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STEM aims to reinvent science-based education

Andrew B. Raupp launched a company six years ago looking to reinvent STEM education by creating synergies between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. He rebranded the company as STEM last fall after he was able to acquire the URL www.STEM.org.

"Because we got that it made a lot of sense to update the site and the logo," Raupp says.

The Southfield-based company is working to improve STEM education in the school curriculum through better intermingling of the subjects. He points out that subjects like math and science are taught in silos and don't bring things like engineering and technology into the curriculum enough, even though all four things are interdependent. Check out a video of it here.

"Very simply, we help schools, districts, and organizations do STEM better," Raupp says.

The company employs nine employees after making two hires (an education director and a partnerships director) over the last year. It also has a stable of 150 independent contractors.

STEM is also working to open a satellite office in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood this year. The firm is currently in the process of raising $700,000 to build out the space that will help local schools, teachers and students integrate STEM materials into their everyday lives.

"We want to create an incubator where schools can learn to set up AP programs, career technical education programs, and STEM programs," Raupp says.

Source: Andrew B Raupp, executive director of STEM
Writer: Jon Zemke

3LG Tech Solutions spins out with new database technology

3Leaf Group got its start with audio books 19 years ago in a room full of tapes. This year it's spinning out a tech startup, 3LG Tech Solutions, that specializes in database management. Make sense? Trust us, it will.

The Oak Park-based firm has grown to include more comprehensive DIY education solutions, such as streaming instructional videos and training assets. That meant a bigger immersion in technology and a lot of information to manage. The next thing the company knew, it had what it took to create solutions for next-generation database technologies.

That prompted the spinout of 3LG Tech Solutuons six months ago. Today the company and its team of a dozen people are putting the finishing touches on the software platform and working to establish sales with big clients. It currently is running a pilot with a Big 4 accounting firm and installing its software at a shoe manufacturer in Florida. It is also targeting government contracts, including sales in the defense sector.

"There are so many needs," says Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions. "There are so many exit points. We believe there is a lot of value we can bring to the table."

3LG Tech Solutions is currently working to land a variety of customers across industries, ranging from automotive to professional services. Newman points out his firm is doing the hard work of making the long sell to big clients that take a long time to make decisions. But when he gets them to bite he expects to make a lot of sales progress quickly, as soon as next year.

"I'd like to have four signed deals by December 31st," Newman says.

Source: Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opens office in Troy

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opened its first satellite office in Troy last May, bringing three people from its Ann Arbor office to jobs in Oakland County. The planning firm assists local municipalities in Michigan’s wealthiest county in keeping up with demand for new development.

"Oakland County has always been an economic engine in Michigan," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "As the economy improves those are the communities that see an increase in interest."

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has made a name for itself helping local municipalities overhaul zoning ordinances, create master plans, and complete other civic planning projects. It has seen a jump in business over the last year as the economy improves and developments are coming back to life across Michigan. More and more communities are facilitating new developments in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors.

"We are definitely seeing a resurgence in residential development," Carlisle says.

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Amplifinity keeps hiring, closes Series B, looks for bigger home

Amplifinity is gunning for the growth trifecta in downtown Ann Arbor this year. The tech startup has been steadily hiring over the last year, is close to locking down a multi-million-dollar round of venture capital investment, and is starting to look at options for a bigger headquarters.

"The size of our organization could easily double in the next year," says Eric Jacobson, president & CFO of Amplifinity.

The 6-year-old company's bread and butter is software that generates Internet referrals through social media called Advocacy Management Platform. The product allows people to advocate for brands by referring new prospects, endorsing products, and amplifying marketing messages.

Amplifinity has hired 12 people over the last year, including a former intern. The firm now has a staff of 37 employees and is looking to hire half a dozen more people, including software developers and client services professionals.

"We're looking for people who are really good at working with other people," Jacobson says.

Amplifinity is in the final stages of securing a Series B round of investment. Jacobson declined to say how much the round would amount to besides saying its worth several million dollars. Amplifinity raised a $3.5 million Series A in 2012.

"We have the capital to grow," Jacobson says. "We are acquiring new customers very rapidly."

The recent growth is also pushing Amplifinity toward the capacity of its office space in Ann Arbor. The firm is starting to explore options for newer and bigger offices in a broad range of locations, but Jacobson says the firm’s leadership has a preference on where it wants to end up.

