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Innovation & Job News

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Tech248 update: ORBBEC builds 3D cameras for VR, AR, 3D printing, AI and more


Virtual and Augmented reality are becoming the hot new technologies on the scene. Troy-based ORBBEC makes computer-controlled 3D cameras that can see, hear and respond to people and their environments with unprecedented accuracy fitting in nicely with this trend. ORBBEC is the featured company in this Tech248 update.

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January LTU Collaboratory events

The Lawrence Technological University (LTU) Collaboratory is on a mission to accelerate the growth of Southeast Michigan’s small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs by providing access to key resources specific to their unique needs. The Collaboratory provides leaders of these businesses with access to mentors, workshops, cutting-edge technologies, corporate connections, college students, events, workspace, and a collaborative community of peers. Additionally, Collaboratory clients will soon have access to a state-of-the-art 6,200 sq ft facility featuring additional workspace, training facilities, and a premier manufacturing technology lab. Among the Collaboratory’s programs are Scale-Up For Success and Hardware Massive.

Scaling for Success: Leaning Your Product Design!   Jan 19, 2018, 8:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Location: Munro & Associates, 1140 Centre Road, Auburn Hills, Michigan, 48326

The Build4Scale training program is designed to help advanced manufacturing and “hardware” product developers with scaling their business.  Companies that would find the most value in this training program are those that have a unique physical product or process, have already developed prototypes or low volume production and need to move to a higher volume scale. • Designing Your Product for Manufacturability, Durability and Cost Reductions• Developing a Bill of Materials (BOM) & Bill of Process (BOP) as a method to support quality and reduce components and manufacturing steps.

The Lean Startup and Basics of Customer Discovery   Jan 20, 2018, 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Location: LTU Buell Building M336

What is a “lean” startup?  This workshop starts by introducing the concept and principles and outlines the methodology of lean.  Avoid spending inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money only to fail for reasons you could have predicted. Then: You have what you think is a great idea for a product or service.  But how do you know if there’s actually a money-making business around it?  The workshop continues with the basics of “Customer Discovery:” the process of validating your hypotheses to quickly determine how to move forward for success.

Tech Tuesdays: The Impact of Autonomous Driving on Business  Jan 30, 2018, 8:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Location: LTU Buell Building M336

Autonomous driving capabilities are being offered in vehicles today with higher level of automation expected in the near future.  The session will provide intelligence on the visions systems and sensors that are enabling autonomy in vehicles as well as inform on what is driving this movement, businesses likely to be disrupted, and business models that are likely to be created.  This session looks at both the challenges and opportunities this faces for suppliers of durable goods and the lasting impact autonomous driving will have on the broader automotive value chain.

LTU offers $3.5 million in scholarships to 'Blue Devil Scholars' from Southfield Public Schools

Lawrence Technological University will set aside $3.5 million to provide scholarships to students in Southfield Public Schools under a new partnership, the Blue Devil Southfield Scholars program.

LTU President Virinder Moudgil and SPS Interim Superintendent Derrick L. Lopez signed the memorandum of understanding creating the Blue Devil Southfield Scholars program in a ceremony at the SPS’ John W. English Administration Center.  

Under the program, SPS will create a committee of teachers, principals and other staff to select 50 Blue Devil Southfield Scholars to receive the scholarships – students who will pursue majors in the STEAM (science, technology architecture and design, and mathematics) fields. There will be 50 students selected for the scholarships each year.

The agreement will also have LTU designing middle school summer camps in the STEAM disciplines that will provide educational and career exploration for students in the SPS’ Levey Middle School. During the school year, LTU will also host Levey students in its “Extreme Science Saturdays” program and establish a focused STEAM exploration day.

In addition, LTU will provide workshops for SPS teachers in teaching techniques known as Active Collaborative Learning and Project Based Learning. The agreement also provides for LTU to use SPS athletic facilities for practice and training.

“This new partnership accomplishes several of our goals as a university,” LTU’s President Moudgil said. “We want to create more STEAM scholars to fill the huge talent gap in those disciplines, a gap that is especially severe in Southeast Michigan. We also want to strengthen the town-and-gown relationship between the city of Southfield and LTU. And we want to foster closer ties and coordination with K-12 school districts in Southfield, and all over the region.”

