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Awards, ribbon-cuttings, and recognition: Southfield's planning department on a roll

The City of Southfield’s Planning Department has achieved a number of acknowledgments and milestones recently.

To start, its Northland Mall Redevelopment Strategy received an award from the Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association. At its annual planning conference in Grand Rapids, the Michigan APA recognized the redevelopment plan with its Outstanding Planning Project: Economic Development Planning award.

The plan offers a well-defined vision for the vacant 114-acre property, one that incorporates five sub-areas of development complemented by green infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly pathways. Rather than settle for big box stores in the center and fast food restaurants that line the roads, the redevelopment plan calls for an innovative technology district, a mixed-use lifestyle district, and much more.

"This has been a proactive approach to coming up with a vision for redevelopment, rather than a reactive one," says Terry Croad, the city’s Director of Planning.

"It helps the city to steer the ship of what we’d like to see."

The city has completed the environmental clean-up phase, and demolition of some of the buildings has already begun. Croad expects full demolition of the mall in 2019 and for some construction to start by the end of that year.

In other news, Southfield also recently celebrated the ribbon-cutting of its Red Pole Park, an art installation and outdoor room along its Northwestern Highway Pathway and Greenway. The park features dozens of red poles that can be seen from half a mile away.

As if that weren't enough, the city was recently awarded a $455,378 Transportation Alternatives Program grant from SEMCOG, which will help extend the Northwestern Highway Pathway and Greenway. City Center and Lawrence Technological University provided matching grant funds for the project.

Last but not least, Croad was honored at the Michigan APA conference for his 30-year membership in the APA.

"It was a nice honor. You look back, and you’re surprised you’ve been working for 31 years. It’s a combination of endurance, luck, and passion," Croad says.

"I hope to make it to 50 years. But it’s nice to pause for a moment and reflect."

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


Global automotive supplier investing $58 million in Rochester Hills

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KOSTAL Kontakt Systeme Inc., a company that produces electrical connectors for the auto industry, announced recently that it will invest $57.8 million, and create 32 jobs, by constructing a new facility in Rochester Hills.

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Alpine Electronics of America moving headquarters to Auburn Hills from California

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Alpine Electronics of America Inc., a manufacturer of in-vehicle infotainment systems, today announced plans to move its headquarters for the Americas to Auburn Hills from Torrance, Calif., effective April 19, 2019. Some 100 employees are expected to make the move.

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NARA Hibachi opens in West Bloomfield Township

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NARA Hibachi, an upscale, creative hibachi and personalized stone grilling restaurant, bar, and lounge, has opened in West Bloomfield Township.

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Two companies invest combined $5.9 million in Auburn Hills and Southfield

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Two companies are expanding their footprint in Oakland County with a combined $5.9 million investment. 

Alpine Electronics of America, Inc., a company that manufactures high-performance mobile electronics, announced recently that it will invest $5.1 million, and create 100 jobs, by expanding its operations in Auburn Hills.

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Auto supplier BorgWarner in Auburn Hills partners with Silicon Valley's Plug and Play accelerator

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BorgWarner, a large automotive supplier in Auburn Hills, announced it is increasing its exposure to emerging technologies and innovation in the mobility sector by partnering with Plug and Play, an accelerator ecosystem for startup companies, and Franklin Venture Partners, a specialized investment team within Franklin Templeton Investments.

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Buddy's Pizza opens at Royal Oak's Detroit Zoo

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Buddy’s Pizza opened its newest location inside Royal Oak’s Detroit Zoo. This is the Detroit-style pizza chain’s 13th location in Michigan.

The 5,200-square-foot restaurant’s main dining room features a picturesque view of the historic Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain, along with an outdoor patio and a rooftop terrace with the highest vantage point in the zoo.

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Lawrence Tech to host stormwater experts for annual summit

Now in its sixth year, the Regional Stormwater Summit is returning to Lawrence Technological University’s campus. The event takes place Friday, Oct. 5.

In addition to students and educators, the summit will draw elected officials, public works professionals, environmentalists, contractors, water industry professionals, and more to the Southfield-based university’s campus.

Lawrence Tech partners with the office of Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner and the nonprofit group Pure Oakland Water for the event.

"Since starting these events in 2013, we have brought regional stakeholders together with experts in stormwater design and technologies," said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash.

"These efforts are now bearing fruit in projects across the region."