"We really love Ann Arbor because it’s a wonderful, creative town," Jacobson says. "It has really smart people. It allows us to grow a company here as well as our competitors, which are primarily in Silicon Valley."

Source: Eric Jacobson, president & CFO of Amplifinity
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Custom Coach outfits food trucks, vans, and limos with new interiors

Here's a company on a roll outfitting coaches with luxe new interior swag.

Excerpt:

"As the owner of  Detroit Custom Coach LLC, he knows a few things about building out food trucks. For the past four years, he's been fabricating custom food trucks — such as the newly finished  Eskimo Jacks  ice cream sandwich mobile — as well as turning limos and vans into rolling dens of luxury...

It's a good line of work that allowed Ramos to turn former competitors into clients. His first business was a shuttle service called  Night Moves Transportation. But when Ramos realized he could charge more to rent a party bus, he decided to build one...

Recently a client hired DCC to turn a van into a rolling humidor, complete with high-end TVs and sound system. And while that was a big job, the most extravagant vehicle in DCC's portfolio is a custom project for  Jim Beam.The bourbon distiller wanted the passenger shuttle running at its distillery in Clermont, Ky., to look like an old 1930s truck delivering barrels."

More here.

Siren PR adds to staff as revenue more than doubles

Every year is a growth year at Siren PR, or at least so far for the young public relations firm.

The Royal Oak-based company launched a little more than two years ago handling work for Metro Detroit non-profits, such as OLHSA. The company has gone from revenues of $75,000 in 2012 to nearly $200,000 last year. It is on pace to easily surpass $200,000 in revenue this year.

"We have grown every month since we started," says Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR.

That has meant the need for more woman power. The two co-founders hired their first employee last September. That person took another job this month but not before Siren PR made another hire. The company probably isn't done adding to its head count this year.

"We will probably be expanding to four in the near future," Walenga says.

Siren PR has made its mark so far taking on clients with a social purpose, or as Walenga put it, "A mission they can believe in." For OLHSA that’s helping local people find the help and social services they need to succeed. A recent addition is Detroit Bikes, which is working to bring manufacturing back to Detroit by becoming the largest bicycle manufacturer in the U.S.

"I'd love to be representing more for-profit companies that have a community purpose," Walenga says.

Source: Lindsey Walenga, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

Nutshell goes on hiring spree with 12 new job openings

For the longest time, Nutshell was a tech startup with a handful of employees. For most of its first five years it was primarily software developers and other techies building out the company’s customer relationship management software platform.

That's changing this year. The downtown Ann Arbor-based software firm has hired three people so far (including one that started this week) growing its staff to a dozen employees. It is now looking to hire another dozen people in software, marketing, customer service, administration and design.

"Now we're filling out the ranks of the rest of the organization," says Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell.

Nutshell's first years consisted of it developing its software and growing organically without any strategic marketing. It has already crossed the $1 million threshold for sales.

"The company has been growing pretty steadily since it launched its first product," Malcoun says.

That attracted the attention of some investors and it’s now closing on a Series A1, which is an extension of the original Series A round for its initial investors. The Series A1 is expected to come in at about $1 million, money that will allow the company to grow rapidly over the next couple of years.

"I'd like to see us doing $2.5 million a year in revenue by the end of 2015," Malcoun says.

Source: Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell
Writer: Jon Zemke

Andy Ross Design fills out workload in Ann Arbor

Andy Ross and his wife, Amanda Ross, launched their own design firm a couple of years ago called Stunning Creative. The move was prompted by Amanda Ross' job loss and turned into an opportunity for the Ann Arbor couple to create their own business.

That lasted for a year or two until Amanda landed a new job. That left Andy with a company that just didn’t quite fit right anymore. So he started a new one this year called Andy Ross Design.

"I've been pretty busy," Andy Ross says. "I have done some work for some larger local clients like Aysling.  It's a newer client."

The design company has also been taking on more advertising agency work, including working with Lowe Campbell Ewald on its Cadillac account. Andy Ross says he has doubled his workload in the last year as more and more marketing firm take on an increased workload.

"A lot of it is I have put more effort into marketing the company," Andy Ross says. "Advertising budges have increased over the last year."

Source: Andy Ross, owner of Andy Ross Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blue Newt Software expands products and staff

Blue Newt Software is expanding its staff with more full-time employees thanks to a new addition to its business tool box.

The Ann Arbor-based software company, which calls Kerrytown home, has hired three engineers over the last year. That brings its staff to six fulltime employees and six independent contractors.