“We are excited about our partnership agreement with Lawrence Technological University as an extension of our ongoing relationship,” SPS’ Interim Superintendent Lopez said. “This agreement is the first of many within our Southfield Compact, an initiative that strengthens our partnership with residents and businesses in the Southfield and Lathrup Village communities. The LTU partnership will empower our students and families with new and different opportunities to grow and develop, and the collaboration will lead to better-prepared students for college.”

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

For 70 years, Southfield Public Schools has offered a wide range of exceptional programs to meet the needs of preschool through 12th-grade students. The district, operating 13 schools, serves nearly 6,200 children in the cities of Southfield and Lathrup Village. With a robust college prep curriculum, Southfield Public Schools is one of 28 public school districts in Oakland County.

Brose expansion to add 300 jobs

Brose North America, an auto supplier headquartered in Auburn Hills, is expanding and adding 300 jobs. 

Brose, a subsidiary of Brose in Germany, will be investing $105 million locally over the next five years — the Auburn Hills headquarters and also a manufacturing plant in New Boston. Brose told Metromode the site's expansion is a result of new business that requires welding, paint, and track lines as well as the need to increase seat structure assembly lines.

The company will be hiring for human resources, finance, logistics and engineering, as well as production operators, paint and welding technicians, maintenance workers, and quality technicians.

The investment is part of a $2.7 million grant approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund, which, in 2014 had approved a $4.25 million grant for Brose. In total, Brose will be adding 775 jobs and pumping $202 million into the expansion. 

Brose was founded in Germany in 1908 and established its North American operations in 1993 and manufactures, markets, and supplies auto parts including window, door, and seat systems, according to Brose. It also has a plant in Warren.

The company had a busy 2017 as it opened two new plants: one in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and one in Belvidere, Illinois. The expansion in New Boston, along with an expansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are scheduled to be completed in 2018. Brose also said construction is underway for a new plant in Queretaro, Mexico, that should open by 2018.

Rochester Hills couple builds gourmet catnip company from scratch

Rochester Hills couple Rich and Lisa Jackson launched gourmet catnip company Skinny Pete's Gourmet Catnip this fall, though they've been developing their products and working the floors of trade shows for longer than that.

It was in 2014 when Rich, a professional director and visual effects artist -- wife Lisa is a producer -- was sitting at a coffee shop, working on an illustration of a cat. While listening to National Public Radio on his headphones, a story came across detailing a growing industry: Gifts for pets.

Around that same time, Rich noticed that wild catnip was growing in their garden. Imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit, the Jacksons saw an opportunity. And thus the seeds for Skinny Pete's Gourmet Catnip company were sown.

The Jacksons say there are two main focuses of their business. Their catnip is a high-quality, organic catnip. So much so, in fact, that they say that it makes for a good tea suitable for human consumption.

The other aspect that separates their product from the pack is the Skinny Pete packaging. The gourmet catnip is sold in packages of three varieties: Blue Meowy Wowy, Furmaceutical Grade, and Purruvian Pink. The catnip comes in artfully designed tins, keeping the product fresh and fresh-looking.

"We have three cats at the house, and they each respond to the catnip differently," says Rich Jackson. "Panda responds as if its a stimulant. The one we call Skinny Pete gets real lethargic. And Tucker gets real lovable and affectionate."

"Cats that ingest it act differently than the ones inhaling it."

Though they've only been officially on the market for a month or so, the Jacksons say that the response has been fantastic. The main bulk of their sales come directly from their website, though they also sell at local independent retailers. The Jacksons sell cat-related apparel and poster on their website, as well.

"One thing we've noticed with our clients is that they really love their cats," says Lisa Jackson. "There are real emotional connections there."

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

123Net surpasses over 100 employees

123Net, an internet service provider based in Southfield, recently hired its 100th employee—and the company continues to grow.

According to the company, the "arms race for more bandwidth has driven 123Net to continue hiring to keep pace." The jobs filled recently include fiber team employees, fiber designers, a software designer and several sales employees.

123Net offers services in sectors like automotive, healthcare, software, finance, and its mission is to get the the entire state connected. According to the company, which was founded in 1995, it is continuing to expand its 3,500-mile fiber network throughout Michigan. It also aims to expand its team at least 30% every year.

"We pride ourselves on hiring diverse, Michigan-based talent," 123Net President and CEO Dan Irvin says in a release. "This business was built on the backs of hardworking Michiganders hired from our own backyard."