Beginning at 9 a.m., Lawrence Tech President Virinder Moudgil, Nash, and Donald Carpenter, PE, professor of practice at Lawrence Tech and director of LTU’s Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute will welcome attendees.

Keynote speaker Branko Kerkez, Gerker and Goygit Faculty Scholar at the University of Michigan’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Brandon Wong, a doctoral student at U-M will give their presentation on Real-time Stormwater Monitoring.

Following presentations include low impact development technologies, green infrastructure champions, stormwater standards, and non-profit updates.

Leela Arava, chief executive officer of Microbuoy Inc., and three Wayne State University students will host Next Generation Real-time Water Sensor Integrated with High Power Miniaturized Batteries, a 3 p.m. free learning session.

There is a $25 registration fee. The event is open to the public.

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


Reiki, Yoga, and community outreach center opens in Waterford

Little Bird Holistic Arts has found a home in Waterford. And though it’s been serving clients since mid-August, the holistic wellness center celebrated with an open house Sunday, Sept. 23.

For Little Bird founder Carrie Mularoni, the open house was an opportunity to familiarize the public with the space itself but also Reiki, the energy-based healing technique that Mularoni teaches.

"The goal on Sunday was to open our doors and answer any questions people might have," Mularoni says. The open house opened and closed with a short meditation. Special vendors including a local soap maker and jeweler were also there for the event.

"This allowed me to reach people in a positive way."

Little Bird Holistic Arts offers a number of services, including Reiki, Yoga, sound therapy, and crystal healing. A retail section includes Himalayan salt lamps, crystals, jewelry, and more.

Mularoni first got involved in Reiki following an unfortunate accident. Eschewing the medications prescribed by her doctor, Mularoni studied Reiki, and she was, as she says, astounded by the results. She studied and became certified to teach the practice, eventually becoming certified to teach yoga, too.

Taking her time to open her own studio, Mularoni found the Waterford space and felt right about setting up shop there.

She wants Little Bird to be more than a studio but instead a community outreach center, one where everyone feels welcome.

"It’s very important for people to feel comfortable here," Mularoni says.

"I wanted a space where I could set people at ease, like if they were walking into a friend’s home."

She plans on hosting pop-up events, including others’ yoga classes, craft classes, and a kombucha-making workshop.

Little Bird Holistic Arts is located at 3792 Elizabeth Lake Rd. in Waterford.

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


The Salt & Sugar Co. has a newly opened restaurant in Clawson, a food truck and catering services

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For Alisha and Jesse Nemeth, the Salt & Sugar Co. is a way to balance careers, faith and family.

“Our goals are to have a healthy family life and people don’t always get that,” said Alisha Nemeth, 36. “The goal for us is to prioritize our personal lifestyle and the business is there to support that. It’s about our family and our faith. This is a totally family-friendly environment. That’s what we’re trying to bring in for our customers.”

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Pontiac's Notre Dame Prep opens $7.5M science, art, tech wing

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Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy (NDPMA) in Pontiac has opened a 26,000-square-foot, $7.5-million science, art, and technology wing.

The wing has been added to the shared middle division and upper division building, which houses science laboratories, collaborative-learning classrooms, a robotics lab, a greenhouse, and a fine arts studio.

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Woodward Camera: 50 years and still "developing"

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Woodward Camera, celebrating its 50th year in the landmark building that was designed specifically for their business, offers on-site processing – and sales of cameras, equipment and accessories; state-of-the-art video systems; photo gifts; classes; monthly photography contests – and is run by a longtime staff with decades of photography experience.

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Gongos moves 130+ employees to new Royal Oak facility

Gongos, Inc. officially opened the doors to its newly built 20,000 square-foot headquarters in the vibrant, downtown community of Royal Oak on Tuesday, August 28th.  This relocation marks the culmination of the company’s 2020 vision to deliver on “decision intelligence” for Fortune 500 corporations. As an early occupant of Royal Oak’s #RethinkRO initiative, Gongos’ new space was designed in collaboration with local partners to foster the kind of customer-centric culture it aims to help its clients create.
 
“Our growth and evolution made it clear that we needed to create an environment that fit the company we were rapidly becoming,” said president & CEO, Camille Nicita.  “In early 2018, we recalibrated our people system to adopt a more agile approach to serve our clients’ continuously expanding needs.”
 
