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DornerWorks expands new South Lyon office to 3 people

DornerWorks reinvigorated its Metro Detroit office about two years ago, bringing in a new staff, moving it to South Lyon, and going after a bigger clientele.

DornerWorks is a provider of electronic engineering services for the aerospace, medical, automotive, and industrial sectors. The Grand Rapids-based firm’s biggest clients include General Electric and Stryker.

The 14-year-old company’s Metro Detroit customer base was comprised of smaller firms until about 1-2 years ago when a reorganization brought in more, bigger clients.

"We have done some work for Ford, Visteon, and Magna," says Bob Gerber, regional sales director of DornerWorks. "These are all larger automotive companies that are long-term investments."

DornerWorks' South Lyon office, which now has three people, is trying to bring on more Tier One automotive suppliers as customers. It is also looking to hire more engineers to keep up with the new work from large automotive firms.

"We'd like to double that by the end of the year, if not triple it," Gerber says. "We're constantly bidding on those jobs so it’s about hitting the right project."

Source: Bob Gerber, regional sales director of DornerWorks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arotech hires 11 in Ann Arbor, looks to add another 5

Arotech's staff in Ann Arbor has been on the upswing in recent years and is continuing to trend skyward.

The Ann Arbor-based defense firm has grown its staff from 125 people at the end of 2012 to 136 employees a year later. Today it has a staff of 147 employees and a few interns, adding 11 jobs in engineering and technicians. It's also looking to hire another three engineers and two more technicians.

Arotech has enjoyed 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth since 2010, and the company's sales continue to spike. "We did hit a new high-water mark for revenues," says Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech's Training & Simulation Division.

Arotech provides simulation software to a number of defense and similar organizations, such as raining and use-of-force simulation for municipal law enforcement agencies. It has also completed 26 of the 28 sets of a suite of simulations for the U.S. Army that helps soldiers train to find and disarm improvised explosive devices. It also has started to deliver its first simulations products for a contract with the U.S. Air Force that trains soldiers how to operate mid-flight refueling booms.

"That is the first of 17 boom arm simulators to be delivered," Flosky says.

Source: Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech Training & Simulation Division
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mahindra opens new tech center in Troy, will add 112 jobs

A Mumbai, India conglomerate has chosen Troy as the site of a tech center that will tap into engineering talent that the company chairman says is part of  a "perfect ecosystem to step up our U.S. presence."

Mahindra, which has operations in a the aerospace, defense, energy, real estate, logistics, agriculture and financial services and other industries, is expanding its automotive markets worldwide.

Mahindra USA Inc. will open the North American Technical Center on Technology Drive in Troy and hire about 112 employees, most of them engineers who will support the development of the GenZe, a battery-powered scooter that will primarily be marketed to college students. The engineers will also design and develop prototype vehicles in the renovated Troy facility.

Mahindra has an Ann Arbor manufacturing facility where the GenZe is made and where about 34 employees work.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group, told a group gathered last week for the announcement of the tech center opening that Michigan and metro Detroit are the ideal location for their expansion because of their unmatched talent.
“Michigan provided us the perfect eco-system to step up our U.S. presence. We were able to draw on the terrific automotive engineering and manufacturing talent available in the state to create industry leading initiatives for the United States,” says Mahidra. “The North American Technical Center and GenZe represent important disruptive product incubators for the Mahindra Group. Constant innovation focused on improving the lives of our consumers, employees and the communities they impact is at the core of Mahindra’s ‘Rise’ philosophy and we are delighted to see this come to fruition in the United States.”

Mahindra, a $16.7 billion multinational that employs more than 180,000 people in more than 100 countries, is investing $2 million in the Troy facility. The state of Michigan is pitching a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to Mahindra, and the city of Troy has given the company a nine-year personal property tax abatement.

Source: Kathy Fagan, Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Kim North Shone

Plymouth-based Advaita lands nearly $2M in SBIR funding

Advaita scored nearly $2 million in seed capital this month after it landed the second phase of an SBIR grant to develop its bioinformatics software.

"It will allow us to continue development of our software tools and our products for personalized medicine," says Sorin Draghici, president & CEO of Advaita.

The Plymouth-based startup is commercializing gene pathway analysis technology developed at Wayne State University called Pathway Guide. The platform helps researchers trying to understand the data generated by high-throughput experiments, including next-generation sequencing. It aims to eliminate false positives in diagnosis, as well as correctly identify biologically meaningful pathways in a given disease.

Advaita's technology is being used by a number of large research universities, including Harvard, Columbia University Medical Center and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

"We have a number of high-profile institutions that are using our tools," Draghici says. "We are also getting ready to release a new web application called iPathwayGuide."

