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Innovation & Job News

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Highland Township glass fabricators to expand facilities and services, add jobs

A Michigan-based glass fabricating company has passed over a competing site in Kentucky to instead expand its current facilities in Oakland County’s Highland Township. The move has resulted in a state-backed grant for the company, all the while creating more jobs and millions in capital investment from the glass fabricator.

The family-owned Midwest Glass Fabricators, Inc. has announced plans to build an expansion onto its Highland Township facilities, complete with new equipment. The project is expected to create 62 jobs and generate $4.7 million in total capital investment.

Because of this decision, the company will receive a $186,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, as announced by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Highland Township has also offered incentives for the company’s growth: A 50 percent tax abatement in support of the project.

"This expansion is the next phase in our development as a company," owner and chief operating officer Pat Iaquinto said in a statement. "Our investment in Michigan will continue to grow as will our commitment to serve our partners with locally sourced products that meet their needs."

The expansion comes as the company experiences increased demand for its fabricated glass products and custom metal fabrication services. The 53,000 sq. ft. addition to its already 50,000 sq. ft. facility will allow the company to build a glass laminating line for safety and security glass.

Midwest Glass Fabricators was founded in 1989.

"Adding laminate to our line-up of products is a step towards providing safety to buildings nationwide at an affordable price without compromising security," said Midwest Glass owner and chief executive officer Jim Iaquinto.

"Building an addition to our existing plant will allow us to bring in local R&D and help establish Michigan as a leader in the arena of safeguarding the public."

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


Lawrence Tech business incubator wins NEI grant, looks toward expansion

The LTU Collaboratory, Lawrence Technological University’s business incubator and accelerator, is planning to expand its business and technology-based mentorship services, workshops, and events. The move is made possible thanks to a one-year $40,000 grant from the New Economy Initiative. It’s the first time NEI has awarded a grant to the Southfield-based university.

Small manufacturers and emerging hardware startups in Southeast Michigan stand to benefit most from the grant. The money will also be used to engage more high schoolers, college students, and young adults in product and manufacturing-related innovation challenges.

"As a leading resource to small and start-up companies developing innovative, engineered products, the LTU Collaboratory can now provide additional key resources for these companies to grow and scale up their operations, thanks to this NEI grant," said Mark Brucki, executive director of community and corporate partnerships at LTU.

"We are looking forward to getting more students involved in manufacturing as well."

It’s another improvement for the LTU Collaboratory. LTU is planning on a new 6,300 sq. ft. accelerator space for its Southfield campus by spring 2019.

NEI Senior Program Officer Maria LaLonde cites Southeast Michigan’s abundance of engineering talent, manufacturing expertise, patent research initiatives, and export activity in praising the deal.

"We are very excited to be partnering with LTU to offer small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs critical resources to keep them on the leading edge of innovation and growth," said LaLonde.

"As a university-based accelerator program, LTU is also a key partner to engage and develop the next generation of design, engineering and manufacturing talent in Michigan."

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


Birmingham chocolatier studied rocket science before turning to truffles

Excerpt: 

In a past life, Doug Cale tested flight control and attack systems for land and carrier based anti-submarine warfare aircraft. 

Nowadays, the retired astronautics and aeronautics engineer has traded rocket science for something more down to earth — chocolate making.

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Cleary University launches project management program in partnership with Automation Alley

Excerpt

Cleary University, a business university with its main campus in Howell, has announced the launch of the Project Management Professionals program, a 35-hour, instructor-led online course.

The program is designed for professionals who are already in project management. Cleary used data insights from Automation Alley, a technology and manufacturing business association in Troy, to help develop the program’s curriculum to be reflective of current employer needs.

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How can Pontiac's tech economy grow? Sustain the momentum, entrepreneurs say

Enthusiastic. Scrappy. Upcoming. Those were just a few of the words used to describe Pontiac and its tech economy at the June 6 High Growth Happy Hour: Pontiac’s Tech Economy, held at the Paissa Building in downtown Pontiac.
 
