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Bmax USA preps to launch new facility in Pontiac

Bmax USA, a subsidiary of a French tech company called I-Pulse, is setting up its North American presence in Pontiac this year.

The global corporation specializes in technology for metal processing that can be utilized by a variety of industries, such as automotive, energy, aerospace, and packaging. It plans to invest $4.3 million into creating a new facility in Pontiac.

"We considered a number of sites, including Columbus, but decided to go with metro Detroit as we have a potential customer base in the region as well as a large catchment area for the engineering, business, and technical staff we will need," says Paul Lester, director of business development for Bmax USA. "We looked at Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties and decided upon Oakland County, which has been incredibly supportive and given us many resources to help our start up and continues to do so."

The investment, which comes with a $250,000 grant from the state of Michigan, is expected to create 26 jobs. The firm expects to create those jobs, and probably more, over the next three years.

"I expect to get to that number very much quicker," Lester says.

Work on the next facility at 777 Enterprise Dr. is about to begin. Lester expects the work to wrap up later this year and the firm to begin moving into its new home by late July.

"We will be finalizing the legal paperwork in the next couple of weeks and some remodeling will take place immediately," Lester says.

Source: Paul Lester, director of business development for Bmax USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Twenty-year-old tech firm DASI Solutions grows staff, revenue in downtown Pontiac

DASI Solutions has grown significantly over the last year by expanding its work from within. The 20-year-old tech firm grew its revenue by nearly 10 percent last year. All of that new work has come from familiar sources.

"Our growth has come from our existing base," says David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions. "They are buying more from us as the economy rebounds. It’s a good indicator we're doing something right."

DASI Solutions specializes in engineering and tech work, helping companies implement of CAD, CAE, and PDM collaborative technologies for product development. It bought and renovated its current headquarters in downtown Pontiac a little more than a year ago.

The firm currently employs a staff of 43 after hiring five people, including customer support and community outreach professionals. It is also looking to hire another four people in web design, marketing, engineering, and sales.

Darbyshire expects the company’s current trajectory to continue this year in much the same way it did in 2014. "I expect to grow even more," Darbyshire says.

Source: David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pontiac's Mobile Comply adds 4 jobs, clears way for mobile certification

Mobile Comply grew up quite a bit in 2014, mostly by living up to its name.

"We have completely exploded in a great way," says Eliana Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply.

The downtown Pontiac-based company helps educate businesses and institutions (think higher education) on how best to leverage mobile technology. Last year it provided training and wrote the textbook for CompTIA, a Chicago-based non-profit that developed the A+ certification. That bit of work led to Mobile Comply creating the certification for mobile technology.

"We became the only company in the world that provided mobile certification," Farnsworth says.

That led to a 35-percent jump in revenue over the last year. The company has hired four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 employees and 100 independent contractors. It is also looking to hire another two people in the first quarter of next year. In 2015 Mobile Comply is looking to expand its mobile certification activities to the automotive market.

"We would like to expand to not only certifying individuals but also supporting the growth of connected vehicles," Farnsworth says.

Source: Eliana Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Local startups score at Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

Sixty thousand dollars in prizes went to nearly a dozen socially entrepreneurial startups competing in the Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. Most of that money went to companies and entrepreneurs from Metro Detroit addressing chronic unemployment and at-risk youth unemployment.

The prize money went out in four-figure chunks to the start-ups, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Often that sort of cash injection can mean the difference between mission focus and chaos for a fledgling startup.

"It helps the entrepreneur take their mind off the short-term cash-flow issues and onto longterm planning," says Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps, which organized the business plan competition.

Among the Metro Detroit-based winners were City Girls Soap, which won the Women Rock prize. City Girls Soap makes hand-crafted body soap, lotion and laundry flakes from goats milk, taking advantage of the urban farming communities in Detroit and Pontiac. City Girls Soap plans to provide jobs for young people in Pontiac, starting off with summer employment.

The two-person operation is currently moving its production from Berkley to Pontiac. The company plans to hire 1-2 people (primarily youth in urban communities) before the end of this year. It plans to invest the $2,500 it won at the Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in equipment to increase production.

"We're going to use it to build out our production facility, like buy a freezer," says Amy McIntire, co-founder of City Girls Soap.

The Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge aims to help foster social entrepreneurship across Michigan. It culminated with the Social Entrepreneurship Showcase last week, which went out of its way to help cultivate impact investors. Impact investors are high-net-worth individuals who make investments with the idea of creating a social impact and a profit.

Source: Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps and Amy McIntire, co-founder of City Girls Soap
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Fooke USA sets up shop in Pontiac

Fooke USA is opening an office in Pontiac as the base for its parent company's North American operations.

Fooke is a family-owned business that develops milling machines for a number of industries including aerospace, automotive, railway, and mold and die. Fooke USA is the German-based firm’s North American arm.

"Pontiac has the potential and the space so we can expand our facility," says Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA.

Hofmann expects Fooke USA to employ as many as 25 people, primarily specialized technicians, in Pontiac within the next three to four years. The company currently employs Hofmann and he expects to hire a handful of people by the end of the year.

Fooke USA made the leap into Pontiac thanks to the help of Automation Alley. The business accelerator's International Business Center hosts foreign companies looking at establishing an office in Metro Detroit. It provides a temporary home base and professional services that help these companies make a soft landing into the Metro Detroit area.

A dozen foreign companies have made this transition at Automation Alley since it opened the program in 2011. Those companies now have operations in the region that have created 433 new jobs.

Source: Matthias Hofmann, CEO of Fooke USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DASI Solutions adds 8 jobs, moves into new downtown Pontiac HQ

DASI Solutions underwent some big changes in the last year, expanding its staff with a number of hires, moving into a new home in downtown Pontiac, and preparing to offer some new cutting-edge services.

The engineering/tech firm executed its move to a newly renovated building in downtown Pontiac last summer. The company also hired eight people over the last year, expanding its headcount to 45. The new employees are primarily engineering and business development professionals. It also has two openings for application engineers and is planning on adding a couple of summer interns this year.

DASI Solutions is also getting ready to launch a 3-D printing-on-demand service later this month. The company plans to make 3-D printing much more affordable and accessible.

"We will be accepting models from our customers online," says David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions. "We will give them an instant quote."

The 18-year-old company has also been expanding its market share geographically. It recently entered into the Cleveland market. The new Cleveland office joins a handful of the firm’s offices across the Midwest.

DASI Solutions has also been doing a lot of work with the state of Michigan's MAT2 (Michigan Advanced Technician Training) program, which helps steer high school students or recent graduates toward tech careers. Think of it as helping guide kids in high school robotics programs who might not be cut out for engineering degrees toward careers in robotics through an apprenticeship program.

"The best way to describe it is an internship on steroids," Darbyshire says.

DASI Solutions will be participating in a MAT2 company fair for careers in mechatronics and design visualization on March 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fair will take place at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills campus in Building F, 2900 Featherstone Road.

Source: David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

RazorThreat makes security software more interactive

RazorThreat recently added a new member to its executive ranks. It's an addition the digital security firm hopes will pay some big dividends in 2014.

The downtown Pontiac-based firm brought on Deane Tierney to serve as vice president of strategic accounts last month. Tierney previously worked as a channel account manager for Symantec Corp (a NASDAQ tech firm) where he grew reseller relationships. RazorThreat hopes its new employees will help connect the firm’s software platform with Symantec's.

"There is a really good alignment between our product and Symantec's product line," says Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat.

The 4-year-old firm has also been working on fleshing out its own software platform, which provides digital security assessments and monitoring. Before the platform provided a few pages of reports. Now the firm is offering a more comprehensive package that includes meetings with its professionals and its clients as needed.

"It's so much more interactive," Guidice says. "Everything the product does is about visibility, context and action."

Source: Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

The Dobrusin Law Firm pivots to focus on IP law practice

The Dobrusin Law Firm is growing after pivoting its business plan and focusing solely on intellectual property creation.

The downtown Pontiac-based practice focused on both intellectual property creation and litigation since its creation in 1999. A shakeup in the firm's leadership a year ago allowed it to drop the litigation aspect and focus on helping companies and entrepreneurs patent, trademark and copyright their innovations.

The Dobrusin Law Firm now helps these ventures file for the patent, handle the back-and-forth bureaucracy and land the rights to their intellectual property. That new business strategy has allowed the practice to hire two people over the last year to expand its staff to 20 employees.

The firm services a wide range of clientele. It started out serving primarily automotive and manufacturing firms but it is now handling work for companies across the country working on medical devices, packaging and chemicals.

"We want to broaden our client base in the chemical and medical device areas," says Kristen Pursley, managing partner of The Dobrusin Law Firm. "We think these sectors have a lot of room for growth."

Source: Kristen Pursley, managing partner of The Dobrusin Law Firm
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

FIRSTsense Medical aims to launch product next summer

It's been a long time coming, but FIRSTsense Medical is getting ready to begin selling its new breast cancer screening platform.

The Pontiac-based firm's breast cancer test uses robotics and software that emulates a manual test. FIRSTsense Medical claims that its technology achieves a 95-percent detection rate and has been validated in a 2,000-person trial.

"We hope to be in the market in June," says Paul Angott, president and founder of FIRSTsense Medical.

The 5-year-old firm has hired four people (software and mechanical engineers) over the last year to help get the technology to this point. The team of a dozen people helped FIRSTsense Medical make the semifinals of last month's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

FIRSTsense Medical has raised $5 million in seed capital and is in the midst of raising another $5 million in a Series B round. It is also working with a contract sales company to make sales directly to hospitals and medical centers.

Source: Paul Angott, president & founder of FIRSTsense Medical
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Mobile Comply adds 5 staff in downtown Pontiac

The app economy isn't just a boom for software developers and the companies that use their technology. It's also a growth opportunity for educators aiming to teach the world the advantages of mobile.

That has been the case with Mobile Comply, a downtown Pontiac-based company that helps educate businesses and institutions (think higher education) on how best to leverage mobile technology.

"We have doubled in size every year since we started in 2010," says Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply.

That means Mobile Comply now employs a growing staff of employees and a large number of independent contractors. It has hired five people over the last year, including curriculum writers, trainers and mobile developers.

Farnsworth credits the rapid adoption of mobile technology since the launch of the iPhone six years ago as the driving force behind her company's growth. The serial entrepreneur sold her education technology company in 2006 and started Mobile Comply a few years later after seeing the change that would sweep the technology industry. She thinks that growth momentum will continue to build as mobile technology continues to become more ingrained in mainstream America and abroad.

"I expect to triple in size over the next three years," Farnsworth says. "I also expect to be recognized on an international level."

Source: Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge announces winners

Metro Detroit-based business performed well at the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, taking home a number of the contests prizes.

The Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is meant to help spread some seed capital around to entrepreneurial businesses and non-profits that aim to help improve life in Michigan. Prizes range from $3,000 to $25,000, which attracted 160 submissions from across the state.

"It shows that we can really put Michigan on the social innovation map," Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps, which organized the  Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, wrote in an email. "While we had so many inspiring entries, we were excited to give these top six finalists an opportunity to showcase their passion, skill and innovation at our pitch event."

Among the Metro Detroit-based firms that places are:

Fresh Corner Café, a healthy-eating start-up that helps make quality food more widely available in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. It won first place ($20,000) for the Emerging Company category.

Digital Inclusion
, which specializes in refurbishing computers, technical support and training. It aims to help incubate ideas and projects for young, entrepreneurial people. It won second place $15,000 in the Emerging Company category.

, an Ypsilanti-based start-up working to combat maternal and infant health disparities in low-income areas through the design and commercialization of appropriate, locally affordable, innovative devices. It won third place ($5,000) in the Emerging Company category.

The Java Hope Project won $5,000 for first place in the New Enterprise Idea category. The non-profit is dedicated to helping women break the cycle of poverty through business development by offering extensive small-business skills training programs.

Ecotelligent Homes
won the Emerging Company award in the Fostering Energy Affordability category, a prize worth $10,000. The Farmington Hills-based company performs RESNET and BPI certified home energy audits and installing energy efficiency improvements on Metro Detroit homes.

ReSource Fund won $5,000 for the New Enterprise Idea in the Fostering Energy Affordability category. The fund provides financial services to low-income communities in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

, a localized crowdfunding platform, won the $3,000 Millennial Social Innovation Prize. The company works to support building vibrant communities by connecting small businesses, organizations and events with patrons and sponsors to help them grow, one project at a time.

The Community Ventures prize ($25,000) went to the Vanguard Property Preservation Enterprise in Detroit. The prize is meant for a social entrepreneur impacting structural unemployment in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac or Saginaw. Vanguard Property Preservation Enterprise provides job opportunities for unemployed Detroiters, particularly citizens returning from prison, through the cleaning and maintenance of private-owner eviction and foreclosed properties.

Detroit-based Rebel Nell L3C won The Spirit of Social Entrepreneurship Award for its embodiment of the vision, commitment and tenacity present in the best Social Entrepreneurs around the world.

Source: Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Lee Industrial Contracting hires 80 people in last 2 years

Lee Industrial Contracting has one of those business models that defies the region's cyclical economy.

The Pontiac-based business specializes in providing turn-key solutions for industrial projects, such as moving machines or installing alternative energy systems. The firm's systems work to minimize downtime and miscommunication to streamline the process of completing the project.

So when a downsizing manufacturer needs to turn three facilities into one, Lee Industrial Contracting can make that happen. And when those same manufacturers need to expand and turn one facility into three, Lee Industrial Contracting makes that happen, too. That has meant big growth for the company over the last two years. Its revenue was up double digits two years ago and single digits last year while the company executed its "planned management growth strategy."

"We want to to continue to put processes in place that would allow us to operate the company in an efficient manner," says Ken LaBruyere, COO of Lee Industrial Contracting.

The 25-year-old business has hired 80 people over the last two years, including 25 in the last year. Of those new hires, 20 work in the field and the other five in administration for the company. It now employs 250 people and has a few interns in its IT department. The company regularly promotes its interns into full-time employees.

Source: Ken LaBruyere, COO of Lee Industrial Contracting
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

RazorThreat leverages digital threats into new hires

A couple of buzzwords are driving growth for RazorThreat: "insider threat."

The downtown Pontiac-based IT security firm has found the biggest need from its customers comes from combating and preventing insider threats. RazorThreat defines insider threats as credentialed employees that have gone rogue or malware that have invaded a company's network and are propagating unnoticed inside it.

"It's really now about the insider threat, whether it comes from a nation state or a rogue employee," says Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat. "It's about protecting your high-value assets."

Guidice declines to specifically say how much the company has grown or how many hires it has made. He did say that it has grown its revenue significantly in 2012 and expects to do so again this year. The company has made a couple of new hires, expanding its staff to six employees and three interns.

