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Meet 8 tech companies proving there's more to the Midwest

Excerpt

To those who see the Midwest as just a series of “flyover states” boasting little more than highways and cornfields, it may come as a surprise that this region is experiencing a tech revolution.

All across the heartland of America, tech startups are growing, drawn by gainful advantages like lower salary costs, higher standards of living for employees and less competition. Burnt out on the intensity of Silicon Valley? It seems the Midwest is the place to be.

Here are eight technology companies — all led by members of Forbes Technology Council — that are achieving success in the Midwest, including Ambassador in Royal Oak, Michigan. 

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Oakland County improves IT security assessment tool

Oakland County has launched an updated version of CySAFE, a free information technology security assessment tool to help small and mid-sized organizations assess, understand and prioritize their basic IT security needs, Deputy County Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini announced today. CySAFE 2.0 has five new controls: email and web protections, monitoring and review of third party services, physical and environmental security, penetration tests and red team exercises, and compliance.

“IT security threats are always evolving,” Bertolini said. “We’ve updated CySAFE so businesses and governments will have the latest from three well-known IT security frameworks when evaluating the security status of the apps they use to conduct business internally and externally.”

CySAFE 2.0 condenses and removes redundancies from three well-known IT security frameworks: NIST, CIS 20, and ISO 27001.

“CySAFE combines the 400-plus controls from all three frameworks into one condensed list, removing any redundant controls and assesses the controls against the organization's current IT security capabilities,” said Chris Burrows, Oakland County’s chief information security officer.

After downloading and completing an IT security evaluation form online, which takes 60-90 minutes, CySAFE 2.0 generates a priority list and trending graphs for an organization’s IT security needs. The most critical updates will be in red.

“The data an organization enters is private and only stored in Excel format,” Burrows said.

For more information about CySAFE 2.0, go to G2GMarket.com. CySAFE is a collaborative effort of five Michigan counties – Oakland, Livingston, Monroe, Washtenaw, and Wayne - and the state of Michigan.

Oakland County extends deadline for companies to bid on development of autonomous vehicle pilot

Providers who have the ability to plan, build, deploy and maintain a pilot connected autonomous vehicle network that would ultimately make driving safer have until Feb. 15 to submit proposals to Oakland County.

The county extended the deadline for interested providers – either individually or as a collaboration – to present a system including signals, equipment and software. The system would enhance traffic safety by sending instantaneous electronic messages to vehicles, warning motorists of potentially dangerous driving situations such as a vehicle running a red light or stop sign or dangerous road conditions ahead. The county, with support from the Road Commission for Oakland County, is seeking bids that would provide this service at no cost to taxpayers.

This first-of-its-kind request for proposal was issued in December but was extended because of the complexity of the request and to give interested companies additional time to complete their bids, said Irene Spanos, the county’s director of economic development and community affairs.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson created the Oakland County Connected Vehicle Task Force to make recommendations on how to deploy the world’s first countywide connected mobility system. Connected vehicle are able to transmit data about the vehicle and its location to other vehicles and to road infrastructure.

The 16-page request for proposal spells out in detail what is required of potential bidders. It challenges interested providers to create a system of dedicated short-range communication that can be easily adopted throughout the United States and other jurisdictions. Oakland County has more than 5,600 miles of roadway and 2,000 intersections that would use the system. Nearly 75 percent of the automotive industry has research and development operations in Oakland County.

The deadline to submit a proposal is Feb. 15, at 2 p.m. Potential bidders with questions about the request for proposal should contact Scott Guzzy of the county’s Purchasing Division at 248-858-5484 or guzzys@oakgov.com.

Age-friendly in the future: Engineering contest has students thinking about seniors' needs

Excerpt: 

In Valdada, in the year 2065, senior citizens get help from Herbie, a robotic personal assistant that can cook, clean, have conversations and even use Braille to communicate with the visually impaired.

"It looks like us, but it's animatronic," said Joseph Waller, an eighth-grader from New Era Christian School, who explained Valdada — and Herbies — to visitors at Novi's Suburban Collection Showplace. "It's made by Apple, so you know it's good."

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Multinational automotive company invests $22.3M in Oakland County facilities, creates 105 jobs

The North American subsidiary of India-based Mahindra, Mahindra Automotive North America Manufacturing, is expanding in both the cities of Pontiac and Auburn Hills. The company has invested $22.3 million in facilities in each city, creating a total of 105 jobs.

In Pontiac, Mahindra will lease and transform a former General Motors facility into a warehousing and parts distribution center.

In Auburn Hills, the company has announced that its pre-existing facility will be upgraded to become its North American automotive headquarters. The facility will also include an engineering center. Three of its off-road utility vehicles and prototypes will be manufactured there.