Innovative Learning Group recognized as a MichBusiness "Designing Star"

Innovative Learning Group, Inc. (ILG) has received a Best of MichBusiness award in the category of Designing Stars for its corporate headquarters. The award recognizes those companies that create a great working space.

“In designing our space, my goal was to provide an environment where we can collaborate; do focused individual work; be comfortable; host our vendors, clients, and colleagues in the learning community; and be inspired to create engaging learning solutions for our clients,” says ILG CEO Lisa Toenniges.

ILG worked with design firm Young & Young Architects in Bloomfield Hills, builder Kelly Building & Development Company LLC in Birmingham, workplace interior design and furnishing company iscg in Royal Oak, and interior designer Melody Smith in Birmingham.

ILG’s corporate headquarters opened in February 2016. It is 10,100 square feet and was completely renovated from a light industrial building.

The Best of MichBusiness Awards honor the companies and individuals that make Michigan a great place to explore, connect, and thrive. Awards were distributed at the 2017 Best of MichBusiness Awards and Gala held on Nov. 30 at the MGM Grand in Detroit.

About Innovative Learning Group, Inc.

A performance-first learning company, Innovative Learning Group, Inc. creates custom training and tools that help employees of Fortune 1000 companies do their jobs more effectively. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, ILG is a privately held, certified Women’s Business Enterprise founded in 2004 by CEO Lisa Toenniges. Visit www.innovativeLG.com to learn more.

Construction tech students renovate church


The David W. Elliott Memorial Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the Clarkston Schools Construction Tech program for renovation of the historic Sashabaw Presbyterian Church on Maybee Road.

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Recess Cafe opens in downtown Ferndale, empowers LGBTQ youth with life and business skills

After spending the past eight weeks learning about business development, marketing, inventory, and budgeting, the young people of the Affirmations Youth Workforce Program have reached the culmination of their hard work with the grand opening of the Recess Cafe in downtown Ferndale. An open mic night helped ring in the celebration.

Though the classroom portion of the program has come to a close, the Youth Workforce Program will now spend the next eight weeks gaining hands-on experience while actually operating the cafe. Recess Cafe operates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. through mid-January.

Affirmations, the community center for people that identify as LGBTQ and their allies, runs two 16-week cohorts of the Youth Workforce Development program per year. Cohorts are typically made up of ten to twelve people that identify as LGBTQ, ages 16 to 24 years old.

In addition to the business skills learned, those enrolled in the program also receive monetary stipends to cover travel costs and the time served working the cafe. Members of the local business community make up a business advisory council to advise the youth.

Ian Unger, Youth Program Coordinator at Affirmations, says that both the youth program and Affirmations itself exist to empower people.

"Young people come to Affirmations to find a safe space and to develop life skills," says Unger. "We want to prepare these kids to become the next leaders in their communities."

Each cohort decides how Recess Cafe will be run. The current iteration features an outer space theme, coinciding with the students' idea that Recess Cafe is a space for everyone. Space decorations and space-themed events complement the cafe. Open mics and craft-making nights also make up the programming schedule for the next eight weeks.

The cafe itself features standard fare, including hot chocolate, coffee, tea, smoothies, and root beer. Snacks include jerky, cookies, candy, and other treats.

Recess Cafe is open to the public. It is located in the Affirmations building at 290 W. 9 Mile Rd. in downtown Ferndale.

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

OU INC graduates international client company Car Studio

Car Studio, an OU INC client company, recently graduated from its incubator program and international Soft Landing Facility. The company’s success has allowed it to move into a nearby facility in Troy. Headquartered in Europe, Car Studio’s U.S. expansion has led the parent company to decide to keep the U.S. location in Oakland County, thereby adding jobs to the region and becoming a thoroughly successful incubator graduate.

During Car Studio’s time as a client company, OU INC provided incubation and acceleration services to assist Car Studio on their path to success. Car Studio took advantage of the benefits of being located within an incubator and soft landings program, including that of being in close proximity to other growing companies in the expansion phase.

“For us, the best things about OU INC are the spacing, the pricing, and the quiet atmosphere to start a business. OU INC has the warehouse space, which not a lot of places have,” said Andrea Abrami, president, Car Studio North America.

“Though there are many types of businesses in one office building, we all have the same startup business mentality. So, if you need anything or have questions, we’re all in it together.”

Car Studio was founded in 1986 in Europe by Dario Abrami after having gained more than 20 years of experience in the design industry. Expanding rapidly, it became one of the leading companies in the automotive and agriculture sectors. Today, Car Studio boasts experience in many different sectors and can offer a high level of technical competence thanks to qualified collaborators and state-of-the-art IT systems.

