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Orion Township beer distributor invests in energy efficient upgrades

An Oakland County beer distributor has become a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy investment. Orion Township-based Powers Distributing is the first business in the state to have completed a refinanced PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) project.

PACE helps businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that save money in the long run but require expensive investment up front. It allows property owners this ability through a special property tax assessment with the local government, in this case Orion Township. The tax assessment then frees up lenders' ability to provide up to 20-year, low rate, fixed-interest loans.

By using PACE to help finance a 95kW solar system on the roof of its recycling center as well as the installation of LED lighting throughout the facility, Powers Distributing became the first beer distributor in the country to finance an energy efficiency project with PACE, the first refinanced PACE project in the state, and the first PACE project altogether in Oakland County.

While the project cost $435,000, officials expect returns on its investment to surpass $1,000,000 over the lifespan of the project. The energy efficient solar and lighting equipment will save Powers an average of $48,000 per year in energy costs. As Powers chief operating officer Gary Thompson says in a statement, "…[T]he entire beer supply chain from brewing to distribution to your refrigerator is a long and energy hungry road."

Powers completed the project with help from the Newman Consulting Group, Lean & Green Michigan, and Michigan Solar Solutions. Since the state of Michigan allows any project that can be financed through PACE to also be re-financed through PACE, Powers was able to re-finance for a project carried out from 2013 to 2015.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Connected vehicle specialist Harman unveils $30M North American headquarters in Novi


Harman International Industries Inc., a designer and engineer of connected vehicle systems, unveiled its new $30 million, 200,000-square-foot North American headquarters in Novi at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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Royal Oak's ROAK Brewery tests hops extraction technology


ROAK Brewing Co. in Royal Oak will become one of the first breweries to utilize a technology called ApoWave hop extraction. The process offers increased hop flavor extraction for higher yields of beer, while using fewer hops.

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McLaren Oakland to open new emergency center in Clarkston


McLaren Oakland will open its new, larger emergency center on the campus of the McLaren Health Care Village in Clarkston later this month.

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Oakland FlexTech Academy opens state-of-art makerspace


Oakland FlexTech Academy announce the launch of its state-of-the-art makerspace. Community members of all ages are invited to tour the space, experiment with the new tools and technology, participate in hands on activities, and enjoy light refreshments.

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Light Guide Systems, HP launch revolutionary "blended reality" tech tool

Light Guide Systems, an augmented reality tool that is transforming manual assembly and manufacturing processes for companies worldwide, is working with HP Inc., to launch a new technology tool—Light Guide Systems Pro. Utilizing the immersive computing platform Sprout Pro by HP, Light Guide Systems Pro modernizes manual assembly processes in commercial and education applications.

Light Guide Systems helps reduces error and radically improve manufacturing assembly processes by projecting a digital operating “canvas” directly onto virtually any work surface and providing audio and visual prompts, guidance, pacing and direction. Light Guide Systems Pro takes the tool to the next level by incorporating its proprietary software into the powerful yet compact Sprout Pro PC platform to deliver a clean and compact package that is portable, flexible and affordable.

“It is incredible to see how well the Light Guide Systems software pairs with the Sprout Pro by HP platform,” said Paul Ryznar, OPS Solutions founder, president and CEO. “Light Guide Systems Pro can improve outcomes and support applications for nearly any industry, from automotive and medical to aerospace, defense and electronics. It’s a versatile platform that blends reality in an efficient and creative way.”

Designed to be versatile, intuitive and user-friendly, Light Guide Systems Pro utilizes all of the Sprout Pro platform features, such as a 2D and 3D scanner and two screens used to transform objects from the physical to digital space, allowing for innumerable applications in the manufacturing, design, education and commercial fields.

“Light Guide Systems Pro is one of the most unique uses for HP’s groundbreaking blended reality Sprout Pro platform," said Louis Kim, global head and general manager of Immersive Computing, HP Inc. "The flexible system provides an immediate solution to numerous manufacturing and assembly challenges. As part of the compact Sprout Pro platform, Light Guide Systems has the potential to make a substantial impact on small assembly operations for businesses in many industries and disciplines.”

Light Guide Systems Pro is currently available worldwide. Visit www.ops-solutions for more information.

New restaurant serves fresh, delicious vegan and vegetarian food in Ferndale

As the seasons change, so, too, does the menu at the recently opened GreenSpace Cafe in downtown Ferndale. That's because the restaurant and bar features non-GMO and organic ingredients in the foods and drinks it serves, ingredients bought fresh at venues like local farmers markets. The items are fresh and healthy, yes, but perhaps most important of all, they're delicious. So says Joel Kahn, who opened the Cafe with his co-owner son, Daniel Kahn, in December 2015.

Health is an underlying current throughout GreenSpace Cafe. This should be no surprise for those familiar with Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist and long-time vegan who has focused many a public speaking engagement around the benefits of healthy eating. Absent are the excessive amounts of salts, oils, and sugars. Gone are the fryers and microwaves. Fresh ingredients purchased from places like the Royal Oak Farmers Market and Eastern Market are combined with healthy spices to create the menu.

Even the cocktails are healthier at GreenSpace. That's because the bartenders utilize the Michigan-based Drought juice brand in their craft cocktail mixes. Drought is organic, cold-pressed, raw juice, adding a dose of nutrition to the margaritas, Manhattans, and cosmopolitans that the restaurant serves. Drought also runs a retail space in the cafe storefront, complete with its own independent set of hours. For Dr. Kahn, having Drought on board is an asset. The pairing is, as he says, "a wonderful synergy of talent."