He adds that there isn't a trend of specific sectors of business that is driving the demand to combat insider threats. Rather, it's businesses and organizations from across the digital spectrum.

"It's really across the board," Guidice says. "It's from the federal government to small-and medium-size businesses. Everyone has intellectual capital."

Source: Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Future Help Designs hires 4 as it grows Pontiac HQ

Future Help Designs is gearing up to take a big step into the education realm, partnering with a large mobile training company, Mobile Comply, to roll out a mobile development education course in mid-March.

"Their expertise is in training mobility, and ours is in mobile technology," says Glen Konopaskie, president of Future Help Designs. "We're partnering with them equally. They will help us rebuild our developer training course."

Future Help Designs
was an early adopter to the mobile world, launching its business creating apps four years ago. It has expanded into software development education in recent years, a move that has provided significant returns for the firm. It's planning on launching a new educational platform on a national scale later this year.

"That will launch an aggressive push into education for our agency," Konopaskie says.

Future Help Designs moved to downtown Pontiac a little more than a year ago, taking an active part in the city's rebirth. Its staff has been in flux over that time as demand for mobile developers has skyrocketed and more and more programmers are launching their own start-ups. Future Help Designs has hired four people (mostly replacement positions) since moving to downtown Pontiac and is bringing on a new intern this spring.

"That intern will hopefully turn into No. 5," Konopaskie says. "He has some high potential."

Source: Glen Konopaskie, president of Future Help Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Curve Detroit launches FavRiot as hot-or-not website for brands

Charlie Wollborg knows at least two things, and both are key components to his latest tech start-up, FavRiot.com.

"It gamifies the shopping experience," says Wollborg, chief troublemaker at FavRiot.com. "We know that casual games do really well and that no one pays attention during conference calls."

The Pontiac-based start-up is at its core, a hot-or-not game for consumer products. For instance, users are shown two pictures of different cars and asked to choose which one they prefer. The cars are what's for sale at a local automotive dealership and the service is sold to that dealership as a tool to get people to casually walk through its online dealership showroom.

"There are a lot of industries we are thinking about for this," Wollborg says. "Right now it's just automotive." He adds other popular consumer brands for things like alcohol or clothing could be added soon.

FavRiot.com and its team of five people got its start in May, launching out of a side project from Curve Detroit. The FavRiot.com website went live earlier this month.

Source: Charlie Wollborg, chief troublemaker at FavRiot.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pontiac entrepreneur teams with Menlo Innovations to create eBabEx

Moses Olaniran is a serial entrepreneur in transition. He spent six years growing his online home-improvement supply business MWP in Pontiac before selling it earlier this year. About the same time he started eBabEx, a foreign language start-up that is creating a cloud-based marketplace for foreign language services.

Olaniran is utilizing the tech expertise of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor to build out his online marketplace where clients can hire foreign-language services providers. He is also applying to the entrepreneurial accelerator Bizdom in downtown Detroit in the hopes of building and scaling his company quickly

"We're starting with lean start-up principles," Olaniran says. "Within six months we hope to have a minimum viable product. By working with groups like Bizdom and Menlo, we hope it'll give us access to a good network of professional investors."

Olaniran is currently raising seed capital for eBabEx and hopes to launch the start-up's first product within the year.

Source: Moses Olaniran, CEO & founder of eBabEx
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

RazorThreat expands staff as it continues IT security solutions

RazorThreat hasn't been as focused on growing its sales numbers as it has been on expanding the size of its reseller clientele.

The downtown Pontiac IT security firm has watched its number of resellers jump 50 percent over the last year. That has allowed the 5-year-old start-up to expand its staff, grow its bottom line and set the stage for more growth in 2012.

"That will certainly translate to revenue," says Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat.

RazorThreat's products help companies fight network breaches from the likes of malware, bots and hackers of all kinds. Guidice says the market has really come to his firm as businesses become more wary of keeping their IT systems secure. That has allowed the company to hire a new COO last week, expanding its staff to five people. It has also brought on a new member to its board this year.

"Both gentlemen are on the east coast," Guidice says. "It really speaks to the footprint of RazorThreat."

Source: Greg Guidice, president & CEO RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DTE's 500 summer jobs for youth hitting region's suburbs

DTE Energy Foundation has been helping young people in the city of Detroit find jobs for several years now through its summer jobs initiative. The effort normally means several hundred quality positions, often first jobs, for young people in places where work is an uncommon commodity.

The downtown Detroit-based charitable organization is looking to spread the working wealth. The youth summer employment initiative plans to fund up to 500 jobs this summer in both Detroit and some of its economically challenged suburbs.

"We are looking to grow beyond Detroit to some other communities that are vulnerable, like Ypsialnti, Muskegeon and Pontiac," says Karla Hill, vice president of DTE Energy Foundation.

DTE Energy Foundation made a $750,000 commitment, which includes a $500,000 grant to the Grow Detroit's Young Talent program. That is the largest private donation toward its fundraising goal of $2 million. The additional $250,000 from the DTE Energy Foundation will be used to enhance Detroit's program and expand to other communities across the state.

DTE Energy Foundation plans to work with about 50 community partners to place teens and young adults in jobs. The foundation's $500,000 grant to Grow Detroit will fund nearly 350 jobs in the non-profit's Young Talent program. The summer jobs program begins in July and runs for six weeks. For information, click here.

Source: Karla Hill, vice president of DTE Energy Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DASI Solutions moves to new HQ in downtown Pontiac

DASI Solutions is consolidating some of its operations in downtown Pontiac, taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the wake of the recent recession and the city's fiscal crisis.

The 16-year-old tech firm is consolidating its Lake Orion office and its headquarters into a 20,000-square-foot building in downtown Pontiac. Most of the company's 30 employees will work in the new combined office.

"We were about to take advantage of the down real estate market in Pontiac," says David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions. "We were able to purchase the parking we needed, thanks to the emergency manager Louis Schimmel."

The city's fiscal crisis prompted the appointment of an emergency manager to balance the municipality's books. Part of that effort has consisted of selling some assets the city owns, including downtown parking lots. DASI Solutions needed one of those lots to ensure there was enough quality parking for its customers and patrons.

DASI Solutions has been growing market reach, opening new offices in Cincinatti, Indianapolis and Canton. The Canton office is servicing the company's customers in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Monroe. Darbyshire adds that his company's rapid prototyping business has been "doing very well" and the company has watched its technology sales to defense contractors and military agencies increase.

That growth has allowed the company to hire four people in the last six months. It has three job openings now for mechanical engineers and expects to bring more interns on this year to fill out the extra space in its new headquarters in downtown Pontiac.

Source: David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pontiac-based pushtwentytwo scores new clients as it grows

Downtown Pontiac-based pushtwentytwo is leveraging both a newly diverse client list and traditional automotive-oriented customer base for some significant growth, including four hires in the last year.

The 8-year-old public relations and marketing agency has traditionally relied on business from automotive suppliers to grow. Now it has added clients from a variety of sectors to boost its bottom line, signing four new clients since January. Another three are expected to be in the fold by this summer.

"We have continued to grow in (the automotive) sector and add some clients in the healthcare and IT sectors," says Dave Sarris, partner with pushtwentytwo. "It's be a really steady pace of growth. There haven't been any game changers, just a steady growth rate."

Currently 15 employees and three independent contractors work at pushtwentytwo, which is also looking at adding some interns this year. Some of its recent hires include senior account executives, creatives and copywriters. Sarris expects a few more hires as business continues to grow, especially in the automotive, healthcare and home building sectors.

Source: Dave Sarris, partner with pushtwentytwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Future Help Designs grows staff by 3 as it works to grow app community

Future Help Designs knows it will be plenty busy as it continues to create mobile apps from its headquarters in downtown Pontiac. The 3-year-old start-up also wants to keep even more metro Detroiters employed as the app economy continues to emerge a significant economic driver.

"We can't get every job that is out there for mobile developers," says Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs. "We want to help other people be ready to do those jobs."

To do that, Future Help Designs is offering training classes for people and companies interested in learning how to make mobile apps. The Mobile Developer Workshop Series will train people who want to get into the mobile app industry and for companies that would like to bring some of that work in-house.

The bottom line is Future Help Designs wants to grow the app development community in not only Pontiac but the region overall. It hopes that by attracting local arm-chair developers and tech-oriented firms into the industry it will foster "a rising tide that lifts all boats" philosophy.

"We're helping the community grow in terms of the mobile app domain," says Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs. "We're going to be expanding it through our classes."

Future Help Designs got its start when Marcillo and Glen Konopaske, two Mac fanatics, were downsized from their corporate jobs. The duo began making iPhone apps and have since expanded into other mobile applications. The company moved out of their homes last year and into office space in downtown Pontiac as part of the city's Rise of the Pheonix program.

It now employs a team of 19 people after making three hires over the last year. It hopes to continue adding staffers as it grows.

Source: Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Metro Detroit start-ups turn smartphones into biz apportunities

The app economy is here and growing in Metro Detroit. A broad range of start-ups and businesses are finding creative ways to boost their bottom lines by developing custom and original apps. Some are even basing their entire business plan around it and growing like crazy.

Texts From Last Night: A Q&A with Ben and Phillip Bator

Mobiata adds 10 jobs, moves to bigger space in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Metro Detroit start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Hewlett-Packard subsidiary plans to create 250 IT jobs in Pontiac

HP Enterprise Services, a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard, plans to expand its tech office in Pontiac, a move that is expected to create 250 jobs over the next year.

The $4.8 million investment will expand HP Enterprise Services' significant presence in Pontiac. HP Enterprise Services, formerly EDS, already employs 1,976 people there. It has begun hiring and expects to continue as demand permits.

"We have more business today than we do staff," says Rick Sullivan, a vice president of application services for HP Enterprise Services. "We're actively hiring."

HP Enterprise Services provides software applications, processes, consulting and support from its Pontiac office. Helping make this deal possible was a $3.5 million tax incentive from the Michigan Economic Development Corp over the next seven years. Sullivan says the company was also attracted to the region's deep talent pool of skilled tech workers and plethora of high-quality universities.

"Personally, my game plan is to exceed 250 hires," Sullivan says. "I see the demand coming quickly."

Source: Rick Sullivan, vice president of application services for HP Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Future Help Designs' bottom line is more creative than two basic colors, like red and black. The smartphone app start-up is moving to downtown Pontiac because its profitability is more dependent on the inspiration derived from a historic and eclectic city center than a vanilla office complex in the middle of nowhere.

"We operate in a very creative space," says Christian Marcillo, director of creative design at Future Help Designs. "Cubicles are not our style. They don't work for us. We found a big, open space in downtown Pontiac that works for us. It's easy to walk out and get inspiration from the other artists that are down there as well."

Marcillo started the company with Glen Konopaske a little more than two years ago, after the two Mac fanatics were downsized from their corporate jobs. The pair began making iPhone apps and have since expanded into other mobile applications. The company also hosts training classes for iPhone and iPad apps.

The growth has been so significant that they decided to move their fledgling business out of Dearborn Heights to downtown Pontiac, taking advantage of the Rise of the Phoenix program's free year of rent for firms that move to the city's central business district. Marcillo adds that the strong sense of community among Pontiac's downtown businesses and creative class workers also helped seal the deal.

Future Help Designs hands out paychecks to 20 people, split between four traditional employees and 16 independent contractors. The company has gone through three rounds of hiring over the last year, adding 1-3 people to its staff each time. Marcillo expects his start-up to add another 10 jobs over the next year.

Source: Christian Marcillo, director of creative design at Future Help Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pontiac-based BidDogz.com launches penny auctions

BidDogz.com, a new penny-auction website, launched last week, creating a few more jobs in Pontiac.

Howling Dog Enterprises launched the site and is basing its operations out of Pontiac. The 18-month-old company employs 17 people handling everything from the back end of the website to the warehouse where the merchandise is stored.

"We're based in Michigan because we want to reach the people here," says Michael Falk, managing partner with Howling Dog Enterprises and a veteran of the promotions industry.

BidDogz.com auctions off merchandise online, often for pennies on the dollar. On its first day the website sold a plasma TV worth hundreds of dollars for 12 cents. The company works directly with manufacturers to get the merchandise cheaply. It also makes money by charging customers 65 cents for each bid.

Falk says his company is working to make sure only real people are bidding on the items, not software programs. He hopes to take the operations national over the next year and hire another 6-12 people.

Source: Michael Falk, managing partner with Howling Dog Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland County Medical Main Street now $61M program; 45,000 jobs to come

A now 3-year-old Anderson Economic Group study called for the health-care and life science sector to be the fastest-growing in Oakland County, prompting it to create the Medical Main Street program to encourage investment. That prediction is beginning to ring true today.

The Oakland County Medical Main Street program scored investments
totaling $34.8 million from five companies either moving or expanding in the county in the first quarter of this year. This contributed to the creation or retention of more than 1,000 jobs. Fifteen companies have put $61 million into Medical Main Street since it was founded in 2008, a trend Oakland County officials expect to continue as the economy rebounds.

"We're seeing this accelerating," says David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development. "This is trending upward."

Among the recent investments are $3.7 million (162 new jobs) from Ascendant MDx for a new clinical laboratory for diagnostic tests in Farmington Hills and $28 million (640 new jobs) from health-care info tech provider CareTech Solutions to complete the second phase of its expansion project.

Oakland County already had a strong base in the health-care and life sciences industries. The 2008 study shows approximately 93,000 jobs at about 4,300 life science and medical facilities there. About 45,000 more positions are expected over the next 10 years.

Source: David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DASI Solutions grows with rapid prototyping machines, adding staff

DASI Solutions got its start with engineering software work for automotive companies 15 years ago.

Today the Pontiac-based company has diversified not only its own client base in that area, but also its offerings. It recently began selling a rapid prototyping machine from Israel-based Objet that creates 3-D prototypes in a matter of hours instead of the standard weeks-long timeline. The new offering allowed DASI Solutions to take on a number of new clients, such as Stryker and Rousch Racing.

"The flood gates opened at the end of this last year," says David Darbyshire, engineer and partner of DASI Solutions. "We sold $2 million of these machines. We normally do $6 million in business."
The machines retail for between $20,000 and $250,000 apiece.

The company now has 28 employees, two independent contractors, and an intern after hiring four people in the last year. It expects to add two more jobs by this summer to keep up with demand for its services. Expanding into the prototyping field has the added advantage of finding new customers in different sectors it wouldn't normally come into contact with.

"It's fun," Darbyshire says. "It makes me feel like an entrepreneur again."

Source: David Darbyshire, engineer and partner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

3-D ETC expands into Wash. D.C. and Houston markets, plans for 50% staff growth

At 3-D ETC, new revenue doesn't equal new product offerings. In fact, it's the inverse of that equation.