Advaita employs a staff of 11 people, along with three summer interns. It has hired two people over the last year, including a project manager and PhD-level research scientists. It is currently looking to hire up to two software developers as the company aims to ramp up the commercialization of its technology over the rest of the year.

"We would like to expand our user base substantially," Draghici says. "We'd like to include some big pharmaceutical companies as customers."

Source: Sorin Draghici, president & CEO of Advaita
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mahindra GenZe expands Ann Arbor operations, plans to hire

Mahindra GenZe opened a technical center in Ann Arbor a little more than a year ago, creating a couple dozen white collar jobs. Now the Indian-based scooter manufacturer is opening a manufacturing facility and looking to hire couple dozen blue collar workers.

"We will begin hiring for those soon," says Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe.

The division of the multinational company Mahindra and Mahindra is designing and manufacturing a scooter, and is choosing to do so in the Ann Arbor area. It opened its engineering and design center in Ann Arbor and has hired 26 people for it over the last year.

Mahindra GenZe plans to invest up to $2 million in its manufacturing facility, a move that is expected to create 34 new jobs over the next year. Duncan expects that work to begin this spring and go through the summer and early fall.

"We should be up and running, shipping our product by late fall," Duncan says.

Location turned out to be a big factor in Mahindra GenZe’s decision to locate in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor SPARK helped make the deal happen, highlighting the area's strengths and strategic location, among other qualities.

"All of the suppliers we needed are in southeast Michigan and northwestern Ohio," Duncan says. "It's just a great location."

Source: Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe
Writer: Jon Zemke

Qlovi doubles staff as it adds publishing partners

Qlovi is growing in both staff and clientele, as the Ann Arbor-based education startup gains traction after its first full year of operation.

"We have grown as a team and we reach more markets," says Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi. "We have 20 publishing partners and HarperCollins just came onboard."

Thats up from a half dozen publishing partners a year ago. A trio of University of Michigan graduates launched the startup nearly two years, focusing on creating a suite of literacy instruction and publishing platforms for the K-12 and digital publishing markets. The courses are digital and easy to access from mobile devices.

Qlovi has also been hosting more virtual Q+A sessions between classes and the authors to help create more a connection between the teachers and the students. “That allows us to create an on-going relationship with them,” Pacheco says.

The seven-person staff, up from three people as of September, is working to grow the reach of its product. That means more efforts to grow its clientele and increase the number of publishing partners.

"We want to reach more schools and more districts," Pacheco says. "Doing it in Michigan would be great."

Source: Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi
Writer: Jon Zemke

Impact Management Services aims to fill 170 jobs

Looking for a new job? Blue collar? White collar? Impact Management Services probably has a position for you.

The Southfield-based staffing firm is looking to fill 170 positions right now. The new jobs include machine operators (115 jobs), welders (35), high-lo drivers (20), along with a smattering of positions for quality engineers, manufacturing engineers, controls engineers and industrial engineers.

"These are all long-term, permanent employment opportunities," says Jeff Lothian, executive vice president of Impact Management Services.

The 9-year-old company held three jobs fairs earlier this week, and plans to hold more later this month. For more information, click here.

Impact Management Services has helped about 2,000 people find employment over the last year. The firm currently has 700 people working for other companies on contract positions. It has an internal staff of 20 people along with a few summer interns. It has hired four recruiters over the last year to help it meed the demand of its clientele.

"The Detroit market is hotter than ever," Lothian says. "We see growth all over town. It’s growth at a rapid rate and we are seeing it across the board with our customers."

Source: Jeff Lothian, executive vice president of Impact Management Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Microsoft Ventures opens office in Madison Building

Microsoft Ventures is opening an office in the M@dison Building, but not just for the opportunity to invest in downtown Detroit’s most promising startups. Microsoft hopes to get those startups to use the software giant's technology.

The Madison Building quickly made a name for itself as the Motor City's premier tech hub when it opened its doors in late 2011. Since then, the newly renovated building has served as the home to a number of tech startups, venture capitalists, and angel investors. So many new economy entrepreneurs flocked to the structure that it expanded to include several adjacent buildings and rebranded itself as the Madison Block.

That activity got the attention of Microsoft.

"Our goal is to work with every single startup in the Madison," says Drew Costakis, director of the Microsoft Technology Center in Southfield. "Our plan is to meet with every single startup and see what their needs are."

