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Auburn Hills' fabricating firm acquires Canadian adhesive product manufacturer


Auburn Hills-based automotive supplier Unique Fabricating Inc., a manufacturer of multi-material foam, rubber, and plastic components, has acquired Intasco Corp., a Canadian manufacturer of precision die cut solutions, for $21 million.

“This acquisition is representative of our strategy to acquire profitable companies that add new markets, products, and processes that enable us to recognize sales efficiencies and expand our scale,” says John Weinhardt, CEO of Unique Fabricating. “The specialized processes and customized nature of Intasco's offerings provide an attractive, high-margin growth opportunity to augment our financial performance.”

Read more.

Automation Alley sinks seed capital into six local startups

Automation Alley is continuing its investment in local startups, sinking seed capital into another six companies in the first quarter of this year.

The most recent startups to receive investments include RazorThreat, Len & Jerry's Modular Components, MEISelectric, The Automation of Things, MagWerks LED and Quipzor. All of these companies have participated in Automation Alley's 7Cs program, which is focused on helping local companies integrate advanced manufacturing methods into their business models.

RazorThreat is a Pontiac-based software firm that specializes in online security. Len & Jerry's Modular Components is a manufacturing company that works in custom tooling in Clinton Township. MEISelectric is based Clawson and works in conceiving and creating prototypes.

The Automation of Things creates software for industrial applications and is based in Sterling Heights. Oxford-based MagWerks LED works in LED light products. Quipzor calls Bloomfield Hills home and helps enable pre-surgical collaboration between hospitals, physicians and surgical device company representatives.

The investment comes from Automation Alley's Pre-Seed Fund. The $9 million fund invest tens of thousands of dollars into each startup, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has invested in 54 locally startups since 2004.

This story originally appeared in Southeast Michigan Startup here.

Artist opens Atom Art gallery in Ferndale

Atom Art, the new gallery that just opened in Ferndale, has quite the origin tale. And for an art gallery in Ferndale, that's as it should be. Atom Kaiser -- his real name bestowed on him by a hippie mother, he says -- moved around a lot as a kid, spending time in places like Jamaica and Michigan. It wouldn't be the last time he returned to Michigan.

As a younger man, Kaiser was interested in neurology and planned to pursue studies in the field. But a head injury altered his path -- and perhaps the way his brain worked, he theorizes. Kaiser says that the injury made him think in a more visual way and, after struggling with the side effects of his prescribed medications, found himself drawn to painting.

After two degrees in the visual arts, Kaiser moved to Barcelona, establishing himself in the art world there before a stay in Mexico City was cut short by his dad falling ill, which drew Kaiser back to Michigan. That's when he decided to open Atom Art in Ferndale.

Kaiser wants Atom Art to be different than the higher-end art galleries around metro Detroit. He wants to be more inclusive, offering more group shows and opportunities for less-established artists. He says he plans to keep the space sparse, leaving room for classes and whatever else artists may need.

"I'm an artist that has an art gallery, not a gallery owner collecting pieces," says Kaiser. "There's a difference."

Following a soft opening on February 6, Atom Art officially opened its doors April 16. Kaiser says he's been flattered by the warm reception he's received, from the artist community to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Atom Art is located at 522 E. Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale, sharing the building with Go Comedy! Improv. It's generally open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours change for special events.

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

Birmingham nears 100% occupancy as more retailers plan openings


Downtown Birmingham — which boasts a 97 percent business occupancy rate — is preparing for the opening of three new stores, with additional stores coming in the following weeks. 

The success of downtown Birmingham is related to a variety of factors, including a strong national economy, says John Heiney, executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District.

Read more.

Oakland University Board of Trustees approves designs for Southern Student Housing Complex

The Oakland University Board of Trustees today approved the schematic designs of the university’s new Southern Student Housing Complex project. The project completion date is planned for August 2018.

The Southern Student Housing Complex project will consist of approximately 750 beds primarily for sophomore and junior students and include dining options and academic spaces.

The overall size of the facility is estimated at approximately 290,000 square feet with a total project cost of $78M. The building is being designed to meet LEED Gold Standards.

Prior actions by the Board of Trustees on this project include:

September 28, 2015: A Student Housing Planning Update is presented to the Board’s Facilities Committee and the Facilities Committee directs university administrators to issue an RFP for design services for the project.

December 2, 2015: The Board of Trustees approves Neumann Smith as the project’s architectural firm.

February 22, 2016: The Board of Trustees approves Frank Rewold and Son, Inc. for construction management services

Demand for student housing on campus at Oakland University continues to rise. Overall student enrollment has grown, student recruitment is now from a wider geographical area and there has been a significant population expansion among Honors College students whose scholarships allow them to live on campus.

In 2014, when Oak View Hall (Oakland’s most recent student housing addition) opened, it was filled to capacity less than 24 hours after the student housing application process opened. 

This latest construction initiative is intended to help build Oakland’s offerings as a residential campus. The project also promises to boost student retention and graduation rates.