The safety-training company watched its revenue climb 125 percent last year, but that wasn't as important as growing its product offerings. The
7-year-old firm went from offering four programs in 2009 to 11 last year. It plans to continue to invest heavily in new product development.

"We're growing the company through product offerings," says Dave Hodgson, president of 3-D ETC. "Our goal is to offer 20 different products by the end of 2011."

3-D ETC, based in Pontiac, provides unique, proprietary programs that immerse employees into realistic 3-D experiences meant to change the way they think about safety. The training programs simulate live situations, giving people the virtual sensations and emotional impacts of their actions.

Traditionally, that has meant industrial customers with potentially dangerous workplaces. However, 3-D ETC plans to expand that focus by going after the health-care industry. This plan has allowed the company to add three jobs in 2010, expanding its staff to eight employees, six independent contractors, and the occasional intern. It plans to increase its staff by 50 percent this year as it expands into the Washington, D.C., and Houston markets.

Source: Dave Hodgson, president of 3-D ETC
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland County announces cloud computing, Wi-Fi initiatives

Oakland County is making more and more of its IT and tech services wireless, according to County Executive L Brooks Patterson in his State of the County speech on Tuesday.

Oakland County will introduce a cloud computing initiative where it will conduct its own IT services through the cloud computing platform, and offer the services to local municipalities. The new program will eliminate the need for each local government entity to have its own servers and applications, instead accessing the county's for a nominal fee. The first offering will be Oakland County's eHealth software.

The county is also revamping its Wireless Oakland initiative with a new partnership with Frankenmuth-based Air Advantage. The 8-year-old Internet provider will provide Wi-Fi services to communities in northern Oakland County, utilizing the county's towers. In exchange for selling these services, Air Advantage will provide free wireless Internet in some downtowns, starting with Holly, Oxford and Clarkston. More communities will be announced later this year.

"Our philosophy is all people should have access to the Internet," says Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage. "The Internet is becoming a necessary utility like electricity or water."

Making this deal possible is a $64 million grant from the federal stimulus package. The grant is meant to help Air Advantage make Internet services available in underserved areas within a 13-county section of eastern Michigan. That section stretches from Bay County to the north, Shiawassee County to the west and Oakland County to the south.

Source: Oakland County and Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland Co Medical Main St hits $21M in investment

Oakland County's Medical Main Street notched a strong 2010, attracting $21 million in investment that retained or attracted about 600 jobs.

The Medical Main Street program began in 2008 as a tool to help diversify Oakland County's economy by growing the health-care and life-science industries. Those industries represent 93,000 jobs today and are expected to create 45,000 new jobs over the next decade. The program helped six companies relocate or expand their operations in Oakland County.

"In the next couple of months you'll hear about more companies moving into the area," says Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team. "We have a lot of projects in the pipeline."

This year's totals are up from four deals worth $5.2 million in investment that took place in 2009. Spanos is expecting an even better 2011. She points to Oakland University's new medical school opening this year and its new stem cell center as reasons for optimism.

"This is going to be a good resource for us," Spanos says. "We can build on that."

Source: Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

i3Logic sees 40% revenue growth, plans to hire

Rebound is a good word for i3Logic these days, mainly because it's one that's allowing the consulting company to grow.

"We're almost back to our peak, 2007, for revenue," says Rom LaPointe, president of i3Logic. "That's a 40-percent increase since last year."

That growth has allowed the downtown Pontiac-based company to make 4 new hires. It now has 25 employees, 30 independent contractors and the occasional intern. The company expects to add more people over the next 3-6 months. "We'll probably bring on a person a quarter over the next year," LaPointe says.

The 6-year-old firm specializes in consulting, such as change management, one of i3Logics' top growing sectors. Its business fell off when the economy contracted in 2008. The consultancy has rebounded since then through expanded work with new and existing clients.

Source: Rom LaPointe, president of i3Logic
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Pushtwentytwo expands online presence, adds jobs in downtown Pontiac

The economy hit pushtwentytwo like most other businesses in 2008-09, but now the public relations/marketing agency is on the rebound and hiring.

The 6-year-old company recently added two positions in its downtown Pontiac headquarters and is looking for two more in administration and graphic design. It currently employs 14 people and the occasional independent contractor or intern. It expects to make 2-4 more hires over the next year.

That's on top of the company's revenue growing by 25-30 percent since the recession hit its peak. But
pushtwentytwo's leadership is being a bit cautious as the economic recovery begins to take hold.

"As much as our clients are spending money again they are being very careful, so we have to be very accountable," says Mike Verville, partner with pushtwentytwo.

The firm is expanding its online presence to fuel growth by moving into more Internet services, such as web development and social media. "There are a lot of opportunities for companies looking to enter the digital space, and companies that have been quiet for a while."

Source: Mike Verville, partner with pushtwentytwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Healthcare providers team up on blood clot prevention

A group of prominent healthcare organizations are partnering to cut the occurrence of blood clots by as much as 50 percent over the next two years in a coordinated effort to improve patient care and reduce medical costs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and the University of Michigan Medical Center are leading the effort with 16 hospitals from across the state, including Beaumont and Oakwood healthcare systems. The idea is that this collaboration, part of Value Partnerships, will expand its focus.

"The expectation is the collaboration will take on other things as the years go by," says Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

For now, the new initiative will focus on getting the state's major hospitals to reduce the risk of blood clots, a common problem that causes further sickness or even death. The new consortium will work in unison to study, benchmark, and implement best practices to eliminate preventable blood clots.

Just about all patients who are hospitalized are at risk of suffering adverse effects from clotting, some of which are often as serious as death. A double-digit reduction would be a seen as a big step forward.

"It's not perfect," says Scott Flanders, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center and the project director for this initiative. "We're never going to be able to get rid of these things."

Sources: Scott Flanders, professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center; Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac, Detroit, Hamtramck focus of MSU broadband project

Pontiac will be one of the first cities to receive more computers and better Internet service thanks to a $6 million program Michigan State University plans to launch later this fall.

The Oakland County seat, along with Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, will receive dozens of computers for local libraries, public housing centers, community centers and community colleges. This will include both desktops and laptops, along with faster Wi-Fi connections at these facilities.

"It will be a matter of computers popping up all over the place in the Detroit area," says Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University. "It will add up to about 70 locations in total over the first year." He adds that Metro Detroit will receive about a third of the $6 million federal stimulus grant funding the program.

The entire program expects to install 2,232 computers in 207 locations in Metro Detroit, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, Muskegon Heights and Flint. Organizers expect the new computers and increased access to the Internet will allow residents in these areas greater access to education, job training and job searchers/applications rooted in the new economy. The money will also help Michigan expand its e-Library program services.

Michigan State has already begun the process of implementing these computer/broadband Internet resources and training local people how to use them. The first round of funding worth $1 million began installing 500 computers in 88 libraries across the state, primarily in rural areas that will serve an extra 13,000 people.

Source: Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac's RazorThreat adds clients, staff

Greg Guidice isn't afraid of the rise in Internet crime. In fact he sees it as an opportunity. Of course, it helps that he is CEO of a computer security firm – RazorThreat.

"The cyber crime industry is larger than the illegal drug industry," Guidance says. "It's a $900 billion a year industry. In 2008, the private sector lost $1 trillion to cyber crime."

Which is turning into a window of opportunity for the downtown Pontiac-based firm that only opens wider. The 4-year-old company started with three people and now employs five with an occasional independent contractor. More hires could be on hand in the next year as it continues to grow.

RazorThreat has focused on expanding its revenues and profit margins, partly by attracting more public sector clients. It's now looking to partner with more technology firms, such as reseller who can distribute its product.

"We're also looking for strategic partners where our products are complimentary," Guidice says.

Source: Greg Guidice, CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County Medical Main St attracts $11M in investment, 275 jobs

Healthcare, an industry long taken for granted in Metro Detroit, is proving to be an increasingly strong job source in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Medical Main Street program has attracted $11 million in investment, creating 275 new positions, over the last two years. The latest round comes from Royal Oak Medical Devices. The company plans to spend $2.6 million to expand its medical device design, manufacturing, and distributing operations, a move that is expected to create 26 new jobs over the next few years.

"In the past we have taken these jobs a little for granted because they were part of our infrastructure," says Maureen Krauss, director of the Dept of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Oakland County.

No longer. Oakland County's life sciences industry employs 93,000 people and is projected to create another 45,000 jobs over the next decade, according to a study by the Anderson Economic Group. This industry also has deep roots in the research sectors. Just under 4,900 clinical trials are currently underway in Oakland County -- more than what is taking place in California, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey.

Oakland County started its Medical Main Street program in 2008 with the idea of helping fast-track growth in the life sciences industry. "It keeps the talent, assets, and people here," Krauss says. "It's a really strong part of our retention program."

Source: Maureen Krauss, director of the Dept of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County's Emerging Sectors program hits $194M in investment

If Metro Detroit's economy is turning a corner, then chances are it's going to be first apparent in the numbers from its new economy programs, like Oakland County's Emerging Sectors. The signs are looking good.

The business attraction and retention program for Oakland County has helped facilitate $194 million in new investment and create about 5,900 new jobs through June. That's enough to surpass total numbers in both categories for all of 2009. County officials expect similar growth for the rest of this year.

"It's certainly a great trend," says Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County. "So many projects that were on hold last year are back on track again."

The Emerging Sectors program began in 2004 with plans to diversify the county's economy and replace vanishing manufacturing jobs. It helps international companies looking to expand their North American operations and local firms based in the new economy.

Some of the recent investments include WABCO Reman Services of Rochester Hills investing $6 million and creating 228 new jobs; Southfield's Direct Sourcing spending $2 million to create 100 new jobs and retain 80 others; and EcoStore USA (Auburn Hills) putting $2.5 million towards the creation of 30 new jobs and the retention of three more. These and more made up the investment for June alone.

Source: Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Restored Crofoot Ballroom doubles staffing to 50 people

It's been three years since the Crofoot Ballroom project began in earnest, creating one of the more stunning turnarounds and successes in Metro Detroit today.

Blair McGowan took a condemned historic building (the oldest commercial structure in Oakland County) in downtown Pontiac, a Cool Cities grant, and some ambition and turned them into one of the hottest new music venues in the region, on par with Detroit's St. Andrews Hall and the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. The Crofoot Ballroom now has 50 employees (up from 25 when the project started) and three interns. He expects to hire even more people this year as he continues to expand his business.

"The word is out that the Crofoot is here and it's a beautiful venue," says McGowan, who also helped start St. Andrews Hall and Clutch Cargoes in Pontiac. "It has great sound and lights. People appreciate it."

The musical venue features rock bands, hip hop groups, electronic DJs, and a host of other music genres popular with today's youth. It is branching out and bringing more shows to places like the Compuware Arena in Plymouth, MOCAD and CAID in Detroit, and The Factory in Rochester. The Crofoot is also experiencing a good bit of growth from helping some smaller bands grow by letting them play on the building's smaller stage (the Pike Room), the main stage, and then onto bigger venues like the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

"We treated them right the first time so they keep coming back," McGowan says. He adds that the venue is also hosting other events, such as wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, political gatherings, and business meetings. "We're just responding and it's working," McGowan says.

This isn't the first reincarnation for the building at the corner of Pike and Saginaw streets. In the 1830s the Crofoot survived a fire that decimated much of downtown. In the 1840s it was renovated by Michael E Crofoot, a prominent business man who helped build the 1880s-era Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Detroit. That resulted in a Mansard roof and Victorian-style tower, which were eventually removed by World War II. The building nearly fell victim to 1970s urban renewal projects, but survived.

It was abandoned and on the city's demolition list as late as 2005 before McGowan saved it. He restored it much to its 1850s state, preserving a number of interior details such as old wood beams and brick walls. Today it serves as a place with an incredible amount of character in a downtown filled with architectural highlights.

Source: Blair McGowan, owner of the Crofoot Ballroom.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac movie studio receives $28M in bond funding

The local film industry got a big boost from Oakland County recently when the county's Economic Development Corp authorized $28 million in bonds for construction of a film studio in Pontiac.

The tax exempt bonds will finance the conversion of an old General Motors plant into the Michigan Motion Pictures Studios, also known as Raleigh Michigan Studios. The facility was formerly GM's Centerpoint East Campus, but it's been vacant for several years.

The project will build a 185,000-square-foot addition onto the 425,000-square-foot facility, which will also be renovated. The $60 million project should be done by the end of this year.

This project was made possible by Oakland County's access to federal Recovery Zone Bonds. This financing tool is usually used to woo manufacturing facilities; however the definition of eligible projects expanded after the financial crisis.

"This broadens the scope of what we can do," says Mary Langhauser, supervisor of financial services for the Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Dept. "This is for a movie studio. It could be for a stadium or a hotel."

Source: Mary Langhauser, supervisor of financial services for the Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Dept
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County's OakGov Challenge taps techies for apps

Oakland County is looking for a few good apps, or at least some for its OakGov Challenge.

The county teamed up with AT&T to offer $10,000 in cash prizes to software developers to come up with applications, or apps, for smart phones, or web-based software that will streamline local government, making it more efficient and cost-effective. The OakGov Challenge's organizers purposely haven't asked for any specific types of apps and haven't specified which problems they are to address.

"What happens over time is the general public's needs change," says Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County. "We don't claim to know everything they want."

First prize receives $6,500, second prize is $3,000, with $500 for third. The competition is open to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Oakland, Genesee, St. Clair, Lapeer, and Livingston counties. Anyone who creates an app or comes up with an idea for one can submit it by June 11. The finalists will be chosen by July 8 and the winners will be announced on August 13.

For information on the contest, click here.

Source: Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Curve Detroit hires 2, expects to add more

Curve Detroit doesn't subscribe to one technology or one concept as the answer for every company's problems. The Pontiac-based firm is technology indifferent when it comes to finding a marketing solution for a client.

"Our reason for being is we're media agnostic," says Charlie Wollborg, chief troublemaker for Curve Detroit. "There isn't a silver bullet when it comes to marketing. Sometimes it's a website. Sometimes it's a Foursquare campaign."

That philosophy has allowed the 10-year-old company to expand its staff to 10 people by hiring two employees within the last year. There are plans to hire two more over the next year.

The company's growth stems from keeping up with the Internet and social media curve. It started with websites, went onto Facebook, and now is holding seminars on new media darlings like Foursquare. It's also developing applications for smart phones, to be complete this year.

"Then it's another arrow in our quiver," Wollborg says.

Source: Charlie Wollborg, chief troublemaker for Curve Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County set for big job gains next year

If it's always darkest before the dawn then the same sentiment rings true for job creation in Oakland County.