As a result of its investment, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has awarded Mahindra an $850,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. According to MEDC officials, Michigan beat out Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, and Texas in competing for the jobs and investment.

"When an international company with a reach like Mahindra chooses Michigan for the third time in four years, that is a statement about our state’s business attractiveness, talented workforce, and leadership in automotive manufacturing," Jeff Mason, CEO of MEDC, said in a statement. "We’re pleased to support this global powerhouse as it further expands in Michigan and brings high-paying jobs to Michigan residents."

The 105 new jobs created by the development brings its Michigan employment numbers to 250. What's more, officials from Mahindra say the company plans on creating an additional 400 jobs and $600M in investment through 2020.

This is the first new OEM operation in Southeast Michigan in over 25 years, according to a release from Mahindra.

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

Local businesses receive more than $2.1 million from the state to hire or train nearly 3,100 workers

A total of 86 Oakland County businesses were awarded $2,154,000 in Skilled Trades Training Funds this week from Michigan’s Talent Investment Agency.

Oakland County employers – with the support of Oakland County Michigan Works! – were awarded funds to hire and train 1,584 new employees, expand the skills of 1,538 existing workers and create 46 new registered apprenticeships over the next year.

“This is wonderful news for our employers and job seekers,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “The first year we applied three businesses received awards. Now, four years later, 86 businesses qualified for funding to find and train new and existing employees, as well as launch apprenticeships. Our Michigan Works! team of trained professionals worked with a broad range of companies to design training programs aligned with their changing needs.”

Since 2013, Oakland County employers have received more than $7.3 million of Skilled Trades Training Funds from Oakland County Michigan Works! and the state of Michigan. Workers will be trained and receive industry-recognized credentials in advanced manufacturing, software programming, construction trades and robotic operations.

Area companies receiving grants include: P3 North America (Southfield), Rayconnect (Rochester Hills), Independence Commercial Construction, Inc. (Waterford), Marada Industries – Magna (New Hudson) and Northern Sign (Pontiac). An industry-led collaborative application of regional construction companies was also funded to pursue a joint training effort.

“Our goal is to help companies find the talent they need to be successful,” said Jennifer Llewellyn, workforce development manager for Oakland County. “This includes making them aware of such resources as the state’s Skilled Trades Training Fund and then assisting them with the application process. It’s very rewarding to see so many companies’ hard work pay off.”

Oakland County Michigan Works! provides talent attraction, management and retention services for businesses, and career management, training and placement for job seekers at eight locations in Oakland County.

Contact OaklandCountyMIWorks.com or 800-285-9675 for more information.

LTU event to show how Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Immersive Reality affect business

From immersive virtual reality (VR) caves to head-mounted devices (HMDs) to augmented reality (AR) headsets and more, a program at Lawrence Technological University will give attendees a chance to learn about these new tools in a relaxed environment and discover the positive impact they may have on the way business gets done.
 
Join the LTU Collaboratory on Thursday, Sept. 7 for a symposium from 8 a.m. to noon in the UTLC Gallery on the LTU campus, 21000 W. 10 Mile Road, Southfield, for a hands-on demonstrations of the DAQRI Smart Helmet, the Microsoft Hololens, the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and a demonstration of immersive cave technology.
 
Expert presenters will include:
  • Jeff Brum from Mechdyne, on applications of virtual reality from training firefighters to developing a virtual aquarium for a research institute
  • Simon Wealans from DAQRI on how the smart helmet they developed can use augmented reality to save lives on the battlefield, help first responders in cities, and train new workers
  • Steve Couchman from LivePicture on how virtual reality headsets can be used in a design or marketing workflow
Registration is $15 if booked online at www.ltucollaboratory.com/events/ar-vr-ir-oh-my, or $20 at the door. A continental breakfast is included.
 
The event is sponsored by the LTU Collaboratory in partnership with the City of Southfield Centrepolis SmartZone and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
 
For more information on how the LTU Collaboratory can help your company innovate and grow, visit www.ltucollaboratory.com.
 
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.

County Executive's Emerging Sectors business attraction program tops $4 billion total investment

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced the Emerging Sectors® business attraction and retention strategy he created in 2004 to diversify the county’s economy has surpassed $4 billion of total investment.

The strategy had four successes in June totaling $367 million of new investment, resulting in more than 1,700 new and retained jobs. When combined with figures since inception in 2004, the program has 450 business successes resulting in total investment of $4.3 billion; 44,562 new jobs and 29,920 retained jobs. A success is a company that is either new to Oakland County or expanded here when it considered moving to another state or country. Patterson said the strategy is responsible for new investment in the county, on average, of $915,000 every day for 13 years.