The event was the second in the Comcast High Growth Happy Hour series, and was co-sponsored by the New Economy Initiative and Metromode.
 
Panelists were Matt Russell, Elaina Farnsworth, and Mark Hillman, with moderator Glen Konopaskie. Konopaskie is a consultant in the area on connected vehicles and a former director of Main Street Pontiac.
 
Russell leads several tech startups in Pontiac, including Cynerge Consulting, where he leads a team in enterprise-grade application development, cloud migration, and data center support. Elaina Farnsworth is CEO of The NEXT Education, a company focused on preparing talent for the new mobility economy. Hillman is CEO of Lenderful, one of the Pontiac-based high-tech software startups under the umbrella of MadDog Technology.
 
Read on for three takeaways from the event.
 
Pontiac has an image problem and an identity crisis.
 
All three panelists, as well as the moderator, agreed that Pontiac has an image problem. Since coming out from under emergency management, the downtown is looking better, vacancy rates are falling, and the city is safe, but the public at large doesn't perceive it that way.
 
"Pontiac is the safest city in Oakland County in terms of crime per capita and has been for the last eight years," Konopaskie says.
 
Coupled with the image problem is an identity crisis. Hillman says the city needs to do a better job of picking a focus and branding itself.
 
"There are a million things the town can be, and I have advocated specifically that business leaders and government at whatever level pick an identity and focus for the area," Hillman says. She suggested that technology and the arts could create a strong synergistic identity for the city, one that makes it feel "funky and cool."
 
Russell agreed that the combination of tech and art make Pontiac a cool place, along with its beautiful historic buildings.
 
"I think we could build around those two anchors, bring different vibes in, a youthful, creative energy," Russell says. Russell added that he has used photos of the Riker building where his business is located to draw in talent and show off what downtown Pontiac has to offer.
 
"We can use that as a recruiting engine, and bring in people who want to live here," he says.
 
Location is one of Pontiac's strongest assets.
 
Konopaskie says that Pontiac is exactly the place where a "small company can make a big splash" in a way they couldn't in a bigger city like Detroit.
 
He also notes that Pontiac is a natural hub, being the seat of Oakland County and located at the end of Woodward Ave., which is the site of the first mile of concrete road ever built in the entire nation.
 
Hillman says Pontiac is a place where companies can "bring the jobs to the people instead of bringing the people to the jobs."
 
Most people would prefer not to commute for an hour or more, but many do, because the well-paying tech jobs they want are in Ann Arbor or Detroit, Hillman says. But with Pontiac being so close to major highways, a commute from a nearby metro Detroit suburb could be only 10 or 15 minutes.
 
Farnsworth notes that a major paradigm shift in transportation is coming up in 2020, and the city needs to be ready for it. The next two years, she says, are the time for Pontiac to establish a plan for being a connected vehicle hub.
 
"We can't let this chance pass us by," she says. "We have two years before we have to have a plan in place or let another area get this. If we drag our feet like we have been, we won't be able to see the fruits."
 
Pontiac is poised for explosive growth — if the right collaborations happen.
 
All the panelists and the moderator agreed that public-private partnerships and buy-in from city government will be important to support and grow the tech economy in Pontiac.
 
Entrepreneurs won't keep coming to the city with cool ideas if they keep getting tripped up by bureaucracy, Russell says.
 
In addition to her work in Michigan, Farnsworth also works and does speaking engagements in Silicon Valley and says that, instead of competing, companies there want the whole region to succeed.
 
"That vibe is here in Pontiac," she says. "The challenge is that it seems like we can't get out of our own way. We have the vibe, we want things to move, but the execution isn't there yet. We need to talk about what we're doing, pick a strategy, and do it, even if it's not perfect. We've got the energy, but the follow-through is not there yet."
 
