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LevelEleven founder tells Forbes why he keeps his start-up in Detroit

Detroit start-up LevelEleven, which could conceivably have gone anywhere else but Detroit, has stayed rooted in the area. Here's why.

Excerpt:

"By the time my company LevelEleven launched last fall after being incubated within Pleasant Ridge’s ePrize, I had already planned our business strategy and next steps. And it never crossed my mind to move out of Detroit to build LevelEleven in a more obvious startup market. Why? In part, because this is home. But Detroit also has many characteristics that make it a great place to launch a technology startup."

More here.

Pure Michigan travel campaign takes national honors

Not only is Michigan's Pure Michigan travel campaign continuing to reap top national awards, but visitor numbers and spending are climbing year-over-year.

Excerpt:

"We are expanding the reach of Pure Michigan to new travelers here in the United States and beyond, and it is an honor to have the campaign continue to be recognized in this way by our peers," said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan   Economic Development Corporation.   "In 2012, visitors spent more on leisure travel in Michigan than in any year in our state's history."

… Last year, Pure Michigan's advertising campaign brought a record 3.8 million out-of-state visitors to Michigan, according to a study by Longwoods International.   These visitors spent $1.1 billion at Michigan businesses, generating $79 million in state tax revenue."

More here.

Superhero movie to begin filming in Metro Detroit in early 2014, create over 400 jobs

Next winter, be on the watch for caped crusaders in town! With the assistance of the Michigan Film Office, Warner Bros. Pictures is bringing a pair of superpowers together.

Excerpt:

"The film, from director Zack Snyder, brings together the two greatest Super Heroes of all time—Superman and Batman—for the first time on the big screen.     Production on the new film is expected to begin in metro Detroit and throughout Michigan sometime in the first quarter of 2014.   Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who is writing the screenplay.   Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing the film, which will star Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

...The production is expected to hire 406 Michigan workers, with a full time equivalent of 426 jobs, plus an additional 6,000 man/days of extra work.   The production anticipates using approximately 500 local Michigan vendors during the course of production and spending $5.1 million on local hotels, as well as an additional $3.5 million in out-of-town cast and crew per diem payments that will be spent in the local economy but which fall outside of the incentive program."



And in other news, a new video game project, Blood of the Werewolf, is afoot.

Excerpt:

"Blood of the Werewolf  is a side scrolling platform video game for the Xbox PlayStation, Nintendo and PC platforms. The project will be entirely produced and developed by Farmington Hills-based Scientifically Proven Entertainment at Studio Center in Farmington Hills.   It follows the story of a werewolf named Selena as she journeys through a land of classic monsters to avenge the death of her husband and save her kidnapped child."

More here.

For a dyed-in-the-wool country experience, visit the Sheep and Wool Festival

A chef-turned shepherd opens her northern Macomb County sheep farm to the public every fall. This year, the Sheep and Wool Festival is on Sept. 28-29.

Excerpt:

"Yvonne once worked as a chef in some of Detroit’s toniest restaurants, but her satisfaction with that life trickled away. A meeting with a charming part-time farmer at a local market set her on a different path. "Peter still jokes that I was his best client until he married me," Yvonne says with a laugh. Today, the couple tends to a flock that includes 60 Corriedale, Colored Corriedale, Jacob and Moorit sheep and to Sheep Stuff, a cottage industry that turns wool into throws, sweaters and other products.

During the festival, visitors learn about shepherding and traditional crafts, such as carding, natural wool dying, spinning and knitting. Sheep shearing, border collie demos, and workshops in beekeeping, broom making and other skills round out the offerings.

More here.

Local girl's videos make the Gawker.com hit list

A young girl's videos are catching the national eye.

Excerpt:

"Nobody on Vine amuses me more consistently than a 12-year-old girl from Birmingham, Michigan, who goes by the name Lillian Powers. She started posting her absurd, awkward-funny 6-second videos on June 11. In the time since, she has posted 95. I assume this is something of a summer-vacation project. It's been time well spent.

Powers' bio reads (in a Disney-esque font):

I'm 12 years young. Going into 7th grade. I just have fun with my Vines.

Yep. My favorite feature of hers is the "random shoutout," in which she yells in a public space and catches the surprise reaction those within view."


More here.

Will Silicon Valley influence mean a new car culture for U.S. automakers?

Reuters takes a balanced look under the hood of the automakers' adoption of new communications technologies in cars.

Excerpt:

"Detroit automakers General Motors Co (GM.N) and  Ford  Motor Co (F.N), trying to shake off decades of insularity, are looking to California's Silicon Valley and beyond for innovative ideas and technology that could disrupt and even transform the car  business.

