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AlumaBridge brings lighter, sustainable solution to bridge repair

When a bridge collapses, hand-wringing and fear become the rule of the day. And yet attention to infrastructure never seems to be a priority until it’s too late. A new Ann Arbor-based startup is working to get ahead of that problem before the worst happens.

AlumaBridge uses aluminum as its principal material for prefabricated pieces of bridging in order to extend the life of aging bridges. The aluminum bridge deck panels are made using friction stir welding and have a non-skid surface. They can easily be applied to the steel girders on existing bridges, giving many more years of service.

"I would like to address some of the nation's most deficient structures,” says Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge. "It's a matter of getting the technology out there and commercializing it."

Osberg worked at Sopa Extrusions studying new ways to extend the life of the countries aging infrastructure. His work focused on aluminum bridge options and he spun out AlumaBridge last fall. The company is now working to install its first bridge in Quebec and is working on test panels for bridges in Florida. Check out a video describing AlumaBridge’s product and installation here.

"It mirrors the strength of concrete but is one fifth of the weight," Osberg says.

Stories of the country’s aging bridges have grown more numerous in recent years. Last year "an Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as "structurally deficient" and 20,808 as "fracture critical." Of those, 7,795 were both — a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse," according to a story in USA Today.

"This (AlumaBridge’s product) offers them an option," Osberg says. "It offers them a longer bridge life with a recyclable product."

Source: Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

Automation Alley awards FIRST robotics scholarship

With the aid of scholarships, high school and college students are gearing up for careers in robotics, an A+ industry in Michigan.

Excerpt:

"Automation Alley, Michigan's largest technology business association, has selected Brett Opel, a senior from Clarkston High School, as its FIRST robotics scholarship recipient for 2014. The scholarship, supported by the Automation Alley Fund, was created to recognize high school seniors involved in FIRST robotics that are interested in pursuing a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) course of study at a Michigan college or university."

More here.
 

India-based scooter maker comes to Ann Arbor

Why did a Mumbia-based scooter company lay down roots in metro Detroit? It's that word economic development folks like to endlessly toss around: "ecosystem." As in, Michigan has the right one for their product.

Excerpt:

"The Mahindra Group — based in Mumbai, India — inaugurated its North American Technical Center in Troy on Friday. The center will develop fully engineered vehicles for Mahindra Global Automotive and will employ more than 100 engineers.

A separate manufacturing facility, Mahindra GenZe, will be located in Ann Arbor."

Read the rest here.
Here's what SPARK had to say about the company.
 

1xRUN expands staff with 9 new hires to keep up with growth

Some might have questioned the reasoning behind 1xRUN's move from downtown Royal Oak to Eastern Market a year and a half ago. The team at the online artwork startup can't hear those critics anymore over all the hiring it has been doing over the last year.

The 4-year-old firm, which was founded by the team behind the Inner State Gallery, has expanded its staff to 15 employees thanks to nine hires over the last year. The startup has also expanded its service offerings, moving into digital printing and book publishing -- all from its new home at 1410 Gratiot Ave.

"Moving downtown has been such a great experience for us," says Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN. "There is just tremendous support for local businesses and the arts."

1xRUN sells limited-edition prints and other pieces by contemporary artists online. The idea is to create scarcity for cutting edge artwork while also making it easily accessible and affordable. 1xRUN recently wrapped up a show in Honolulu with Pow Wow Hawaii, a large mural festival. It is also looking at doing similar events in Taiwan and Israel later this year.

"We're definitely busy," Cory says. "We have a lot of cool projects going on."

1xRUN also is expanding into publishing and is working on books of artists that have inspired the company’s team. It is currently working on six titles and is set to release its first book in L.A. this weekend. 1xRUN made the jump into the printing world, too, adding that service at its headquarters in Eastern Market.

"We're doing all digital printing in-house," Cory says. "We hope to open that up as a retail operation later this year."

Source: Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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

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

Liquid Events Detroit brings the party to Woodward corridor

Jason Dritsan got his start in the world of self-employment like so many others before him. While working for others, he realized he could work just as well on his own, if not better.

"I saw a void in the market to have a turn-key event service," Dritsan says.

