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Longtime environmentalist and business roundtable member honored with Heritage Partner Award

A Commerce Township man was honored with the 2014 Heritage Partner Award by the Planning Division of the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.

Jim Meenahan was honored for his contributions to preserving Oakland County’s natural and built heritage. The award was presented last week during the 17th annual Heritage Conference, which was held at Addison Oaks County Park in Addison Township.

“Jim is a steady, hardworking contributor, perfectly willing to stay behind the scenes,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “I’m glad we honored him with this award.”

Meenahan, who has a degree in chemical engineering, has been a member of the Oakland County Business Roundtable Quality of Life Committee since 2001, is an advocate for historic preservation, Main Street Oakland County and the Trail, Water and Land Alliance.

He was a founding member of a citizens group, “Save Our State Land,” which campaigned to save 550 acres of the Proud Lake State Recreation Area that were to be removed from public ownership as part of the state’s land consolidation strategy. The site was ultimately purchased by Commerce Township, which is working on a master plan for a new park. Meenahan said he was proud to receive the award, which was presented by Bret Rasegan, who heads up the planning division for the county.

“Community redevelopment has been of extraordinary interest to me and it’s exciting to see the results of visionary people who have the persistence to drag communities kicking and screaming to a new place,” Meenahan said. “It’s not the work of wimps.”
 

Olive Vinegar offers gourmet oils, vinegars in downtown Rochester

The stainless steel dispensers that are the centerpiece of the new Olive Vinegar in downtown Rochester add up to an attractive decor, but it's the function of what's inside the shiny containers that is the basis for the business.

Inside the Fusti storage containers are high-quality olive oils and vinegars from around the world. Paired with them is the knowledge of Michael and Nicole Loffredo, owners of Olive Vinegar. They opened the store and tasting room stocked with more than 50 varieties of oils and vinegars last month at 205 S. Main St..

Besides selling tasty oils and vinegars such as Persian lime, mushroom, raspberry, and coconut to enhance food, an integral part of the business is spreading the word about the health benefits of products such as high-phenol olive oils.

Recipes, demonstrations and access to information comes with a visit to the store as do foods that can be paired with liquid product that's imported and fills Olive Vinegar's own bottles. Gluten-free pastas, meatballs, orzo, kitchen supplies, spices and other products are also sold at Olive Vinegar.

Source: Olive Vinegar
Writer: Kim North Shine

Farmington Road next big downtown development project

A rebuild of Farmington Road is the next big project to make downtown Farmington into an inviting place for businesses and customers alike.

Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority, says the new Farmington Road streetscape will spruce up the the city's main thoroughfare, make it easier to travel and reach businesses, whether by car of foot and, ideally, help local businesses grow and attract new clientele.

One goal of the rebuild is to give restaurants more sidewalk space for outdoor seating.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Knowles says, "but next year we hope to be starting construction."

The project is largely funded by federal grants through the state and will require local, state and federal approvals of the construction plan, which is being drawn up by OHM Advisors and Grissim Metz Andriese Associates.

The Farmington Road streetscape comes on the heels of of the rebuild of Groves Street, a major makeover of a tired shopping center there and the redesign of Riley Park, a downtown gathering spot.

"We're not resting on our laurels or closing the book," Knowles says. "There's always something that needs attention. That's kind of challenge for any community.

"We are providing all of these investments into the downtown to keep us positioned to businesses that need to grow or are looking for attractiveness for relocation."

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Beringea invests $5M in virtual store research

Beringea LLC, a private equity firm providing growth capital to market-leading businesses, has announced it has made a $5 million investment in Chicago-based InContext Solutions Inc., a Web-based company providing 3-D virtual store research, simulations, and software to manufacturers and retailers. 

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Walsh College breaks ground on $15 million addition

Walsh College will break ground for the $15 million addition and renovation to its Troy campus at 3838 Livernois at a special ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m., Friday, September 5, 2014. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees must register at www.walshcollege.edu/groundbreaking.

Originally announced last April, the project will include a two-story, 27,000 square-foot renovation and addition to Walsh’s original Troy campus building, built in the 1970s, and a 28,000 square-foot renovation to existing interior spaces.  Construction is anticipated to take 18 months. 

