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IPG Photonics sets up laser facility in Novi, plans to hire 12

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!" -- Dr. Evil

Novi will miss out on the sharks (and the ill-tempered, mutated sea bass unfortunately) but the lasers beams are on their way now what IPG Photonics is setting up a facility in Metro Detroit this year.

The developer and manufacturer of high-performance fiber lasers is renovating a 17,000-square-foot building on Magellan Drive in Novi. It plans to set up four new application labs in the space. Those labs will house high-powered lasers and robots that will help develop parts for the automotive and medical device industries.

To help supplement this growth, IPG Photonics plans to hire about a dozen engineers over the next year. They will work in either the Novi location or the building in Wixom the firm already leases.

Source: Bill Shiner, vice president with IPG Photonics
Writer: Jon Zemke 

Industrial Control Repair triples in size, adds learning institute

What kid hasn't tried to build a robot with a cardboard box, miscellaneous wires and an old calculator?

Industrial Control Repair is trying to capitalize on that fascination by opening up a Learning Institute to help students start a career in robotics.

The school will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about robotics in actual professional situations. Students will get a foot in the door of an industry that has become integrated with everything from manufacturing to medicine and hazardous waster removal.

"We believe in helping people gain the skills necessary to be successful in their career and prepare for future demands on the workforce," says Cindy Lang, the director of the Learning Institute.

It also helps that the Warren-based company, formed in 92, is enjoying quite a bit of success that makes this possible. The robotics company has grown from about $10 million in revenues in 2002 to $32 million last year. It hopes to bump up those revenues a few more million this year, too.

More jobs have come with that growth --to the tune of 145 people. ICP expects to add another dozen positions by the end of the year.

"The company has almost tripled in size," says Larry Obermesik, vice president of IT for Industrial Control Repair. "It’s been crazy."

Source: Larry Obermesik, vice president of IT for Industrial Control Repair
Writer: Jon Zemke

Robotics competition heats up in Detroit March 13-15

Beep! Clank! Whirr! 

Let's get ready to rumble!

The Detroit Regional branch of the annual FIRST Robotics Competition will heat up from March 13 to 15 at Wayne State University. Thirty-two teams are registered from high schools all over southeast Michigan -- from Berkley to Hamtramck to Detroit to Pontiac to Dearborn.

California-based Autodesk began sponsoring the competition 17 years ago, not just for fun and games, but to attract teens to careers in engineering. The school teams are linked in with area corporations -- like Ford, Chrysler, GM and DTE Energy -- which puts the students in direct interaction with professional engineers.

Why go through the trouble? A steady decline in math and science score among US students coupled with a growing number of engineers retiring each year could spell a disaster for this country's math and science industries.

And FIRST appears to be working. A Brandeis University study proved that FIRST students were three times more likely than their peers to major in engineering.

This link takes you to the Detroit Regional site, where you can check out the team websites (Recommended: L'anse Creuse and Rochester Adams.). Later this month, 63 teams will compete in Ypsilanti in the Great Lakes Regional.

Regional winners will advance to the FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, being held April 17 to 19. Last year, four local schools -- Detroit Country Day, Lake Orion, Saginaw and Berkley -- made the trip down south.

Source: Autodesk
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Puritan Automation grows business, to add 6 this year

More business, more partnerships, more staff. Those are the things Wixom-based Puritan Automation is looking forward to this year.

The specialized test and manufacturing equipment provider has secured a number of large projects in the automotive industry, such as automotive heating systems. The new business has meant the company can hire three people so far this year and looks to add another six by the end of the year.

On top of that Puritan expects to double its revenue this year, from $2 to $4 million, as it transitions into more custom work that relies on knowledge-based jobs.

"The only thing that is not leaving the state is research and development," says John Kurt, operations manager for Puritan. "What we're trying to do is focus more of our efforts in the research field."

Not bad for a company that started out as a machine screw company in the 1950s before transitioning to more robotics and testing in the 1980s. Earlier this decade the 15-person firm began focusing on more niche, custom work involving testing and robotics.

The company is developing a new global test system standard for automotive components and establishing itself as an associate alliance partner with National Instruments. Its also working to integrate FANUC Robotics (think the lonely robot from the GM Superbowl commercial) into the manufacturing and testing process.

