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3.7 Designs grows staff as its workload expands

Ann Arbor-based 3.7 Designs is looking at a growing bottom line, staff and office space all within the last 18 months.

The 10-year-old website development firm moved to a newer and bigger space above Arbor Brewing Co in downtown Ann Arbor in July 2013. It has also hired two people over the last year, expanding its team of five people. It is also in search of a front-end software developer right now.

"We have been really busy," says Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs. "A lot of our existing clients are doing more work. They have bigger budgets and more work. We have been picking up new clients as well."

Johnson adds that 3.7 Designs' clients have been asking for more comprehensive work over the last year. Before they were looking for more project-based work and now they are steadily updating sections of their website over time instead of doing it all at once.

"Every couple weeks we redesign another section and launch it," Johnson says.

Last year 3.7 Designs also released its own software platform focused on project management called Project Panorama. The company has been adding to the features of the platform as it continues to ramp up sales.

"That has been doing really well," Johnson says. "Better than expected."

Source: Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Southfield-based Onu preps to launch 3-D mobile app

A Southfield-based startup is getting ready to launch a new mobile app that specializes in showing off products in 3-D.

Onu's principal product will target sales professionals looking to show off product demos and catalogues. The patent-pending technology is a subscription-based platform that utilizes 3D technology for that allows sales professionals to make their pitch on a mobile device.

"Anyone who sells consumer goods in a business-to-business scene," says Sam Sesti, president of Onu.

The four-person team has been working on the product since last August. It is gearing up to launch the app this winter. It is targeting sales forces in automotive aftermarket, sporting gods, medical devices, audio-and-visual equipment, and household devices.

"Some of it was because of the proximity in the area," Sesti says. "Some of it was the size of the items that are difficulty to show in real life."

Source: Sam Sesti, president of Onu
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metromode's editor says farewell

Today Metromode publishes its 376th issue. I have served as the publication's managing editor for 369 of those issues, since taking the helm in February of 2007. This issue will be my last. 

I'm not a sentimental person by nature. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to write a Dear John letter. Choked-up sign-offs always struck me as, well, somewhat self-indulgent. As Metromode's editor I have been, by choice and design, someone who worked behind the scenes, shaping the publication's narrative, generating its story ideas, guiding its writers, but mostly letting others take the focus.

My wife convinced me to reconsider. 

So, this is my attempt (last minute as it may be) to explain what I've learned during my tenure at Metromode, what I tried to accomplish and who I have to thank for any success we might have achieved.

First and foremost, running Metromode has been an experience that has profoundly shaped the way I regard metropolitan Detroit, and one I am immensely thankful for. The last eight years have been a crash-course education in understanding what makes this region tick - no small thing for a non-native like myself, a guy who grew up in New York but spent his professional years living in the Pacific Northwest. 

To say that Metro Detroit's personality, pathologies, dysfunctions and triumphs are unique, would be an understatement. This is a place rich in history and possibility, often frustrated by what it knows it can be but has yet to achieve. Watching the region's recent evolution has been both heartening and frustrating - but always exciting. 

Change makes for a good story, but also a painful process for those involved. As Metro Detroit has wrestled with issues of identity and place, I saw Metromode as a tool for conversation, a forum for ideas, innovations and examples that might otherwise get drown out by traditional narratives. We've learned as we've gone along, and done our best to respond to what is moving the region forward... and what might be holding it back.

It's been an exciting to follow the new, innovative industries that now pepper our region's 1300 square miles, as we take the first steps toward a more diverse and nuanced economy. It's been encouraging to see open and heated discussions about transportation and community planning take centerstage in the media. I hope that my time at Metromode was, at least, partially responsible for igniting those conversations.

After a decade-plus of living in Michigan, I can no longer claim to be an outsider. But I hope my non-native status has prompted me to ask questions and tackle local issues with a somewhat different point of view. I have lived in diverse cities with reliable, efficient mass transit and dense urban cores. I know what it is like to own a home on a block with a seven story apartment building at the end of my street. I have rented apartments that were located within walking distance of a grocery store, a hardware store, nightlife and, even, my job. I have lived in communities that have been recycling for several decades rather than years.