The addition will encompass distinct pavilions with a business-communication focused student success center, a student lounge, and a “one-stop” student services center.

“Along with recently announced enhancements to our graduate business programs, the groundbreaking underscores the bright future we envision for Walsh, our students, and the community,” said Stephanie Bergeron, president and CEO, Walsh College.

“New and updated facilities offer a contemporary learning and teaching environment ideally suited for students and faculty, and also present a modern face to the community,” Bergeron added.

The technologically advanced student success center will focus on the development of business-communication skills critical
to leadership roles.  The student lounge will have an interactive meeting space ideal for collaboration, as well as additional study areas.

The student services center will house departments ranging from admissions to career services.  It will provide efficient, “one-stop” service and private spaces for academic advising, support, and corporate recruiting.

Walsh’s student body now totals more than 4,000, nearly evenly divided between men and women.  More than 91 percent attend part-time.  About 83 percent of the College’s 26,000 alumni live in Michigan.

Other recent building renovations at Walsh College’s Troy campus have included the 37,000 square-foot Jeffrey W. Barry Center, completed in 2007; the Blackstone LaunchPad for entrepreneurs in 2010; a Barnes & Noble bookstore in 2012; and a Finance Lab in 2013.

The architect for the current project is Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Chicago.

With the impending start of construction, about 80 Walsh staff personnel have moved to temporary quarters at the Sheffield Center, Troy.  Most direct student services and faculty, however, remain at the main campus on Livernois.  In all cases, phone numbers, email, and mailing addresses are unchanged.

For more information about Walsh College, visit www.walshcollege.edu.
 

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

Cooley Law School's building ranks as one of world's most impressive

A rainwater harvesting system, a green roof, low flow plumbing and other eco-focused features has landed Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills on the list of the most impressive law school buildings in the world.

Best Choice Schools' independent ranking put Cooley, which has undergone major renovation and a 64,000-square-foot addition, at #35 out of 50 law schools. Architects and engineers from Rockford Construction and SHW Group designed the building.

Cooley's building on its Auburn Hills campus at 2630 Featherstone Road is a LEED silver certified facility that was constructed with sustainability at the fore. "Building architects sought to maximize light and air flow throughout the structure with large windows and open spaces," according to Best Choice Schools.

Cooley is the fourth law school in the U.S. to be LEED certified.

Source: Tyler Lecceadone, spokesperson, Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine

 

Oakland County's AAA rating helps Farmington Hills water project

Oakland County is helping the City of Farmington Hills place bonds for water supply system improvements at the lowest interest rates possible. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s have reaffirmed Oakland County’s AAA bond rating with a stable outlook, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced today. They assigned the rating to the county’s series 2014 Oakland County Farmington Hills water supply system improvement bonds.

“The county often uses its AAA bond rating to help our local governments fund capital improvement projects at the lowest interest rates possible,” Patterson said. “This collaboration between county and city saves taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.”

Both bond rating agencies pointed to the county’s strong fiscal practices as the reason for awarding it the highest credit rating.

“We expect the county's financial position will remain strong going forward owing to continued application of very solid fiscal management practices,” Moody’s said.

S&P agreed, also citing the county’s strong economy.

“Key strengths are management’s use of a three-year rolling budget and frequent budgetary adjustments through the year. ...We consider Oakland County’s economy to be strong....” S&P said. 

Metro Detroit home construction permits at highest level since 2006 in July

Excerpt: 

There were 469 single-family home building permits issued for Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne counties in July, marking the highest total for the month since July 2006.

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M-Brew in Ferndale is all Michigan, all the time

Longtime Ferndale business owner and activist Dean Bach has turned a vacant VFW hall into a new business he hopes will appeal to lovers and supporters of Michigan-made and grown food, drink and products.

M-Brew, the brainchild of Dean Bach, owner of Ferndale icon Dino's Lounge, has opened inside the renovated hall that is part bungalow-style house with a building added to the back.