Source: John Kurt, operations manager for Puritan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Azure Dynamics to build hybrid trucks and vans, will add up to 50

While some people are trying to build a better mousetrap, Azure Dynamics is trying to build a better hybrid truck.

The Oak Park-based firm that specializes in hybrid technology will supply the hybrid powertrains to Indiana-based Utilimaster. Those powertrains will be a major component in building the next generation of hybrid vans, commercial trucks and utility vehicles. Think delivery vans, shuttle buses and the Ford's E-Series vans.

This new business looks to be paying off well for Metro Detroit. Azure, which just moved its headquarters here last fall, plans to hire as many as 50 people within the next couple of years to add to the 15 new workers it brought to Oak Park last year.

"We just started hiring in Michigan. There is significant talent in Metro Detroit," says Steven Glaser, vice president of corporate affairs for Azure. "It's an ideal place for us because so many of our partners are situated here and there is such a deep talent pool here."

Azure strategically targeted commercial vans, delivery trucks and shuttle buses to create its own niche in the competitive hybrid market. It is also planning to expand internationally.

The company has rights to more than 20 patents and employs more than 100 people in four locations across North America. It received the Deloitte Technology Green 15 Award last year and the Sustainable Energy Pioneer Award in 2006.

Source: Steven Glaser, vice president of corporate affairs for Azure Dynamics
Writer: Jon Zemke

General Dynamics invests $10 million in Macomb, creates 500 new jobs

Jobs, jobs and more jobs. That's what's promised with a $10 million investment by General Dynamics Land Systems, which makes armored vehicles for the U.S. military.

The Sterling Heights-based company plans to expand its operations in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, creating 500 jobs and 649 spin-off jobs over the next 12 years.

Michigan beat out competing states like Virginia and Florida and even the Canadian province of Ontario for the project. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local municipalities approved $44 million in tax breaks and incentives to make the deal happen.

"This project will result in the immediate creation of new jobs and laboratory facilities and the possibility exists for continued growth," says David K. Heebner, president of General Dynamics Land Systems. "After comparing Michigan's state tax credits both nationally and internationally, it made the most business sense for General Dynamics to continue our commitment in Michigan."

General Dynamics Land Systems formed in 1982 when Falls Church, Va.-based parent General Dynamics Corp. acquired Chrysler Corp.'s defense operations. General Dynamics Land Systems has 8,000 employees in 12 states. General Dynamics employs 83,500 worldwide and reported 2007 revenues of $27.2 billion. It is a leader in production of land and amphibious combat systems, mission-critical information systems and technologies, shipbuilding and marine systems and business aviation.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mercedes-Benz plans for $5m expansion

Mercedes-Benz may have big plans for Ann Arbor. The automaker is considering adding new services to its Ann Arbor facility in addition to an expansion already underway. This would increase Mercedes' local staff from 13 to about 17 and includes testing the Smart Fourtwo, which went on sale earlier this month.


Mercedes wants to bring about four product engineers from its corporate base in Germany to help develop cars for the United States market. The Ann Arbor site would join a facility in Long Beach as the only two in North America with those capabilities, said Chuck Cetnar, a laboratory quality engineer.

Read the entire article here.

AKT Peerless merges environmental services with incentive assessment, doubles staff over past decade

Until the mid-90's, there wasn't much reason to redevelop contaminated property. That changed for two reasons: legislation was enacted that dealt with dangling liability issues and federal and state incentives were designed to entice developers to once-untouchable land and buildings.

Wisely, AKT Peerless began to examine ways to help developers... well... develop these types of properties and buildings.

With that in mind, the company decided to expand their focus which, at that time, was solely engaged in the assessment side of environmental services. Sensing the change a-coming, AKT started to hire experts in incentives from places like the MEDQ and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

AKT can now walk hand in hand with a client, whether it be a developer or a municipality, in locating and assessing properties, getting brownfield authorities off the ground and identifying and securing financial incentives towards property redevelopment.

Incentives that AKT works with include: brownfield tax increment financing and single business tax credits, the obsolete property rehabilitation act, fast track land bank authorities, MEDQ brownfield redevelopment grants and loans, Renaissance and Enterprise Zones, EPA brownfield assessment and cleanup grants and loans, New Market Tax Credits and historic tax credits.

