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Innovation & Job News

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Welding robot now a sentinel at Southfield gateway

Excerpt: 

An Italian company hopes that one of the products it makes — a giant robotic arm — will become a symbolic landmark for Southfield, where the company has its North American headquarters, and help visitors see the Detroit suburb as a leader in automation and technology.

Read more.
 

Billhighway focuses on employee career development to fuel growth

Billhighway is a tech company that knows it can't just hire its way to a steeper growth curve. It has to look inside, too.

The Troy-based firm, which provides software for member-based associations and nonprofits, is hiring, but not with just an eye for putting bodies behind desks. It's looking to find people who can grow their careers along with the company.

"We focus on career development for our entire organization," says Brenda Gallick, director of team member services for Billhighway. "It's a tough market out there, and we want to be engaged."

Billhighway got its start in 1999, providing software that helped people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs. Today it specializes in cloud-based automation software for nonprofits and other similar organizations. That software platform integrates payment processing, banking, and accounting with existing systems and provides a transparent, holistic view of an organization’s finances so it can work more efficiently.

Over the years, Billhighway has added more and more staff, and it is consistently hiring people today. Gallick says that the company's team now numbers in the "high double digits" and is growing. Billhighway now utilizes an employee career development program with a goal of promoting from within. Often people who are hired as a member of the client care team end up working in other areas of the business. Over the last year, five people working in client care transitioned to other parts of the business after receiving technical training and other opportunities to grow their skill set.

"When we recruit people we look for people with skill sets who would fit in other areas," Gallick says.

Software developers have become a hot commodity in today’s economy, a reality Billhighway is acknowledging by hiring more young developers fresh out of college or a few years removed. The hope is as these employees grow professionally they will help grow the company in a number of ways.

"As we bring in new talent we provide them with training and opportunities to grow into other parts of the business," Gallick says. "We want them to bring fresh perspective and ideas."

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

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

Export sales from Automation Alley trade missions reach $507 million

Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, announced that the total amount of export sales made by local companies as a result of participation in Automation Alley trade missions is now more than $507 million. 

“This figure represents the hard work of our team and our past trade mission participants,” said Noel Nevshehir, Automation Alley’s director of international business services. 

“Our goal is to demystify the exporting process for small and medium-sized companies. We’ve experienced great success in that area to date, and we expect similar success in the years to come. With less than one percent of our nation’s 30 million businesses exporting, there is an enormous opportunity for local companies to grow by expanding their business abroad, ultimately leading to economic growth and job creation here in Southeast Michigan.”

As a result of the $507 million in export sales by local businesses, 2,817 American jobs have been created or supported. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2014, every $1 billion of U.S. exports supported nearly 5,800 jobs. 

Since its first trade mission in 2001, Automation Alley has led a total of 24 trade missions to regions around the world, including the Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.   To date, representatives from 170 local companies have participated in Automation Alley missions.
Upcoming trade mission destinations include:
  • Mexico: Sept. 20-25, 2015
  • Dubai Airshow: Nov. 6-13, 2015
  • Hannover Messe (Germany): April 25-29, 2016
  • Cuba: Fall 2016
Automation Alley staff handle all mission-related planning and details before, during and after the mission. All Automation Alley trade missions include five-star accommodations, internal transportation, matchmaking meetings, business briefings, welcome receptions and cultural tours. Trade mission prices are discounted for Automation Alley members.

Automation Alley works with organizations such as the U.S. Commercial Service and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to arrange in-country matchmaking meetings with potential business partners, buyers and end users of the participating companies’ products, services and technologies.  

A previous trade mission participant, Cheryl Goin of Vantage Plastics, had this to say about her experience: “This mission was so productive and stress-free. It was a wonderful luxury to just show up at the airport and put yourself in their capable hands! I also really appreciated the high quality of the meetings that were arranged for us in Mexico. We met decision makers with a high level of interest in our products.” 

Prior to each mission, Automation Alley holds country-specific workshops to inform interested companies about the challenges and opportunities of doing business abroad.

Automation Alley has twice been honored by the White House for its significant contribution to increasing American exports, first in 2008 with the “E” Award for Export Service and again in 2013 with the “E Star” Award for Export Service. The “E” Awards are the highest honor presented to exporters and the organizations that support them. 
 

Pontiac's Erebus haunted attraction hosts open casting call

Think you might have what it takes to scare with the best and work inside one of the most horrifying and largest haunted houses in the country? Erebus Haunted Attraction, the world renown haunted attraction located in downtown Pontiac, is hosting an open casting call to find and hire the area¹s scariest people for the 2015 season. Auditions will be held on Saturday, August 29th and Sunday, August 30th from Noon to 4 p.m. each day.
 