The fourth-wealthiest county in the U.S. took it on the chin in 2009, losing 60,000 jobs. It's set to lose another 9,900 jobs this year, but those numbers will start to reverse considerably in 2011 and 2012. Oakland County can expect to create 2,400 jobs next year and 8,000 the year after, according to economists George Fulton and Don Grimes of the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor.

A big part of this success is the county's efforts to diversify its economy away from over-reliance on the automotive and manufacturing industries. It's now capitalizing on other areas such as health-care and alternative energy.

"We  feel we're quite diverse already," says Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County. "We know we have the assets that not only help the auto-supplying industry, but the robotics and alternative energy industries."

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson likes to call this plan a way to help make his municipality recession resistant. It's an economic formula that has been employed with success in other Rust Belt metro areas such as Pittsburgh.

"We understand that we not only need to invest in diversifying our economy but that it's a long-term commitment," Krauss says.

Source: Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County opens $500K microloan fund

Microloan funds are spreading through Metro Detroit faster than the flu, with the latest outbreak taking place in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Microloan Program will provide loans of $500 to $35,000 to small businesses. It is modeled after the highly successful Michigan Microloan Fund run by Ann Arbor SPARK. The idea of the microloans is to help fill the capital void for small businesses that want to grow and create jobs but are being hampered by the nearly frozen credit lines of the financial industry.

"We expect the demand will be high for these loans because traditional lending channels are all but dried up for small businesses," says Maureen Krauss, director of Economic Development and Community Affairs for Oakland County. "There are a lot of people who want to start their own businesses."

Eligible businesses must be based out of Oakland County, pay a $75 application fee, have a business plan if they are under three years old, and at least two letters of denial from traditional lending sources. Owners must be current on child support, student loans, and income taxes.

Oakland County, in partnership with the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration, is giving $100,000 towards creating the fund, as well as a $500,000 pool to start with.

The Michigan Microloan Fund draws from a $1.5 million pool and also from other six-figure funds provided by Washtenaw County and the city of Ann Arbor that are geared toward businesses in those respective communities. It
expects to make 24-48 loans this year. Detroit's TechTown has also formed its own fund and Oakland University's OU INCubator is taking steps to set up its own program.

Maureen Krauss, director of Economic Development and Community Affairs for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

State, foundation grants spread across Michigan

Grant money continues to pour into Metro Detroit from a number of different sources. The latest comes from the state of Michigan, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the McGregor Fund of Detroit.

Making the biggest splash is the $716,000 recently awarded by the Community Foundation's New Economy Initiative. Among the recipients are Macomb Community College ($35,110 to help grow defense industry research), Oakland County-based Michigan Security Network ($300,000 to help grow the local defense and homeland security sectors), Michigan Opportunities and Resources for Entrepreneurs Program ($356,250 to help foster entrepreneurs) and the Brookings Institution ($25,000 to help automotive communities). More grants are expected to come out within the next few months.

"They're constantly approving grants," says Theresa Fraley, communications director for the
Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. "They approve them as soon as they’re ready."

The Michigan College Access Network also dished out $250,000 in grants. Among the local recipients are Career Transitions (Inkster and Wayne/Westland), Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development (Brightmoor neighborhood) and the POH Riley Foundation (Pontiac), which received $8,000 each. The Early College Alliance in Washtenaw County also received a slice of that pie.

The $8,000 grants will allow local education and community leaders to determine what their areas can do to encourage more people to achieve a college education. This will serve as the basis for the creation of a broader plan that incorporates mentoring, career exploration, tutoring, college placement test preparation, and college admission advising.

The McGregor Fund of Detroit also gave $250,000 over two years to Madonna University. This will help support development of new science courses and other enhancements in conjunction with opening a new science building.

Source: Theresa Fraley, communications director for the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Michigan College Access Network and the McGregor Fund of Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac's DASI Solutions plans 6 hires

DASI Solutions learned all about the value of diversifying its client base well before the idea became fashionable in Metro Detroit. It's a lesson that is serving the Pontiac-based firm well as it prepares for a growth spurt in 2010.

DASI Solutions sells, trains and does tech support for engineering software programs, namely SolidWorks CAD design software. Since beginning this work in 1995, the company quickly discovered that many of the automotive firms were happy with the systems they were using. That forced DASI Solutions to find customers in a variety of emerging sectors, such as robotics, alternative energy and bio-medical devices.

"I built my customer base in a primarily non-automotive sector," says David Darbyshire, who co-owns DASI Solutions with his brother Richard.

That has allowed the company to hold its ground throughout the recession and to keep its employee base at 30 people and a handful of summer interns. Darbyshire expects to add another six hires this year.

"I see us growing significantly," Darbyshire says.

DASI Solutions is also helping other companies grow by retraining automotive engineers to use its software. The idea is these engineers will be ready for jobs in the emerging sectors in which DASI Solutions has established itself.

Source: David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County Emerging Sectors program hits $191M in investment

Oakland County's Emerging Sectors program isn't trying to remake the county's economy in the image of Detroit, but more in the image of Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The program, the pet project of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, helped attract $191 million in investment from non-existing-automotive and non-automotive companies last year and created 3,200 jobs. The idea is to diversify the county's economy so it has several major players, like the current economies of Chicago and Pittsburgh, instead of how the automotive sector has
dominated Michigan for generations.

"This program won't make Oakland County recession proof, but it will make Oakland County recession resistant," Patterson says.

The county started the program in 2004. Since then it has helped attract $1.4 billion in investment and created more than 16,000 jobs. It claims investments from 133 companies, including 33 last year.

"I always said this program is a 20-25 year commitment to diversifying Oakland County's economy," Patterson says.

Source: L. Brooks Patterson, executive of Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County introduces voting reminder emails

Oakland County is using cyberspace methods to get more real people voting in the next election cycle.

Its latest innovation is to send out an email reminder to voters
two weeks before elections and then again on election days. The reminder will also include a bevy of other information voters can use to make the process easier.

"It's kind of like an electronic post-it note," says Ruth Johnson, Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds.

The emails will be sent out before all local, school, state, and federal elections and will link to the clerk's website. The site will feature a list of candidates and ballot proposals, campaign finance reports, polling locations, and instructional videos for using voting machines.

It will also feature a new election reporting system that reveals results in real time. Also included will be information on voter registration and on how to become a poll worker, and a link to the state's Voter Information Center.

"This is just one more tool in the tool box," Johnson says.

For information on these new systems, click here.

Source: Ruth Johnson, Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County rated No. 1 digital county in America; two eGovernment awards

The Center for Digital Government recently recognized two of Oakland County's eGovernment programs for its 2009 Digital Government Achievement Awards - its Video Center and the Blogin' Café.

The Video Center is located on the county's website and the Blogin' Cafe was featured at last year's Arts, Beats & Eats festival in downtown Pontiac. The awards recognized these programs as first-rate ideas and collaborations on digital solutions that benefit citizens.

Oakland County sees this as a sort of electronic evolution of government that provides more with less. The idea is that the old ways of deeply rooted government processes where certain people look at certain sheets of paper decade after decade can be turned on its head thanks to the new economy.

Now it can do such work with fewer human resources while still dispensing more information to more people. This new automation provides more information in a convenient way.

"Many times they'll go to the web first before they pick up the phone or get in the car," says Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County. "We believe the needs of the consumer are changing."

They also see this as a way of effectively cutting costs without reducing services in a time of ever-present budget shortfalls. It's a line of new, innovative thinking officials are aggressively pursuing and why Oakland County was recently rated as the No. 1 digital county in America.

Source: Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Round-up of fall cycling, hiking, kayaking events

Now that the temps are starting to fall a bit, it's time to squeeze in some more outdoorsy stuff before it gets really frigid around here. Thankfully, there are lots of options that can help even the most jaded soul to appreciate the great outdoors in Southeast Michigan.

First up, fun for two-wheelers. There are two rides in Detroit on the 19th: Programs to Educate All Cyclists' (PEAC) Celebration of Cycling, which utilizes Hines Drive, and the Tour de Troit, which offers riders the option of a 30-mile or Metric Century tour of the D.

The Clinton River Trail Fall Classic is set for September 26, a great chance to experience a lovely trail if you haven't checked it out in a while.

On foot, the Sierra Club's Southeast Michigan Group has you covered. Just a sampling: September 6 at Independence Oaks, September 12 at Maybury State Park, the 26th at Potawatomi State Park and the 27th in the environs of the Fairlane Mansion in Dearborn. Find out details here.

Last but not least, take to the waters. Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte has a Detroit River sunset tour at 6 p.m. every Wednesday. You can also arrange a group outing for $35 per person for a group of four or more that takes in Humbug Marsh, the lower Huron River, Grassy Island, or Mud Island. Call 734-285-2925 to make arrangements.

Get out there -- and appreciate what this area has to offer -- before frosty winter gets you couch-bound!

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Arts Beats & Eats turns social media into marketing gold

Arts Beats & Eats is taking its promotion and marketing to the next level, employing a number of viral media methods to ramp up interest in this year's festival in downtown Pontiac.

Organizers behind the Labor Day weekend event have been successfully drumming up interest through popular social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. They are recognizing that patrons get their information through a number of different avenues, ranging from traditional news sources to new Internet fads.

"This is in its infancy this year," says Jonathan Witz, producer of Arts Beats & Eats. "We grew our Facebook fan page from 200 to 2,000 in 10 days. We see a huge potential for this."
Part of that success is because Witz and his cohorts are offering juicy incentives through these social-media outlets. For instance, the first 2,500 fans of the Arts Beats & Eats Facebook page receive free parking (worth $8) and users of Twitter who retweet messages can earn VIP passes. It all amounts to a street team generating real interest in a virtual world.

Arts Beats & Eats is still working with traditional media sources, such as newspapers, TV and radio. However, Witz sees future promotions utilizing all avenues.

"We're still strongly tied to into traditional media but it's a future transition that is coming soon," he says.

Source: Jonathan Witz, producer of Arts Beats & Eats
Writer: Jon Zemke

RazorThreat cyber security firm sees big growth in smart grid, health records

Electronic information, whether it's smart grid or digital health records, should be a boon for cyber security firms like RazorThreat.

The downtown Pontiac-based firm specializes in threat analysis and other cyber security issues for firms. It's been a growth industry as the world goes digital, and Greg Guidice, CEO of RazorThreat, sees it exploding as more and more hackers become more sophisticated, better funded, and more effective.

"Look at what's happening at Twitter," Guidice says.

He points out that these forces are a lot like organized crime. They are often financially or politically motivated and well-funded. Initiatives like the smart grid and electronic health records give them a bigger field to play in.

RazorThreat employs mostly 1099 (freelance) workers, with some located in its Pontiac office and others spread remotely throughout Michigan and the eastern half of the U.S.

Source: Greg Guidice, CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

Crofoot, 323East team up to create Rocketmonster contest

Rocket Monster. It sounds like the name of a Jim Henson Muppet or character from Where the Wild Things Are. Go beyond the surface and realize it's the newest place for musicians and video producers to show off their work.

Royal Oak-based 323East and Pontiac-based Crofoot have teamed up to create RocketMonster.com. The online film festival website lets local bands and filmmakers broadcast their music videos and compete for a grand prize of $500 cash, $500 in merchandise from Konquest, and a year of text message marketing service from Fyremobile.com.

The video creators can win by entering their work and promoting it virally using social media tools. Viewers vote for the 10 best films and website staff choose another 10 to make it to the final round on Oct. 4. The one with the most votes by Nov. 5 wins.

The idea is to spur more creativity and collaboration in the music and film scenes while promoting artists' work. The low cost of creating Internet entertainment is expected to open the contest up to a lot of up-and-coming bands and filmmakers.

323East and its companion company Ohm Creative Group have put these sorts of principals together in downtown Royal Oak for years. The Crofoot, an old blighted building in downtown Pontiac turned into Metro Detroit's up-and-coming concert venue, also works closely with these companies and employs many of the same principals.

Source: Jesse Cory, partner of 323East and owner of Ohm Creative Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County notches $2.4 billion in investment since 2004

During these tough economic times, many companies and organizations bring out the long-term statistics from the past several years to put themselves in a better light. Oakland County can fall back on both the long- and short-term statistics.

The county released a report that shows not only has it taken in about $2.4 billion worth of investment over the last five years, it did well in June, with $748 million in investment.

Most of that comes from General Motors' plans for a $650 million Orion Township plant, which will build smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. However, that leaves about another $100 million that the county was able to attract in the midst of one of the toughest economies in generations.

Oakland County has had more than $2.4 billion worth of business investment in the past five years, giving residents a reason to be optimistic about its future during the most difficult economic challenge in its history, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said recently.

"We had our best month ever during one of the worst times ever," Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson said in a press release. "We've withstood all of the body blows and we're still standing."

More of the $2.4 billion came from emerging sectors based in the new economy ($1.3 billion), compared to traditional business sectors, like automotive manufacturing. Oakland County created its Emerging Sectors program five years ago to help diversify its economy and make up for lost manufacturing jobs.

Source: Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Where to recycle building materials

Construction is a dirty job that can generate a lot of waste. Here are a few ways to minimize the load in your dumpster!

Ceiling tiles can be taken to Allied Building Products Corp. in Pontiac -- the company is an Armstrong Recycling Program Consolidation Partner. Contact Marilyn Rich at Allied at 248-745-0300.

Windows, sinks, counters, cabinets, fans...anything of that nature can be brought to Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit or Recycle Ann Arbor's Reuse Center. Bonus: a tax write-off!

Cherry Crushed Concrete is a national company that recycles concrete and produces new concrete with it. They've been around since 1952 and can actually send a mobile recycling plant out to a construction site. It will take the old concrete, recycle it and produce new base material. I'm guessing this is more possible for large-scale construction sites than the home remodeling-scale job, but it's still interesting.

If you know of a local resource for hard-to-recycle materials, please drop Green Space a line here.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

New film studio to create 3,600 jobs in Pontiac

Hollywood is coming to Pontiac in a big way now that Motown Motion Pictures announced its going to invest $70 million to build a film studio in an old GM plant.

The deal is expected to create nearly 3,600 jobs directly and another 1,539 spin-off jobs. All of them will be based in Metro Detroit.

"What's really significant is that here, in the State of Michigan, we're building a state of the art movie facility," says Steven J. Lemberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Motown Motion Pictures.

The 600,000-square-foot development will have nine sound stages. The smallest sound stage will measure 12,000 square feet. The biggest will clock in at 30,000 square feet. The GM facility is already 400,000 square feet, so Motown Motion Pictures will have to build another 200,000 square feet to reach its goal.