"We look for where the financial gap on a project is coming from," says Corey Leon, the firm's director of incentives. "And we try to find a way of filling that gap."

Their approach has helped grow the firm from 20 people with $2 million in sales annually to one that employs nearly 50 and will reach $7.5 million in sales this year. It staffs offices in Detroit, Farmington, Lansing and Saginaw.

Tony Kashat, the firm's principal, says things have really changed at AKT in the last decade. "We're not just dealing with science," he says. He is aware that each project the company is involved with has the potential to change the landscape of a city or neighborhood. "We're helping create redevelopment, a tax base and jobs -- another anchor in an area that can then be built off of."

Sources: Tony Kashat, Corey Leon and Rebecca Savage, AKT Peerless
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Universal Parametrics moves into new facility, hiring 6

It’s a standard question in the metromode interview – are you hiring? Do you plan to hire anytime soon? (It’s not called the Innovation and Jobs News column for nothing.)  For Steve Frey of Universal Parametrics, Inc., the answer was simple: “We’re looking to fill six positions, immediately,” he says. “We are desperately seeking people.”

Ann Arbor-based Universal Parametrics, founded in 1999 to provide design and finite analysis services, has been on an upswing, growing exponentially over the years and recently moving into a new, 5,000-square-foot facility that Frey says gives the company room to work.

The new building, located on Highland Drive, includes a training center separate from the company offices, room for visiting companies to work and a shop where UP engineers can examine equipment.

Finding people to fill the space has been something of a challenge.

“Our biggest growth has been in sales staff,” he says. “When we started out in 1999, we did project work, where a company would hire us to work on a new design. Over the course of the last nine years, we expanded that, and we’re selling two different brands of software now."

Highly-qualified technical experts aren’t easy to come by, he says.

“Our customers look for very specific qualifications,” Frey says. The company is currently looking to fill six positions, five newly-created.

Source: Steve Frey, Universal Parametrics
Writer: Nancy Kaffer

Creative Tech grew by 45 in '07

As company growth goes, Creative Technology Services is on a stellar trajectory. Purchased from parent company MSX International just two years ago by the Creative Tech management team, the company is following a carefully-mapped growth plan obtaining new clients, launching a new company and adding 45 new positions in 2007 alone.

Canton-based Creative Tech is a contract assembler focused on the medical device marketplace primarily dealing with major players like the Johnson & Johnson companies, explains Vice-President of Sales and Customer Service Jim Smyth. For years, Creative Tech has done major assembly of the iBot, a smart wheelchair invented by Segway guru Dean Kamen that can climb stairs and master curbs.

Smyth says the company has recently obtained new contracts, such as life sciences corp MacuChek to assemble the MacuScope. The MacuScope is the first commercial instrument capable of accurately measuring and tracking macular protective pigment density (MPPD) in the center of the eye, according to the company’s Web site.

In the past, Smyth says, Creative Tech has only assembled such devices, but is expanding into another market sector.

“We’re also in the process of launching a new company, Next Mobility, which is basically a distribution company for mobility devices for the disabled,” Smyth says.

The company’s 45 new jobs, he says, have been added across the board – quality technicians, engineering staff, program managers, assembly techs, marketing support for Next Mobility, product developers, designers, and has added members to the customer service team and complaint-handling department, required for the company’s top-level Food and Drug Administration certification.

"We expect that we will continue to grow," Smyth says. "2008 is really a year for the execution of all the plans we’ve put in place - we’ve launched two new products in the last quarter, as well as a new company."

Source: Jim Smyth, Creative Technology Services
Writer: Nancy Kaffer

Mechatronics master's program draws private sector attention

A new mechatronics master's degree program at Lawrence Technical University has been drawing attention and assistance from the private sector - boding well for the state's technological future.


Mechatronics degree programs, common in Europe and Asia but still a rarity in the United States, meld mechanical, electrical and computer engineering disciplines. Vehicles rely more and more on sophisticated electronics and computer controls. Vantsevich was very familiar with this approach after a nearly 30-year academic career in Belarus, where he specialized in designing driveline systems and control devices for multi-wheel-drive vehicles. 

Read more about mechatronics here.