Yet neither company appears to know what such a transformation would look like, nor are they close to commercializing a new product or process that longtime Valley venture capitalists would consider game-changing...

Several broad trends are compelling the outreach from southeast Michigan to northern California, a somewhat surprising move for an industry that historically has eschewed ideas from outside. One is the ongoing integration of smartphones and apps into automobiles, known colloquially as the "connected car." Another is the realization that both consumer tastes and cutting-edge technologies are evolving at a rapid pace — typically over months, compared with the auto industry's traditional five-year design and  engineering  cycle."


More here.

'Money is Money' and 'Division 19' to film in Metro Detroit

When it comes to filming in Metro Detroit, the money is green. 

Excerpt:

"The Michigan Film Office announced today the feature film  Money is Money  has been approved for a film incentive from the state.   The twist-filled thriller is set in Detroit and the surrounding areas and is scheduled to film later this summer...

The project is expected to hire 144 Michigan workers with a full time equivalent of 46 jobs.

In Money is Money, three childhood friends – James, Eric and Alex - find themselves aspiring to live a more comfortable lifestyle than their current situation, especially after James has to borrow money from a loan shark to pay for his daughter’s medical procedure.   After a burglary gone wrong the friendship turns to betrayal as the passage into the world of “every man for himself” drives the characters to make radical choices."

And a political thriller, Division 19 is set to begin filming in Detroit and its surrounds later in August. More here

The Detroit region's new landscape: Urban farming?

As the old prospecting cliché goes, "There's gold in them thar hills!" Or in the Detroit region's case, in the dirt. The Chicago Tribune has a good piece on how vacant dirt is being turned over to cropland in Detroit and its neighboring cities.


Excerpt:

"So-called retail agriculture, which includes direct-to- consumer, organic and local-foods sales, had revenue of $8 billion in the U.S. farm census in 2007, compared with $7 billion combined for cotton and rice, according to a 2010 study done by Local Food Strategies for the Farm Credit Council, the trade group representing small-town credit unions and other rural banks...

The vision is drawing attention from landowners ranging from Willerer, who is making enough money from farming to give up a teaching job and is snapping up vacant lots, to John Hantz, a financial services professional and entrepreneur who has pledged to buy blighted properties to create the world's biggest urban tree farm.

By selling at farmers markets, local restaurants and a community-supported agriculture project that sells his goods directly to consumers, Willerer said he can make $20,000 to $30,000 per acre in a year. In addition to the acre he farms on vacant lots, Willerer cultivates another three acres outside the city and is preparing to start a fourth.

Michigan has the fourth-biggest number of farmers markets, trailing California, New York and Illinois, according to a USDA report this week. Among its attempts to nurture small-scale agriculture and the businesses that arise from it, the state is home to 140 craft breweries, sixth-most in the nation. Grand Rapids, the state's second-largest city, was named Beer City USA 2013 by Examiner.com."

More here.

Macomb-OU Incubator launches blog for entrepreneurs

Add this to your reading list: The Macomb-OU incubator is spawning not only new business, but a new communications forum. For the word on all things entrepreneurial, check in (and chime in!) to this new blog.

An excerpt from the first post:

"Are you familiar with the saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?” The basic idea is that the loudest or most noticeable problems get solved first. The first time I heard this was from my parents at age 15. I was applying for jobs, and whenever I wouldn’t get a response, they would recommend I follow up with a phone call.

While it seemed pushy at the time, I now embrace this concept. What I used to consider brash, I now consider assertive. Whether it is applying for jobs or seeking capital, do not be timid of reminding others of who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, you are not their first priority.

I put this advice into action most recently when creating a promotional video for my business. I needed legal rights to a song, but after emailing and calling the artist’s management and even the record label, I received no response. The next week, the artist happened to be performing in a nearby city. My partners and I arrived at the concert venue an hour early and managed to give the artist our t-shirt and business card. The next day, we received an apologetic call from his manager, and eventually we received the rights."

More here.

We all deserve a little bit of yoga

Who says you have to run a marathon to feel good ( and do good) ? Try a Yogathon instead.

On Sunday, September 1, the Yoga By Design Foundation will host an all-day Yogathon at Karma Yoga in Bloomfield Hills. Additional classes will be held that same weekend at Red Lotus Yoga in Rochester Hills, Be Nice Yoga in Detroit, House of Yoga in Berkley and Shine On Yoga in Ferndale.

All fees will go to the foundation, which funds yoga programs for underserved populations. Classes start at  6:30 a.m.  and continue back-to-back until  6 p.m.  A $20 donation per class minimum is requested; participants can pre-register or drop in.

Click here for more information, or contact Lynn Medow at ybdfoundation@gmail.com, or 248.939.1367.