The firm is partnering with Raleigh Studios and Hollywood Rentals, a production company that rents equipment. Raleigh Studios is the largest independent studio in the country. It will provide employees and production assistance.

"We're saying we have the employees, we have the studio equipment, you can just come here and get to work," says Steven J. Lemberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Motown Motion Pictures.

Motown Motion Pictures plans to have the first phase up and running by this summer. The rest will be built over the next five years.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority gave Motown Motion Pictures $101 state tax credit over 12 years to help bring the project to Michigan. Another $12.9 million in Infrastructure Development Film and Digital Media were also given.

Source: Steven J. Lemberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Motown Motion Pictures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Marketing/PR firm pushtwentytwo expands staff in Pontiac

Pontiac-based pushtwentytwo is still pushing to expand its business in Michigan.

The marketing/PR firm just added another employee, rounding out its staff to 18. The company also has the occasional intern, usually in the summer.

The firm's newest employee will serve as the associate creative director. That new person, Gil Lapastora, is responsible for supervising pushtwentytwo’s creative activities in places like print and digital media.

Pushtwentytwo has steadily grown since it was formed more than 20 years ago. It has grown its client list to a diverse group, ranging from automotive-based clients to healthcare to technology firms.

Source: Christine Fisher, spokeswoman for pushtwentytwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Atrio Systems capitalizes on 100 percent growth, will add 3-4 jobs

Brian Demoe took a number of cues from some of his past lives to make Atrio Systems what it is today.

The entrepreneur combined his backgrounds in education, software engineering and sales to create the software consulting firm. The downtown Pontiac-based company now employs 20 people and another 20 independent contractors on top of that. That's up from just, well, Demoe eight years ago.

"Growth is absolutely what we're all about," Demoe says. "We want to grow at least 50 percent this year."

That would be down a little from recent years where its revenues grew anywhere between 80 and 100 percent annually. Still, growth has allowed Atrio to add three people and few contractors this year. Demoe expects to create another 3-4 jobs within the next year.

The firm has been diversifying its cliental beyond the automotive industry and is hoping to continue doing that in the next few years. It's also aiming to grow by improving its performance on existing work to organically make more.

"We've grown a lot and we hope to continue that," Demoe says.

Source: Brian Demoe, managing partner of Atrio Systrems
Writer: Jon Zemke

German-based Mackevision to move office to downtown Ferndale

Another business is about to move into downtown Ferndale. The latest addition is the office of German-based Mackevision, which is bringing seven people with it when it relocates by the end of this year.

"We enjoy the Detroit area and look forward to growing in it," says John Wyland, executive vice president of Mackevision.

The high-end visualization house does everything from 3D animation to visual effects to storyboard development. Its clients include high-end automakers, such as Mercedes and BMW. It has won awards for animation, public relations and imagery.

Even though it was founded in Germany 14 years ago, Mackevision opened a Metro Detroit office in January, 2007 in downtown Pontiac. The company has added a few jobs in that time and expects to add a handful more in the near future as it grows into the southeast Michigan market.

Source: John Wyland, executive vice president of Mackevision
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

Green Space: Oakland County fleet to run on biodiesel

The OC just upped the ante when it comes to green cred in Metro Detroit: the county's entire road commission fleet will be running on biodiesel by year's end.

The move will reduce emissions, lower fuel costs and reduce maintenance costs.

"This is a win-win situation," said Brent Bair, the managing director of the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC). "Not only are we helping the environment, but we’re doing so with a cost savings, and in a way that results in our trucks running better."

All 225 of its heavy-duty diesel vehicles -- including trucks, road graders and wheel loaders -- will be converted to run on an 80/20 mix of diesel and biofuel produced from agricultural products. This mix will save RCOC $30,000 a year in fuel costs and $20,000 in maintenance costs.

Why? Because the mix burns cleaner, preventative maintenance operations can be reduced in frequency.

So far, Oakland County stands alone locally, but it joins San Francisco as a leader in fleet greening -- the city's entire fleet of vehicles, from ambulances to street sweepers, also uses an 80/20 biodiesel mix.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Automation Alley's X-OLOGY Magazine covers emerging tech in SE Michigan

X-OLOGY Magazine launched this past winter and just released its fourth issue. The quarterly publication of Automation Alley seeks "to promote new technologies that exist in Southeast Michigan, to promote the idea that there is more going on here than just automotive," says editor Jane Gleeson. "This area has been stuck in a rustbelt image, but we are well beyond that."

The current issue is themed "Green is Gold," and focuses on the greening of the automotive industry. Features include a profile of ArvinMeritor's chairman, president and CEO Chip McClure, profiles of several suppliers that are "greening"up their act like Cobasys, Electrojet and Borgwarner and an overview of alternative fuel technology under development by the Big Three.

The summer issue covered nanotechnology, the spring, alternative energy and the winter, life sciences. "Each issue features one spcific technology. Our coverage expands to Michigan -- you can't just focus on Southeast Michigan when you are focusing on an overall technology," says Gleeson. "But we focus on companies in Southeast Michigan."

The Winter 2008 issue will focus on engineering technology, a broad topic indeed, but Gleeson is focusing X-OLOGY's lens. "We're interviewing several engineering firms that are state-of-the-art in terms of product development," she says. "There are lots of companies adapting to what they see as a growing technology field."

Like engineering firms that are adapting to a new economy, Gleeson sees a few other common denominators between companies that have ridden out the economic downturn: willingness to partner, becoming saavy to the global nature of business and adaptability.

The publication has a circulation of 20,000 with an estimated 337,000 readers. It is mailed to businesses, universities and homes and is available for sale at Barnes and Noble.

X-OLOGY is published by Renaissance Media, which also publishes the Jewish News

Source: Jane Gleeson, X-OLOGY
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Detroit International Auto Salon launches Oct. 25, will connect global industry to local suppliers

Adapt or die could be the motto of the Detroit International Auto Salon (DIAS), slated to open on October 25.

Rather that stand still and watch overseas competitors get a leg-up, local automotive suppliers are banding together under the auspices of the DIAS. DIAS is a one-stop auto parts market for OEM and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, which will help them lower their total procurement costs by efficiently sourcing from Asia's most elite suppliers.

The Allen Park facility will also be available to host meetings between suppliers and manufacturers, be open to the public for wholesale or retail purchases and host forums. The first such forum will be held after the ribbon cutting ceremony on October 25, and will be an opportunity for the exchange of information between academics, industry, engineers and businesses.

The moderator will be Larry Fobes, director of the Institute for Organizational and Industrial Competitiveness at Wayne State University. The expert panel includes Ron Hesse of GlobalAutoIndustry.com, Michael Wiemann of the Salzburg Aluminum Group; Lung-Chou Huang of the Automotive Research and Testing Center; Zhang Jin, the Secretary-General of the Confederation of Chinese Metal Forming Industry and David C. Chang, the former chief scientist of General Motors Corporation.

The panel will be addressing worldwide automotive trends. By becoming a platform for these types of discussion, the DIAS seems poised to act as a salon in the true sense of the word.

The DAIS was created under the leadership of GlobalAutoIndustry.com and Asia Forging Supply Company. The forum is supported by Wayne County Economic Development and Airport Authority, the Detroit Regional Economic Partnership and the Michigan Chinese Academic Professional Association.

Registration and a full agenda are available here.

Source: Automation Alley
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

14% of area CIOs plan to hire in next year

Robert Half Technology commissioned an independent study of 1,400 IT executives across the nation to learn about hiring trends in the industry. Results reveal good news for Southeast Michigan, with 17% planning to hire and only 3% planning to reduce staff. This net gain of 14% is equal to the overall nationwide gain.

The West coast posted strongest numbers overall, with the Pacific Northwest poised to see a 23% net gain. While that may be unsurprising, this area leaves Rust Belt rivals like Cleveland (8% net increase) and Pittsburgh (7% net increase) in the dust. And Chicago? Sorry, Windy City, your number was just 12%.

Robert Half's local office, located in Southfield, currently has seven employees with plans to grow that number. "We are looking to expand," says Christine Lucy, the company's Michigan vice president. "We're not immune to that positive news either."

The news of growth did not surprise Lucy. "We feel we have a great knowledge base here in Southeast Michigan," she says. "This is one of the stronger regions for demand as well as talent." She cites research and development, finance and health care as strong-growth industries.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world's largest specialized staffing firm, with over 100 offices across the world. The Technology Group was started in 1994.

Source: Christine Lucy, Robert Half Technology
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

$100M initiative to help develop state's "New Economy"

Ten foundations, including Ford and Kresge, have banded together to create a $100 million pot of funds intended to help transform Michigan's economy.


"One hundred million is a lot of money on one hand," said Steve Hamp, former president of The Henry Ford and chairman of the initiative's new governing council. "But for the scale of what we're talking about, it's not a lot of money, considering the need."

That more than 60 percent of the funding is coming from outside Michigan underscores a stark consensus that the state's economic troubles are so bad they're worthy of major league philanthropy -- or, put another way, we're so bad that it's good.

"We are not done building the ship we are about to launch," said Hamp, adding that much of the fund will be aimed at efforts to create "high-wage, high-knowledge" jobs in the service sector. "We know Michigan needs to catch up in this area and that we are lagging."

Read the entire article here.

Pushtwentytwo adds three to its Pontiac office

Pushtwentytwo is ever-growing, adding three to its Pontiac office.

Read the entire article here.

In a recent 'mode article, partner Mike Verville was quoted as saying, "In Michigan, as much as automotive and manufacturing get all the news, there's been a lot of growth in software development, healthcare, technology and IT," says Verville. "There is growth within the Detroit area and overall in Michigan." Read more of that profile here.

Since 2000, Oakland Main Streets have generated 2,477 jobs

Main Street Oakland County is celebrating "Do It Downtown" weekend in Farmington August 2 through 5, recognition of the development of the county's walkable commercial districts.


Farmington, Ferndale, Highland, Holly, Keego Harbor, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester, Royal Oak and Walled Lake are members of Main Street Oakland County.

"Collectively, these 12 Main Street downtowns have generated more than $404 million in private and public investment, 2,477 new jobs and 330 new businesses since the program was formed in 2000," said Bob Donohue, program coordinator of Main Street Oakland County.

Read the entire article here.

Pontiac-based pushtwentytwo doubles in size since 2004

Pontiac-based pushtwentytwo is an integrated marketing communications agency with a staff of 18-20. Partner Mike Verville says, "We have very broad creative capacity in-house. We can produce interactive, program websites, produce and write videos, print ads trade show displays." The company also works in branding and public and investor relations.

Verville says that one of his firm's distinguishing qualities is that they do not differentiate between new media and traditional media. "We look at all media as similar, as part of an integrated marketing communications strategy." He says this methodology is "valid for both small and large organizations." While a trend of late has been for advertising agencies to buy web interactive companies or create separate divisions in-house dedicated to new media, Verville says, "Right from the beginning, they've always been integrated."

Founded in 2004 of the merger of two smaller firms, Verville says pushtwentytwo's success is based on a "pro-active, results-oriented, aggressive perspective." When it first got up and running -- with 10-12 employees -- the firm had clients only in the manufacturing sector, but have since expanded to include technology companies, residential and commercial builders, the healthcare industry and financial and professional service providers. "In Michigan, as much as automotive and manufacturing get all the news, there's been a lot of growth in software development, healthcare, technology and IT," says Verville. "There is growth within the Detroit area and overall in Michigan."

Pushtwentytwo's office is in Pontiac's downtown, which Verville characterizes as undergoing a "resurgence." Its modest façade masks an interior that is a "vibrant, colorful environment" that indicates the firm's "high emphasis on creativity," he says.

Source: Mike Verville, pushtwentytwo
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

MI Energy Fair reports: wind energy alone could create 50K manufacturing jobs

The Michigan Energy Fair attracted 3,000 visitors to Manistee to learn about alternative energy initiatives in the state. This comes at a time when a bill has been introduced to the State House to create Renewable Portfolio Standards for Michigan, a critical step in the development of the alternative energy industry in the state.


Renewable resources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power are all sources of clean energy — fuel that causes much less harm to the environment. Along with being environmentally-friendly, another benefit is that they are home-grown.

Currently, Michigan must import nearly all of its energy — 100 percent of the coal and uranium, 96 percent of the oil, and 75 percent of all natural gas, according to state agencies. By investing in renewable energy produced within the state, the government would be investing in Michigan, say proponents.

The home grown source is important in another regard, as well. According to Environment Michigan and the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Michigan ranks second in the Great Lakes region for wind energy potential and 14th in the United States. If fully harnessed, wind energy could create over 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan.

Read the entire report here.

Beaumont poised to become Oakland County's largest employer

Proof of the growing health care industry, Oakland County's largest employer is about to shift from General Motors to Beaumont Hospital.


County research revealed that Beaumont Hospitals, the health-care behemoth operating hospitals in Royal Oak and Troy and other facilities across Metro Detroit, is knocking on GM's door. With more than 12,000 employees, Beaumont is expected to surpass GM within the next couple years.

The numbers sparked an epiphany for [Wayne County executive L. Brooks] Patterson, who said he realized "I don't even know (Beaumont President and CEO) Ken Matzick."

That's no longer the case. At a time when health-care employment is blossoming - more than 9,700 health-care jobs have come to Oakland County since second-quarter 2002 - Patterson has partnered with Matzick to expand the local economy.

"They saw an opportunity to attract new business" by working with Beaumont, Matzick said.

Matzick was eager to cooperate. Last year, he sent Beaumont staff along with county officials on a trip to Sweden to lure biotech business. And Patterson on June 19 shared a stage with Matzick to celebrate yet another expansion by Beaumont.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit Renaissance study to benchmark business climate in SE Michigan

Detroit Renaissance has commissioned Arlington, Virginia-based Business Development Advisors to compare the business climate in Southeast Michigan with other competitor regions.

The study will look at operating costs, regulatory climate, economic-development effort, image, business infrastructure and workforce.

Read the entire article here.

UM study shows that MI's economy is diversifying, not imploding

We always knew it here at metromode. Michigan's economy is diversifying, not crumbling before our very eyes. A new study from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy studies the transformation and points out some bright spots.

Two of the study's findings were:

* Small firms -- those with five to nine employees -- reported growth in the educational services (25.6 percent), finance and insurance (24.8 percent), and management of companies (35 percent) sectors between 1998 and 2004.

* Michigan ranked No. 1 nationwide for "industry performed research and development activities as a share of private industry output," according to the National Science Foundation study. The state ranked ninth in research and development performed by universities and colleges.

Read the entire article here.