Dearborn Group, Inc., expands green

If you’re going to expand, why not go green? That’s the thinking at Farmington Hills-based diversified engineering technology company Dearborn Group Inc. The company recently announced plans for a $1.17 million green expansion.


The company has recently begun offering a new line of high-speed FlexRay network products though a partnership with a German manufacturer and diagnostic tools currently installed standard on five different models of brands, including General Motors and Saab. It's now working on developing secure, WiFi Internet connections to allow users to communicate with their vehicles for diagnostic and other applications, including sending podcasts to the entertainment center or e-mail messages to unlock doors.

Read the entire article here.  

SmithGroup taps local universities to keep talent pool deep

SmithGroup has learned that in today's economy sometimes it pays to think local.

A national architecture and engineering firm with 800 employees, 150 of them housed at their Detroit office, the company has bolstered its profile with work on a number of prominent local projects, including the MGM complex, the DIA expansion, the renovation of the Cranbrook Art Museum and the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit.

In the green scene, the company designed the new Science and Media Building at Madonna University (pictured) and the Visteon Village corporate head-quarters. Both projects are seeking Silver LEED certification.

SmithGroup actively recruits talent from University of Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Technological University and the University of Michigan to meet its staffing needs. SmithGroup also sustains an active internship program that not only gives students real world experience, but exposes students to the social network of downtown Detroit. A full 50% of interns become full-time hires.

Even younger future architects and engineers are developed through Exploring Post, sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. In this program, co-ed students are exposed to these careers through hands-on training activities.

Building Design+Construction named SmithGroup as one of the "Best AEC Firms to Work For." While the internship and mentoring programs surely contributed to the nod, the company mandates 8.5 hour workdays and 42.5 hour work weeks -- which adds up to 15 Fridays off a year.

Source: Camille Thompson, SmithGroup
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Toyota Boshoku opens new R&D center in Novi, to add 40 positions

Toyota Boshoku celebrated the grand opening of its new research and development center in Novi where it plans to add 40 positions by 2008.


"Toyota Boshoku America is a growing company and we know that Michigan has an experienced, talented and highly technical workforce with a deep understanding of the automotive industry," Kiyoshi "Nate" Furuta, chairman and CEO of Toyota Boshoku America said in a statement.

Read the entire article here.

Advanced Research Company develops cabinet that tracks its contents, widens client base

You know how the scissors are always missing from the junk drawer when you need them most? Imagine managing tools or spare parts at a plant.

Yeah, "Who's got the wrench?" might become a common refrain.

Enter Advanced Research Company's Storage+, a "smart" storage cabinet that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to keep track of what is in stock and what is missing -- and sometimes more importantly, who has checked out a particular part or supply.

ARC started out, back in 1984, as an engineering firm designing controlled, data collection and information systems for the automotive industry. About four years ago, due to the manufacturing downturn, the company began searching for products that would diversify their product line, and in turn, their client base.

The Orion-based company saw Walmart and the United States Department of Defense push the use of RFID in their supply chains as a solution for tracking assets. They asked, "How can we leverage that in a use for our manufacturing customers?" says ARC's William Sharp.

Storage+ works like this: an RFID label is put on every item that needs to be tracked which is then stored in the cabinet. Employees enter a PIN or swipe an ID to open the cabinet and take out whatever they need. Rather than sign a clipboard (how 20th century!). the cabinet scans its own contents and compares what is inside the cabinet before and after the latest access.

Contents can be tracked on the Internet and emails can be sent notifying need-to-know parties when stock is running low or when a critical item is checked out.

The cabinet clearly has uses on the plant and shop floor, but there's potential for it to infiltrate into other industries. One potent example is with consignment materials like equipment at a manufacturing plant or orthopedic surgical equipment at hospitals. "This way, the customer doesn't pay until they use the stock," says Sharp. The cabinet's tracking system can notify the supplier when they need to restock and can even be set up to help out with billing.

Other potential uses include tracking stuff like library AV equipment, laptop computers, gauges, regulated or hazardous substances and documents and software.

ARC houses its research, development and engineering teams at its Orion headquarters. Although it downsized to six employees, Sharp has high hopes that Storage+ will grow that number. The company is working with distributors familiar with industries that are outside their comfort zone and the cabinet is currently being tested by a large medical market reseller. "All the stars are lining up," says Sharp.

Source: William Sharp, ARC
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
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