That epiphany led to the creation of Liquid Events Detroit, which provides event services for parties and festivals along the Woodward corridor from downtown Detroit to downtown Royal Oak. One of its signature events is Cocktail Culture. Dritsan is working to create one large event per month along the Woodward corridor for the remainder of the year.

"Our motto is, 'Good drinks, good food, good time, good will,'" Dritsan says. "We try to bring that to every event we do."

Dritsan worked on events in the beverage industry for years before starting Liquid Events Detroit, which keeps Dritsan employed on a full-time basis. At any given time, Liquid Events Detroit employs between a dozen service industry professionals to as many as 150 people on a part-time basis.

Source: Jason Dritsan, owner of Liquid Events Detroit
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.

Logic Solutions expands Showcase Sales app platform, staff

Logic Solutions has enjoyed some significant success thanks to the growth of its products, such as Showcase Sales apps. Now the Ann Arbor-based tech firm is enjoying some awards as part of that success.

The Showcase Sales mobile platform was recently named Technology of the Year at Corp! DiSciTech Awards. Winners of the award are seen as leaders in the digital, technology, and science industries that push the boundaries of their fields through innovation and research.

The Showcase Sales app serves as a catalog, order, and file management system for sales and marketing professionals. Its content management system gives the user total control of their brand, including your product catalog, pricing, and sales collateral. The platform started out as a customized enterprise solution before moving to a SAAS system a year ago. It appeared in the Apple and Andriod app stores last fall.

"There is more functionality," says Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions. "It's more accessible to a broader audience."

Kujava adds that the app has proven popular to sales force with products that lack a little bit on the excitement side. Think manufacturers and industrial firms who have lots of literature about the technical side of their products.

"We would love to be known as one of the top (business-to-business) mobile apps for sales and marketing professionals," Kujava says. "But when we talk about the mission that drives us, we want companies to see Showcase as the trigger point for successfully increasing productivity through mobile technology."

Logic Solutions has hired about 10 people in Ann Arbor over the last year, primarily professionals in marketing and sales. The firm employs 50 people in Ann Arbor and 250 total around the world.

Source: Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Smart Lighting Solutions brings on new LED product lines

Ralph Petty was working in property management in 2009 when the economy was falling apart. He and a friend who worked at Ford looked at the job landscape and decided to make their own by starting Smart Lighting Solutions.

"Energy efficiency is something that intrigued both of us," Petty says.

The Shelby Township-based firm specializes in helping businesses improve their energy efficiencies, usually through replacing light with more efficient options.

"The big push is starting to go towards LED (lights)," Petty says. "We're installing at a bowling center on the east side of Detroit that will be all LED."

Smart Lighting Solutions is also bringing new products to its lineup by adding Juganu Lighting's LED lighting products. The LEDs allow for energy savings of up to 80 percent over traditional lighting, such as metal halide fixtures.
 
The company now has a staff of three people after hiring a sales professional in the last year. Petty expects his company to continue to grow as the firm focuses more of its efforts on outdoor facilities.

"Our biggest goal is to work with outdoor facilities like parking lots and parking structures," Petty says.

Source: Ralph Petty, principal of Smart Lighting Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Virta Labs wins SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Cyber attacks are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and one new startup in Ann Arbor is capitalizing on it, Virta Labs.

The 7-month-old startup helps defend medical devices from malware attacks. It recently won the Best of Boot Camp award at Ann Arbor SPARK’s most recent Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

"Malware is everywhere today," says Denis Foo Kune, co-founder of Virta Labs. "Medical devices are more susceptible to malware than most devices because there isn't much protection out there for them."

Virta Labs got its start with the research from a University of Michigan professor on the subject. The six-person team behind the startup is working on a detection technology for malware and other software anomalies on medical devices and process control systems. It accomplishes this by measuring the power consumption patterns of the machines it is protecting.

Because most medical devices rely on commodity operating systems, leaving them vulnerable to a garden variety of malware. Virta Labs' technology helps keep these at bay through early detection.

"We're going to be starting our Beta test very soon," says Michael Holt, business strategist of Virta Labs.

Source: Denis Foo Kune, co-founder of Virta Labs and Michael Holt, business strategist of Virta Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke
2678 Articles | Page: | Show All
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