His new M-Brew at 177 Vester St. in downtown Ferndale is cottage on the outside with a wraparound porch and clapboard siding and Up North gas station on the inside, where "guests can stop by for one thing and leave with much more when they discover an array of Michigan-made product to eat, wear or display at home."

The focus of M-Brew is the M, as in Michigan, and on offering only food, drink and products made across the state.

“We live in a great state with great assets and lots of quality products,” says Bach, who is host of the Rib Burn Off fundraiser for the Blues Festival and chairman of the board for the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.

“From the beginning we decided that M-Brew was going to be entirely Michigan-based -- from the beer that we pour to the food that we serve.” He adds, “With the stuff our state grows and produces, it was kind of a no-brainer.”

M-Brew serves at least two kinds of brew, its own privately labeled coffee and root beer, and beers from Michigan breweries such as Shorts, Atwater, Founders, MI, Perrin and Liberty Street. Up to 30 craft beer taps are a part of the cozy feel of M-Brew, which has knotty pine paneling and a stone-clad fireplace. To-go beer growlers are a special feature of M-Brew as is stay-in fun in the basement, where there are pinball machines, video games and shuffleboard.

On the food front, M-Brew serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from a grab & go display to entrees and snacks for eating in or carrying out. Pinconning Pizza, Bruce Crossing Pasties, Garden Fresh Salsa and chips, Smokin' Butts BBQ, Sanders hot fudge, chips and snacks from Traverse City, and dried cherries represent food made in cities across Michigan.

A still-to-come outdoor fire pit will give off the kick-up-your-feet Up North vibe.

"Michigan has great products year round, whether it is something to eat or something cool to own. We will be bringing in more carefully selected items as we get up and running,” Bach says. “Beyond that, supporting Michigan-made means your dollars stay in Michigan and help support our comeback economy. We’ve supported local all along, but as the economy gets better -- especially as it gets better -- we can’t lose sight of continuing to support local. It needs to be what we do.”

Source: Dean Bach, owner M-Brew and Dino's Lounge
Writer: Kim North Shine

Beaumont awarded research grant from National Cancer Institute

Metro Detroit area residents with cancer, and those throughout Michigan, will have access to federally-funded cancer research studies thanks to a five-year grant recently awarded to the Beaumont Cancer Institute. Beaumont Health System is one of 34 community sites participating in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program, also known as NCORP.

“We’re honored to be named one of the recipients of the National Cancer Institute’s grant,” explains John Robertson, M.D., principal investigator for NCORP. “This new program got underway Aug. 1 and its overall goal is to bring cancer clinical trials, as well as cancer care delivery research to individuals in their own communities to improve patient outcomes and reductions in cancer disparities. We’ve got years of experience doing just that in Southeast Michigan.”

NCORP replaces two previous National Cancer Institute community-based clinical research programs: the NCI Community Clinical Oncology Program, also referred to as CCOP and the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program. Beaumont’s Cancer Institute was a long-time participant in CCOP until the program was discontinued on May 31. The new program, with its $93 million a year in funding, builds on the strengths of the previous programs and aims to better address the most pressing issues affecting the conduct and delivery of care in the communities across the nation.

Beaumont will receive $757,511 per year for five years. The NCI-funded cancer research programs will take place at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak and Beaumont Hospital, Troy.

The new program is a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions and other organizations conducting cancer research. NCORP community-based research examines strategies to:
  • Reduce cancer risk and incidence
  • Improve cancer care outcomes
  • Expand access to cancer care
  • Increase quality and value of care
  • Reduce cancer disparities
According to Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., director of NCORP, the creation of NCORP allows the National Cancer Institute to take advantage of recent advances in the understanding of cancer and bring this new knowledge into clinical trials conducted in the community, where most patients receive their care.

About Beaumont’s Cancer Program
Beaumont’s comprehensive cancer program combines the expertise of surgical, medical and radiation oncologists to offer cancer prevention counseling, diagnosis and treatment in hospital and community-based settings. The Beaumont Cancer Institute is one of only 34 community sites in the U.S. to be awarded a five-year National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program grant. Beaumont is designated as a Blue Cross Center of Distinction for the Treatment of Rare and Complex Cancers. Beaumont, Royal Oak and Troy are recognized by U.S. News & World Report as “high performing” hospitals for cancer care. Find out more at http://cancer.beaumont.edu/.
 