Auditions will take place at Erebus in downtown Pontiac, located at 18 South Perry Street. While it is not a requirement to dress up in your scariest garb for the audition, it is absolutely encouraged.
 
To audition and apply, you must:
  •       Be at least 18 years old to apply
  •       Have reliable transportation
  •       Be willing and able to stand for long periods of time
  •       Some jobs require more strength than others
For more information about Erebus Haunted Attraction or its open auditions, please visit www.HauntedPontiac.com or call 248-332-7884.
 
Erebus Haunted Attraction, previous Guinness Book of World Records holder for being the largest walk-through Haunted Attraction, opens its doors for the 2015 season (its 16th year) on Friday, September 18.
 
Erebus Haunted Attraction
Opened in 2000, Ed and Jim Terebus have built Erebus into a fear empire in downtown Pontiac. Named for the Greek god of primordial darkness, Erebus is a four-story playground of fear. With a staff working year-round, Erebus Haunted Attraction¹s engineers create designs to thrill all five senses every year.

How Internet of Things could drive Michigan's economy

Excerpt:

Jay Adelson was born in Detroit, raised in Southfield, high school at Cranbrook, college at Boston University, became a serial Internet entrepreneur, CEO of Digg, and at age 37, appeared on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

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Report: Troy one of the best small cities to start a business

Excerpt: 

Nerwallet.com recently named Troy, Mich. the fourth best small U.S. city to start a business in.

The list looked at 463 cities with populations of 50,000 to 100,000 people.

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Gerry Weinberg & Associates consolidates growing staff into larger office

Gerry Weinberg & Associates is consolidating its home office in Southfield, going from two suites in the office building at 29201 Telegraph Rd. to one larger one.

"Now we are all in one suite," says Alana Nicol, president of Gerry Weinberg & Associates. "It's a much better layout for our offices."

Gerry Weinberg & Associates, a Sandler Training Business company, provides executive sales, management, and leadership training. The 22-year-old firm employs a staff of five an intern. It is looking to hire a sales associate right now.

The company moved to the larger office because it offered a better layout without making a major move to a new home. It was also a time to refresh its surroundings by investing in its home environment.

"We are positioned for growth over the next few years," Nicol says. "Sometimes you need to make investments like this to make it work."

The company hopes to add to its growth curve over the next few years, expanding its bottom line and adding staff.

"I would like to see us grow 15 percent over the next two years," Nicol says.

Source: Alana Nicol, president of Gerry Weinberg & Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Triune Specialty Trailers grows through client diversity

Triune Speciality Trailers relied on a select number of clients for revenue during most of its first decade in business. More recently, the Madison Heights-based firm made a conscious effort to expand its clientele, which has resulted in it tripling in size over the last three years.
 
"We have a much more diverse client base that we used to have," says Harry Kurtz, president & CEO of Triune Specialty Trailers. "We also have a lot of business in Canada, which is exciting to us."

The 10-year-old company specializes in making state-of-the-art specialty trailers. It products now include designing and building trailers for mobile marketing, educational outreach, and custom trailers.

Triune Specialty Trailers' growth has allowed it to hire three people over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and an intern. Its new hires include a couple of office administration workers and a welder.

"We would hire more if we could find more welders," Kurtz says.

One of Triune Specialty Trailers’ biggest successes over the last year is its Fab Lab mobile education and training vehicle. The Fab Lab is a mobile training classroom for training students in high-tech machining careers, such as computer numerical controlled programmers. Triune Specialty Trailers designed and created the Fab Lab for the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance and North Central Michigan College to help create more skilled professionals to fill openings for skilled machinist positions.

"It's a big issue, especially in Michigan," Kurtz says.

Source: Harry Kurtz, president & CEO of Triune Specialty Trailers
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

More MSU medical students heading to Southfield

Excerpt: 

Michigan State University will expand one of its two medical schools to Southfield, teaming up with Providence-Providence Park Hospital to train up to 60 third- and fourth-year students each year, the school announced.

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Wixom's Kiekert AG to produce brake system for car doors

Excerpt

Kiekert AG, a global developer of vehicle locking systems with its U.S. headquarters in Wixom, plans to introduce an innovative brake system that will prevent car doors from bumping into parked cars, garage walls, or other obstacles.

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Marketing firm heading to Southfield, adding 50 jobs

Excerpt

Digital marketing firm, HelloWorld, is moving its headquarters from Pleasant Ridge to Southfield in October -- and plans to hire about 50 new workers.

