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Stuart Mechanical aims to hit $5.5M in revenue in 2015

Stuart Mechanical has made some big strides in revenue generation since its launch in 2011.

The Madison Heights-based HVAC firm has gone from zero revenue to in excess of $4 million in a few short years. It is now taking aim at crossing another big milestone.

"I'm going to be nipping at the heels of $5 million in 2014," says Ray Barnowske, vice president and manager of operations for Stuart Mechanical. "The growth has been tremendous."

He would like to see the company’s revenue hit between $5.5 million and $6 million in 2015. That seems possible since the firm has added a construction department and is taking on big projects like The Albert luxury apartment renovation in downtown Detroit.

Stuart Mechanical has also grown its staff significantly since its launch. The company started with 10 employees. Today it has 30 employees and the occasional intern. It has hired four people, such as service technicians, this year, and is looking to add a few more in early 2015.

"We're always looking," Barnowski says.

Source: Ray Barnowske, vice president & manager of operations for Stuart Mechanical
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carbon Media Group adds 15 jobs, signs bull riding partnership

Carbon Media Group has inked a new partnership with the Professional Bull Riders, a deal that the online media startup hopes will bring its viewership together.

The Bingham Farms-based company helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors. The startup’s two primary audiences consist of fans of outdoors and rural activities along with fans of action sports like hunting, fishing, and skying.

"The Professional Bull Riders is a very elegant bridge between the two types of content we have," says Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

YouTube made the introduction between the two organizations because Carbon Media Group is the second largest global sports network on YouTube. The Professional Bull Riders, which has roughly 20 million fans, was in the process of figuring out how best to develop its digital audience.

Carbon Media Group is on track to grow 35 percent in 2014, and Chaudhry expects to do that again next year. "That's roughly on track with our annual growth rate," he says.

The 7-year-old company has hired 15 people over the last year, including professionals in design, sales, account management, and executive leadership. It now has a staff of 62 employees and plans to bring on two interns this summer. It is looking to hire five people now, including staff accountants and marketers.

"We're always looking for good digital media sales people," Chaudhry says.

Source: Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

FANUC America donates robotics equipment to OU Engineering programs

FANUC America Corporation of Rochester Hills, Mich., recently made a substantial gift-in-kind donation of cutting-edge equipment to Oakland University that company leaders said will help boost OU’s impact on the regional economy.

The robotics supplier’s donation of robots, software and 2D iRVision will support development of an Industrial Robotics and Automation program within OU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Engineering students will be trained for high-demand jobs, many of which are in metro Detroit, home to world-class robotics and automation companies.

FANUC America General Manager Mick Estes says the company is excited to expand its longstanding support for similar programs.
“Working together and sharing industry-leading innovative technology is what will make the difference in narrowing the skills gap in manufacturing,” Estes says. “The staff at the OU School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) brings the highest degree of professionalism and tremendous personal passion to the task.
“They provide students the opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge and skills using the latest innovations in engineering and manufacturing technology, and we are pleased to be a part of this effort.”
Some of that industry technology includes the FANUC M-1 robot. Equipped with vision technology, the machines can “see” the pieces they are working with, making them useful in a wide spectrum of industries like pharmaceutical, agricultural, small-part assembly and automotive. They will be used by engineering students in the brand new Industrial Robotics Lab, preparing them with not only hands-on training, but the skills to design applications and understand modern technology. 
"There is a spectrum of applications for these type(s) of robots, from picking up a car to sorting pills," adds Estes. And the controller, called the teach pendant, is universal across all FANUC robots. So once students learn on the M-1, the smallest FANUC robot, they can apply those skills to any application. 
According to Khalid Mirza, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of engineering, learning the tools is the easy part. Middle school students touring SECS labs will pick up the teach pendant and start maneuvering the robot like it is any old video game, he says. “It’s how you design the engineering solution.”
Employers don’t simply want the engineer, however, shares Paul Aiello, director of certified education training at FANUC America Corporation, "…they want somebody who can look at a problem and can think of a way to manufacture that part.”
Noting the trend to "re-shore" manufacturing jobs back to the United States and large percentage of skilled engineers nearing retirement, Aiello asks "who's going to fill these jobs?" 
But he answers his own question: "That's what got FANUC to partner with Oakland University." 
SECS Dean Louay Chamra, Ph.D., said the school looks forward to showcasing state-of-the-art equipment in its robotics labs.
“The donated equipment will educate the next generation of engineers in order to provide the talent needed in industrial robotics and advanced manufacturing,” Dean Chamra says.
Oakland’s partnership with FANUC America — the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial robotics — is a “win-win” for industry and academia, adds Mirza.
“Our School of Engineering and Computer Science is committed to building a strong and relevant program in Industrial Robotics and Automation,” he says. “We have formed an advisory board so that industries can directly provide us expertise and support for curriculum development, program development and strategic planning.
“We are proud to have FANUC America join the board and look forward to a successful and mutually beneficial relationship. The FANUC America headquarters in Rochester Hills is located right next to OU and gives us a unique opportunity to work closely with them.”