“The Emerging Sectors program has been an incredible success,” Patterson said. “It has changed the face of Oakland County’s economy.”

The milestone was reached 13 years after Patterson introduced the program to diversify Oakland County’s economy which had been heavily dependent on the automotive industry. The strategy targets international companies that show an interest in expanding operations into North America and North American companies that identified Oakland County as a possible business location. The targeted sectors include advanced electronics, advanced materials, medical technology, information technology/communications, aerospace and defense/homeland security.

“I wanted to wean us off our reliance on automotive, for which we paid such a heavy price during the Great Recession,” Patterson said. “I tried to balance my expectation with some realism about our likely success but I had no idea we would move so quickly.”

The most successful sectors have been health care/life science (Medical Main Street) at $1.1 billion of total investment, and IT/communications (Tech 248), at $801 million.

The companies that put Emerging Sectors over the top in June, including country of origin if not U.S.-based, business sector and location of Oakland County facility, are:
  • Elektrobit: Germany, advanced electronics, Farmington Hills
  • Autoliv Electronics America: Sweden, advanced electronics, Southfield
  • Williams International: aerospace, Pontiac
  • Cynerge Consulting: communications/information technology, Pontiac
Oakland County aggressively seeks international investment, with about 1,100 foreign-owned firms from 39 countries having business locations here. The county attracted $371 million of foreign direct investment in 2016 – about 38 percent of the county’s known private investment of nearly $900 million for the year. Through June, 18 international companies from seven countries announced new investment totaling $162 million and more than 4,700 new and retained jobs.

Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb accompanied Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on a trade mission to Europe last month in an effort to attract companies to Oakland County. At the same time, Economic Development Director Irene Spanos was in Washington D.C. at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The event attracted company representatives from more than 40 countries interested in establishing operations in the U.S.

Patterson lauded Gibb, Spanos and their team for attracting the new investment.

“Since coming together as a team less than five years ago, Matt and Irene have grown investment in the program by nearly $3 billion – a feat unmatched in the state,” Patterson said.

The success of the Emerging Sectors program has increased as it has matured. In 2008, Patterson hosted a celebration at the Cranbrook Institute of Science to honor the first 70 Emerging Sector companies whose total investment surpassed $1 billion. With the Great Recession at its peak, it took until 2013 for the program to reach $2 billion in total investment. More than 500 representatives from Emerging Sector companies and other guests were invited to a “What Goes into $2 Billion?” celebration on the arena floor at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The program reached $3 billion in 2015, which was marked by a celebration at Pentastar Aviation in an airport hangar at Oakland County International Airport. All of the celebrations were privately funded by sponsors.

Patterson said he would hold out until the program reaches $5 billion for the next celebration.

“This came on us too quickly,” he said.

LTU students demonstrate museum docent robot

A team of Lawrence Technological University robotics engineering students conducted a flawless test of a robot designed to give the world a chance to virtually visit a historic Detroit auto plant.
 
The students demonstrated the robot at the annual meeting of the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, the nonprofit that runs the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant as a museum.
 
The robot is designed to follow a strip of magnetic tape around the museum, following a docent. Cameras and microphones on the robot will allow people who log into a museum website to see and hear about the automotive displays at the Piquette plant. A screen on the robot will also allow those taking the virtual tour to type in questions they’d like to ask the docent.
 
Jerry Mitchell, a retired Wayne State University anatomy professor who chairs the Piquette plant’s board, called the LTU students “wonderful young people, an inspiration to all of us” who make him “more optimistic about the future of our country.”

The students built a custom-made steel chassis for the robot, which is powered by rechargeable batteries and uses wheelchair motors and wheels to get around. They named the robot H.E.N.R.Y., for “Historical Engineering Narrated Remotely for You.”

The nine students who worked on the project are Zachary Cowan of Rochester Hills, Matt DiMilla of Brownstown Township, Patrick Feliksa of Rochester Hills, Christopher Leclerc of Canton Township, Ryan Martin of Redford Township, Charles Morton of Muskegon, Luis Rodriguez of Valencia, Venezuela, Nicole Turkus of Grosse Pointe Woods, and Joey Yudasz, team captain, of Waterford Township. They started building the robot in November under the supervision of LTU robotics lab instructor James M. Kerns.

The Piquette plant was home to Model T production from 1904 to 1910. On Jan. 1, 1910, Henry Ford’s more famous Highland Park plant opened, home of the first moving assembly line. At Piquette, automotive assembly was still done the old-fashioned way – workers put an automotive frame up on sawhorses and bolted and welded the rest of the parts onto it, rolling it out the door when it was done.