Microsoft has an office in Southfield off the Lodge Freeway that employs 200 people. As part of its plan to work at the Madison Block, Microsoft Ventures will make its tech talent, coaching, and cloud computing/software services available to the entrepreneurs whose companies are housed there. To date, Microsoft has established 200 partnerships like this one in 100 cities around the world, assisting 85,000 startups in the last six years.

Microsoft Ventures' work in the M@dison Block will revolve around its partnership with Detroit Venture Partners. Dan Gilbert, chairman of the Quicken Loans, is one of the founding partners of Detroit Venture Partners, which has proven to be one of the most aggressive venture capital firms in Michigan. Microsoft Ventures plans to invest in startups from downtown Detroit as part of investments led by Detroit Venture Partners.

"We're using them as a partner," Costakis says. “They're doing all the hard work and evaluating the startups."

Source: Drew Costakis, director of Microsoft Technology Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

Identity hires 4, adds 17 new clients in last year

Maturation is becoming an increasingly important word at Identity. It applies to the public relations firm’s client list, business model and staff.

The Bingham Farms-based firm has added 17 new clients over the last year. Those new clients include some larger-and-growing firms like Atlas Oil Company and Carbon Media Group. Taylor-based Atlas Oil Company (a national fuel supply, logistics and services firm) hired Identity for media relations, marketing and social media work. Bingham Farms-based Carbon Media Group (a digital content producer for outdoors enthusiasts) retained Identity for media relations and marketing services.

"We are seeing more sophisticated and larger clients," says Mark Winter, partner at Identity. "I think it's a sign of the maturing of our agency. We’re growing up."

The larger customer base accompanies Identity's own recent efforts to refine and streamline its business model. "Our focus in the last year and a half has been on efficiency and profitability," Winter says.

This has allowed Identity to add to its staff. The 15-year-old company has hired four people over the last year, two for its creative department and two for its media relations department. It currently has a staff of 23 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire two people for assistant account executives, and expects to promote more people from within for higher-up positions.

"We grow from within," Winter says. "We are constantly working on growing our own leaders."

Source: Mark Winter, partner at Identity
Writer: Jon Zemke

Argus Farm Stop aims to help growers and locavores with year-round market

Ann Arbor is an undeniably great place for local produce — for part of the year. The demand for local foods, however, doesn't go away in the winter, and thanks to the rise of local hoop houses, it doesn't have to. Kathy Sample, her husband Bill Brinkerhoff and their business partner Scott Fleck are aiming to help local growers extend their growing season with Argus Farm Stop, an indoor farmers market coming to W. Liberty this year. 

"The Farmers Market is fantastic, but there is a waiting list to get in," says Sample. "And what happens when it rains and no customer show up? We thought, there's a mismatch here." 

After encountering an indoor farmers market in Ohio, Sample and Brinkerhoff met with the owners, as well as local growers and the Ann Arbor Farmers Market to see what could be done to expand the availability of local food here. When they found no one else was on the job, they put themselves on it. 

Argus Farm Stop will be located in a 1,300 square foot former gas station on W. Liberty that is now under construction. Sample hopes to open in August with new bathrooms, an espresso bar and a wide array of produce, meats and other local foods. 

"Michigan is the second most diverse state in terms of agricultural products," Sample says. "Somehow things have changed over the years. We want to build that back up."

Argus Farm Stop is operating as a  Low-Proit Limited Liability Company, an option which will help the company maintain funding as they pursue their social goals of extending the growing season and giving new opportunities to local growers. Sample also plans to include education opportunities for kids and families in their business model. A staff of approximately six employees will operate Argus Farm Stop, along with the business partners. 

Source: Kathy Sample, Argus Farm Stop
Writer: Natalie Burg

CitrinGroup investment firm adds 4 new consultants

CitrinGroup made a name for itself in its early years as an investment firm with a track record for sizable returns.

The 10-year-old firm realized there was a sizable number of financial firms that could do the same thing. If it wanted to continued its growth streak it would need to find a way to separate itself from the pack.

"It's been an exciting year," says Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup. "We have intensified our focus as a portfolio manager."

CitrinGroup’s advantage is divorcing emotion from its decision-making process. Sounds simple, right, or just industry standard? Not necessarily. Citrin points out his firm relies solely on numbers and seizing opportunity. No gut calls. No more sticking only to what they feel comfortable with.

"We have been super focused on keeping emotion out of decisions," Citrin says.

That has allowed the downtown Birmingham-based firm to make its returns more consistent and increase its new business. CitrinGroup has also grown its staff, adding four consultants to its core team of four employees.

"We were just creating a way to give our clients some added value," Citrin says.