Blue Newt Software got its start in 3-D graphics and high-level visual graphic consulting. Recently is began producing its own software, including simulation technology for training and engineering that gamifies the experience.

"We have a bunch of things our work has expanded into," says Bob Kuehne, CEO of Blue Newt Software.

Part of that expansion is thanks to Kuehne’s acquisition of Renaissance Sciences last fall. The Arizona-based business specialized in producing simulation technology for the federal government. One of its largest customers is the U.S. Navy.

Kuehne is using the acquisition as an opportunity to further the reach of Blue Newt Software's products. So while the two companies aren't merged together, they do leverage different synergies to help each other grow.

"It has greatly expanded to bring more Blue Newt Software products to the market and expand our reach," Kuehne says.

Source: Bob Kuehne, CEO of Blue Newt Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carlisle/Wortman Associates turns interns into new hires

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has been doing a lot of hiring from within over the last year.

The civic planning firm has made three hires over the last year, all of which are planning professionals. Two of those three for their professional start at Carlisle/Wortman Associates.

"We were able to locate some pretty god talent through our internship program," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "We hired two of our interns."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company provides consulting services to local municipalities looking to overhaul their zoning ordinances and master plans. It currently has a staff of 25 employees, three of which are working out of Carlisle/Wortman Associates' new Troy office that opened in May.

The new office is serving the growing Oakland County sector, which is helping lead the spiking demand for planning services for local municipalities. Carlisle points out a number of communities that have traditionally led the way for planning activities have been leading the charge over the last year.

"That is what has been keeping us quite busy," Carlisle says. "With that comes demand for updating master plans and zoning ordinances. That has increased our workload and allowed us to hire three more people."

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Farmington Brewing Co. builds downtown house of suds

Renovations are underway for a brewery that's coming to Grand River Avenue in downtown Farmington.

Farmington Brewing Co. will open, possibly in September, at 33336 Grand River in a space previously occupied by a coffee shop. The renovations of the 1,600-square-foot space will make room for beer-making barrels and a bar that runs the length of half the space.

Four, five-barrel fermenters (a barrel is equal to two kegs) will be just behind be the bar and be the focal point of the room.

"Our equipment will be directly behind our bar. We think it adds to the ambiance of the space to have all the equipment there. We will not be brewing during serving hours, but customers will see where we do the work," says Jason Hendricks, partner in Farmington Brewing Co. with Jason Schlaff and his father Gary Schlaff.

Hendricks and Jason Schlaff started home-brewing beer about five years ago, says Hendricks.

The two are environmental scientists and chemists, while Gary Schlaff works in marketing for a TV station.

"We started out as home brewers and began experimenting more and more and developing the recipes of beer we like to drink," Hendricks says. "As friends and family started to enjoy it along with us we decided to expand our horizons."

"It's something we love to do," he says. "We figure if you do what you love you never work a day in your life."

Farmington Brewing Co. will not serve food. It will instead partner with local restaurants to deliver food to its guests who want a meal to go with their beer. Nearby restaurant menus will be kept on hand and delivery will be made quick and easy by Farmington Brewing Co. employees.

Opening day hinges on regulatory approvals, mostly, says Hendricks, but the target date is mid-September.

The opening is much anticipated by locals, says Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority. She hopes the brewers can be a part of the city's annual Harvest Moon Festival.

Facebook posters regularly ask when it's coming and say they can't wait.

It is located across the street from the Grove Street redevelopment that is remaking a tired strip mall into a more attractive retail district for new businesses.

Source: Jason Hendricks, co owner, Farmington Brewing Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

The Daily Show puts the Michigan Daily in the spotlight

What is the current state of journalism? Where does it go next? The Daily Show takes the Michigan Daily to task for its oh-so old timey ways in a segment called "Internet Killed the Newspaper Star."

Watch it below:

 

HTE hits stride with PlantWatch software platform

Lots of local software companies dream of doing what HTE is doing with its PlantWatch software platform. Get it up, running, easy to use, and attract a growing list of paying customers.

"It really came to maturity about three years ago," says Dan Reed, president of HTE.

The Auburn Hills-based firm creates software for the manufacturing industry. It started off making custom platforms for companies 25 years ago. Today it sells about 20 software products. PlantWatch allows the end user to monitor production while building their own system to maximize cost reduction. HTE just sold the platform to MTD Products, which is using it to monitor and control 25 scanners for error proofing and traceability. It's one of about a dozen firms using the product.