FANUC America is the leading supplier of robotic automation in the Americas.

Roughly 1,300 new jobs as 13 Oakland County companies share nearly $700,000 in job training funds

Thirteen Oakland County companies received almost $700,000 from the state’s Skilled Trades Training Fund, enabling them to hire nearly 1,300 new employees while upgrading the skills of more than 700 current employees.

The funds will be used to train current employees in occupations such as software programming support, electrical vehicle development, computer-aided design, welding and robot operations.

“This is one state economic development program that works and creates some huge return on our investment,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Congratulations to our 13 companies and also a nod to the state for creating the Skilled Trades Training Fund.”

The companies in turn agreed to contribute nearly $3 million in matching job training funds to help prepare their workforces. Coupled with funds received in 2013 from the state fund, Oakland County employers – through Oakland County Michigan Works! – received more than $1.1 million to retrain its existing workforce and hire new employees.

“The program provides a fantastic opportunity to help our employees advance and add to our growth,” said Juli Elkins of GableTEK, a Troy-based engineering and robotics firm that received about $23,000 in training funds.

Magna International, a Canada-based tier one auto supplier whose American headquarters is in Troy, was the largest benefactor of the training funds, receiving more than $293,000. German tier one supplier Brose, located in Auburn Hills, was next in line at more than $112,000 in training funds.

Employers must apply for the state funds through their local Michigan Works! office. The grants are monitored and the companies must report on how the funds were used and that employees designated for job training actually receive it, said John Almstadt, manager of Workforce Development for the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.

Other companies receiving training funds are: ALTe Technologies, Beaumont Health System, Becker Orthopedic, Creative Breakthroughs, Eaton Steel, FANUC America Corp., Henniges Automotive, Paramount Precision Products, Progressive Metal Manufacturing and Total Door.

New agreement paves the way for Oakland Community College students to earn WSU business degrees

The Wayne State University School of Business and Oakland Community College have announced a new agreement that makes it easier for students to earn an associate degree at OCC while earning credit toward a business degree at WSU.

The agreement allows students from OCC who’ve earned an associate degree in business administration, with or without a concentration in accounting, to transfer those credits to Wayne State to complete a bachelor’s degree within the School of Business.

OCC students will be allowed to transfer up to 82 credit hours to Wayne State after completing one of the associate degree programs mentioned above. According to Linda Zaddach, assistant dean of undergraduate student services in the WSU School of Business, students who take full advantage of the new agreement will have only 40 more credits to complete a bachelor’s degree in business at WSU.

“It’s really a grand slam for everyone that’s involved,” Zaddach said. “OCC, Wayne State and, most importantly, the students.”

Wayne State University has made a concerted effort in recent years to make it easier for students to transfer from area community colleges. Besides Oakland Community College, the WSU School of Business has similar agreements with Schoolcraft College and Macomb Community College. Zaddach says she is currently working on articulation agreements with Henry Ford College and eventually hopes to establish one with Washtenaw Community College.

For more information on undergraduate business programs at Wayne State University, please visit business.wayne.edu.