Leadership Next to help region attract and retain young talent

United Way of Southeast Michigan is forming a leadership development organization, Leadership Next, in an effort to connect with and empower the area's future leaders. Chairperson of the group, Matt Clayson, a Detroit resident and legal coordinator for Pleasant Ridge's ePrize says the goal of Leadership Next is "to get together group of civic minded younger leaders to talk about true regional collaborations." Clayson also hopes to address the region's brain drain of young people. We want "to give tangible opportunities to be connected to community initiatives and to social services, to give opportunities for volunteer involvement."

Clayson explains that another intent of the organization is to "build trust with the current generation of leaders and to learn from them – opening up a dialogue with them." 

Leadership Next is currently cultivating a roster for its leadership team and is holding a public launch on July 20 at 6 p.m. at McNarney's Public House, just east of the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Clayson says, "It's an opportunity for people who want to be involved or want to learn more." A keynote speech will be given by General Motors vice president Troy Clark, who will talk about leadership from the perspective of his generation. 

Clayson is motivated to attract and retain talent in Southeast Michigan. "People ask, 'Why should I stay in Detroit, stay in Southeast Michigan?'" he observes. He answers, "You can become involved here and have your voice heard. You can make a difference without the same type of social connections that you would need in a Chicago or a New York."

Clayson will be working to people the group's leadership team with a diverse mix of people, including city and suburban residents, representatives of stakeholder non-profit organizations and corporations and "a wide variety of cultures and races."

Source: Matt Clayson, Leadership Next
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

House Dems release renewable energy plan

Michigan House Democrats released a legislative proposal intended to both stimulate the use of renewable energy sources in Michigan and grow the alternative energy industry.

NextEnergy's Mark Beyer says the most significant component of the proposal is the establishment of Renewable Portfolio Standards for the state requiring 10% of Michigan's energy production to come from renewable sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass by 2015 and 25% by 2025. A NextEnergy report about RPS that was submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality explored the effects of such a program on the state's economy and found it to be extraordinarily beneficial.

Beyer explains, "It would put people to work and decrease the cost of inputting energy. RPS is an attractive lure to [alternative energy companies] from out-of-state and out-of-the nation."

Beyer points out that 23 states and the District of Columbia already have RPS in place and one, Pennsylvania, has already attracted investment from a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer. "This is despite our manufacturing prowess! But RPS is very symbolic. It shows that we are dedicated to this industry. We won't be taken seriously by big international wind turbine manufacturers until we have RPS in place."

Other aspects of the plan, which is still being finalized, include alternative energy renaissance tax relief zones, the tightening up of energy conservation codes, sales tax exemption for the purchase of energy efficient home appliances, tax credits for solar power equipment purchase and an statewide reduction of 1% of energy consumption annually. The plan also will look to encourage worker training in renewable energy technologies at the state's community colleges.

Although alternative energy may not yet be fully on the radar of the mainstream, Beyer sees that day coming quickly. "It's showing up in more headlines, more stories," he says. "One day, the $5 gallon of gas will be on the cover of Time magazine."

Beyers is optimistic about the ultimate passage of the bill, saying "It's a bi-partisan issue."

Source: Mark Beyer, NextEnergy
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Saving water while you brush and flush

A lot of water is wasted in your bathroom. Sorry if that makes you feel guilty, but it's true. A third of your home's water usage is literally flushed down your toilet.

There's a simple way to change that: installing a high-efficiency toilet  that uses less water per flush or, better yet, a dual-flush toilet that has two buttons: one for a number 1 flush and another that flushes more water for number 2.

If you have an older toilet and are not currently in the market for an upgrade, you can always consider what my family called the "cottage method." Basically, if it's yellow, let it mellow.

Now, for the shower. If you're super hardcore, you can take Navy showers, which basically means you get yourself wet, turn the water off while you lather and then rinse off. My hat is off to anyone that actually does this.

Or you can just install a high-efficiency shower head. They cost about $20 and can save you five times that in one year of usage.

Lastly, as if I need to tell you this: don't run the water while you brush your teeth.


Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

MDOT awarded $70M in "smart vehicle" applications for Metro Detroit

Imagine a blue light on your dashboard that identifies a still-out-of-earshot ambulance. Or a red one that flashes when a bicycle is nearing an upcoming intersection. This is Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) and, it is not only possible, but is about to become a reality in Metro Detroit.

VII uses wireless and satellite technologies to enable vehicles to communicate with each other and the road itself in order to reduce congestion and crashes.
The United States Department of Transportation recently awarded the Michigan Department of Transportation $70 million for its Metro Detroit VII initiative. 

The bulk of the funding, $45 million, will be used to develop and construct a test bed facility in Novi. The remainder will go to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to develop an in-vehicle driver-vehicle interface. 

MDOT and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have already invested $9 million into VII infrastructure and development. Why the push? The Center for Automotive Research estimates that VII and associated vehicle electronics will create more than 20,000 jobs in the coming years. Michigan is currently on the forefront of this technology, and the state hopes to keep it that way.

Source: MDOT
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Insurance industry poised for huge growth

A Michigan Insurance Coalition-commissioned study, "Insuring the Future: The Economic Importance of the Insurance Industry in Michigan," shows big growth in the coming decade for the Michigan insurance industry.

Pittsburgh-based GSP Consulting looked at the evolution of the industry in terms of the state's changing economy and predicted a 10% growth in direct jobs by 2014, adding 6,000 jobs. They are also calculating 10,000 additional spin-off jobs and nearly $125 million in tax revenue.

In a statement, MIC President James Miller says, "Most people don't realize the impact Michigan's insurance industry has on the overall state economy. The purpose of this study is to show that, despite Michigan's lagging economy, there are bright spots where industries are growing and creating jobs, and insurance is one of those bright spots."

The study also found that 40% of insurance industry employees enjoyed wages between $40,000 and $60,000. 

MIC prepared the report to demonstrate its growth potential as lawmakers consider replacements for the Single Business Tax. 

Source: Michigan Insurance Coalition
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh 

Natural? Organic? What's the diff?

Walking the aisles of a supermarket can be a mystifying experience. Claims jump out at you –- Organic! All-natural! Locally-grown! -- making shopping a confusing proposition for anyone looking beyond Wonder bread and Kraft mac 'n' cheese. So what do those labels really mean?

Organic might be the simplest, just because the US Department of Agriculture does regulate the use of the term. Government-certified organic products may label their food package with a "USDA Organic" label and actually use the word "organic" on the front. There are several levels of organic standards:

"100% Organic" means that, yes, the product is 100% organic.

"Organic" means that the food is 95-100% organic. A listing of ingredients in the product that are organic -- for example, "Made with organic almonds and oats" – means that at least 70% of the total food product is organic. If the organic ingredients are listed on the side or rear panel, that just means that yes, those almonds and oats are organic, but the sum total of organic ingredients is less than 70%.
Government certification means that the food is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic or sludge-derived fertilizers, bioengineering or radiation. Meat and dairy products that are organic have been given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Water and soil conservation efforts are also taken into account by certifiers who visit the farm. 

A label claiming "all-natural" can be misleading. While it is typically true that said product does not contain any ingredient not occurring in nature, the process that make use of a particular ingredient might be far from natural.

A perfect example is with fructose corn syrup -- currently the whipping boy in the national obesity epidemic. High fructose corn syrup is natural -- it is derived from whole grain corn. But the corn is refined, the sugars extracted and thus concentrated. Technically all natural, but realistically, food borne in a laboratory.

Locally grown food can be tougher –- and arguably, "greener" than organic food grown thousands of miles away. While many smaller grocers make an effort to stock their shelves with locally-grown and produced foods, sometimes the print is fine and seeking it out takes time. One great way to learn about the origin of your food is to build relationships with the farmers at your local farmers market. You can generally tell what is locally in-season by a preponderance of one or several crops at many of the vendors' tables. Hint: mangoes are not local.

When you really start to get into food labeling and origin, it will add some time to your shopping trip. But what it really adds to is your quality of life. Knowing what you are eating makes eating itself a more special occasion -- which in turn, leads to a healthier relationship with food than has been common for many decades in the US.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

So your lawn isn't golf course-green? Get over it.

The perfect expanse of lawn is embedded in the psyche of the American dream. Unfortunately, the dream is becoming a nightmare – water usage might not seem like a huge concern here in the Great Lakes state, but all those golf courses in Arizona will continue to get their water from somewhere. 

And pesticides and fertilizers are also serious problems. The Canadian Cancer Society has called for an outright ban on pesticides, noting that 19 of the 30 most commonly used pesticides have been linked with cancer. 

Ann Arbor has recently banned the use of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers in an effort to reduce the level of phosphorus in the Huron River. Part of the problem is that many generic fertilizers include phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, the Big 3 of lawn nutrients. But the reality is that most Michigan soil has plenty of phosphorus, so it is totally unnecessary to add more. Check the numbers on the bag of fertilizer before you buy it – even if you don't live in Ann Arbor, it's best to avoid phosphorus.

Simple advice for anyone with a lawn: Mow long and leave the grass clippings in place. If you must water, do so in the early morning or after dusk. If you must fertilize, use organic – there's tons of options on the shelves. 

If your lawn develops a pest problem, a good on-line resource for non-toxic advice can be found at the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.  Or, if you want to hire someone to do the dirty work for you, Local-Motion has compiled a list of local companies that use organic fertilizer and natural pest control methods here.

Most importantly, relax. Your lawn, like your life, is never going to be perfect. And that is totally fine.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

2007 Energy Conference and Exhibition

The 2007 Energy Conference and Exhibition will take place May 15 at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi.

Hosted by The Engineering Society of Detroit and DTE Energy, the one-day conference and exposition will cover the latest innovations in alternative energy sources and energy efficiency. One of the largest energy conferences and expositions held in metropolitan Detroit, the 2007 event is expected to have 100 exhibitors and attract 1,500 attendees.

Targeted for energy issues affecting facility management and planning, speakers include executives from automotive manufacturers and suppliers, health care, banking, the state department of environmental control, energy distribution and sustainable development. More at www.esd.org.
Detroit Regional Chamber and Charter One Bank announced plans to host a creative forum designed to cultivate an entrepreneurial and innovative environment in the Detroit Region.  This interactive event will feature successful entrepreneurs and innovators in the region as well as showcase best practices.  The event will further the critical dialogue on this issue started at the Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference last year.

The "Creating a Region for Entrepreneurs and Innovators" forum is May 15, 9-11:30 a.m. at The Parade Company in Detroit.  Admission is free. Individuals can register at www.detroitchamber.com.

The agenda includes:

  • A keynote address by Josh Linkner, founder and CEO of ePrize, the world's largest international, interactive promotions agency headquartered in Pleasant Ridge.
  • Facilitated group activities to inspire participants to become entrepreneurial and innovation stewards.

"The Detroit Region's economic transformation hinges on our ability to diversify the local economy by expanding our entrepreneurship and innovative capacities," said Richard E. Blouse Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
"Charter One cares deeply about the growth and vibrancy of our region," said Sandra E. Pierce, president and CEO of Charter One Bank, Michigan. "We are committed to supporting an environment that fosters economic vitality and strengthens the communities where we live and work."

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Don't dump that computer…donate it!

The United Nations Environmental Program estimates 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is generated annually --85 percent of which ends up in landfills. Aren't Michigan's landfills big enough? 

As part of its ongoing partnership with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit  and Dell Computers Reconnect Michigan, Wayne County is hosting a drop-off on May 12 in Canton for computers and other electronics that would otherwise be headed to the landfill.

The partnership means that some equipment dropped off will be repaired or retrofitted and put back into use—creating jobs in the process. What cannot be reused will be safely recycled, keeping pollutants such as lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury out of the waste stream. 

Mary Vangieson, who is the resource recovery coordinator with Wayne County's Department of Environment, estimates that 8,200 pounds of e-waste was collected at Wayne County's first such event, which was held last month in Riverview. 

Drop-off is free for any resident of Wayne County and will be accepted from 8 a.m. – noon at the Canton Township DPW. For more information, call 313.964.3900 x314.

To inquire about drop-off on other days, particularly from businesses, contact Goodwill directly at 313.964.3909.

Source: Mary Vangieson, Wayne County
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

New Pure Michigan ad campaign will target out-of-state tourists

Travel Michigan has launched a new $11.3 million "Pure Michigan" ad campaign that will target Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Ontario.


We are spending 80 percent of our advertising dollars out of state because we know that out-of-state visitors stay longer and spend more per trip," said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan. "But we also need to remind Michigan residents -- who take about 70% of Michigan's leisure trips -- that Michigan is a great place to spend their summer vacation.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit Renaissance unveils regional revival strategies

Details of Detroit Renaissance's "Road to Renaissance" plan have been unveiled. The three-year plan is expected to cost $75-80 million, $50 million of which will go towards business accelerators.


At the heart of the effort is a plan to align four established business accelerators — Automation Alley, Ann Arbor Spark, TechTown and NextEnergy — with two accelerators to be established. One would be in Macomb County and the other would be in western Wayne County, likely near the airports, said Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance.

Read the entire here.

Life science leaders head to national industry conference to drum up business for state

Local life science leaders are in Boston for the 2007 BIO International Convention to seek out firms that might locate or expand to Michigan.


Miller Canfield recently opened an office in Cambridge, Mass.

Harold Decker, Miller Canfield principal, said Michigan is still a good investment for life sciences companies.

"I'm very interested in the recrudescence of this state," said Decker. "I want to see it grow and prosper as I knew it as a child. And I think that because of some of the resources that we have here in the state of Michigan that we're ideally suited to do that."

Decker said that as a part of his firm's attendance at the BIO International Convention, it would continue making efforts to establish business connections with companies that could ultimately migrate to Michigan.

Read the entire article here.

Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress put major focus on alternate energy

At last week's Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, the 35,000 engineers in attendance focused on the conference theme of "Engineering for Global Sustainable Mobility—It’s Up To Us."

Mike Milliken's Worldchanging.com column, The Week in Sustainable Mobility, delves into the focus the brains of the automotive industry is putting on fuel efficiency and emissions reduction.


"To say that the industry is aware of the need to address the two issues of greenhouse gas emissions and energy availability is an understatement. Presentation after presentation (and there were 1,500 technical papers presented) defined the framework for the research and development projects underway in terms of those two overriding factors. In a series of higher-level symposia hosted by powertrain engineering companies AVL and FEV, top engineering executives began their discussions of trends and possible outcomes practically with the same set of slides: climate change and energy availability."

Read the entire article here.

Website launched to connect local service-providers to clients

Two local entrepreneurs, Gene Gizzarelli and Mike Fisher, have launched a website, NeedHelpers.com, to connect local small businesses to potential clients. Gizzarelli explains their motivation: "We wanted to develop a site to address the economy, and what's happening in this state. With big business going under and causing a lot unemployment, more and more people are starting up their own operations as entrepreneurs and they need an avenue to help to expand their businesses."