While no model of efficiency compared to the moving assembly line, the Piquette plant did set records for its time, at one point churning out 110 Model Ts a day.  

The museum last year attracted 18,000 visitors from more than 50 countries. Sunday’s visitors, according to museum director Nancy Darga, included people from Cuba, Ecuador, Germany and Sweden. The museum is listed as an automotive heritage site with the Automotive National Heritage Area, part of the National Park Service system.
 
Since taking over the building in 2000, museum volunteers have been worked to restore its 355 windows, shored up its brickwork, and have created display cases of important automotive history objects. Henry Ford’s original office has been restored. Dozens of historic vehicles from the early 20th century are now on display in the museum. Volunteers also spent the past year and a half improving and standardizing the informational signs that stand in front of each vehicle on display.
 
Most recently, volunteers have worked on restoring the secret third-floor laboratory where Henry Ford and a small group of close associates designed and first built the Model T, Ford’s first car that truly met his vision of a practical automobile the average American could afford and properly maintain. The restored room will officially open on the Model T’s birthday in September.
 
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.

Into the lab with Pontiac's Exferimentation Brewing

For co-owners Eric Benton, Andrew Stamper, and Scott Boughton, it's passion that has them brewing beer until 3 a.m..long after their shifts in the automotive industry have ended for the day.

The three friends opened Exferimentation in July 2016, though they started working on their quirky signature beers for several years before that. The co-owners consider themselves the "mad scientists" of the brewing trade, eschewing the traditional ales and lagers for something more unique. Hence the name http://exferimentationbrewing.com/Exferimentation, from"Experimenting with fermentation."

There's Clownpocalypse, a toasted coconut cream ale born out of a conversation co-owner Eric Benton had about a zombie clown apocalypse. There's the Pink Tickler, a hibiscus wheat beer that's also the brewery's most popular. And there's a red ale with rosemary, cayenne pepper, and black pepper, a pineapple-rhubarb wheat beer, and a lemon-coriander sour beer, to name just a few. The trio is always working on other unique flavor combinations, testing them out on their all too willing loyalty program members, the Mad Scientist Club.

It all started out so innocently.

"We started homebrewing on my back porch and progressed from there to a small industrial space in Rochester," says Benton. "We had a club and brewed ten gallons at a time. We had that for 18 months, and by the time we got to the end of the 18 months, we had 30 people showing up and drinking all of our beer. They were drinking more than we could make," says Benton. "We figured that it was time to go pro."

Though it may seem like a current trend, homebrewing has been around for thousands of years. And like the many brewers before them, the Exferimentation crew learned how to brew beer through the trial-and-error process. Come up with an idea, see what works, let people try it, and proceed based on their enthusiasm for the product.

Keeping their focus on the beer, Exferimentation has spent the bulk of their money so far on brewing equipment. Work on the tasting room, a storefront in downtown Pontiac, was done themselves. The trio rehabbed the floors, installed the tile, and built the bar and tables all by hand. And this done in the evenings and weekends, working around their "regular jobs."

In searching for the right space for their bar, Exferimentation looked at a couple of locations before finding downtown Pontiac. The historic storefronts, walkability, and the potential for economic revival made it obvious that it was the city that Exerimentation was about to call home.

"We didn't know that we wanted Pontiac until we went into Pontiac to look. And then we absolutely knew that we wanted Pontiac," says Benton.

Benton's big on the city's future, saying that he thinks it's about two to three businesses away from a development tipping point, leading to it becoming a bustling destination for a night on the town.

The building where Exferimentation is located, 7 N. Saginaw St., is already abuzz. Directly across from the recently renovated Flagstar Strand Theatre, 7 N. Saginaw St. hosts a vintage clothing store and, not one, but two breweries. Five days after Exferimentation signed the lease on their storefront, Fillmore 13 Brewery signed theirs. The two breweries share a hall. But the competition doesn't irk the Exferimentation team one bit. All it means, says Benton, is that there are more people drawn downtown.

Part of that, he says, is that he knows craft beer fans are the type to try as many new beers as possible, and not settle into a single establishment. It's a "the more, the merrier" situation that creates the foot traffic a business desires. 
 
And in talking about beer towns, Benton has his eyes set on a certain city in west Michigan known for its dozens of breweries, which holds the title of Beer City, USA.

"Look out Grand Rapids, here comes Pontiac."

Name and title: Eric Benton, co-owner (other owners are Andy Stamper and Scott Boughton)

Year Exferimentation opened: Opened 7/21/16

One interesting job you had before running Exferimentation: I was the chocolate and frappucino buyer for Starbucks.