Wine-inspired art studio opens in Clarkston

After a career as an accountant, new entrepreneur Leanna Haun decided to let her inner artist out and start a painting party business. Earlier this month she opened Picasso's Grapevine in downtown Clarkston.

Since opening at 12 S. Main St. dozens of customers have walked out with artwork they never thought they'd create.

“My biggest challenge is convincing people they can create beautiful artwork. At the end of the session our guests are really impressed with themselves,” says Haun, who has seen repeat business.

While making art is the focus, there is an emphasis on BYOB as a way to stimulate the fun and get the creative juices flowing. It's not a new concept, but it's a first for Clarkston. Originally the city council rejected the business.

Her staff of artists teach students individually, and they can also host parties in public places and private locations. Picasso's Grapevine (a play on the Spanish artist plus wine grapes) also hosts nonprofits as a way for them to raise funds. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Haun, a 1996 Walsh College Business grad, got the push to start her own business after receiving a postcard from her alma mater just about the time she was thinking of swapping in her accountant's job for self-employment.

Walsh's Blackstone LaunchPad  gave business advice, guided her through business model essentials, space location and leasing, copyrights, search engine optimization and more. It also helped her avoid opening her business in a downtown where three similar businesses were operating or were soon to open.

Source: Leanna Haun, owner, Picasso's Grapevine
Writer: Kim North Shine

Program announced to improve more downtowns

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson unveiled a new three-tiered program that would prepare more communities for entry into Main Street Oakland County and the economic benefits of utilizing the nationally-recognized program.
 
Patterson said select level Main Street communities have generated more than $650 million in public and private investment since 2001 and created more than 6,600 jobs and more than new 870 businesses. He made his comments during a press conference in downtown Farmington.
 
“Nineteen downtowns are in the Main Street program,” Patterson said. “My goal is to bring many more communities into the fold as soon as possible. I want all the downtowns to enjoy the benefits we see now in Ferndale, Holly, Oxford and all the Main Street communities.”
 
Patterson also recognized and congratulated the 10 communities that received accreditation from the National Main Street Center in Chicago. The accreditation means the communities scored a perfect 10 out of 10 on their annual evaluation.
 
Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Pontiac and Rochester – all select level communities – received perfect scores. Seven of the communities – Rochester and Ferndale (nine years), Lake Orion and Ortonville (eight years), Farmington (seven years) and Holly and Highland (five years) were each given special recognition for receiving perfect scores for at least five years.
 
“Congratulations to the 10 communities who have been accredited by the National Main Street Center and especially to the leadership of those communities for having the foresight to see the benefits of membership in Main Street Oakland County,” Patterson said. “You can drive through the county and see the obvious benefits to our downtowns. It’s a tremendous program.”

The accreditation process scores the communities on such criteria as community support, historic preservation ethic, mission and vision statements, boards and committees and ongoing training.
 
Patterson said the new tiered program categorizes a community as either select, associate or affiliate level. The select level must have a historic downtown or hamlet settled in the 1800s or early 1900s, primarily built before 1940. Associate and affiliate levels have a wider range of criteria to serve more communities, including historic downtowns and hamlets, urban mixed-use development or commercial centers. Associates and affiliates would receive training, technical services and promotional and networking opportunities. Select communities receive a more extensive list of services.

“This three-tiered program allows us to reach out to more of our distinct downtowns and hamlets,” Patterson said. “We can now work with communities with Heritage Corridors such as Woodward Avenue, Eight Mile Road and Dixie Highway as well as newer mixed-use urban centers.”

Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center. Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester and Walled Lake are select level Main Street communities. Birmingham, Clarkston, Lathrup Village, Leonard, Oak Park, Waterford and Wixom are communities in the associate level program.

Main Street is operated under the planning division of the county’s economic development department. Oakland County is the first county in the United States to operate a full-service county-wide Main Street program.

Visit MainStreetOaklandCounty.com for more information.
 