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How Secure-24 treats employees like royalty, still cashes in

Excerpt

Secure-24 has an impressive 98.85 percent customer-satisfaction rate with the more than 180 clients they serve on a daily basis. But the satisfaction rate the Southfield-based company has with its own employees is even higher.

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Grant will help integrate liberal arts into engineering at LTU

Lawrence Technological University and four other members of the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU) have been awarded a three-year, $398,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation in New York City to integrate liberal arts into engineering curricula.

As an outgrowth of a previous planning project, the AITU members will be the first to embark on an implementation strategy under the Teagle Foundation’s “Liberal Arts in the Professions” initiative. 

The grant will be administered by the Rochester Institute of Technology. The other participating AITU members are Harvey Mudd College, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and the Worchester Polytechnic Institute.

The three-year grant project will develop and implement curricula for a “liberal-arts focused” Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), which is sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering. The program attempts to focus undergraduate engineer training on 14 of the most important engineering challenges facing contemporary society, such as carbon sequestration, modernizing urban infrastructure, and engineering brain functions. The GCSP was featured by President Barack Obama during the 2015 White House Science Fair in March.

“It is a privilege to work with other leading engineering schools around the country to develop new approaches to engineering education that will better prepare our graduates to take leadership roles in their careers,” said LTU Provost Maria Vaz.

Associate Professor Jason Barrett, chair of LTU’s Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication, will serve as LTU’s principal investigator on the project. Jerry LeCarpentier, director of Lawrence Tech’s biomedical engineering program, will coordinate the program for LTU’s College of Engineering. Dean of Arts and Sciences Hsiao-Ping Moore also worked with Dean of Engineering Nabil Grace and his department chairs in setting up parameters for the program.

One goal of the GCSP is to produce engineering graduates who are prepared and motivated to address the most challenging problems facing the world and the nation. The National Academy of Engineering also seeks to introduce innovative educational approaches that will eventually become the mainstream educational paradigm for all engineering students.

The New York City-based Teagle Foundation works to support and strengthen higher education, acting as a catalyst for improvements in teaching and learning in the arts and sciences. It was established in 1944 by Walter C. Teagle, longtime president and later chairman of Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), now Exxon Mobil.

For more information about the GCSP program, go to:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/03/24/empowering-next-generation-engineers-address-grand-challenges-21st-century
 

Boutique PR firm, Identity, grows thanks to creative vision and streamline operations

Identity, a boutique public relations firm, has always prided itself on its grand creative visions for clients. Now the Bingham Farms-based company can brag about streamline operations that help transform those visions into reality.

"We have put processes in place that help us to be the best agency we can be," says Mark Winter, founder & partner of Identity. "We call it the identity way. It has created a framework that will allow us to get to the next level."

The 17-year-old company has grow its revenue by 20 percent over the last year and is aiming to hit 30 percent growth this year. That has allowed it to hired five people in graphic design, media relations, and social media community management. Identity currently has a staff of 25 employees and an intern.

"We're always looking," Winter says. "We're opportunistic with our hiring."

That growth is coming from a diverse set of revenue streams. About a third of its growth comes from increased work from existing business, a third comes from referrals, and a third from request for proposals. Its clients span a wide variety of industries and region, and no one client supplies a large percentage of the firm’s revenue.

"We are extremely diversified in terms of clients," Winter says.

Source: Mark Winter, founder & partner of Identity
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Great Lakes Angels elects new president to lead investment group

Great Lakes Angels, a metro Detroit angel investor group, has new president in Pietro Sarcina.

David Weaver founded Great Lakes Angels and served as its president for years. He is stepping aside to serve as chairman and founder of the organization. Sarcina has made a career as an international banker and is looking forward to the challenge of running Great Lakes Angels.

"I have always been interested in entrepreneurs and startups,' says Sarcina. "I was a CFO at a fast-growing startup 20 years ago."

Great Lakes Angels is a organization made up of angel investors, high-net-worth individuals who make investments in small businesses that can scale. Often times that means investing tens of thousands of dollars into early stage tech startups with hopes of locking in a exponential return.

Great Lakes Angels looks to do this by recruiting new people with deep pockets into the local investing community. It will offer them training in how to make angel investments, recognize which ones would work best for them, and evaluate real value in these startups. The organization is also looking to make more inroads with local research universities with the idea of helping turn the research they produce into new economy businesses.

"We like to say we’re building Great Lakes Angels 2.0," Sarcina says.

Source: Pietro Sarcina, president of Great Lakes Angels
Writer: Jon Zemke

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