She adds that Pontiac already has much of what it needs to be a hub for the mobility and connected vehicle industry.
 
"We need to look at leveraging the assets we have here, take what's already in place and grow that," Farnsworth says.

Birmingham team takes home top prize at World Robofest Championship

Almost 100 teams from lands near and far, from Hong Kong to South Africa to the state of Illinois, descended upon the campus of Lawrence Technological University for the annual World Robofest Championship. But it was a team from Birmingham, Michigan’s own Roeper School that took home this year’s top prize.

On Saturday, May 19, Lawrence Technological University (LTU) hosted the 19th annual competition on its campus. The Southfield-based school has been hosting Robofest since C.J. Chung, professor of computer science at LTU, founded the contest in 1999.

Each Robofest pits teams of students against each other as they work to build and program autonomous robots that aren’t remote controlled. Robots then must complete a series of tasks.

This year’s Robofest required the robots to complete the Autonomous Tennis Ball Challenge. Students had to program their robots to collect tennis balls off a table and deposit them in a box, all while knocking water bottles off the table.

Blood, Sweat and Gears, the team from Birmingham’s Roeper School, took home the top prize in the Senior Game division, made up of students from grades nine through twelve.

"Metro Detroit is in the automotive sector. Automotive technology is moving toward self-driving and connected vehicles. All the technologies learned in Robofest are connected to the development of future self-driving and connected vehicles," says Chung.

"This started in metro Detroit and has a strong impact on the world. Our area is leading the technology for the future by training young people first."

In the Junior Game division, made up of fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, Insele Solutions of Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, took home the gold, with teams from Aurora, Illinois, and Goyang, South Korea, as runners-up. Teams from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, and Seoul, South Korea, rounded out the top three in the senior circuit.

More than 23,000 students have participated in the World Robofest Championship since its founding in 1999.

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


Work of Troy-based engineering company featured in Canadian museum exhibit on biomimicry

A Canadian museum is showcasing innovative applications of biomimicry in vehicle design, and a Troy-based company is one of the key players involved.

The engineering firm Altair, headquartered in Troy, has several products featured in the temporary exhibition Inspiring NATURE, inspired TECHNOLOGY: Biomimicry and Transportation at the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier in Valcourt, Quebec.

A vehicle frame structure showcased in the exhibit was designed using three of the company’s products, OptiStruct, RADIOSS, and Inspire. The frame structure utilizes biomimicry in its design, a practice that emulates patterns and structures found throughout the natural world.

According to the company, Altair’s optimization technology allowed designers and engineers to use the loads and forces the product is subjected to as inputs, generating innovative material layouts. Designers and engineers used the technology to investigate structurally-efficient concepts based on biomimicry principles, using natural designs to solve human riddles.

"It is a pleasure and an honor for Altair to have been invited to collaborate with the Museum of ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier to develop the cross-Canada exhibition on innovation from nature and biomimicry," said Bob Little, managing director of Altair Engineering Canada. "Altair’s solutions for simulation-driven design and optimization are having a real impact on the ability of our customers to develop innovative new designs with greater confidence and in less time."

The exhibition will stay at the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier for a year before it travels cross-country.

"This exhibition showcases the work done by the Museum team and several partners whose collaboration has been most valuable," said Carol Pauzé, director of the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier.

"Did you know that nature rewards cooperation? As was the case with Inspiring NATURE, inspired TECHNO, it leads to amazing results."

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


Apprenticeships critical as Oakland County deals with talent shortage in skilled trades

Excerpt

Carlea Johnson, 17, said she fell in love with the sound of a miter saw at 15 years old.

The Pontiac High School junior’s grandfather owned a construction company. She spent a lot of time during her younger years talking about the industry with him. That inspired her to get involved in the skilled trades. Her mom and aunt were also involved in construction.

Johnson is currently enrolled in the Oakland Schools Construction Technology Apprenticeship Program – a partnership between Oakland Schools, Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1076 in Pontiac, and the Michigan Laborers’ Training Apprenticeship Institute.