Charting and challenging Metro Detroit's on-the-ground and behind-closed-doors attempts (some more serious than others) to address these and many other issues has not only helped me better understand the place I now call home, but informed my own entire world view. Not everyone gets the benefit of learning about their community through their job, especially with the breadth, depth and sophistication I have. For this I am blessed.

I have also been blessed with colleagues who have educated, partnered, supported and, thankfully, questioned my ideas and choices over the years. Jon Zemke, Kim North Shine, Dave Lewinski, Tanya Muzumdar, Dennis Archambault, Natalie Burg, Nicole Rupersburg, Amy Kuras, Nina Ignaczak and Patrick Dunn are only my more recent partners. They, and everyone who came before them, have been the heart and soul of the publication, working for far to little to produce far more than I asked. Luckily, their work here will continue even if mine does not.

Leaving Metromode does not mean leaving Metro Detroit, however. I will remain the managing editor of Concentrate in Washtenaw County (at least for the foreseeable future) and you can continue (or start) to read my film reviews in the Metro Times.

There is also, of course, the many friends, colleagues, contacts and connections I have made over the years. This community is rich with thoughtful, passionate and innovative people. I am honored to know them and look forward to finding other ways to know them better.

I have a good friend who ends our phone calls with, "bye, for now." I've always loved the sentiment behind that sign off. It's the promise that we'll talk again. So, to the readers of Metromode, past and present, thank you for indulging in my editorial vision for the last eight years. I look forward to more conversations, more debates, and more instances of inspiration.

Bye for now,

Jeff Meyers

TernPro set to launch first product platform, Slope


Online media startup TernPro is gearing up for the release of its first software product, Slope.

The software platform specializes in video creation so everyday people can produce videos and track the public's interaction with them. That way they can store all of their photos, graphics, and videos and have them available to create online content.

"Think of it like a Dropbox for media content," says Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of TernPro.

Bosche is a member of the inaugural class of Venture for America, a two-year program that pairs talented college grads with startups in economically challenged cities like Detroit. He lives in a house on Virginia Park that he and other VFA fellows purchased at the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction and are renovating into a home for future fellows.

Bosche's VFA job consisted of working with the leadership team at Bizdom in downtown Detroit, helping many of the startups in the incubator tell their stories through short videos. Bosche and fellow VFAer Dan Bloom parlayed that experience into TernPro, a full-service video production company serving the tech scene in downtown Detroit.

Slope is its first principal product, and it's set to launch into private Beta next week. TernPro's team of six people is aiming for a public launch later this summer.

"We have over 200 signups now," Bosche says. "We have 20 companies lined up for that in our private Beta."

Source: Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of TernPro
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor State Bank continues growth streak, adds new hires

Ann Arbor State Bank is making significant strides forward with its bottom line and is expanding its product offerings... and staff.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based bank has made about 90 percent of its profits from commercial and mortgage lending. It is now adding private banking and leasing services to its portfolio. The leasing services would focus on commercial and equipment leases for businesses.

"It's a small piece but we hope it will become a big piece," says Peter Schork, president & CEO of Ann Arbor State Bank.

The 6-year-old bank has grown its staff, adding six new hires over the last year. It currently has a staff of 37 employees and one intern. Its new hires include professionals specializing in mortgage lending, private banking, and commercial leasing.

Ann Arbor State Bank has grown quite a bit over the last year, going from $205 million in total assets to $230 million in total assets by the end of 2014. Schork expects the community bank to make similar gains this year.

"We had a great year," Schork says. "A very profitable year."

Source: Peter Schork, president & CEO of Ann Arbor State Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Current Motor launches new product line, Mini-fleets-in-a-Box

Current Motor Co is launching a new product line this winter, expanding on its core offering of electric scooters.

