it started as a way to recycle. But now it is more. If you don't build your soil, you are just depleting it. 

A basic, and the least labor-intensive, method is a passive pile. Retherford recommends first picking a good spot in your yard—she chose a rear corner. Stake in some wooden posts and wrap them in chicken wire to create a fence to keep the pile contained and relatively pest-free. Put yard waste like grass clipping, leaves and weeds into the pile along with kitchen waste like coffee grounds, peels and cuttings from vegetables and fruits and even tea bags.

Avoid meat, fish, cheese, bones and anything greasy or cooked. This draws the pests. In urban areas, Retherford advises an additional caution again pests: always covering any food product with a layer of yard waste, just to be safe.

With a passive pile, all you do is wait—and your compost will be ready in about one year. 

An active pile can be ready in six-eight weeks, but they take more thought and effort. You start it just the same as a passive one, but sprinkle water on the pile every foot or so. After a few days, the pile will begin to get hot. After it cools down in a week or two, you mix everything up, encouraging it to warm up again. When it no longer heats up after mixing, the compost is ready.

Many gardeners have turned to composting machines to do the mixing for them. Retherford says the machines make it a lot easier to do the mixing that active compost piles require. Plus, there is the added bonus of keeping the compost completely unreachable to pests.

Currently, Greening of Detroit has a limited number of Earth Machine composters available for $35, a discounted rate from the normal retail price of about $85. Anyone interested in purchasing an Earth Machine should contact Ashley Atkinson at 313.237.8736.

Rubbermaid also makes a composting machine that is typically available at Home Depot and Ace Hardware stores. Composters.com carries dozens of brands and styles of compost bins, machines and accessories.

Because there are many things one can do to improve their compost, there are tons of tricks and tips on what to add and what not to add, when to add a particular ingredient, how to best mix the pile, and so on. Detroit's Garden Resource Program offers opportunities for serious gardeners to fine-tune their composting techniques. On July 26, there is a "Cover Crops and Organic Fertilizers" course that will discuss composting and on September 27, there will be a program on advanced composting. Greening's Compost Workgroup also hosts meetings quarterly. Course schedules and descriptions are available from the GRP website.

Once she has good compost, Rutherford adds it to her garden prior to the first planting of the season. "I put a layer on top of the dirt, break it up a little bit, then just plant right into it." The only time she puts more into her garden is if she is doing a succession planting—planting a second crop after an early one is harvested—or if a crop looks "dried out."

Sounds pretty easy. I just ordered my Earth Machine.

Source: Leah Retherford, Greening of Detroit

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Beaumont and OU to create medical school

Beaumont Hospital and Oakland University have announced plans to create the first medical school in Oakland County.


Ananias Diokno, Beaumont executive vice president and chief medical officer, said the school will help fill the looming shortage of physicians and improve health care in the region.

Read the entire article here.

Junk mail be gone!

Three local brothers—Sander DeVries, Tim Pfannes and Shane Pfannes—have turned their distaste for junk mail into a growing business. 41pounds.org, so named for the weight of the average amount of junk mail the average adult receives per year, offers customers a one-stop shop to stop each and every piece of junk mail and unwanted catalog from arriving in their mail box for five years—for just $41 per household.

DevRies explains that the business arose from their determination to shrink their own pile of unwanted mail growing on the dining room table. "We decided to so some research to see what we could do to stop this." It took some time and some digging, but their persistence worked.

They shared the information they gathered—who to call, mail and email to get off of every junk mailing list—with family and friends. Although people were interested in the concept, it was just too much work for the average person to tackle. DeVries remembers, "They all said, 'This is really cool.' But no one went through and did it."

Thus, in July 2006, 41pounds.org was born. Their task is to contact the junk mailers—an average of 20-25 of them—to remove their customers from their mailing lists. They will also tackle additional catalogs if asked. 
The 2,000 people who are signed up have already made an impact, DeVries points out. "That's over 2,400 trees saved, 1.4 million gallons of water saved and 920,000 pounds of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere."

41pounds.org is a national service: "We have tested the list at different houses in different areas," states DeVries, and they are finding that California residents are utilizing the service in high numbers. The brothers plan to launch a marketing campaign in late April to coincide with Earth Day, and hope to recruit more Michigan residents to the service at that time. 

41pounds.org also offers a unique fund-raising opportunity for non-profit organizations and schools: they get to keep $15 of the $41 fee for any new customer they recruit to the service. "People are sick of candy bars and wrapping paper fund-raisers. And it's easy. You just have to get people to sign up on a website and you're raising money," explains DeVries.

Local organizations already on-board include Judson Center, Roeper Schools and Bloomfield Hills Optimist Club.

The brothers also run a computer network maintenance company. DeVries says, "That was our main company and this was a side project, but it has turned into such a huge project." 41pounds.org is currently Ferndale-based and, despite its national appeal, he says the brothers have no plans to relocate. "We're gonna be here forever."