M1 Concourse starts its engines

M1 Concourse announced that it has acquired an 87-acre former General Motors property on the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and South Boulevard in Pontiac, Michigan. The property was acquired from RACER Trust, which was created in March 2011 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to seek buyers to invest in the redevelopment and reuse of properties owned by the former General Motors Corporation before its 2009 bankruptcy.

M1 Concourse has received preliminary site plan approval from the City of Pontiac to construct a mixed use development targeted at the massive audience of people in Metro Detroit passionate about cars and motorsports. When completed, M1 Concourse will be one of the largest automotive enthusiast destinations in North America and will contain a 1.5-mile performance track, 250+ private garages, restaurants, an auto- focused shopping village and office space.

“The response to our plans has been overwhelming since we first announced the project,” said Brad Oleshansky, the Founder and CEO of M1 Concourse. “We’re excited to begin preparing the land and proceeding with the development.” The first phase of private garages will be for sale officially in September 2014. “We are appreciative of the support we have received from the City of Pontiac, Oakland County and the State of Michigan, as well as the RACER Trust, who believed in our concept from the beginning,” said Oleshansky.

“We congratulate Mr. Oleshansky and his team and look forward to what promises to be a tremendous new development for Pontiac and Oakland County,” said Elliott P. Laws, Administrative Trustee of RACER Trust. “This is great news both for car lovers and for the community as a whole, and represents an ongoing fulfillment of RACER’s mission to bring new investment and jobs to the former GM properties in our portfolio.”

M1 Concourse recently partnered with Uniprop, based in Birmingham, Michigan. Uniprop made a significant equity investment in the project and will lend its expertise in real estate development, construction and finance. “This is the perfect project for Uniprop as it draws on all of our core competencies, and we are excited about the potential M1 Concourse has to make a significant impact on Pontiac and the surrounding areas,” said Uniprop’s Chairman Paul Zlotoff.

M1 Concourse reports receiving over five hundred positive responses and genuine interest from potential customers considering the purchase of a private garage. Phase 1 Grand Opening is anticipated to occur during the summer of 2015.

“In celebration of the closing, we’re hosting a Dream Cruise Week Kick-Off Car Show on Sunday, August 10, 2014 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. at our site,” said Oleshansky. “Initial response to our invitation has been extremely positive, a strong indication of the passion auto enthusiasts share for their cars.”

About M1 Concourse
M1 Concourse will be both a private club and public destination designed to leverage the passion of the largest concentration of car enthusiasts in the world. The community of private garages will accommodate more than 1,000 classic cars set along a 1.5-mile performance track. A large portion of the project is open to the public, where people can enjoy restaurants, a walkable village of auto-focused businesses and year- round programming, including car shows, concerts, product demonstrations and more. The idea for M1 Concourse grew directly and organically from the needs of the local auto enthusiast community. Complete details can be found at www.m1concourse.com.

M1 Concourse is part of a recent resurgence of development in Pontiac and will join much-anticipated projects, like the Indian Hill District Downtown, Wessen Lawn Tennis Club, The Links at Crystal Lake and the Strand Theatre. 
 

Kimberly LED Lighting set to move into bigger facility in Clarkston

The LED lighting industry has been on an upward trajectory for years now as it becomes the go-to brand for energy-efficient lighting in the 21st century. Kimberly LED Lighting is riding that wave, expanding its sales and moving to a bigger facility this summer.

The 8-year-old company is putting the finishing touches on a new facility in Clarkston. A move-in is set for August. The new facility will be exponentially larger than its current office in Auburn Hills.

"We're going from 5,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet," says Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting. "It's a pretty big jump."

Kimberly LED Lighting specializes in changing out traditional incandescent bulbs for LED lighting in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Often LED lighting is up to 70-80 percent more energy efficient than traditional options.

The switch to LEDs has allowed Kimberly LED Lighting to double its sales each year, and nearly triple them in the last year. The company has also hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen full-time employees handling everything from LED switches in houses to factories.

"The bread and butter of LEDs right now is in the commercial and industrial side," Jenkins says. "Businesses are getting payback on them within two years."

Source: Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting
Writer: Jon Zemke

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