What's the best brewery soundtrack: Best soundtrack to me is Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons.

What's your favorite beer flavor of all time: We love citrus around here, especially grapefruit. It's becoming commonplace these days, but grapefruit with its slight bitterness fits just right with an IPA.

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

Oakland County's high-tech prowess on display in 2017

Oakland County’s best accomplishments lay ahead especially in high-tech investment, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said during his annual State of the County address before an audience of more than 600 guests at the Auburn Hills Marriot Pontiac at Centerpoint. He began by spotlighting the new $40 million Proton Therapy Center at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak slated to open this spring.

“It is a giant leap forward in cancer treatment – one that Oakland County’s Medical Main Street played a significant role in supporting,” Patterson said. “We personally lobbied Lansing so that Beaumont could receive state approval for its Certificate of Need for the Proton Therapy Center. We did so because we recognized the value of having advanced cancer treatment in the heart of Oakland County, both from a quality of life and business attraction standpoint.”

The Proton Therapy Center, which will be one of only 36 in the world, is a high-tech alternative to standard radiation treatment. Proton therapy’s greater precision destroys cancer cells but spares adjacent healthy tissue and reduces side effects.

Medical Main Street, Oakland County’s initiative to drive medical tourism to the region, continues to evolve. In 2017, it will have an additional focus on commercializing medical technologies. Medical Main Street’s Advisory Roundtable will partner with Oakland County’s One Stop Shop to provide key services to help academia, hospitals, and private businesses take that next step after researching and developing their medical advancements.

“Oakland County will become a pipeline for delivering 21st Century medical innovations to market,” Patterson said. “That, my friends, is 21st Century progress.”

Oakland County is also becoming the premier location in the United States for developing advanced vehicle technology. Patterson cited Uber’s announcement in January that it has selected a site in the city of Wixom where it will test autonomous driving technology as well as Google’s opting last year to locate its 53,000-square-foot research and development center for self-driving cars in Novi.

“Why are leading Silicon Valley companies turning their eyes toward Oakland County as the place to develop advanced vehicle technology? Certainly, it’s the fact that 75 of the top 100 global tier one automotive suppliers in advanced vehicle technology have locations in Oakland County,” Patterson said.

“In addition, we have the Oakland County Connected Vehicle Task Force which we launched back in 2014,” Patterson said. “In three short years we already have a couple dozen companies working in this space.”

To continue to attract these companies to Oakland County, the Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs recently conducted a skills needs assessment in the connected mobility sector. The report uncovered a new job classification that was previously unknown to workforce development professionals. The position is a hybrid of electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and software developer. Plus, it provided insight into the greatest challenges faced by hiring managers in advanced automotive technology. One that stands out is that some engineering degrees outdated because the complexity of connected mobility requires a hybrid of engineering, computer, and technical skills.

“Information is power,” Patterson said. “Rest assured now that Oakland County has these survey results, we will be sharing them with industry leaders, colleges and universities, high schools, and workforce development professionals. And if the previous three skills needs assessments are an indication, there will be a strong response from our educational and training institutions to modify and create curriculum that will feed a new generation of highly skilled young people into the advanced automotive technology sector.”

Oakland County is making strides to attract the next generation of thinkers, doers, and dreamers in its Oakland Next initiative. Oakland Next is the county’s branding effort to harness young talent in Oakland County - to introduce high school and college students to the fact that so much of what they are looking for both in terms of quality of life and careers they will find right here in Oakland County.

One example is Manufacturing Day. For two years in a row, hundreds of Oakland County high school students the opportunity to tour dozens of advanced manufacturing plants at companies such as BASF, DENSO International, Hirotec America, Lear Corporation, Magneti Marelli, and more.

“You should really see how the faces of these students light up the first time they walk into one of these advanced manufacturing plants,” Patterson said. “They are in awe when they walk in and see robotics and advanced engineering hard at work. Many experience a moment when they realize that they don’t need to leave Michigan to pursue a high-tech career. It certainly is not their grandfather’s manufacturing plant.”

Manufacturing Day tours have been so effective that this year, using it as a model, Oakland County will launch “Info Tech Day,” when hundreds of high school students from around Oakland County will tour numerous Information Technology companies to see that their aspirations to pursue that high tech career can be fulfilled right here at home.

Patterson said the knowledge-based economy jobs are not just in private industry. Some are right here in Oakland County government. For example, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office is now a teaching facility after it signed a contract with Wayne State Medical School and the Detroit Medical Center to instruct their medical students who are studying pathology. In addition to those students, 25 to 30 medical students from all over the United States come to our Medical Examiner’s Office every year for weeks at a time in order to complete their pathology rotation in medical school. “Though it is a handful of students, we think it is a tremendous opportunity to highlight both the availability of knowledge-based careers and the quality of life here in Oakland County to young talent from other parts of the country,” Patterson said.