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Automation Alley receives grant to help minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) has awarded Automation Alley a year-long grant to help minority, women and veteran-owned businesses embrace Industry 4.0, the smart factory revolution characterized by the convergence of digital and physical technologies.

The grant aligns with Automation Alley's existing Industry 4.0 programs for startups, manufactures and defense companies, and will provide resources and knowledge to help these businesses grow and prosper as technology rapidly impacts industry.

"As Michigan's Industry 4.0 knowledge center, Automation Alley is passionate about ensuring our state's small and medium-sized businesses understand and have access to the tools they need to transition to an Industry 4.0 workplace. Any time we can reach more minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in the ecosystem its a win-win, and this NEI grant will help us do just that," said Tom Kelly, Automation Alley's executive director and CEO.

The grant will be used to deliver Industry 4.0 readiness assessments on corporate strategy and direction to minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. It will also cover the cost of entry to Automation Alley's Industry 4.0 events throughout the year, which includes its Tech Takeover series held weekly at its Troy Headquarters and Automation Alley's global Industry 4.0 conference, Integr8, to be held this year on Nov. 14 in Detroit.

“NEI is dedicated to advancing inclusive entrepreneurship support in southeast Michigan” said Maria LaLonde, senior program officer at NEI. “We’re pleased to partner with Automation Alley to empower our region’s women, minority and veteran-led small and medium-sized businesses to prosper by preparing for Industry 4.0.”

Robotic Precision Therapy, a women-owned business based in Troy, was among the first companies to benefit from the grant funds, recently completing an Industry 4.0 assessment with Automation Alley. The company is in the business of providing the first clinical robot designed to non-surgically lengthen muscular tissue to licensed physicians and medical professionals in the rehabilitative and pain management industries.

“Automation Alley’s assessment is a phenomenal resource for the local business community. Their staff provided us with an expansive scope of valuable business insight including first customer acquisition process, consideration of other viable options in marketing and local opportunities to interact with other professionals in our field. In addition, they provided introductions for our group which have become key business connections," said Arin Rentz, COO of Robotic Precision Therapy.

For more information about this grant, or to see if your company qualifies for support, contact bedzj@automationalley.com.

Earn Personal Trainer Certification through Oakland University PACE program

This summer, Oakland University’s Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) is partnering with World Instructor Training Schools (W.I.T.S.) to offer a Personal Trainer Certificate Program

“The health and fitness industry is booming, and this growth is expected to continue,” said Amy Olind, assistant director of PACE. “As a result, there are a variety of employment opportunities available for personal trainers holding a legitimate certification, and we are proud to provide the opportunity to achieve this at OU.”

Through the Personal Trainer Certificate Program, students will complete coursework that will prepare them to obtain Certified Personal Trainer – Level 1 status. Individuals with this certification help to improve overall health and fitness of clients ranging in age, health and fitness status through the development and implementation of fitness programs required for practice in the service industry in the United States.

“This program is ideal for those who are passionate about fitness and who are also looking to either change careers or earn some extra money doing what they love,” Olind said.

The cost of the course is $700 for current OU Recreation Center members (students and community), and $800 for non-members. It includes 15 hours of lecture and 15 hours of practical, hands-on training led by Erin Davidson, M.S., OU’s fitness programs and services coordinator, at OU’s on-campus recreation center (a four-month membership to the Rec Center is included in program tuition).

Additionally, included in the program cost is the opportunity for students to complete a comprehensive internship at a local fitness facility.

“W.I.T.S. is a fully accredited organization that provides a rigorous, up-to-date curriculum, and the course includes an extensive hands-on component,” Olind said. “This really caused them to stand out from their competitors, as we felt this experiential learning was a necessary piece of the training required to enter this field.”