Having integrated the disciplines of data science, information design, customer experience, and change management into its already strong consumer insights heritage, Gongos’ new people system was architected to offer equal footing among all disciplines. The progressive design further fuels collaboration, camaraderie and a people-first philosophy, while offering fresh perspectives on its clients’ consumer-minded business challenges.
 
Experiencing 13% organic revenue growth in 2017, Gongos ranks #42 among the largest market research organizations in the U.S.  Although its clients span the globe, Gongos is committed to remaining a Metro Detroit-based company. With 144 employees, it was just recognized as a Crain’s2018 “Cool Places to Work” and is among Corp! Magazine’s and the Detroit Free Press’ lists of companies recognized for top cultures and best practices.
    
As a decision intelligence company, Gongos, Inc. brings a consultative approach in developing growth strategies grounded in operationalizing customer centricity. Partnering with insights, analytics, marketing, strategy and CX groups, Gongos serves as a translator to help cross-functional teams fuel the competency to gain and apply consumer wisdom, transform decisions into action, and navigate organizational change. Coalescing enterprise data with primary research and curating insights for multiple audiences ensures information is designed to influence actions and behaviors from executives to the frontline.
 
Gongos partners with clients across multiple industries including Mars Wrigley, Kraft Heinz, Kellogg’s, FedEx, U.S. Bank, UnitedHealthcare and GM. In 2007, the company was first named to the Inc. 5000 list of “The Fastest Growing Companies in America” and is among the AMA Gold Top 50 U.S. market research organizations. For further insight into Gongos, visit the newly redesigned gongos.com.  

All-purpose vegan boutique to bring sustainable plant-based living to Oak Park

Nurah Ikpeama wants to revolutionize the way people shop for plant-based foods and products.

On the path to doing so, she’s taken an important next step. This Saturday, Aug. 25, Ikpeama is celebrating the grand opening of Electric Plate Vegan Shop, a multi-purpose space in the Crown Pointe Plaza building in Oak Park.

Electric Plate Vegan Shop is a vegan grocery boutique. The store will feature a mix of prepared foods and groceries--all vegan. Caffeine-free coffee is on the menu. Ikpeama will also host monthly forums on the plant-based lifestyle.

She’s also planning a vegan fest for later in the fall.

"For those of us living the plant-based lifestyle, we usually have to go to stores that aren’t dedicated to being vegan," Ikpeama says.

"Places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s might have vegan sections, but you still have to walk through the meat section. I don’t like that mix."

Ikpeama’s path to Electric Plate Vegan Shop began in 2015, when she transitioned from what she calls being a "dirty vegan" to a "clean vegan," a difference she explains as when she took plant-based cooking more seriously and stopped eating things like mass-produced cookies.

She began sharing her plant-based recipes on social media. Interest was so high that places around Detroit began inviting her to throw pop-up kitchen events. People then began to ask when she would have a permanent place of her own.

Electric Plate Vegan Shop is that place. Located on the third floor of the Crown Pointe building, Ikpeama says she chose the location because Oak Park is equally accessible from both the east and west sides.

Though not a full-service restaurant, Electric Plate will sell Ikpeama’s ready-made dishes. Most items, like her tacos and quinoa burgers, are served raw and don’t require ovens. The shop will also feature a variety of vegan-friendly groceries.

Electric Plate Vegan Shop is located on the third floor of 25900 Greenfield Rd. in Oak Park.

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


Southfield tech company offers better cloud connections for business

In an effort to better connect businesses and their cloud services, the Southfield-based data center, network, and voice infrastructure services provider 123Net is now providing high-speed connections between the parties.

Dubbed Cloud Connect, the service securely connects businesses and cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and more. Doing so via Ethernet, the Cloud Connect service avoids the public Internet, not only bolstering security but also improving network performance issues.

"Over the past couple years, hundreds of Michigan businesses have migrated their data to the cloud," Chuck Irvin, director of network development at 123Net, said in release.

"Our Cloud Connect service will give these organizations dependable, high-capacity connectivity to cloud service providers. Proving a private, dedicated pipe assures our customers that they will fully leverage next generation’s cloud-based applications."

Three of the 123Net data centers are located in Southfield, with the fourth being located in Byron Center.

123Net celebrated the hiring of its 100th employee in December 2017. The company has previously stated that it plans on growing its employee base by 30 percent every year.

123Net is headquartered at 24700 Northwestern Hwy. in Southfield.

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

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