The city of Pontiac is making a comeback.

“Pontiac has come to represent an often told America story: An urban center in America’s heartland falls on hard times, at least in part because of the changes in U.S. manufacturing, in particular the auto industry. But like so many urban centers, Pontiac is seeing a renewal because of private investment by individuals with vision. Individuals who see the potential, the future,” Patterson said.

Patterson recognized and thanked a number of entrepreneurs who are helping Pontiac rebound. Among them was Pete Karmanos, Jr., whose MadDog Technology subsidiary Lenderful, an online mortgage buying experience, is investing $1.75 million in downtown Pontiac and creating 52 jobs. Patterson quoted Karmanos’ words about investing in Pontiac in his speech:
"Establishing a core technology hub in Pontiac will draw many more technology-centric companies in the near term. For employees this represents a close, convenient place to work. This competitive location will draw people from all around the region.”

Patterson said he can make assurances of technology growth in downtown Pontiac in the future because it has plentiful underground fiber optic infrastructure – a necessity to attract and retain tech companies.

Other Pontiac investors he praised:
  • Vince Deleonardis and Auch Construction for building its new 20,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Pontiac
  • Brad Oleshansky and partners for investing $50 million in the M1 Concourse project at South Boulevard and Woodward
  • Kyle Westburg and partners for investing in and restoring the Flagstar Strand Theatre and Performing Arts Center
  • Ed Lee of Lee Contracting who has been investing in the Pontiac area for over 25-years, bringing much-needed jobs to help revitalize the city and has purchased the old Wisner School, Wisner Stadium, and the former Pontiac Central High School to turn those buildings into usable space for a variety of purposes.
  • And Southfield-based REDICO and Pacific Coast Capital Partners who are investing $180 million to transform the defunct Bloomfield Park project on Telegraph near Square Lake.
A significant sign that Oakland County continues a significant recovery from the Great Recession is significant private investment at Oakland County International Airport. Corporate Eagle is investing $8 million for a new 80,000-square-foot hangar facility. Edsel Ford’s Pentastar Aviation is exploring building lifestyle hangars – the aviation equivalent of M1 Concourse for cars. Kirt Kostich of Royal Air expanded by 43,200 square feet with the completion of two passenger buildings and a third to store aircraft with a total price tag of $3.2 million. Plus, the airport itself will invest $8 million in the coming year to rebuild taxiway Charlie or taxiway C, the busiest taxiway in all of Michigan.

“Dave VanderVeen, Oakland County’s director of central services who oversees the airport, often opines that aviation is the first sector into a recession and the last out of one. So, when I report to you tonight that Oakland County International Airport is expanding its footprint for corporate business development projects this year - projects worth millions of dollars in private investment - you get the sense that Oakland County’s economy continues to strengthen from the days of the Great Recession,” Patterson said.

Finally, Oakland County will see a number of improvements in public safety in 2017. The county has begun to replace the county’s 911 infrastructure from a copper network which has reached the end of its useful life as it dates back to 1963. A new regional fiber optic network called Emergency Services Internet-protocol Network or ESINet will prepare the way for the Next Generation 911 system in Oakland County. ESINet 911 calls will be routed using geographic information system coordinates. It will enable 911 callers to not only make voice calls to emergency dispatchers, but also they will be able to send photographs, videos, in-car crash system data, and texts from emergency scenes.

Oakland County continues to prepare for active shooters. Over the past five years, Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Oakland County Homeland Security Division, under the leadership of Ted Quisenberry, have leveraged federal grants to help equip and train our local police departments to neutralize an active shooter. Across nearly the entire county in virtually every department are police officers who are part of “OakTac” response teams. OakTac stands for Oakland County Tactical Response Coordinating Group. They are trained and equipped to enter a building and contend with an active shooter.

OakTac is comprised of 36 agencies and serves over 96 percent of the population in Oakland County. There are over 2,100 Oakland County law enforcement officers who have received this training.

In 2017, we are going to implement additional training which could increase the likelihood of survivability for victims of an active shooter. Oakland County Homeland Security Division will begin to train firefighters and emergency medical personnel to strap on bullet-resistant vests and enter an active shooter scene not far behind an OakTac team, even as that OakTac team continues to locate the threat to neutralize it. In these “warm zones,” firefighters and EMS personnel will triage, treat, and evacuate victims. In recent active shooter scenes, it has been found that victims who were alive when firefighters and emergency medical personnel were able to enter the building ultimately survived.