IT training at OCC translates to jobs

Waterford resident Jay Braman, a software developer for 30 years, lost his job when the company where he worked closed its doors in 2013.
Following a job interview, Braman realized he needed to update his skills. Lucky for him, he heard about Code ReConnect (.net), a programming and web development training at Oakland Community College that landed him a job following eight weeks of training.
The program—a collaboration of Automation Alley, Kelly IT Resources and Michigan Works! Agencies of Oakland County — offers a variety of programming and web development courses: HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, MVC 4 in ASP.NET and Entity Framework.  
With the help of program partner Kelly Services IT, he was offered a position at Stahls’ ID Direct after completing training.
“It was a great introduction to the latest technologies and tools,” he said of Code ReConnect. “I got an excellent start on all things web.”
Funded through a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration grant, its goal is to place local residents in high-demand programming and web development jobs.
OCC is now recruiting participants for the program’s second cohort, which has been expanded to 13 weeks of training.
“Many Southeast Michigan employers are experiencing a skills gap in technical areas, including Information Technology,” said Jennifer Llewellyn, CDF, BSP, Director, Oakland County Michigan Works! Troy. “Code Reconnect addresses the skills gap IT employers are facing.”
A critical component of Code ReConnect is its partnership with a local Workforce Agency, a training provider such as a Community College and an employer, said Kristi Arnone, EdEn Inc., who serves as the program’s grant administrator. 
The training provides job candidates the preparation to enter the IT industry. Michigan Works! and Kelly Services provides interview and resume preparation, coaching and employment opportunities. OCC provides a solid, industry-driven program and Automation Alley and Kelly Services offers a network of career opportunities.   
The program’s second session runs January 5 to April 2, 2015 with students testing for certification the week of March 9. A $75 enrollment fee is required prior to the first class. The entire enrollment fee is refundable upon successful completion of the curriculum and receipt of Microsoft certification.
To register for an information session, visit automationalley.com.
About OCC:
With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC is celebrating its 50th year. OCC is the largest community college in Michigan and the 25thlargest in the nation. It offers degrees and certificates in more than 160 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. More than a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit www.oaklandcc.edu.

Ease Living brings style to home medical equipment

Getting old isn't really fashionable in the 21st century. A new company in Beverly Hills is trying to change that.

Ease Living sells lifestyle aids for seniors and people with disabilities. The offerings are curated to help bring more fashionable items to the people who need them, such as compression socks with patterns.

"Most of the common home medical equipment doesn't work very well and it's ugly," says Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living.

Emerick is an occupational therapist who launched the company from her home a year ago. She sees making these sorts of fashionable offerings as bringing mobility and dignity to the people who need them.

"No one want their house to look like a hospital room," Emerick says.

Ease Living sells its wares from its website. Emerick is looking at adding a print catalogue to appeal to older customers. She is also looking at the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the next year.

Source: Alison Emerick, president of Ease Living
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Billhighway adds 10 jobs, focuses on staff development, culture

Every time Billhighway makes a new hire, a press release gets its wings and flies off into the world. More specifically, the Troy-based tech firm likes to announce each new hire with a press release. The company’s public relations team has been busy in 2014 sending out in excess of half a dozen new announcements about new hires.

The 14-year-old firm has hired 10 people over the last year and is looking to hire another three in project management and software development. The firm currently employs 50 people and seven interns. One of its former interns from earlier this year was also hired into a full-time position.

"Our turnover is really low, like 1-2 percent (quarterly)," says Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway.

A big reason for that is Billhighway works to grow its employees. About 30 percent of its open positions are filled by candidates from within looking to take the next step up in their careers.

"We spend a lot of time on career development," Gallick says.

Billhighway launched as a software platform that helps people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs, in 1999. It has grown and evolved to the point that it specializes in helping non-profits and other organizations deal with their finances. It has experienced significantly higher demand for its software as it makes a bid to reach second-stage status, prompting the hiring spree. The company's leadership doesn’t expect that trend to lessen anytime soon.

"We have quite a bit of growth planned going forward," Gallick says.

Source: Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mom Biz Coach founder debuts DIY biz coaching book

About a decade ago, Lara Galloway was a stay-at-home mom aiming to become a work-at-home mom by starting her own business. The trained life coach found that she needed the help of a business coach and then came to the realization that starting a businesses is not something someone does on the side.

"There was no way I was going to work 60 hours a week to get it off the ground," Galloway says. "That's why I left corporate America."

Instead the Bloomfield Hills resident launched Mom Biz Coach, a consulting firm that helps other women blend work and family. She says she often helps women who are building businesses that have grown quickly.

"They are growing beyond themselves and they need teams," Galloway says.

And mentors. Galloway is a firm believer in the idea that mentorship makes everyone better. It's also why she is launching her own book this month, Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur. Galloway describes the tome as a DIY coaching tool.