Abundant research points to enhancement of campus life supporting greater levels of institutional success, primarily because students who live or spend greater amounts of time on campus have a greater sense of community and become more fully engaged in academic, cultural and social engagement activities. 

The project has also been planned in alignment with Oakland University's newly adopted Strategic Plan, which includes a mission statement identifying the institution as "a preeminent metropolitan university that is recognized as a student-centered, doctoral research institution with global perspective."

With more than $200 million invested in campus facilities over the past five years, Oakland continues to address the substantial need for infrastructure upgrades, the addition of housing options and the need for additional classroom and academic support space.

Townhouses, ultra-luxury condos coming to Oakland Co.


The next frontier in Oakland County real estate will cover a shuttered municipal golf course in Royal Oak and ultra-luxury condominiums in downtown Birmingham.

The first project, geared to middle-class home buyers, features 78 planned townhouses and 47 single-family homes and anticipated prices from the mid $200,000s to the high $300,000s. The second project — 10 condos priced between $1.7 million and $3.8 million — is designed to appeal to the county's 1%.

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Work begins on $20M Strand Theatre renovations in Pontiac


Work began today on a $20-million renovation project of the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac, which will include restoring the theater, along with adding a Slows Bar-BQ restaurant at the facility and an event space. The theater, acquired by Brent and Kyle Westberg, is expected to reopen in the fall.

"Brent and I looked at the Flagstar Strand Theatre project as an opportunity to continue the forward progress of the reinvention of the city of Pontiac, particularly downtown Pontiac," says Kyle Westberg, president and CEO of Pontiac-based West Construction Services.

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Historic church to reopen as condominiums near downtown Milford


The Bell Tower, a new housing project near downtown Milford, includes the redevelopment of the former historic St. Mary's of the Snows Church, built in 1903, into condominiums, along with five new single-family townhomes built across the street. Units will go on sale at the end of the month.

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Michigan's first Container Store is coming to Novi


The Container Store, the place for fun and functional storage boxes, bins and bags, is coming to Novi.

Located in a former Best Buy in the West Oaks shopping center, the 22,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open June 4.

It will be Michigan’s first Container Store.

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IT support firm launches new Farmington Hills office


Even though the company has been supporting clients since 1999, officials at CASS Tech, a company providing IT consulting and managed services, were worried fewer people might know much about them following their recent move to a new facility in Farmington Hills.

So the folks at CASS, a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, opened their doors to visitors, hosting an open house and inviting local city officials to tour the new facility and learn a little more about what the firm does.

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P3's automotive division unveils mobility innovation center in Metro Detroit

Representing the continuation of its significant North American growth over the past 11 years, P3 unveiled its Mobility Innovation Center (MIC) in Southfield, Michigan, announced plans to hire 100 employees in its automotive division by year end and committed to investing in research and development of new and advanced technology solutions to address the dynamic changes in the industry.

The announcements were made to customers, partners, media and other stakeholders at an open house today at the new facility, which serves as P3’s automotive headquarters in the Americas. Approximately 60 percent of the new hires will be for positions located in southeastern Michigan. The remaining positions will be located throughout North America.

The P3 MIC, located at 25650 West 11 Mile Rd., Suite 300 in Southfield, Michigan, is a modern 25,000 square-foot facility focused on two key areas: the research, development and implementation of future automotive technologies as well as organizational solutions and processes that will support OEMs and suppliers as they evolve their businesses and continue to be successful in the wake of the changes in the automotive industry ahead.  

“We decided to open the P3 Mobility Innovation Center right here in the heart of the U.S. automotive industry in southeast Michigan,” said Dr. Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3’s automotive division in North America. “As automotive and technology industries converge, Silicon Valley meets Detroit right here at the MIC. P3 provides local access to the knowledge and advanced solutions that help our clients stay competitive.”  

Ghosh added, “The automotive industry is at a pivotal and exciting time in history given the significant transformation underway as automakers expand from traditional manufacturing to mobility services. As a global leader in connectivity, autonomous driving and mobility solutions, P3 is a fundamental player in partnering with our clients to navigate these new and evolving technologies.”

Globally, P3 has more than 3,200 consultants and engineers, including over 450 automotive and telecommunications experts in North America. As part of its continued growth throughout North America, including more than 50 percent growth in 2015 in its automotive division, P3 plans to hire approximately 100 automotive experts throughout the region by year end, with 60 percent of those new hires targeted for its Detroit-area operations. P3 already employs more than 120 automotive specialists in Michigan.

Current openings are for engineering and consulting positions, including systems and test engineers, connectivity specialists, automotive telematics management consultants and mobility and cybersecurity experts.

The new P3 MIC provides technologies that support the future of mobility in automotive including autonomous driving, device connectivity, eMobility and telematics. It also is designed to support clients at an organizational level, helping customers strategically navigate shifts to system engineering and integration of software development, new business models, global platforms and end-to-end product development including big data-based IT solutions.