Oakland County Children’s Village is playing a key role in our region in the fight against human trafficking. As law enforcement on all levels continues to fight human trafficking and rescue local children from forced prostitution, Children’s Village is providing services and a safe haven for these rescued underage victims.

International companies boost Oakland County economy for third straight year

More than $1 million a day of new international investment fueled Oakland County businesses in 2016 as foreign direct investment increased for the third consecutive year, totaling $371 million, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Wednesday.

Foreign direct investment – investment from a company that is headquartered outside the United States – accounted for 46 percent of the county’s total private business investment of $810 million in 2016. The county has realized foreign investment in the past three years of $899 million. Coupled with 2014-15 totals of $1.5 billion for overall business expansion, attraction and retention investment, the county has had $2.3 billion of new development in three years – a hefty figure that even surprised Patterson.

“I knew it was going to be good; it’s well beyond good,” Patterson said. “Look at the countries where the investment originated. It’s encouraging to see 11 successes from China. We’re finally getting into that lucrative market.”

The countries of origin for the 2016 international business successes include 14 from Germany; 11 from China; five from Japan; two each from Canada, France, Italy and Spain; and one each from Australia, India, Ireland, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. The new investment created nearly 6,400 new and retained jobs. Oakland County has more than 1,050 global firms from 39 countries.

Significant international investment in 2016 came from Ireland-based Par Sterile Products; Germany-based auto suppliers BorgWarner and Jenoptik Automotive North America; Daifuku Webb Holding Co. of Japan; Switzerland-based Autoneum North American; TREMEC of Mexico and Martinrea International Inc. of Canada. The total investment from those companies was $222 million, resulting in 2,683 new and retained jobs.

“This is a sector of our economy that doesn’t get a lot of attention but this is a significant source of jobs and tax revenue,” Patterson said. “Oakland County gets more investment than many states and rest assured we’re going to press forward with this program.”

The $810 million in 2016 is investment in which the county’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs played a role in landing. Patterson estimated the actual economic impact is millions of dollars more because of other sizeable investment in which the county did not play a role. 

Business development trips which tout the advantages of locating in Oakland County are planned to Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland in 2017. The county will send a delegation to Washington D.C. in June for the Select USA Summit to meet with international companies interested in expanding into the United States. The county attended the 2015 Select USA Summit and attracted two international companies to Oakland County as a result and is working on three additional leads from 2016, said Irene Spanos, economic development director for the county.

The centerpiece of the county’s business attraction effort is the Emerging Sectors® business development strategy, which was created in 2004 to diversify Oakland County’s economy – an economy which had been heavily dependent on the automotive industry. The strategy targets international companies that are interested in expanding operations into North America and North American companies that view Oakland County as the right business location.

Targeted sectors include advanced electronics, advanced materials, alternative energy, information technology/communications, aerospace and defense/homeland security.

The county’s Business Development Team works closely with Emerging Sector companies, providing assistance in such areas as site selection, workforce development, financing strategies, and coordinating state and local incentives. Team activity focuses on Emerging Sectors companies as well as more traditional businesses such as automotive. Of the 47 international successes in 2016, 24 were either new to Oakland County or have expanded within the county. 

Since inception, Emerging Sectors has had 424 business successes resulting in total investment of about $3.8 billion; 40,558 new jobs and 25, 518 retained jobs. A success is a company that is either new to Oakland County or expanded here when it considered moving to another state or country. 

The most successful sectors in total investment are health care/life science (Medical Main Street) at $1.1 billion, IT/communications (Tech 248), at $668 million; alternative energy about $631 million and advanced electronics at $625 million.
 

Bloomfield Hills' Reverie launches New line of mattresses

Excerpt

Bloomfield Hills-based sleep technology company Reverie has launched its new product lineup for fall 2016, which features six new mattresses that can be customized to an individual’s comfort level.

Read more.
 

300 businesses in region receive job survey to Create Profiles for employment in autonomous vehicles

Businesses in Southeast Michigan this week are being asked to identify the skills and abilities employers require of potential hires wanting jobs in the rapidly evolving connected/autonomous vehicle industry.

About 300 employers from Oakland County and surrounding counties in Southeast Michigan were sent the Skills Needs Assessment Project (SNAP) Connected Mobility survey to help determine what knowledge, skills and abilities – from the employer’s perspective – are necessary for job seekers to succeed in the industry. Original equipment manufacturers, suppliers and information technology are among the companies being surveyed.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said information gleaned from the survey will be used to create customized job profiles for educators to help develop curriculum and content, give real-time employer-driven information to students and adults to help them make important career decisions and to create a pipeline of qualified job applicants for employers. Businesses have until Nov. 30 to complete the survey.