Source: Sander DeVries, 41pounds.org

Writer Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Quit the bag habit

Using the plastic—and even paper—bags that stores provide is easy. But we all know it is inherently wasteful. Here are some local alternatives.

Ornj Bags by Conjoin design are actually made out of orange construction fencing, taking the whole recycling thing to the next level. Available at Pure Detroit.

IKEA is no longer providing free plastic bags, instead charging 59 cents for their reusable Big Blue Bag. You can then use them anytime you shop.  

Likewise, Trader Joe's sells its canvas bags for $2.99 and bags made from recycled plastic for 99 cents. Plus, use 'em and they'll enter you in a monthly drawing to win store prizes.

A bit higher-end, the Detroit Institute of Arts offers a black canvas bag screen-printed with The Thinker for $20. For the same price, Eastern Market mainstay R. Hirt Jr. sells a popular one that will show off your gourmet tendencies.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum sells a green tote with red straps for $11.99—maybe kicking the bag habit will be a lesson passed on to your kids?

If you do have a plethora at plastic bags at home, don’t throw them away. Recycle Ann Arbor and Recycle Detroit take them at their drop-off sites.  Or, if all else fails, offer them to someone with a dog, they might as well pull double doodie ...er... duty.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

MichBio: life sciences industry hurt, but not killed, by loss of Pfizer

At its 15th annual meeting, MichBio discussed how the loss of Pfizer has hurt the state's life sciences industry, but there are many bright spots on which to focus.


The past few months have left life-sciences companies feeling like they’ve been riding the good ride going to lofty places only to have unthinkable happen, said Stephen Rapundalo, executive director of MichBio.

Read the entire article here.

EDCSEM, state congressional delegation push for $50 million for entrepreneurship

The Economic Development Coalition of Southeast Michigan and a large part of the state’s congressional delegation are working to establish a network of business accelerators in Metro Detroit called The Regional Innovation Network.
The new region-wide network of business champions would utilize $50 million in government and private funds to increase the number of both new and expanding new-economy businesses. Under the plan, the federal government would contribute $35 million, the state $15 million and $5 million would come from the private sector. A board of participating funders and community leaders would manage the fund.
The plan is to jumpstart the state’s tough economy by plugging money into growing businesses sectors to help spur entrepreneurs to create and expand new businesses. Existing business incubator organizations, such as Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, NextEnergy and TechTown, would help decide where the money goes.
Some of the state’s most powerful legislators, such as U.S. Senator Carl Levin and U.S. Congressman John Dingell, are behind the proposal and lobbying for support for it in Washington, D.C.
Source: Anne Masterson, director of communications for Detroit Renaissance

Coalition to seek out $50M for business incubation

The Economic Development Coalition of Southeast Michigan plans to seek out $50 million to fund business incubators in the region. The money will be divided amongst existing incubators -- Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley, Next Energy and TechTown -- and will help create two new ones -- one near Detroit Metro Airport and one in Macomb County.


By forcefully speaking in one voice and presenting a solid case for getting the help we need from Washington, the Southeast Michigan region has begun to correct what we in see as a problem that is holding us back: the perception that we are fractious and unorganized," said Jim Croce, CEO Next Energy and member of the coalition. "We showed them a different picture. We showed them that we have a good plan and that we are ready to put it into action."

Read the entire article here.

Venture capital wise investment for Michigan economy, jobs

A study by the National Venture Capital Association has demonstrated that one job was created for every $19,959 of venture-capital investment into a Michigan company from 1970 to 2005. It also shows that each dollar of venture capital generated $6.55 in revenue.


"Venture capital is an integral and critical component of U.S. economic activity and becomes more so every year," Mark Heesen, president of the Arlington, Va.-based NVCA, said in a press release. "Consider the fact that venture investment itself represents just 0.2 percent of U.S. GDP but venture-backed companies account for nearly 17 percent of GDP."

Read the entire article here.

Gardeners anticipate effect of hardiness zone change

The US Arbor Day Foundation released an update  to the US Hardiness Zone map that is a basic tool for gardeners as to what plants will thrive in their area. SE Michigan has shifted from Zone 5 to Zone 6, because as Bob Cairns, librarian for the Master Gardener Association of Wayne County explains, "average temperature has changed enough to rezone us."

As for the affect this change will have on the average gardener, Cairns expects little: traditional favorites such as geraniums, azaleas and roses are all hardy into much warmer and colder climates. But for serious gardeners, it is an opportunity to plant flowers and shrubs that would not have thrived in this area as recently as 5 or 10 years ago.

Carins, for one, looks forward to planting a crape myrtle tree in his backyard. Common in the Carolinas as a flowering tree with spectacular wintertime bark, the plant is only root hardy in Zone 5. Cairns explains that this means that the plant will survive a Michigan winter, but will die down its roots in the cold only to grow back the following spring. "We've never seen crape myrtle bark in Michigan," he says.

He also expects vegetable gardeners to enjoy a longer growing season. "They'll have more zucchini left over than they ever did before!"