In order to meet those needs, the MIC facility features modern, open collaboration spaces and a 10-car full vehicle workshop with prototyping capabilities. It also includes multiple labs created to provide cutting-edge insights on connectivity, autonomous vehicles, eMobility, cybersecurity and other in-vehicle telematics and mobility solutions, in addition to private customer testing and validation labs.

Other speakers at the MIC open house included: Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation; Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president, Automotive Office for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive.

“The automotive and manufacturing knowledge base centered in our state is unmatched anywhere in the world,” Kerrigan said. “P3 is another example of a company that considers Michigan to be a great place to build their business and find the best and brightest employees to lead the high-tech revolution.” 

“Oakland County is the home to Automation Alley and thought leaders from OEMs to all tiers of suppliers,” Patterson said. “We are pleased that the company has decided to grow here in our backyard, and is continuing to create career opportunities for its professionals locally.”
About P3
P3 is a global consulting, management and engineering solutions company with a rapidly growing team of more than 3,200 consultants and engineers working to develop and implement innovative solutions to today’s complex technology challenges. Offering a broad portfolio of services and proprietary tools to the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications and energy industries, P3 adds tangible value that helps clients succeed at every stage, from innovation to implementation.
In the Americas, P3 has offices in Detroit, Morristown, Dallas, Greenville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, Mississauga, Montreal and Mexico City. For more information please visit www.p3-group.com

Local residents to open senior community this fall


There’s a new senior living community coming to Lyon Township.

The Cambrian Group, a Michigan-based senior living development and management company is constructing a state-of-the-art living community designed to meet the unique, individual needs of seniors.

Read more.

Farmington Chamber commissions promo videos


With new members joining and retention climbing, the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce ended 2015 with momentum.

Now chamber staffers believe they’ve found a way to build on that momentum.

The chamber Board of Directors has unanimously approved a plan formed by Executive Director Dan Irvin to film four promotional videos over the next few months that will highlight all the things the Farmington community has to offer.

Read more.

Life Skills Village opens brain injury rehab center in Oak Park


Beyond the hype of the NFL scandal and the subsequent Will Smith film, “Concussion,” there are tens of thousands of people suffering the daily trauma of living with a brain injury. Whether that injury comes from a fall, car accident, stroke or aneurysm - the treatment team at Life Skills Village leads the way to rehabilitation and recovery with a newly constructed Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation, located in Oak Park.

Read more.

This cafe in Ferndale serves both people -- and cats

At Ferndale’s Catfe Lounge, owner Deanne Iovan has a kind word and a gentle pet for every cat she meets -- even the ill-tempered, mangy ones.

The Catfe, which opened in November last year, is a volunteer-driven lounge where patrons can hang with cats in a cozy setting for a small donation. Any income helps subsidize the work of the Ferndale Cat Shelter, where Iovan serves as executive director.

As the shelter does not have a permanent space, but instead operates through a network of foster homes, the Catfe greatly increases the number of cats it can accept. Since opening, the Catfe has helped facilitate 40 cat adoptions. These cats were homeless, abandoned, or whose owner could no longer care for them.

While Iovan is proud of that number, there's always more. “The demand never ends,” she says. “We are constantly bombarded with requests from someone who rescued a cat, or someone is moving, or somebody died. There's several every day.”

Iovan tries to help everyone who reaches out, but capacity is limited so she selects cases where the likelihood is greatest for a cat to successfully re-home. But Iovan loves all cats, and doesn't turn away typically less-desirable cats, be they moody or older. That's why the Catfe welcomes a wide assortment of cat personalities.

The community response to the Catfe was immediate. The day it opened, there was a line out the door. New people come every weekend, some from as far away as Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Canada. There are also regulars -- cat-lovers that come for their fix. On any given day you might see a hipster couple hoping to add a cat to their one-dog home, a young mom and toddler who visit weekly to play with the cats, and a curious passerby who simply wants to see what’s up. 

Most cat cafes in the United States are for-profit operations that partner with a rescue. Ferndale’s Catfe Lounge, the only cat cafe in the state of Michigan, is a nonprofit with all proceeds, either from donations or membership dues, benefiting cats.

Along with bridging needy cats to welcoming homesteads, the Catfe has also become a community hub. A Girl Scout troop made and donated cat toys. The Catfe recently partnered with Gilda's Club to facilitate a therapy program (many consider cat interaction therapeutic). Among the other offerings are Kitty Cat Yoga, Purrlates: Pilates with Cats, and Paws and Tiny Tails preschool story time (in collaboration with the Ferndale Area District Library). The space can also been rented for children’s birthday parties. 

“We connect the activity to homeless cats in the community,” says Iovan. “It brings awareness to cat homelessness.”

Money, steady volunteers, and the blending of cat personalities in one space are some of the demands of running the Catfe Lounge and Ferndale Cat Shelter. 

“But the biggest challenge," says Iovan, "is finding a place for every cat that needs a home."
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