After completing the 30-hour program, candidates receive a voucher to register with W.I.T.S. to take the written and practical examinations required to become a CPT – Level 1, and completion of the internship component allows for receipt of CPT – Level 2 status.

According to Olind, the courses will be offered twice a year, with the initial offering beginning in summer 2018 on Mondays and Wednesdays starting July 23 through Aug. 22 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“This program is open to community members and Oakland students alike, and we look forward to helping health and fitness enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds reach their goals,” Olind said.

To receive updates about registration, sign up on the CPT Course Pre-Registration website. To learn more about the program, visit oakland.edu/pace/health-sciences/personal-trainer or contact PACE at oupace@oakland.edu.

Doctor teams with Beaumont, GVSU: Invents lifesaving cough-assist

Excerpt

The act of coughing may seem annoying, but for those who can no longer cough on their own because of a medical condition, it's a matter of life and death. Today, more people are surviving brain/spinal cord injuries caused by stroke and automobile accidents. Many of these individuals are unable to cough on their own, leaving them susceptible to infection and a collapsed lung.

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START HERE…FINISH HERE: Oakland University, Oakland Community College team up on digital campaign

It is Oakland University’s brand promise and the inspiration for what is believed to be Michigan’s first cobranded billboard campaign among two higher educational institutions. 
 
As another step in its longstanding partnership, Oakland University and Oakland Community College have teamed up to create the innovative campaign, which includes 12 digital billboards over six weeks primarily located in Oakland County, starting May 21. The two halves of the billboard merge to show student progression from OCC and OU. On the left side are the words, “START HERE” with the OCC logo; “FINISH HERE” and the OU logo are on the right side. 
 
The idea is to encourage prospective students to start their college career at OCC and finish it at OU.
 
“We are very excited to partner with Oakland University on this innovative, fresh and cost-efficient campaign,” said Theodore G. Coutilish, vice chancellor for marketing and community relations, OCC. “We both have excellent faculty, facilities and academic programs that appeal to a wide range of students.”
 
OU and OCC are sharing the campaign cost evenly.
 
“Community colleges are a vital component of higher education in our state,” said John O. Young, Oakland University vice president for communications and marketing. “Encouraging people to start or return to college is very important to our region and we are happy to be a part of this initiative with OCC.”
 
For more information about OU and OCC, visit oakland.edu or oaklandcc.edu, respectively. 
 
About OCC
With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields as well as university transfer degrees in business, science and liberal arts. The College provides academic and developmental experiences allowing each student to reach their full potential and enhance the communities they serve.  More than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.

About Oakland University
 Oakland University is a doctoral, research university located on 1,443 acres of scenic land in the cities of Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills in Oakland County, Michigan. The University has 140 bachelor's degree programs and 137 graduate degree and certificate programs. Oakland is a nationally recognized public university with more than 19,000 students. Academics include the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and nearly 100 other majors housed within the College of Arts and Sciences as well as an Honors College and professional schools that include the School of Business Administration, School of Education and Human Services, School of Engineering and Computer Science, School of Health Sciences, School of Nursing and the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

SME opens new world headquarters In Southfield

Excerpt

SME, the 86-year-old nonprofit manufacturing association, announced the relocation of its world headquarters from Dearborn to Southfield. Today marks the first day of operations in the new offices located in the Southfield Town Center.

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Wixom's Kiekert moves manufacturing operations as part of a $3M expansion

Excerpt

Kiekert, an automotive locking company in Wixom, is moving its manufacturing operations to a new 41,000-square-foot facility at 50695 Varsity Court in Wixom.

The company’s previous production facility on Liberty Drive in Wixom will continue to serve as its research and development center.

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Bloomfield Hills' Michigan Israel business accelerator appoints first CEO

Excerpt

The Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA) in Bloomfield Hills announced it has appointed Sandy Selinger as its first CEO.

The organization leverages collaboration between Michigan and Israel to build technology, industry, and research. It is backed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Read more.
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