HTE has enjoyed prolonged success with sales of PlantWatch because of its "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy. The company created the software with the idea that integrating it into the users' operations should happen seamlessly and without any problem. That allows the customer to cut out integration costs, which makes it about one-third less expensive than competing products.

"There are thousands of software products out there and every one needs integration," Reed says. "Ours doesn’t."

The "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy is a lesson learned over time for HTE. The company and its nine employees and one intern toiled for more than a decade making software for other people before creating a platform for everyone. Then it realized it needed to make it as simple to use as possible, finding its stride and hitting it.

"We've done it for other people for years," Reed says. "It probably took us 15 years for us to do it for ourselves."

Source: Dan Reed, president of HTE
Writer: Jon Zemke

Loc Performance scores new military contract, to add 40 jobs

Loc Performance Products has been working to diversify its client base for years, slowly but steadily adding private-sector clients to its long-established military work. That's changing this year after the Plymouth-based firm landed a big defense contract.

The 43-year-old company established itself with defense contracts consisting mainly of manufacturing large CNC machined components and assemblies for military and industrial applications. With cutbacks in military spending in recent years, Loc Performance Products began adding more and more commercial clientele, so much so that private sector customers comprised more than 50 percent of the firm’s revenue.

"This year we will be more than 50 percent commercial," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products. "In 2015 we will be more than 50 percent military."

That's thanks to Loc Performance Products landing of a $161 million defense contract to restore lost mobility to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The contract calls for Loc Performance Products to install kits for tracks, shock absorbers, vehicle suspension support systems, and heavy weight torsion bars.

As such, Loc Performance Products is looking to hire 40 people right now. The company has added a couple of positions over the last year, bringing its staff to 186 people. That number is going to go up significantly soon.

"Now we have a big push to hire people," Dula says.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle contract will create more than enough revenue over its four-year span to offset other shrinking military contracts and push its revenue up. Loc Performance Products is still pushing to bring in more private-sector work in the heavy-truck, heavy-equipment, agriculture, rail, and oil-and-gas industries.

"All of these markets are opportunities," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Advantage Health Centers unveils mural at newest clinic in Warren

A community healthcare practice that treats low-income, uninsured, underinsured and homeless patients is brightening up its clinic in Warren with a mural that tells the story of what community health care means to people with little or no access to doctors, dentists or mental health treatment.

The mural at Advantage Family Health in Warren -- the newest of the federally-funded practices operated by Advantage Health Centers -- is being unveiled this week during a presentation that includes video interviews with patients and employees. The interviews were compiled in January and February, about a month after Advantage moved one of its Detroit clinics into a renovated warehouse in Warren. The interviews with patients -- new ones and old ones who followed the clinic from Detroit -- were interpreted by a storyteller and then made into the mural by an artist, says Joseph Ferguson, executive director of Advantage Health Centers.

"The mural depicts the community's feelings about our role in their lives," says Ferguson, adding that community health clinics such as his and others that serve some 170,000 patients in greater Wayne County are preventing the over and unnecessary use of emergency rooms and are also giving care that leads patients to be healthy enough to work: "to be productive again."

The mural decorates the lobby of the clinic on 8 Mile Road, and the artwork will also appear in patient education materials. It was made possible by a $35,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation through its Health and Arts & Culture Healing Spaces initiative.

A mural that already decorates the clinic's community room was paid for by the Kellogg Foundation.

Advantage Health Centers operates seven practices, Warren being the newest. Its other clinics are located in Detroit and are seeing increases in patient numbers. AHC is hiring, and has added several employees to its staff in recent months as it works to complete community outreach and provide education in neighborhoods used to relying on the emergency room as their primary form of medical care. Dental care and behavioral health care are also offered to adult and pediatric patients through Advantage Health's clinics and practices. Outreach workers are also teaching patients how to use the Affordable Health Care Act and the Healthy Michigan program to find appropriate and affordable health care rather than using hospitals they can't pay or forgoing medical care until treatment becomes more costly and taken on by hospitals.

Since 2008, Ferguson says, the number of patients has increased from about 8,000 to more than 20,000. By the end of the year, that number will be up to 25,000 or 26,000, he says.

The Health Centers originally started in 1986 and targeted the homeless and veterans due to the high number of homeless vets. Eventually it grew to also serve uninsured, underinsured and neighborhoods with little or no access to doctors.

Source: Joseph Ferguson, executive director, Advantage Health Centers
Writer: Kim North Shine
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