"We know that everybody in businesses can benefit from a mentor or a coach," Galloway says. "But not everybody can afford to hire one."

Source: Lara Galloway, founder of Mom Biz Coach
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland County wellness program helps reduce annual medical cost increases


Oakland County’s wellness program has saved the county $14 million over seven years and reduced the number of employees found to have serious medical problems as a result of voluntary health risk assessments, said Nancy Scarlet, the county’s human resource director. 

Read more.


Entry deadline extended for County Executive's Elite 40 Under 40 Program

If you or someone you know has made significant contributions at work or the quality of life in southeast Michigan and think he or she – or you – should be recognized for the good work, you have a little extra time to make that happen.

The deadline for nominations for the Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 under 40 Class of 2015 has been extended until Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. County Executive L. Brooks Patterson started the program in 2012 to honor young professionals and thought leaders who excel in their field and have demonstrated dynamic leadership.

“We have an abundance of talented entrepreneurs, teachers and other thought leaders who are shaping the future of our region,” Patterson said. “With the holidays upon us, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to nominate one or several of these young women and men, or themselves. We’re looking for the best and brightest the region has to offer.”

To submit a candidate, go to www.AdvantageOakland.com/Elite40. Nominees must live or work in Oakland County to be eligible. A panel of judges will review all completed applications and reduce the number to the top 40 entrants. Of that group, three candidates who scored the highest will be placed before the public for an online vote to determine the winner.

The winner will introduce Patterson at his State of the County address on Feb. 5, 2015. The winner will also receive:
  • A feature article or video about their business/volunteer agency in Oakland County PROSPER
  • Attend three Oakland County signature events: Economic Outlook Luncheon, Quality People/Quality County Awards and the Business Roundtable Annual Meeting
  • Promotion on www.AdvantageOakland.com, the county’s economic development website
Complete information about rules and prizes are available at www.AdvantageOakland.com/Elite40.

Chinese auto supplier to invest $15.1M, hire 176 in new Madison Heights plant


Chinese automotive electronics component supplier Shanghai SIIC Transportation Electric Co. Ltd. is establishing a North American operations in Madison Heights.

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Oakland County workforce development survey identifies challenges and job opportunities

An aging workforce and a lack of experienced job applicants are two significant employment challenges area health systems face in the coming years, according to a regional survey of six leading health systems commissioned by Oakland County.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced the release of the survey – the Skills Needs Assessment Project – to more than 400 health care and life science professionals, educators, physicians and government officials attending INNO-VENTION 2014 – a Medical Main Street Conference  on October 22. The event was held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

“We are focusing on the health system needs because they are the fastest growing and the largest of our employment sectors in Oakland County,” Patterson said. “This professional review of the health systems’ future needs will be an indispensable aid to the health community as it adjusts to an aging workforce.”

The Skills Needs Assessment Project (SNAP), a year-long survey of health systems in southeast Michigan, presents important information about job prospects in the health care industry for employers, educators and students. SNAP began in 2009 with a study of skills and knowledge required for jobs in the Emerging Sectors®, which identifies the top growth sectors in the region such as medical, communications, information technology and advanced materials. A second study was completed in 2013 on advanced manufacturing. The complete report is available online at www.AdvantageOakland.com.

“It’s important to not simply talk about the need but to roll up your sleeves and do the difficult work,” Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb said. “Oakland County doesn’t just talk about it. We develop the tools to fix it.”

The 32-page report provided an in-depth look at employment within area health systems and identified challenges and potential solutions. It also identified the skills and education job seekers need to qualify for one of a host of attractive health care opportunities. The health systems who participated in the survey were Beaumont Health System, Henry Ford Health System, McLaren Health Care, Oakwood Healthcare, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and the University of Michigan Health System.

The survey created 16 customized job profiles needed by area health systems, the median salary, the educational requirements and number of graduates expected for that job, tasks the job requires and the number of anticipated job openings from now until 2019. Information gathered included company demographics, greatest hiring challenges and suggested remedies, specific job openings that were difficult to fill and the skills and abilities needed with specific occupations.