The Ann Arbor-based company's Mini-fleet-in-a-Box product consists of four Current Motor Co’s new Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycles inside a shipping container that also acts as a solar charging station. That way the patent-pending product can be transported to remote locations with everything from a train to a helicopter. The standard Mini-fleet-in-a-Box comes in a standard 20-foot shipping container but can be made to fit a larger container as necessary.

"We can do a large one as well," says Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co. "It's not a problem. I like to say they work outside of the box."

Current Motor Co is targeting customers that need self-supportive transportation options in remote locations, such as international mining and manufacturing companies. The 5-year-old firm has completely redesigned its electric scooter to create the Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycle, a 100-percent electric vehicle.

The Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycle is advertised as very low maintenance requirements because it has no belts, chains or gears. It has a top speed of 70 mph, and can go up to 50 miles per charge. The motorcycle’s frame has been made stronger to carry more cargo (a driver and substantial cargo or two passengers and light cargo) through the use of high-strength Niobium (Nb) micro-alloyed steel.

Current Motor Co's Nb Solar Charging Station can easily fit in a standard shipping container, allowing it to house four Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycles. The station can charge the bikes in five hours with its solar-powered 22-kilowatt-hour battery. The whole package starts retailing at $130,000 and can reach as much as $300,000 depending on the extras.

"It really depends on what you put on it," Flanagan says. She adds, "We build it out to fit that need."

Current Motor Co has hired five people over the last year. Those new jobs include business development professionals, technicians, engineers, and skilled labor. The company currently has a staff of 17 employees. That team is looking to start shipping the first orders of the firm’s Mini-fleet-in-a-Box this month.

"I think we’re going to have a very good year," Flanagan says.

Source: Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Q LTD adds new work, such as new website for The Ark

No joke: A longtime Ann Arbor institution and a local business that has been around the block a few times meet in a downtown bar. The result is a brighter 2015 for both.

Q LTD is working with The Ark, the renown performance venue, to redesign and revamp its online presence. The downtown Ann Arbor-based non-profit hasn't updated its website in more than a decade. The new website is now mobile friendly and includes more information about The Ark's well-known events, such as the Folk Festival.

"The Ark is heading into its 50th year this year and it's kicking off a capital campaign," says Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD.

The 34-year-old firm has been doing more work in recent years and is looking to add to its staff. Q LTD currently has a staff of 12 employees and an intern. It’s looking to hire a software developer, too.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has taken on a wide variety of projects as of late. Those include work for the University of Michigan's Human Resources and SIGGRAPH, which is short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques.

"We are feeling a definite uptick in projects and work," Golus says. "We are seeing an improvement in the economy."

Source: Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD
Writer: Jon Zemke

Atwater Brewery to expand Detroit facilities and build new ones in Texas and North Carolina


Atwater Brewery's production, which grew dramatically in 2014, is set to reach even higher heights this year as the company becomes a national brand in craft brewing.

The riverfront-based brewery sold in excess of 40,000 barrels of beer last year, raising its sales by 68 percent compared to 2013. It expects to hit 60,000 barrels of beer this year. Atwater Brewery is also in the process of opening up two more remote production facilities across the U.S.

"We would have done more if we had more capacity in 2014," says Mark Rieth, owner of Atwater Brewery.

Atwater Brewery was one of Michigan's early craft breweries, opening in 1997. Rieth took over the operation in 2005 and set the brewery on a strong growth track. It is now the biggest brewery in metro Detroit and the third-largest brewery in Michigan on the strength of the sales of its popular beers like Dirty Blonde Ale and Vanilla Java Porter. Atwater Brewery has also expanded its staff, making eight hires in marketing, sales and production over the last year. It now employs 38 people and plans to hire 20 more to keep up with its production goals.

"We're going to add 10 people this year and 10 in 2016," Rieth says.