OU INC is a designated Soft Landing Facility for international companies through the International Business Association (iNBIA). iNBIA’s Soft Landings network ensures that businesses entering or expanding into a new country are provided with an accelerated introduction to that country’s business practices, regulations, and culture. Soft Landings designees help make contacts in a new country more quickly and efficiently while providing access to the resources necessary to meet their business goals.

OCC awarded Gold Veteran-Friendly status

Oakland Community College was awarded Gold Veteran-Friendly status by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) for its commitment to supporting the needs of student veterans and dependents. This is OCC's second consecutive award; the first award received was for silver status.

"This award is an acknowledgment that OCC values our veterans and their service to our country," said Sandra Strong, Manager of Student Financial Resources & Scholarships/Veterans. "Providing the best possible support and resources for them and their dependents has always been a priority for the College. Our work is to continue to improve and expand our services to meet the needs of our military families and help them achieve their academic and career goals."

OCC is in good company with the MVAA award. A record 70 colleges throughout Michigan were recognized this year, the third year of the program. The College is one of 41 attaining Gold status.

"Michigan is fortunate to have top quality educational institutions that maintain high standards of support and services for our growing population of veterans and their families," said MVAA Director James Robert Redford. "The program makes it easy for students to identify which schools are invested in their success, and we greatly appreciate the commitment of this year's participants.

OCC participates in six veterans educational benefits plans with most College programs approved by the Veterans Administration for enrollment. To learn more about veterans services at OCC, visit the Veteran Benefits webpage.

An estimated 16,458 military-connected students are attending the 70 ranked institutions for the 2017 academic year. Criteria the schools must meet include having an active student-operated veterans club or association; veteran-specific career services or advising; on-campus veteran's coordinator, and awarding credit based on prior military training and experience.

LTU among state's top five schools in earning power, mechanical engineering

Lawrence Technological University continues to be among the top schools in the Great Lakes region when it comes to the compensation of its graduates – and in rankings of the school overall.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows Lawrence Tech is No. 5 among the state’s 93 colleges and universities for the average annual earnings of its graduates, at $59,800, according to Mlive.com.

And Zippia.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based career guidance website, this week ranked Lawrence Tech No. 4 in Michigan on its list for “best colleges for mechanical engineering majors.” The results were based on average earnings after six and 10 years in a career, the percentage of graduates at the institution who were mechanical engineering majors, rates of admissions and graduation, and cost and debt issues. (Read the full story at this link.)

PayScale, the Seattle, Wash.-based compensation consultant, also currently ranks LTU No. 4 among bachelor’s degree-granting institutions in Michigan for the pay of its recent graduates (those with zero to 5 years of job experience) and of its graduates with 10 years of career experience. The ranking puts LTU in the nation’s top 100.

U.S. News & World Report ranked LTU No. 38 among Regional Universities-Midwest, up from 40 in 2017 and 54 in 2016. U.S. News also ranked LTU 25th on its list of Best Colleges for Veterans, which identifies schools that fully participate in federal programs helping veterans and active service members pursue a college education.

Other top rankings include the Princeton Review’s “Best in the Midwest” designation, conferred on only the top 25 percent of colleges and universities, and its lists of Green Colleges and Best Schools for Game Design.

A 2015 study from the prestigious Brookings Institution ranked Lawrence Technological University fifth in the country for providing the most value-added in preparing its graduates for well-paying occupations.

Oakland University approves Public Relations and Strategic Communication major

The public relations professional works hard to get positive messages into the public arena through traditional and social media methods. This field requires resourceful and creative communicators who overcome increasingly crowded airwaves with impactful stories that help promote their clients’ objectives. It is also a profession expected to grow in the next several years. 
To fill that expected need, a newly approved Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication has been added at Oakland University. OU’s program begins with the Fall 2018 semester and joins only two other universities in Southeast Michigan offering such a degree. Currently, public relations is the most popular minor in the Department of Communication and Journalism. 
“For the first year, 30 students will be admitted into the new PR major,” said Chiaoning Su, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism who has helped shape the curriculum. “Applications for the charter class will begin being accepted in January 2018 and will be considered contingent upon many factors, including a 3.0 grade point average or better in WRT 1060 Writing Composition II, JRN 2000 Intro to Journalism and News Writing and JRN 2500 Intro to Public Relations.”
 “This program will be rigorous both in theories classes and applied skills,” according to Garry Gilbert, director of the journalism program and chair of the committee that brought forward the idea of adding public relations nearly three years ago. “Several new classes will be offered including, writing for PR, research methods in public relations and a crisis communication class.”
The committee saw a growing interest from students and surveyed 36 area PR agencies who all thought adding this major would help graduates find jobs after college. 