The Master Gardener Association of Wayne County is a group of certified master gardeners that host regular educational events, perform volunteer gardening work and maintain a library of useful gardening resource books.

On April 18, Cairns will facilitate a course in the "Introduction to Gardening" series entitled "Get Ready for Gardening Part II."

For more information, visit the groups's website at www.mgawc.org; the calendar of events and classes is here

Source: Bob Cairns, MGAWC

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Michigan tourism industry forecasts increase for 2007

Don Holecek, director of MSU’s Travel, Tourism & Recreation Resource Center, predicts a modest increase travel volume and spending in the state in 2007. At the industry-wide industry-wide Michigan Lodging and Tourism Conference on March 26-27, a first-ever strategic plan will be presented that discusses, in part, marketing and promotion of Michigan as a travel destination.


Factors helping the industry include post-Labor Day school openings and increased state advertising spending, the latter being particularly crucial in Michigan’s struggling economy.

"All the negative press out there concerning Michigan, in our marketplace, it’s like a negative political campaign almost. You have to counter it with positive news, and that positive news is coming in the form of paid advertising right now," Holecek said.

Read the entire article here.

The good and the bad of high-efficiency light bulbs

High-efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs seem like one of those environmental choices that is a win-win. Sure, they cost more than traditional light bulbs, but they can last ten times as long and are about five times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. Subjectively, I prefer the light—it's a slightly warmer tone.

But, hold up. There is a downside. High-efficiency light bulbs contain mercury, and should not be disposed of with your garbage. (Um, mercury in landfills? Seriously bad news.)

Mason-based Cleanlites Recycling, Inc. can help small businesses (with average use of approximately 100 bulbs per year) safely dispose of their mercury-containing bulbs. Their Lamp Recycling Box Program is a pre-paid box that gets sent back to Cleanlites when full.

Companies and municipalities can explore other alternatives at LampRecycle.org.

For individuals, there are several options:

-Oakland County residents of SOCCRA member cities can take the bulbs to their facility by appointment.

-The Recycle Ann Arbor will accept the bulbs for $1 each.

-Residents of Washtenaw County can drop off their bulbs for free on Saturdays at the Washtenaw County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center on Zeeb Road (734.222.6865).

-IKEA has bins in their lighting department where customers can drop off their used light bulbs. This makes sense when you consider IKEA sells the bulbs…

-Other organizations offer a prepaid mail-back box option like Cleanlites' Sylvania charges $15 for a box that will hold a dozen bulbs; Bulbs.com  charges $94 for a box that holds 200.

Sources: Mike Kimmel, Cleanlites; Sarah Kubik, Recycle Detroit; LampRecycle.org; Crave.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh 

Co-founder & publisher of Model D and metromode to speak at MSA conference

Paul Schutt, co-founder & publisher of our own Model D and metromode, will be the keynote speaker at this Friday's 2007 Regional Redevelopment Summit.

Hosted by The Michigan Suburbs Alliance the event will be held FRIDAY, MARCH 23rd at The Fairlane Club in Dearborn (map) and is an opportunity for local leaders to learn how to craft an image that draws new investment.

Schutt will discuss how media is providing "alternative narratives" for neighborhoods, cities and metropolitan areas. Local officials, developers, realtors and others involved and interested in redevelopment are encouraged to attend.

(Attendees mentioning either metromode or Model-D get 75% off the ticket price.)

The half day event also includes panel discussions with Jim Townsend, executive director of Tourism Economic Development Council, Michael Finney, president and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark, Bill Milliken, Jr., president of Milliken Realty and Commercial Board of Realtors and Doug Brown, director of development at ASTI Environmental.

For speaker presentation overviews and a full agenda, visit the Suburbs Alliance website.


Tickets are $80
but metromode and Model D readers
can buy tickets for just $20!

Register online or visit the Michigan Suburbs Alliance website to pay by check.

Questions?  Contact Melanie Piana at (248) 546-2380 or melanie@suburbsalliance.org

More information about the 2007 Regional Redevelopment Summit can be found at www.suburbsalliance.org/new_and_events/events.

Michigan Virtual University to offer Chinese to HS students

As China emerges as an economic powerhouse the need for those who speak the language increases. Michigan Virtual High School, a division of the Michigan Virtual University, announced that they will now be offering a free semester of online instruction in Mandarin Chinese to one student from every public and private high school in the state.

These online courses were developed in collaboration with the  Confucius Institute at Michigan State University and China Central Radio and TV University.

Each high school in the state may submit the name of one student to request a scholarship by April 30. Unused scholarships will be administered to other schools. 

"This scholarship oppurtunity will help Michigan's students be better prepared to learn and work in the global community," said Kathleen Strauss, president of the Michigan State Board of Education. 

The high school courses will be offered in four levels, starting at the introductory level. The online middle school Chinese courses will include two course formats, one focusing more on Chinese language and the other on culture. These courses involve four hours of online learning and a one-hour virtual group tutoring session per week. 

For more information, click here.

Source: Michigan Virtual High School

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