Those new employees will be working in the soon-to-be-newly expanded production space on Jos. Campau close to where the street dead ends at the Detroit Riverfront. Atwater Brewery is adding 40,000 square feet of production space to that facility, installing new state-of-the-art German Brewhaus equipment.

It is also building a new brewery in Austin, Texas, to handle its West Coast expansion. Next year it plans to open another brewery in North Carolina. Atwater is also working to enter Canadian markets next year, along with Colorado, California, New York, and New Jersey. The goal is to hit 300,000 barrels of production within five years.

"We are looking at doing 150,000 barrels in Detroit," Rieth says. "We are looking at two other locations in Austin, Texas and North Carolina, which should come online by the end of 2016."

Atwater Brewery is also working to expand its product offerings. It will launch new Atwater Spirits and Detroit Dry Cider brands this year and plans to begin offering 16-ounce can options for some of its beers. Most of its new products will only be available at its local brewery tap rooms and Atwater in the Park brewpub in Grosse Pointe.

Source: Mark Rieth, owner of Atwater Brewery
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lighthouse Molding joins Automation Alley's 7Cs program

Lighthouse Molding, a small electronics manufacturer based in Sterling Heights, has become one of the first entrants to Automation Alley's 7Cs program.

The 10-year-old company plans to leverage the program's resources in advanced manufacturing to grow its business in the automotive market.

"The potential for new electronics in automotive has grown," says Scott Lowes, president & CEO of Lighthouse Molding. "We have always done electronics assemblies in consumer applications. In automotive, the electronics have gotten much more complex."

And necessary as the automobiles become more digitally oriented. Lighthouse Molding specializes in low-pressure overmolding to encapsulate and protect electronic assemblies. It has hired two people and is looking to add another three to its staff of eight employees.

The Automation Alley 7Cs program is focused on helping local companies integrate more advanced manufacturing methods to their business model. The idea is to help them accelerate their growth and create more jobs.

"It puts emphasis on the advanced manufacturing aspects of electronics," Dalton says. "They are also helping us become a better-managed company."

Source: Scott Lowes, president & CEO of Lighthouse Molding
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rising Pheasant Farms grows urban ag operation on east side


It's the dead of winter in Michigan, but Rising Pheasant Farms is not sitting idle. The urban farm on Detroit's near east side is growing its production capability and space in an effort to expand operations.

"We just bought four more lots," says Carolyn Leadley, owner & farm manager for Rising Pheasant Farms. "We will be up to a half acre in the next couple of years."

Leadley and her husband, Jack VanDyke, launched the farm in 2009 while Leadley was working at Greening Detroit. "I got excited about all the folks here doing urban agriculture," Leadley says.

The three-person operation -- it’s in the process of hiring one person now -- grows seasonal vegetables that it sells to local restaurants and at Eastern Market. All of its produce is delivered via bicycles.

Rising Pheasant Farms also recently won a $10,000 NEIdeas grant last fall. That money helped them install a radiant heating system in their greenhouse to increase growing capacity while minimizing utility costs.

For Leadly and VanDyke, urban agriculture offers them opportunity of becoming leaders in sustainability in farming. "We are growing in the city in a truly sustainable model," Leadley says.

Source: Carolyn Leadley, owner & farm manager for Rising Pheasant Farms
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IT sales pros launch own firm, Prime-IT-Solutions

Pete Kaczmarek worked for someone else for 20 years. He did sales in technology and IT, and it did it well. So well that he decided he could do it better on his own and launched his own company.

"I felt like I was on a remote island, and I am doing everything anyway," Kaczmarek says.

So he started Prime-IT-Solutions. The Troy-based company is value-added reseller of technology. Kaczmarek and his team of eight people are selling equipment for the likes of data centers and other IT applications.

Prime-IT-Solutions is targeting small businesses at first, primarily those with fewer than 50 employees. Kaczmarek sees that section as underserved and have significant growth potential. He is also selling to a few larger businesses, mainly because of his history in that area.

"I knew the people," Kaczmarek says. "It was a smooth transition."