Bye Bye Brooklyn, Hello Detroit

Business-minded couples getting squeezed out of Brooklyn are taking the combo of affordable rents and the supportive arts-minded communities of Detroit and its close-in city cousins.


Excerpt:

When Sandi Bache Heaselgrave and Andy Heaselgrave made the well-worn migration from New York City to Detroit, they didn't realize they'd be starting a trend...

But when the couple, who worked in the photography industry, decided to leave in 2010, they were the first of what would become six couples (and counting) relocating from the tiny enclave of Red Hook, Brooklyn, with entrepreneurial pursuits in mind....

So when Ann St. Peter, owner of  Pinwheel Bakery,  offered to let them open in the front half of her shop in Ferndale, the couple jumped. Bache Heaselgrave had planned to sell Pinwheel pastries anyway. 

She spent $35,000 renovating the space, buying her equipment and giving the shop an airy feel. She also took over responsibility for sales so St. Peter could focus on pastries instead of running a retail location. Bache Heaselgrave increased prices and improved the coffee, becoming the only café in the Detroit area to sell Portland, Ore.-based  Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

More here.

How a company purchased for $25K yields $20M in sales

After the great housing collapse, Marketplace Homes put some liquidity into a weak housing market.

Excerpt:

"Around 2006 Kalis noticed a lot of potential clients telling him that they wanted to buy a home, but they couldn’t get rid of their other home.   At Pulte, Kalis put together a program that helped people get out of their other homes using a method known as “solution-based selling.”   This meant that if you helped solve someone’s problem, they would likely become a customer.    The company sold around 20 homes with this solution.

Dick Chelten founded Marketplace Homes in 2002.   Chelten become one of Kalis’ biggest investors and is a mentor to him.   Kalis felt like this solution-based program could be much bigger so he bought the business from Chelten for $25,000.   The company grew to 100 homes sold in Metro Detroit shortly after that, which is around the same time that the housing market fell 90%.   Marketplace Homes is expected to do around $20 million in revenues this year.

...While many banks were telling people to foreclose on their properties, Marketplace Homes said that people should keep their homes and try to save their credit.   Marketplace Homes allows people to buy a new construction home, while listing their old home for 1%.   You can lease your home for up to 6 years."

More here.


LTU receives $40M software grant & kudos in Princeton Review

It's a double whammy of good things for LTU: a major software grant and a naming to the Princeton Review's "Best of the Midwest" list.


Excerpts:

"Lawrence Technological University has received an in-kind software grant with a commercial value of $40 million from Siemens PLM Software. It is one of the largest in-kind grants in the university’s history.
  
The in-kind grant gives LTU students access to the same technology that companies around the world use every day to develop innovative products that are engineered for manufacturability in a wide variety of industries including automotive, aerospace, defense, machinery, medical, high-tech, electronics and many more."

And...

"Lawrence Tech was among the 155 colleges in the 12-state Midwest Region and 643 colleges overall – representing 25 percent of the nation’s 2,500 four-year colleges – selected for the “2014 Best Colleges: Region by Region” list...

According to the Princeton Review, Lawrence Tech is a university armed with a great local and a growing national reputation. In the survey, students reported the university manages to feel “like one big family.”  
  
Undergrads value that LTU promotes both “theory and practice” and “hands-on experience."
  
More here and here.

Farmington ranks in CNN Money's top 50 best places to live

Farmington is right on the money when it comes to America's best places to live.

Excerpt:

"Farmington is largely residential, with most residents commuting to other Detroit metro towns for jobs in information technology, engineering or the auto industry. Homes are extremely affordable, with a median sale price just over $100,000.

Farmington boasts a historical downtown, alongside some more modern shops and restaurants. The area is currently being renovated, with over $3  million invested toward increasing retail opportunities and walkability."

More here.

Automakers go head-on with Silicon Valley to recruit talent

As cars become increasingly software-driven, the automakers are recasting themselves as promising venues for software engineers.

Excerpt:

"U.S. automakers have embarked on an ambitious drive to hire software "codaholics," an effort that is increasingly pitting Detroit against its technology partners in Silicon Valley...

Four years after a sweeping industry restructuring that included massive job cuts, Ford and its U.S. rivals need to hire thousands of engineers at a time when software is playing a much more prominent role in vehicle design than even a few years ago.

Millions of lines of computer code increasingly govern core vehicle functions like braking and air-conditioning. Electronic parts including sensors and microcontrollers, used in laptop computers and smartphones, are the backbone of such vehicles.

The shift has General Motors Co, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC vying for a new kind of talent — engineers with software, electronic and computer network skills — that has typically ignored Detroit...."

More here.

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