“Our location is optimum for students to get a great internship in PR, and we know those internships tend to lead to jobs,” Gilbert said.
Su added, “Our long-term plans include establishing a chapter in the Public Relations Student Society of America and developing study abroad internship opportunities.”
Another encouraging sign is that employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their PR report indicates, “The need for organizations to maintain their public image will continue to drive employment growth. Candidates can expect strong competition for jobs at advertising and public relations firms and organizations with large media exposure.”

Humanetics Innovative Solutions opens headquarters in Farmington Hills


Humanetics Innovative Solutions, a global supplier of automotive crash test dummies, has moved its headquarters to an updated facility in Farmington Hills.

Located 10 miles north of the company’s former headquarters, the new 100,000-square-foot facility was customized to meet Humanetics needs for manufacturing, engineering, calibration, software development, corporate administrative functions, and consolidating all Michigan-based operations into one location.

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OCC sweeps Michigan Chefs de Cuisine awards

In a region known for its foodies and talent, winning is important to Oakland Community College (OCC) Culinary Studies Institute (CSI) alumni. Great chefs know winning takes passion, stamina, creativity, attention to detail and remarkable training as the key ingredients – and the competition is as stiff as a good meringue on a holiday pie.

For the fourth year in a row, a graduate of OCC's award-winning culinary program picked up the Chef of the Year award while the Pastry Chef of the Year and Chef Educator of the Year also went to OCC graduates in this year's annual American Culinary Federation (ACF) Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Awards.

The Chef of the Year award winner is Chef Rob Coran, Executive Sous Chef at Walnut Creek Country Club and a 2014 OCC Culinary Studies Institute graduate. Coran joins a select group of nine alumni ACF Chef of the Year winners.

"Rob was a very talented student and a team leader for the OCC culinary team who won a silver medal during that time," shared his former OCC instructor Chef Kevin Enright CEC/CCE/AAC. "He has worked hard on becoming a truly talented chef."

Chef Mark Slessor won Pastry Chef of the Year. Slessor is the Pastry Chef at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester and graduated from the OCC CSI program in 2006. This is the third time OCC alumni have won this honor in the past four years.

Chef Educator of the Year went to Chef Terri Briggs, a faculty member at Washtenaw Community College and a 1997 graduate of OCC. Rounding out the sweep was Andrew Dos Santos, who picked up the Student Chef of the Year award. Dos Santos, 20 and a Farmington Hills resident, works at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon. He will graduate from the CSI program in 2018.

Competitions for the awards took place in August and September, and the awards announced this fall. Chefs, nominated by their peers, had to meet rigorous standards established by the ACF then competed in a hot food competition. They were evaluated and scored by certified ACF judges on their performance.

The winners will go on to compete at the ACF Regional Convention February 16-18, 2018, in Madison, WI, where they will compete in another hot food competition against chefs from the Midwest. Winners of the regional competition move on to the national competition next July in New Orleans.

"OCC's Culinary Studies Institute has a long history of graduating outstanding chefs," said Susan Baier, OCC faculty, past program coordinator, and herself a 2014 winner of the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Educator of the Year award. "We are proud of their many accomplishments and delighted that they, and our program, are consistently recognized by the state and national organizations like MCCA and ACF."

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 45,000 students annually attend OCC; more than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.

The Culinary Studies Institute has been preparing aspiring chefs for a career in the food and beverage industry for decades. For more on the OCC Culinary Studies Institute, visit the Culinary Program webpage. The program is housed on the Orchard Ridge Campus.

About Michigan Chefs de Cuisine (MCCA) - The MCCA, an American Culinary Federation chapter organization, was founded in 1970 by Master Chef Milos Cihelka, whose vision it was to create one of the most prestigious chef's associations in the nation. The Chapter consists of about 350 members. The goals of the MCCA are to further culinary education and professional growth, provide networking opportunities, and support charitable organizations. For more information, visit MCCA's website.
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