Source: Pete Kaczmarek, president of Prime-IT-Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Broadsword Solutions hits 30 percent growth, hires more staff

Broadsword Solutions scored some big wins in 2014, setting the stage for the Waterford-based firm to consolidate a lot of those gains this year.

The technology consulting company grew its revenue by 30 percent in 2014. That enabled it to hire two more people, including a senior consultant and a director of strategic solutions. It is still looking to hire another senior consultant. The 10-year-old firm currently employs 10 people.

"Last year was our biggest year ever," says Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword Solutions. "We have grown into new states. We're currently in 12 states now."

Broadsword Solutions got its start providing tech consulting to local automotive and manufacturing industries. It has transitioned to doing more work with the federal government. It spent much of last year doing work with the likes of NASA and the U.S. General Accounting Office.

"Now we are focusing on the clients we have, and make what we do with them even better," Dalton says.

Source: Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

GENOMENON leverages local startup support for success and growth

GENOMENON is one of those startups that local leaders get all warm and fuzzy about. The Ann Arbor-based company is a cross between life sciences and tech, and has a very promising future.

And then there are the startup resources that have been invested in its success. GENOMENON has leveraged just about every new economy startup program in southeast Michigan. It spun out of the University of Michigan, taking advantage of U-M's Office of Technology Transfer along the way. It has worked with Ann Arbor SPARK, the local small business development center, and the Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest initiative, among others.

"We have really maximized the resources in the Michigan startup community," says Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON.

GENOMENON is the product of three U-M pathologists, including Dr. Kiel. They are developing software focused on interpreting the mountains of data that come from genome sequencing. The end result could lead to things like improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as data analytics for genome sequencing.

"We can produce the data really efficiently," Dr. Kiel says. "It's interpreting the data that is the problem."

GENOMENON is currently made up of seven people after launching last May. It is currently looking to hire a handful of software developers.

"We need boots on the ground, people who can code," Dr. Kiel says.

Source: Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON
Writer: Jon Zemke

Kraemer Design Group adds 10 new people as it fills up office

Kraemer Design Group has a good problem. The architecture firm has been adding staff so fast it has run out of places to put new hires.

"We are trying to grow," says Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group. "We are struggling with the fact that we are out of desks."

The downtown Detroit-based company has hired eight people over the last year and is in the process of bringing two more onboard. Those new hires were primarily arcitects and interior designers, rounding out the firm’s staff at 28 employees and two summer interns.

Kraemer Design Group is now looking to redesign its office to accommodate those new hires. Its home is in the office space section of the Detroit Opera House parking garage overlooking Broadway Street.

Two factors are prompting this growth: Kraemer Design Group's international work, which consists primarily of hotel designs and carried the company through the Great Recession, and adaptive reuse design work in downtown Detroit. The firm has been handling the design of several major recent projects like the David Whitney Building rehab and the new home of the Archdiocese of Detroit at 1212 Griswold.

Kraemer Design Group is currently working on several other renovation projects in downtown Detroit, including the old Kresge Department Store at 1201 Woodward and The Griswold apartments project on top of the Westin Book-Cadillac's parking structure. The firm is also working on the new offices for Covisint in Southfield.

Source: Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

How are the kids in Kidpreneur doing one year later?

About a year and a half ago Metromode wrote about Kidpreneur, a company dedicated to teaching tweens and teens about technology and entrepreneurship. Other publications soon caught on as well, writing up their own coverage. One, Xconomy, checks back in with the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Thanh Tran to see how things are going.

Excerpt:

"Kidpreneur recently began offering online classes over Skype, Sunday classes, and all-girl classes. In December, it participated in Hour of Code, a global initiative to teach kids coding basics; 400 kids from 10 schools in metro Detroit joined in the fun. Seidman says Kidpreneur is also working to find sponsors for interested students who can’t afford to attend classes, and the company is reaching out to schools and libraries to gauge interest in after-school programs taught by Kidpreneur in person or over Skype."

Read the rest here.
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