Source: Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup
Writer: Jon Zemke

LTU selected as USA national organizer for World Robot Olympiad

LTU is taking a principal role in the World Robot Olympiad Association, which runs a global LEGO robotics competition that draws participants from around the world. LTU will also be hosting the USA competition finals next September.

Excerpt:

"The Olympiad started in Singapore in 2004. This year over 17,000 teams are participating. Each country has its own competition, and the winning teams from each country are invited to attend the World Robot Olympiad to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals.

This year's finals competition is scheduled to be held in the Olympic city at Sochi in Russia  Nov. 21-23. The event will be organized by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Industry, and the Ministry of Communication of the Russian Federation. Participants from over 36 countries – including the United States for the first time – will be offered accommodations in the Olympic Village hotels and apartments."

More here.

A new co-working space for downtown Detroit

A new co-working space is being established in downtown Detroit. WorkBuild HQ, located in the Julian C. Madison Building on Washington Boulevard, is about to become the latest in a wave of co-working spaces opening across the city.

WorkBuild HQ CEO Ernest Foutner, Jr. and co-founders Brandon Colvin and Marcus Twyman have already made the space available to tenants though an official grand opening party won't be held until July. An open house will be held this Saturday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free to all, the casual affair will feature food and refreshments from Rubbed, Voigt's Soda House, and the Detroit Pop Shop.

A number of membership options will be available at WorkBuild HQ, including part-time and full-time pricing plans and public and private seating arrangements. A program called the Success Advancement Resource Center, or SARC, will be dedicated to guiding recent college graduates as they transition from school life to business life. A business incubator, Propel Plus, is also planned.

Encouraging collaboration between tenants will be a focus of WorkBuild HQ, says Foutner. He hopes to see a wide variety of professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators working together -- a sort of synergy, he says. The communal aspect of a co-working space allows tenants to sync up with other professionals who aren't in their industry, providing people the opportunity to both learn and benefit from each other.

"The days of the traditional office space are over," says Foutner.

Typical office amenities such as Wii-Fi Internet, mailbox services, and a conference room are complemented by more modern and non-traditional office perks, including a gaming station, happy hours, and yoga classes.

The Julian C. Madison Building is also home to PT in the D.

Source: Ernest Foutner, Jr., CEO and co-founder of WorkBuild HQ
Writer: MJ Galbraith

CRESIT Energy expands alternative energy workload

Robert Kulick had a bit of a non-traditional introduction to alternative energy. The downriver resident first explored solar energy while serving in the military and looking for a quiet power source for forward units.

That led to his putzing around with solar panels after his service ended, and eventually to the creation of CRESIT Energy eight years ago.

"It started with me experimenting with batteries, inverters and cords," says Robert Kulick, president of CRESIT Energy. "My daughter said, 'Nobody lives like this.' But I saw energy costs going up so that is what got me started."

The Wyandotte-based business has established itself since then, helping put together alternative energy projects for local municipalities and residents. Among its portfolio of projects is installing a wind turbine at Heritage Park in Taylor and solar panels at police stations in Southgate. It now employs a staff of four people, including a recent hire handling marketing.

Kulick is proud of the foothold he has established in the local energy market. He and his team have helped put downriver on the map when it comes to sustainability and alternative energy, making it a leader in Metro Detroit. He is also trying to remain positive about the future of his business if the federal government doesn’t renew its renewable energy tax credits.

"It's grown but it's tougher," Kulick says. "It's already hard selling with a 30-percent tax credit. I wonder how hard it will be in two years when those tax credits run out."

Source: Robert Kulick, president of CRESIT Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

3 aims to begin commercialization in 2015

Blaze Medical Devices is so close to generating its first revenues it can taste them.

The Ann Arbor-based life sciences firm is developing a new technology that helps maximize existing blood supplies in medical uses. The 8-year-old startup is aiming to make its first sales early next year.

"Now we have a fully operational prototype, or a Alpha unit, done," says David Weaver, CEO of Blaze Medical Devices.

Blaze Medical Devices has developed blood transfusion technology that enables medical professionals to optimize blood banking and transfusions through testing. Its tests assess the quality of stored blood and its laboratory instruments help facilitate blood research.

"Our competition for the most part is the status quo," Weaver says. "First in first out, depending on age."

Blaze Medical Devices now employs a team of five people, including three co-founders and two researchers. It has added a new researcher over the last year. Weaver expects to receive initial UL approval for a research iteration of the technology by the end of this year, setting the stage for the company’s first sales in early 2015.

"We're forecasting sales in the first quarter of next year for the R&D device," Weaver says.

Source: David Weaver, CEO of Blaze Medical Devices
Writer: Jon Zemke
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