The pair, who also own an IT company, hit upon the idea after asking themselves, "How do we expand our business in a cost-effective way?" Noting that many small businesses don't have the resources to hire sales staff or run print, radio or television ads, they launched NeedHelpers.com to help service-providers such as lawyers, doctors, electricians, landscapers and plumbers establish a web presence. 

NeedHelpers.com charges an annual fee to list service providers, but is free for anyone on the hunt for one. Gizzarelli points out that other similar sites charge users an annual fee to find service providers or are industry-specific such as Lawyers.com. The site also allows users to rate services they receive in order to help guide future browsers.

NeedHelpers.com went live the last week in March and Gizzarelli says, "It is growing on a day-to-day basis. We've gotten a really good response." The site is being advertised on billboards and buses. "We're spending money to advertise so our service providers don't need to."

Source: Gene Gizzarelli, NeedHelpers.com

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Business leaders to create medical education panel

The Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Renaissance have formed a panel of business executives to develop a set of recommendations for improving and growing Southeast Michigan's medical education and research capabilities as well as boosting collaboration between the region's medical institutions.

Chaired by former United States Congressman and Michigan State Senator Joe Schwarz, M.D. the panel will:

  • Identify steps to increase graduate medical education to meet the region's needs for more doctors across specialty areas
  • Identify short and long-term recommendations for substantially growing the region's medical education and research cluster
  • Develop models for increasing collaboration throughout the region among healthcare providers, systems and education and research facilities to ensure access to quality care to all citizens of the region and the growth of the region's medical community.

"Business leaders are concerned that there continues to be inadequate collaboration among the region's medical institutions which could threaten access to quality care and the ability to maximize the growth potential of this industry, said Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Richard E. Blouse, Jr. "Dr. Schwarz brings a knowledge of the industry and a history of collaboration that will move the dialogue forward."

Dr. Schwarz recently served on a Congressional Panel tasked with investigating care at Walter Reed Hospital and is acknowledged as one of Michigan's most experienced leaders in health care policy.

Other panel members include:

Randolph Agley, Chairman and CEO of The Talon Group
Jon Barfield, Chairman and President of The Bartech Group
Alfred Glancy, Chairman, Unico Investment Company
Richard M. Gabrys, Retired Vice Chairman of Deloitte and Dean of the School of Business Administration of Wayne State University
Daniel J. Loepp, President and CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan
Florine Mark, President & CEO of the WW Group
Leslie Murphy, Group Managing Partner of Plante Moran
Cynthia J. Pasky, President, CEO & Founder of Strategic Staffing Solutions
Daniel F. Ponder, CEO of Franco Public Relations Group
Richard Russell, CEO of Amerisure Insurance Company.
"The business community believes medical education and research can play a major role in driving economic growth in the region and that a long-term strategy is needed to achieve this goal, said Detroit Renaissance President Doug Rothwell.  

The panel is expected to complete their work by August.

Source: Detroit Renaissance

State of Michigan's entrpreneurial culture not perfect, but there are some bright spots

Michigan just received a D- for its entrepreneurial spirit from the small business association, but there are bright spots, including university spinoffs, workforce preparedness and lending to small businesses.


[Faris] Alami started Integration Systems Management Inc. of Troy in January, helping small- to mid-sized businesses manage marketing, sales and recruitment efforts.

"I believe that Michigan is on the verge of becoming an entrepreneurial state," Alami says. "We have some ways to go - but with our wealth of great talent, what we really need is a change of attitude at the state and local levels."

Read the entire article here.

Win a $10,000 home energy makeover

Ypsilanti-based Clean Energy Coalition (CEC), along with the energy offices from Ann Arbor and the State of Michigan, are holding a contest from which 28 Michigan residents will win up to $10,000 in energy improvements to their homes.

One grand prize winner will win $10,000 in energy-related home improvements as well as access to the Environmental Protection Agency's Home Energy Rating System (HERS)  and the Energy Star program. This will assist the homeowner in maximizing the impact of their improvements.

Four first prize winners will receive energy analyses of their homes along with specific recommendations on how to lower their utility costs, and 23 second prize winners will receive $25 Home Depot gift cards.

In the contest announcement, CEC Executive Director Sean Reed said, “Our goal with this contest is to show how a one-time investment in energy efficiency improvements can save homeowner’s money every month for as long as they own their home. Given the fact that the cost of energy has been increasing most every year, it doesn’t take too long for this to add up to big savings.”

To enter, go to www.cec-mi.org/contest, where you will be asked to enter your utility usage over the last 12 months, by May 11.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Granholm and Mulhern launch Next Great Companies Project

Governor Jennifer Granholm and First Gentleman Dan Mulhern have partnered with the CEOs of eight top Michigan companies to launch the Next Great Companies Project to help grow the state's economy.


"Bringing companies together to share their winning strategies in keeping and attracting a first-class workforce provides invaluable insight into making Michigan a great place to live, learn and earn," Granholm said in a news release.

Project results will be incorporated into a Web site that will provide business executives across the state with access to information on ways to attract and retain employees and bolster their workplace culture.

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

Push 22 expands services, staff

Pontiac-based Push 22, a marketing and communications agency that sees web marketing as a cornerstone, announced that they'll be expanding their services to include PR and investor relations.

"I/R is not a usual offering for a marketing firm," says partner Mike Verville "but at the client’s request, we added the specialty to our current services. More importantly, we are able to create unified branding and messaging for clients across all their advertising, marketing and public relations efforts."

The 20+ year old ad firm added Timothy Hanson as its vice president of investor relations. Hanson was formerly with Identity Marketing & Public Relations and, before that, Microsoft.

Currently employing 20 people, Push 22 expects to grow in the next year as it expands business with global clients. Recent in-state clients have included Paramount Bank, Lombardo Builders and Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital.

For more information, call 248-335-9500 or visit www.pushtwentytwo.com

Source: Christine Stinson Fisher, Push 22

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

$1.3 million in job training awarded to 36 companies in SE Michigan

Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that MEDC will award $1.3 million in Economic Development Job Training grants to provide cutting-edge training in advanced automotive and manufacturing applications for 2,180 workers (and 251 new hires) in Southeast Michigan.

The funding is provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) as part of the Manufacturing Competitiveness Program (MCP), an initiative to encourage collaboration between regional employers. This joint effort will help streamline industry-specific training and make the best use of state funding.

Five grants were created  to support training through four academic institutions --Oakland University, Wshtenaw Copmmunity College, Schoolcraft College and Macomb Community College-- and Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, a manufacturing training and consulting service.

The grants are as follows:

$449,995 will be used to upgrade the skills of 569 current workers and 31 new hires at four companies in Oakland and Macomb counties through Oakland University. The companies include:

  1. Benteler Automotive in Auburn Hills - 70 current employees, 10 new hires
  2. Cadillac Products Automotive in Troy - 19 current employees, one new hire
  3. EDS in Troy, which specializes in computer and Internet training - 330 current employees
  4. General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, which designs, manufactures and supports land and amphibious combat systems for the U.S. Army - 150 current employees, 20 new hires. 

$335,274 will be used to upgrade the skills of 410 current workers and 90 new hires at five companies in Wayne County through Schoolcraft College. The companies include:

  1. Ghafari Associates, an architectural and engineering firm in Dearborn - 85 current employees
  2. G-Tech Professional Staffing in Dearborn - 139 current employees, 50 new hires
  3. Yazaki North America in Canton, which develops automotive electronics - 88 current employees, 30 new hires
  4. ZF Group NAO in Northville, which develops driveline and chassis technology - 89 current employees, 10 new hires
  5. MJ Industries, which develops automitive assembly equipment in Livonia - 9 current employees

$181,138 will be used to upgrade the skills of 379 current workers and 19 new hires at nine companies in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties through Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. The companies are:

  1. Advanced Accessory Systems in Shelby Township - 23 current employees
  2. CBS Boring & Machine in Fraser, 59 current employees - 10 new hires;
  3. JAC Products, which designs & manufactures roofracks in Pontiac - 45 current employees
  4. Mueller Brass in Marysville - 28 current employees, one new hire
  5. Mueller Impact in Marysville - 28 current employees, one new hires
  6. Ralco Industries, which specializes in metal stamping in Auburn Hills - 53 current employees
  7. Total Door in Pontiac - 30 current employee;
  8. Industrial Control Repair, a robotics company in Warren - 43 current employees, three new hires
  9. U.S. Farathane in Plymouth, which develops pastics for the auto industry - 70 current employees, four new hires.

$177,297 will be used to upgrade the skills of 448 current workers and 86 new hires at nine companies in Livingston and Washtenaw counties through Washtenaw Community College. The companies are:

  1. Micro Gauge in Brighton - 28 current employees, one new hire
  2. Liebherr Aerospace Saline in Saline - 65 current employees, 10 new hires
  3. Saline Metal Systems in Saline - 20 current employees, 41 new hires
  4. Control Gaging in Ann Arbor - 35 current employees
  5. Milan Cast Metal in Milan - 19 current employees, two new hires
  6. L3 Communications EO Tech, which develops holographic weapons systems in Ann Arbor - 97 current employees, three new hires
  7. Recellular* in Dexter, which recycles & refurbishes cell phones - 120 current employees, 15 new hires
  8. Adaptive Materials in Ann Arbor, which develops portable fuel cell technology - 22 current employees, six new hires
  9. International Specialty Tube in Detroit - 42 current employees, eight new hires

$148,978 will be used to upgrade the skills of 123 current workers and 25 new hires at nine companies in Oakland and Macomb counties through Macomb Community College. The companies include:

  1. Aerotek in Southfield, which specializes in technical staffing - three current employees, 12 new hires
  2. Brose North America in Auburn Hills, which manufactures auto seating - eight current employees
  3. Cadence Innovation in Troy, which manufactures instrument panels - 10 current employees
  4. Cooper-Standard Automotive in Novi - 10 current employees, four new hires
  5. Graph-Tec in Pontiac - 8 current employees, two new hires
  6. Magna Steyr, which develops auto body shells in Troy - 51 current employees
  7. RLE International, which specializes in auto engineering in Hazel Park - five current employees, five new hires
  8. Utica Enterprises in Shelby Township - 18 current employees
  9. RCO Engineering in Roseville - 10 current employees, two new hires

Since 1994, MEDC has awarded more than $339 million in EDJT grants, providing and upgrading the skills of 610,000 Michigan workers.

Source: MEDC


 *Recellular was profiled in the metromode article: ReCellular Rings Green

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 

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

Auto-workers can retrain at boot camp

Automotive engineers can retrain at a boot camp designed to bring them up to date on new computer-aided design technology. The event is hosted by Ann Arbor-based Universal Parametrics Inc.


The week-long event will feature an intensive training program to bring participants up to speed on computer aided design software called Pro/Engineer. The software is widely used in the defense industry, medical devices and consumer and agricultural products, as well as in the the federal government, but is not used in the auto industry, which uses products such as Catia, Unigraphics and SDRC Ideas. UPI says the training should make former automotive engineers more employable in other industries.

Read the entire article here.

Federal Reserve economist sees good news for Michigan around the corner

Sam Kahan, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Detroit Branch foresees growth in Michigan's non-manufacturing sectors. He spoke at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber Economic Forecast lunch about Michigan's economy.


He said, "25 percent to 35 percent of the (Michigan) economy is tied to the auto industry." But that leaves 65 percent or so not dependent on the auto industry, which is undergoing a traumatic restructuring leading to massive layoffs. There is opportunity for growth in the non-auto areas.

"It will be a little bit here, a little bit there ... the seeds of success are there," he said.

Read the entire article here.

Oakland County business development rep cuts red tape for entrepreneurs

Lynda DePlaunty Earhart, senior business development representative for Oakland County, was named a "Red-Tape Buster" by the National Association of Women Business Owners Greater Detroit Chapter.


What can improve the business climate in Michigan?

I think the media have the power to improve it. In Oakland County, we're very busy. I just went to a press conference for a company that's getting a grant and is going to be hiring a lot of people. ... And if we could promote the good news, too, it would improve the climate.

Read the entire article here.

Fifth Third announces 40 new banks, 350 jobs in SE Michigan

Fifth Third Bank has announced plans to invest $100 million into Southeast Michigan, open 40 banks over the next three years and hiring 350 new employees.


"Southeast Michigan is a growth market for Fifth Third Bank,” Greg Kosch, president of Fifth Third (Eastern Michigan), said in a statement. "We will build out our banking center distribution network, increase wealth-management capabilities and reinforce the commercial bank portfolio over the next few years."

Two new centers will be unveiled in Detroit at the end of March and April, according to bank officials. In addition, there are plans to open branches over the next several months in Fenton, Ann Arbor, Berkley and Riverview. “We hope there will be about 350 jobs, pretty much all over the market,” said bank spokesman Jack Riley. “I think the key is we’ve had good growth in this market.”

Read the entire article here.

Auto-workers using buyout education stipends to return to school

Auto industry employees that have lost or are about to lose their jobs are making use of their educational stipends provided as a part of their buyout packages.


Lisa Kujawa, admissions director at Lawrence Tech, has met with hundreds of Ford employees about the university's bachelor's degree in information technology, bachelor's of business administration and master's of business administration programs. Those, she said, are programs that create multiple opportunities for workers upon re-entry to the workforce.

"We have enrolled a significant number of displaced workers who are retooling their skills," Kujawa said, noting that Lawrence Tech has signed on more than 50 Ford employees and 20 GM workers, since the companies offered the buyout packages.

Read the entire article here.

Small businesses integral to state's economic recovery

Small business advocate for the state of Michigan Chris Holman stresses the importance of small businesses to the state's economic recovery.


Because companies with fewer than 500 employees already employ 52 percent of the state's work force, Michigan needs to work harder to support and encourage that sector.

"I use the quote that nothing heightens a man's creativity like the thought of getting hung in the morning,'' Holman said, referring to the state's growing need to reinvent itself economically. 

"The auto industry has been a rude awakening for some of us, and now we're scrambling to get to tomorrow's culture,'' he said. "Small business, for the most part, is taking up the slack.''

Read the entire article here.

Comerica's relocation creates opportunity for smaller banks

Smaller banks in Oakland County are looking at Comerica's announced relocation as an opportunity to create market share.


"What you're going to see is a lot of advertising campaigns that say, 'Come and bank with your hometown bank,' and over time they will increase market share," said Brian D. Pollice, financial institution partner for Plante & Moran PLLC in Southfield.

"It's an opportunity for the smaller banks to step up and say, 'Here I am - I am in your hometown and our decisions are made here.'"

Read the entire article here.

State to receive $11M for worker training

$11 million in federal job training monies is headed to Michigan for worker re-training.


The Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth requested the funds in mid-February, after it became apparent that federal funding allocated to Michigan for the current fiscal year would be inadequate to cover all workers eligible for benefits under the federal trade adjustment assistance program.

Read the entire article here.

Survey says, 21% of Detroit CIOs will hire in 2nd quarter of 2007

A national survey of chief information officers reveals that in the Detroit area, a net 21% have plans to hire IT staff in the second quarter of 2007.


A net 21 percent of chief information officers in the Detroit area expect to hire IT professionals in the second quarter of 2007. Twenty-three percent of executives surveyed plan to add staff during the quarter, and 2 percent anticipate reductions in personnel.

The net 21 percent hiring increase is nine points above the national average.

Read the entire article here.

Economist predicts state will dodge recession this year

Despite lots of bad news for the local economy, Comerica Bank Chief Economist Dana Johnson predicts that Michigan will avoid falling into a recession this year.


“The U.S. economy is in the midst of some sort of soft landing, not a hard landing, and that makes a world of difference for the Michigan economy,” Johnson said today. “I’m assuming still that we’re not heading for a recession here in 2007.”

Read the entire article here.

Locally-grown produce available to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties

Maple Creek Farm CSA (community supported agriculture) provides certified organic vegetables, fruits and herbs to its members via weekly drop-offs at 24 scattered sites in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. It is now accepting memberships for the 2007 growing season.  

Co-owner Michelle Lutz describes CSAs as "a relationship between the farmer and the people who are eating that farm’s food."  Members are essentially buying a share of the farm and thus, its crops. 

Maple Creek grows about 40 different crops ranging from apples to zucchini on their 80-acre farm located in St. Clair County. Members pick up a box filled with in-season crops each week from their designated drop-site from mid-June through October.  

Last year, 750 individual shares were purchased that ultimately fed approximately1,200 people in Metro Detroit because, as Lutz explains, "shares are often shared." She estimates that Maple Creek moved 50 tons of produce a week in 2006.

The CSA provides food to several area restaurants, including three of the twelve at The Henry Ford. Lutz says, "They are a great example. If they can do it within such a large operation, so can other businesses, like hospitals." Royal Oak’s Inn Season, Sweet Lorraine’s and Clarkston Union also purchase produce from Maple Creek.

Food grown at Maple Creek is typically consumed within an 80-mile radius of the farm. In contrast, Lutz explains that food travels, on average, 1,300-1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is sold to a consumer. She says, "There’s a lot less fuel dollars spent to support local food," and believes that local sustainable agriculture can be part of Michigan’s economic revival.

There are two CSAs in the Ann Arbor area as well. For more information on CSAs or to locate one, visit the national CSA registry.

Source: Michelle Lutz, Maple Creek Farm

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Image of Michelle Lutz courtesy of Maple Creek Farm

Study shows, renewable energy has potential to infuse state's economy with 6,800 jobs

Environment Michigan has released a report calling for 20% of the state's energy to come from renewable sources by 2015, twice the state's goal. It also quantifies how a $225 million per year investment into renewable energy and energy efficiency could generate jobs and otherwise boost Michigan's economy.


A new study released this morning by Environment Michigan suggests that reliance on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency could create 6,800 new jobs, $3.3 billion in new salaries, reduce power plant emissions by 30% and save $2.2 billion in energy bills for Michigan residents by the 2020.

A copy of the report is available here.

Read the entire article here.

Gilbert, Crain's top newsmaker of 2006, speaks on region's assets and liabilities

Quicken Loan's Dan Gilbert, named Crain's Newsmaker of the Year for 2006, spoke last week at an Inforum breakfast about Southeast Michigan's regional assets as well as its liabilities. Assets: work ethic, entrepreneurship and its research universities. Liabilities: brain drain, victim mentality and bureaucracy resistant to change.


Quicken has been successful because it has developed a corporate culture and philosophy that it defines itself by, and the company makes decisions based on its identity, Gilbert said. The region must develop a stronger identity for itself in order to make decisions that can help it move forward, he said.

“You’ve got to know who you are before you start talking about what it is you’re going to do,” Gilbert said.

Read the entire article here.

African immigrants to Metro Detroit bring education, entrepreneurial spirit

A 400% increase in African immigrants to Metro Detroit in the last decade has infused the area with new stores, churches and mosques, social organizations and professional services.


Michigan is home to about 40,000 Africans, roughly half of whom live in Wayne or Oakland counties. Many others are in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Flint.

"They are smart, motivated, and they do well in this country, and that leads to growth in immigration," said David Wiley, director of the African Studies Center at Michigan State University. "Of all African-born immigrants to the United States, 50 percent have one or more degrees in higher education."

Read the entire article here.

MLUI's Schneider debuts new economy blog

Keith Schneider of the Michigan Land Use Institute, a statewide smart land use advocacy group, has started a new blog to talk about media, the internet, land use and economic development called Modeshift.


Welcome to Mode Shift, a new blog that chronicles accelerating transition in two arenas of American life: the economy and competitiveness of state and metropolitan regions, and the swift development of social media. The focus is new forms, new techniques, the new rules of the game  in economic development and communications. I’m interested in change and how people respond to it. Never has change occurred as fast as it is today. I’m intent on applying to Mode Shift’s reporting and commentary nearly 30 years of accumulated knowledge and experience in writing about technology, government, business, transportation, agriculture and the environment. This blog, in short, is about evolution.

Columnist delves into potential for entrepreneurship in new economy

Ann Arbor News business columnist Rick Haglund takes a look at the role that entrepreneurship can play in recovery of Michigan's economy.


We'll likely see any number of new restaurants, construction firms, bait shops and retail franchise stores opened by former hourly autoworkers too young to retire.

But the biggest promise for new businesses that could generate thousands of high-paying jobs may lie in exceptionally skilled salaried workers and executives leaving the big auto and pharmaceutical companies.

Read the entire column here.

Governor's State of State address calls for diversification of economy

In Governor Jennifer Granholm's State of the State address on Tuesday, she proposed initiatives that would retain and attract workers and diversify Michigan's economy including training and education, alternative energy and stem cell research.


Embryonic stem cell research. The governor would remove barriers to research that could help people with debilitating diseases, suggesting that if the Legislature doesn't act, she'd back a citizen-led petition drive to put it on the ballot.

Laid-off worker training. The state would foot the bill for community college or training for workers who lose their jobs when their employers close shop or lay off employees. The program would immediately apply to 100,000 laid-off workers.

Alternative energy. This program would invest $100 million in funding into research and job creation in alternative energy companies over three years. The plan includes 1,000 ethanol and bio-diesel gas pumps by 2008.
Listen to the Governor's proposal for alternative energy here and read the entire story here.

Granholm calls for training, education in State of State address

In her annual State of the State address, Governor Jennifer Granholm called for two years of free training or community college for any displaced worker in Michigan.


The three-year "No Worker Left Behind" program would launch this summer, with around 7,500 workers getting free tuition for 2007-08 besides the 18,000 already being helped. More workers would be added in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

"This is kind of a one-time window people can take advantage of," said Bob Swanson, director of the state Department of Labor & Economic Growth.

Read the entire article here.

State energy plan calls for 10% of power to be renewable

Michigan has released a new statewide energy plan that calls for 10% of future power generation to come from renewable sources.


Also included in the plan is new, statewide energy efficiency program that would be funded through surcharges on customer bills. The program’s initial funding level would be $68 million, with a goal of $110 million by the third year of operation. The program would fund energy-efficiency measures and education statewide. Large industrial customers that have already undertaken energy efficiency projects could opt out of the surcharge.

Read the entire article here.

MSU launches Great Lakes wiki

Michigan State University has launched the Great Lakes Wiki to encourage residents of Great Lakes states to tell the stories of the region. The wiki was one of ten nationwide that received start-up funding from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.


"The Great Lakes represent a complex story often incompletely told or ignored by mainstream media," said Dave Poulson, associate director of MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. "The story requires many authors with diverse views, intimate knowledge and a passionate stake in nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water."

GLITR's home page is here.

Automation Alley membership grows

The networking and training opportunties that Automation Alley offers its members have helped to increase its membership - by 16% in 2006 alone.


One such business is Radian Tool and Engineering of Troy, whose owner, David Tate, recently joined Automation Alley.

"They're expanding the companies that they bring in and I'm specifically interested in defense companies that have joined," said Tate, whose company specializes in machining and assembly. "I really see Automation Alley as a path or a tool to help companies interface."

Read the entire article here.

Next Great Company Project to be chaired by First Gentleman

First gentleman Dan Mulhern is poised to chair a new initiative, the Next Great Company Project, that will work to retain and attract talent to the state of Michigan.


Mulhern said that a company “that is a great place to work serves as a magnet for economic growth, because it attracts and retains highly talented workers, and that leads to corporate success. It can also be a competitive advantage for existing Michigan companies trying to compete in this tough new global economy.”

Read the entire article here.

DTE GreenCurrents program to encourage development of renewable energy sources

DTE Energy has issued an RFP to Michigan-based renewable energy providers for its GreenCurrents program in order to begin offering customers the chance to purchase all or part of their electricity from renewable sources.


"The RFP we issued requires that providers be located in Michigan and that their renewable energy facilities be newly constructed," says Trevor F. Lauer, DTE Energy's vice president of marketing. "We want the resources for the GreenCurrents program to be homegrown, and we're interested in signing long-term agreements with developers who share that vision."

Read the entire article here.

Regional economic development collaborative created

Twelve economic development organizations across Southeast Michigan have joined together to create the Economic Development Coalition of Southeast Michigan (EDCSEM). The coalition will be focused on the following efforts within Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties:
  • expanding the capacity for entrepreneurialism and innovation in the region,
  • identifying priorities and jointly seeking federal and state resources to advance economic development in Southeast Michigan, and
  • partnering on policy initiatives that support economic growth in the region.
EDCSEM was convened by Detroit Renaissance, whose CEO Doug Rothwell, says, “We are looking at what programs we need, what expanded services we need to provide to facilitate the diversification of our economy.”

The group will aim to identify gaps in services that hinder the achievement of their goals. One that has already been discovered, according to Rothwell, is that “There is not enough capital to serve people that want to be starting up their own business or expanding their existing one.” He cites EDCSEM member organizations Automation Alley, TechTown and Ann Arbor SPARK as three examples of the type of programs that need expansion, and also need to be replicated around the region.

EDSCSEM member organizations include: Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Regional Economic Partnership, Detroit Renaissance, Macomb County, Oakland County, NextEnergy, TechTown, Tourism Economic Development Council and Wayne County. The group will meet bi-monthly, and staff will be provided by Detroit Renaissance and Detroit Regional Chamber.

Source: Doug Rothwell, Detroit Renaissance
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Study says, Energy Star homes save homeowners $1,500/year

Detroit’s WARM Training has released a report entitled “Energy Savings in Michigan Housing” that quantifies energy savings in new Michigan homes built to Energy Star standards.

The study tracked 30 homes that were built in 2005 as the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter Work Project. Jacob Corvidae, green programs manager for WARM, explains the findings. “If it only costs about $2,000 to get homes up to these standards, which is typically the case, and typically they are each bringing back [an average of] $1,500 per year." He goes on to say, "There is no reason why every home in Michigan should not at least be thinking about this.”

Houses being built to Energy Star standards typically include high-efficiency furnaces, basement insulation and improved attic insulation; other possibilities include increased wall insulation and Energy Star windows, appliances and lighting. Corvidae explains, “Needs will vary from home to home. This is not a ‘one-size-fits-all.’”

He stresses the need for homeowners and builders to work with an energy consultant, who will be able to explain what is needed to raise the home’s efficiency and also, certify the work independently once complete.

Corvidae points out that while the study was conducted on affordable housing, there is no reason the numbers would not translate to a market rate product.

You can download the report summary here and the full report here.

WARM keeps a list of local energy consultants that meet Energy Star and Michigan Build! standards at Michigan Build!.

Additional resources are available from the Energy Office of Michigan.

Source: Jacob Vorvidae, WARM Training
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Oakland University’s online classrooms double

The virtual student body got a lot bigger last semester at Oakland University. Nearly doubling their 2004 enrollment, 1290 students participated in completely online courses ranging from journalism to political science to philosophy. 89 classes, all told, are currently on tap at OU with another 577 traditional courses offering supplemental material via the web.

The university's new learning management system --Moodle-- was introduced last winter; allowing faculty members to post online polls, wikis, journals that can be shared privately with students, workshops for peer evaluation and quiz-based lessons. Furthermore, Moodle gives distance education a more personal feel by providing students with chat sessions, discussion forums and instant messaging.

Students and teachers can also make use of the University’s Elluminate system, a video conferencing tool that provides synchronous audio along with PowerPoint presentations or other digital content. This allows instructors and students to discuss course work online.

Currently, OU's graduate level classes are the most popular online offerings, but undergraduate interest has increased with the addition of courses in art history, international studies, sign language, religion, rhetoric and women’s studies. There are even entire programs offered online, including the RN to BSN degree program from the School of Nursing and the School of Education and Human Services’ Education Specialist in School Administration program.

As an incentive to further develop the university's distance learning program, OU offers additional stipends to faculty and staff who teach online classes.

For more information on Oakland University’s online course offerings, or to teach an online course, contact eLIS at (248) 370-4566.

Newsradio WWJ launches Michigan Future blog

WWJ has launched Michigan Future, a blog that reports on the culture of innovation in Michigan.

Check out the blog here.

Study shows tech sector job growth

Jobs in life sciences continue to grow in southeast Michigan and continue to command the highest wages in the technology sector and despite the auto industry decline, the area's economy is diverse enough to thrive on its own.

The second annual Driving Southeast Michigan Forward report by Anderson Economic Group shows that the region experienced job growth in three of six key technology segments between 2003-2004.

The report concludes that and concludes that despite recent declines in the automotive sector, the Automation Alley region, which includes Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Monroe, Genesee, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, is economically diverse enough to stand on its own.

According to the report, between 2003 and 2004 the life sciences sector experienced the largest employment increase among tech jobs at 2.9 percent, bringing total employment to 34,500 life science technology jobs in 2004.

Wages fell slightly from 2003 but remained the highest in the region’s technology industry at $87,174.

Since 1998, the life sciences sector has increased employment by nearly 25 percent and wages by approximately 24 percent.

In addition to life sciences, two other sectors of the region’s technology economy also added jobs between 2003 and 2004, with the advanced manufacturing sector growing by more than one percent, and the chemical and material sector growing by 0.6 percent.

This growth represents more than 400 new technology jobs. Sectors experiencing job losses during this time include advanced automotive and information technology.

Source: Anderson Economic Group, Automation Alley
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