Job profiles created include:
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Pharmacist
  • Registered Nurse with specializations
  • Surgical Technologist
Among the current employment challenges health systems face in order:
  • An aging workforce nearing retirement
  • Lack of candidates with required experience
  • Financial concerns or restrictions
  • Insufficient labor pool to meet demand
  • Perception of Southeast Michigan region
  • Insufficient clinical space for learning opportunities
Proposed remedies centered on two key factors: the need for more nurses, whether through the creation of additional schools or programming; and for newly trained or educated health care workers be exposed to the workplace environment. The respondents suggested health care systems work more closely with K-12 and post K-12 guidance counselors and Michigan Works! agencies to screening potential candidates and gauge their sincere interest in the profession.

SNAP was conducted by EdEn Inc., a Rochester-based research firm. It was funded by Oakland County, the Oakland County Workforce Development Board and through the Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Automation Alley to host two-day product lifecycle management workshop for manufacturing executives

Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, is hosting a two-day product lifecycle management (PLM) workshop for manufacturing executives, managers and anyone tasked with implementing PLM in their organization, Dec. 4-5 at Automation Alley Headquarters in Troy. The event, titled “PLM for Manufacturing Executives and Managers: It’s Not Just for Engineers Anymore,” will explore a holistic corporate approach to PLM, including best practices and strategies for application. 
PLM is the process of managing the lifecycle of a product from its conception and design, through manufacture, to service and disposal. It integrates people, data, processes and the latest digital tools. 
“Traditionally, engineers are the ones handling PLM within a company,” said Alex Violassi, director of the Automation Alley Technology Center. “Our strategy with this workshop is to help companies take a more holistic approach to PLM, starting with management. If you’re a manager or executive at a small or medium-size manufacturer in Southeast Michigan, I would encourage you to attend. PLM technologies and processes are changing the game in manufacturing today, improving productivity, reducing costs, creating less waste and producing higher quality products.” 

Dr. Michael Grieves, international PLM expert, author and educator, will lead the two-day workshop. Grieves will dive into the benefits of incorporating PLM practices into manufacturing businesses and will also present case studies of companies that have successfully implemented PLM using the latest digital tools and cutting-edge technologies. The workshop will conclude with an assessment and a recommendation for future education and actions each participant can take back to their company for consideration. 

The workshop begins Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continues Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Automation Alley Headquarters is located at 2675 Bellingham in Troy.

The cost to attend is $1,198 for members and Foundation Members. The cost for non-members is $1,298. There is a two-person per company limit, and registration is required. Seating is limited.

To register or for more information, contact the Automation Alley Resource Center at 800-427-5100 or info@automationalley.com. Registration closes Nov. 10 at close of business. Payment is required with registration. Registrations not canceled by close of business Dec. 1 will be charged.

About Dr. Michael Grieves
Dr. Michael Grieves is the author of “Product Lifecycle Management: Driving the Next Generation of Lean Thinking” (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and “Virtually Perfect: Driving Innovative and Lean Products through Product Lifecycle Management” (SCP, 2010). In addition to his books, Dr. Grieves has published numerous articles on PLM. He lectures worldwide on engineering, manufacturing and PLM in both industry and academia conferences and consults with a number of leading international manufacturers and governmental organizations, including NASA. Dr. Grieves has a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Michigan State University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Oakland University. He received his doctorate from the Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management.

About Automation Alley
Automation Alley is a technology business association and business accelerator dedicated to growing the economy of Southeast Michigan and enhancing the region’s reputation around the world. Automation Alley offers talent and business development programs and services to tech-focused businesses of all sizes — from startups to large corporations — to help them grow and prosper. 

Since its founding in 1999, Automation Alley’s membership has grown to include nearly 1,000 businesses, educational institutions, government entities and nonprofit organizations from the city of Detroit and the surrounding eight-county region. 

Automation Alley provides a variety of exclusive benefits to its members to help them succeed, including networking opportunities, meeting space and public relations tools. Automation Alley also serves the general business community in five key areas: entrepreneurial services, talent development, international business services, product lifecycle management and defense and manufacturing.

Automation Alley collaborates with regional partners to provide its members and clients with the best business resources available, to drive local economic growth, and to positively influence the stories being told around the globe about the people and businesses of Greater Detroit.

For more information, visit automationalley.com.

Michigan aims to give skilled-trade education a boost


In an effort to prepare and train more workers for skilled-trades jobs, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a program today to offer the state's community colleges $50 million for equipment.

Read more.
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