The space itself takes up two old storefronts, the locations of the now-closed Maria's Front Room and Just 4 Us. The GreenSpace team knocked down the wall between the two storefronts to create one continuous 4,000-square-foot space that seats about 100. Having torn out the drywall and drop ceilings, the Kahns describe the new space as having an urban loft feel, with brand new state-of-the-art equipment, to boot.

GreenSpace Cafe is located at 215 W. Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale, Michigan.

Service.com moves to Farmington Hills to work on contractor app

Service.com recently executed a move from downtown Detroit to Farmington Hills, setting the stage for what the tech firm expects will be exponential growth.

The 2-year-old startup, formerly known as Locqus, is working on a digital platform that streamlines the finding, hiring and paying of contractors. Think of it as a startup that is working to eliminate some of the biggest headaches that come with home improvements.

"We're trying to be the Uber and Paypal for the service industry," says Sandy Kronenberg, CEO of Service.com.

Service.com got its start in downtown Detroit as Locqus. Back then Kronenberg was trying to build its mobile app, Field Manage, into a platform that handles the back end needs of small businesses and contractors, such as managing time clocks, scheduling, inventory, etc. Kronenberg got some modest growth out of it but nothing to write home about.

"It just wasn’t growing any more than a lifestyle business," Kronenberg says. "It wasn't going to knock your socks off."

So he decided to pivot the business model to its current form and rebrand the firm to Service.com. At the time his team was co-working out of the Bizdom space in downtown Detroit. When that startup accelerator shut down late last year, Kronenberg needed to find a new home for his company. Downtown Detroit had become too expensive and inconvenient to set up shop for his firm, so he made the move to better offices in Farmington Hills earlier this month that will give his company room for future growth.

Service.com is currently testing its platform in Columbus, Ohio. Kronenberg and his team of 20 people (including half a dozen new hires over the last year) hope to launch in more markets, including Detroit, early this year. He has raised $3.5 million in a seed round to make it happen and is looking to raise a Series A later this year.

Source: Sandy Kronenberg, CEO of Service.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

365 Retail Markets launches Verii, a new product line for snack sales

365 Retail Markets has made a name for itself by reinventing the vending machine market, and it's getting ready to push that envelope a little more this year with the launch of a new product, Verii.

The Troy-based startup makes self-checkout micromarkets, essentially replacing the vending machine in corporate campuses. Customers simply have to choose their snack from a cooler or shelf, self scan it, and then swipe a credit card to pay for it at what the company is branding NanoMarkets. No cashier. No fuss. Just a quick way to get the food they want and go.

365 Retail Markets' newest version of these NanoMarkets is Verii, an in-office snack station for companies with less than 150 employees. Verii's distinguishing feature is an easy-to-use mobile app that enables employee purchases, inventory tracking, and product re-ordering. It's all controlled by a company-designated administrator.

"We know the customers like this and prefer this method of commerce," says Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets. "We are just filling that need."

The company plans to focus on launching Verii this year. It had acquired two other firms last year to help supplement its growth, which was rapid. 365 Retail Markets grew its revenue by $7 million (45 percent) in 2015, bringing its annual revenue to $25 million. It also hired 25 people last year, expanding its staff to 104 employees.

"Last year we hired a person every 11 days," Hessling says. "There is always something going on."

Source: Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

New school for pet groomers opens in Royal Oak


There’s a new “school” opening in downtown Royal Oak. And some would say it’s “for the dogs (and cats)." The Bingo Institute of Grooming officially has opened this January at 110 W. 4th Street in downtown Royal Oak as one of the few pet grooming schools of its kind in the state of Michigan, and particularly in Southeast Michigan. Co-founders Brian Lane and Jessica Conway are admittedly “passionate” about teaching individuals proper grooming techniques, and both have extensive experience in the industry.

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Garden Fresh founder starts healthy meats brand


Jack Aronson, who last year sold his Ferndale-based Garden Fresh Gourmet salsa business to Campbell for $231 million, has started a new line of foods, Clean Planet.

"The world is changing, and prepared and processed foods are becoming less a part of consumers' desire, who are moving toward healthier foods," Mike Skinner, the company president and general manager, said Monday. "We want to change the way the world eats, and we are going to do it right here."

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Livonia's ZF TRW to open electronics division headquarters in Farmington Hills


Livonia-based ZF TRW, a supplier of safety electronics products, will open a new 170,000-square-foot headquarters for its global electronics business in Farmington Hills.

The facility, located in the Arboretum Office Park on 12 Mile Road and Orchard Lake Road, offers both laboratory and office space, and will be home to 600 employees, the majority of them engineers.

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Activewear, footwear store to open in downtown Birmingham


Kalamazoo-based retail sports good store Gazelle Sports will expand with the addition of a storefront in downtown Birmingham in early summer.

“Downtown Birmingham just really fit with our focus on community and active living and really fit the profile of how we’re going to support people staying active and healthy,” says Chris Lampen-Crowell, co-founder of Gazelle Sports. “It’s a very high activity-based community and there’s no one else like us in that downtown market.”

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AirTime Trampoline to open 4th location in Novi


Troy-based AirTime Trampoline & Game Park announced it is opening a 30,000-square-foot location in Novi —  its fourth site —  in February.

“We’re building this one from the ground up,” AirTime Sales Manager Melissa Morris said. “This is going to be our largest location.”

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Luxury abounds


For more than 25 years, Ronni Keating has aided some of the region’s most prominent people — from the top automotive executives like former General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson to Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander — make one of life’s most personal and expensive decisions: buying a home.

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