“This is a highly technical and rapidly changing field and we’re asking these employers what they are looking for when hiring instead of us guessing what they might need,” Patterson said. “This survey – the first of its kind in the nation – is creating the framework to define the jobs that are not yet defined, the jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”

The SNAP Connected Mobility survey is the fourth in a series of employer job surveys commissioned by Oakland County and the Oakland County Workforce Development Board. SNAP began in 2009 with a study of skills and knowledge required for jobs in the Emerging Sectors®, which identifies top growth sectors in the region such as medical, communications, information technology and advanced materials. A second study was completed in 2013 on advanced manufacturing. The most recent was completed in 2014 identified the challenges and job opportunities facing area health systems. The first three reports are available online at under the BUSINESS section of www.AdvantageOakland.com.

Oakland County has been at the forefront of the movement towards connected car/autonomous vehicles. Patterson’s connected vehicle task force is beginning to implement a countywide connected vehicle ecosystem that will act as a pilot for the entire region. The county is home to dozens of major research and development facilities for many of the global companies operating in mobility including Autoliv, Continental, Denso, Delphi, Google, Lear, Nissan, P3 and Valeo.

“The technology and the workforce for the future of mobility are all right here,” said Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb. “The study results will give us real-time employer-driven information to keep Oakland County and Michigan in the driver’s seat.”

The survey is being conducted by EdEn Inc., a Rochester-based research firm which produced the first three surveys. The project emanated from a recommendation of the Oakland County Business Roundtable Workforce & Education Committee and is funded by Oakland County, the Oakland County Workforce Development Board/Oakland County Michigan Works! through a grant from Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The survey results are expected in early 2017, said Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of the Oakland County Michigan Works! division. Employers who did not receive the survey but wish to participate can do so at www.OaklandCountySkillsSurvey.com. Those with questions about the project should contact Llewellyn at llewellynj@oakgov.com.
 

OU INC client successfully spins off innovative Company and launches Into new market

The Oakland University Incubator (OU INC), a Smart Zone Business Accelerator, took occupational therapist, Nathan Barnett, under its wing and mentored him on how to transform his idea of creating an objective system for accurately testing an elderly person’s balance and devising treatment suggestions to minimize the risk of falls. Out of Barnett’s collaboration with OU INC, he will officially launch his revolutionary new “Safe Balance” concept this coming Friday into an emerging health care market for addressing the needs of the elderly in preventing debilitating or deadly falls.

OU INC gave Barnett the tools needed to realize his goal. The Incubator provided Barnett with access to resources and networks, as well as funding through the Business Accelerator Fund along with guidance from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.While balance testing has been around a while, the subjective measures utilized lacked reliability, consistency and ability to accurately detect the presence of a heightened risk of debilitating or deadly falls. Barnett believes that without a proper metric to identify risk, fall related injuries will continue to skyrocket.

Barnett created the Dynamic Arc: Functional Balance Testing System. The Dynamic Arc is a portable device with a software component that identifies the presence of a fall risk, quantifies the impairment severity and provides clarity to the physician and/or therapist to facilitate focused treatment.

Barnett’s company, Functional Innovation Enterprises soon became an attractive business investment. In the spring of 2016, Avantius Medical Equipment was formed as a joint venture between Barnett and entrepreneur Frederic Jouhet.

This is a new concept for a very old problem,” said Barnett. “ Safe Balance” is revolutionary because of the many ways it can prolong independence for the elderly and create peace of mind for them and their loved ones. An unexpected fall can have catastrophic consequences. Safe Balance plays a key role in preventing this from happening. I couldn’t have taken my idea to a market-ready position without the guidance and resources of OU INC.”
 
Surging growth and opportunity in the balance testing market, led Barnett and Jouhet to spin off the old company into a new one called Safe Balance.
 
Safe Balance currently serves all levels of senior communities from Independent Living, Senior Living and Nursing Home/Rehabilitation Centers. The advantages of Safe Balance are decreased liability exposure, and greater peace of mind to family/residents.  More information can be found at www.safe-balance.com.
 
About OU INC
OU INC is a Smartzone Business Incubator and Innovation Center, in collaboration with the City of Rochester Hills, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and strategic industry partners. With a focus on the energy, medical device, and information technology sectors, OU INC provides entrepreneurial resources and strategic business solutions for developing business ventures and accelerating ideas to market. OU INC is a designated Soft Landing Facility through the International Business Innovation Association for international companies. For more information go to http://www.oakland.edu/ouinc.
 
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