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Slow Jams doubles production with move to Hopeful Harvest

Slow Jams isn't getting just a little help from its friends. The slow food startup is doubling its production thanks in large part to the help of a number of friendly entrepreneurial resources across metro Detroit.

The craft food maker has doubled the production of its jams over the last year by working with local institutions like Eastern Market Corp. and FoodLab Detroit. The biggest boost has come from moving to Forgotten Harvest’s food company incubator, Hopeful Harvest, in Oak Park.

"They are making it possible for small businesses like Slow Jams to grow our customer base and keep expanding," says Shannon Bryne, owner of Slow Jams.

Hopeful Harvest provides small food-based businesses with a wide variety of resources and services, such as full-service processing, manufacturing, and packaging. The commercial kitchen is a big plus for Slow Jams production efforts as it moves further and further into bulk production for larger customers, such as restaurants. Today it produces 500 cases of jams a month, double its production from a year ago.

"It provides the production capacity we need," Bryne says. "It's 10 times the size of our old space."

Slow Jams and its staff of six employees and the occasional summer intern from Detroit Food Academy also started working with a distributor from Chicago earlier this year. That relationship opened up new markets in the Windy City, northern Indiana, and west Michigan. Slow Jams is now focusing on fleshing out its sales in those areas along with the rest of Michigan to consolidate its recent gains.

"That takes some time," Bryne says. "It's what we're focused on right now."

Source: Shannon Bryne, owner of Slow Jams
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

The Huntington Co. acquires, consolidates dry cleaning businesses

A conglomerate of growing dry-cleaning companies are consolidating under a new name, The Huntington Co.

The Berkley-based business is made up of Huntington Cleaners & Shirt Laundry, Huntington Window Fashions, Wesch Cleaners, 1-800-DryClean, bizziebox, Pressed 4 Time, Martinizing, Dry Cleaning Station, and Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network. The combined companies employ 200 people after hiring five in the last year.

"We wanted to have a common reference point for people to look at," says Wayne Wudyka, CEO of The Huntington Co.

Wudyka launched the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (also known as CRDN) in 2001, restoring clothing damaged by things like fire and smoke. It now has hundreds of franchises across the U.S. What is now the Huntington Co. launched bizziebox last year, integrating mobile technology into dry cleaning with locker-based pickup and delivery service for offices and apartment buildings.

"We see great opportunities to expand in this space," Wudyka says.

The Huntington Co. also acquired Pressed4Time, a door-to-door pick-up and delivery service, in May. Earlier this fall it also acquired Martinizing, the largest U.S.-based franchise dry cleaning brand with 422 locations in eight countries. Martinizing has been a brand name in the dry cleaning industry for decades with its founder becoming a co-owner of the Cincinnati Reds.

"We think we can add value to these companies," Wudyka says. "The economy is getting better so that’s good for the dry cleaning business."

The Huntington Co. plans to bring efficiencies to these businesses through improved and coordinated IT, marketing and operations services. The next year will be spent drilling down on the newly expanded family of businesses and improving them.

"I want to be operating at a very efficient level," Wudyka says.

Source: Wayne Wudyka, CEO of The Huntington Co.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Gentry Partnership opens office in Berkley

Chicago-based Gentry Partnership is opening an office in Berkley to service the Metro Detroit market.

Gentry Partnership is a self-described independent third-party provider of cost savings solutions. For instance, it pools the buying power of several businesses and organizations to leverage lower prices for things like health-care plans or temporary labor.

"We help the companies negotiate these deals with the providers," says John Syvernson, managing partner with Gentry Partnership. "Our clients come to us and buy off of these programs and instantly get savings from what they buy."

The company is targeting local automakers and their tier one suppliers. The idea is to not only help them with combined purchasing but also to look at their internal business practices to see where efficiencies can be achieved.

"We bring a fresher, more up-to-date print of the labor market," says Mike Wehby, associate partner with Gentry Partnership.

Source: John Syvernson, managing partner with Gentry Partnership, and Mike Wehby, associate partner with Gentry Partnership
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Local startups score at Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

Sixty thousand dollars in prizes went to nearly a dozen socially entrepreneurial startups competing in the Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. Most of that money went to companies and entrepreneurs from Metro Detroit addressing chronic unemployment and at-risk youth unemployment.

The prize money went out in four-figure chunks to the start-ups, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Often that sort of cash injection can mean the difference between mission focus and chaos for a fledgling startup.

"It helps the entrepreneur take their mind off the short-term cash-flow issues and onto longterm planning," says Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps, which organized the business plan competition.

Among the Metro Detroit-based winners were City Girls Soap, which won the Women Rock prize. City Girls Soap makes hand-crafted body soap, lotion and laundry flakes from goats milk, taking advantage of the urban farming communities in Detroit and Pontiac. City Girls Soap plans to provide jobs for young people in Pontiac, starting off with summer employment.

The two-person operation is currently moving its production from Berkley to Pontiac. The company plans to hire 1-2 people (primarily youth in urban communities) before the end of this year. It plans to invest the $2,500 it won at the Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in equipment to increase production.

"We're going to use it to build out our production facility, like buy a freezer," says Amy McIntire, co-founder of City Girls Soap.

The Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge aims to help foster social entrepreneurship across Michigan. It culminated with the Social Entrepreneurship Showcase last week, which went out of its way to help cultivate impact investors. Impact investors are high-net-worth individuals who make investments with the idea of creating a social impact and a profit.

Source: Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps and Amy McIntire, co-founder of City Girls Soap
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Strategic Energy Solutions adds 8 employees in Berkley

When it comes to growing Michigan’s green economy, companies like Strategic Energy Solutions aren’t the ones that normally stand in the spotlight.

That’s because the Berkley-based firm designs and implements the energy infrastructure in large commercial and institutional facilities. It figures out what type of core systems (heating/cooling, electrical) should go into a building, the best opportunities to integrate alternative energy sources, and the best combination of all of the above to maximize energy usage.

“It’s all the stuff people never see,” says Steve DiBerardine, president of Strategic Energy Solutions.

Strategic Energy Solutions has been doing a lot of work with architecture firm Kraemer Design Group, taking on redevelopment projects in downtown Detroit for Bedrock Real Estate Services. It is also handling more work for local school districts in Livonia and Waterford, among others.

“I think communities are again open to passing bonds,” DiBerardine says.

That is all adding up to revenue growing by 20 percent over the last year. Thus, Strategic Energy Solutions has hired eight people, randing from engineers to CAD professionals. It currently employs 28 people.

Source: Steve DiBerardine, president of Strategic Energy Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Scratch Golf Clubs moves to Berkley from Tennessee

Scratch Golf Clubs has made the move from Tennessee to Berkley, opening up a retail outlet next to the Vinsetta Garage on Woodward.

The custom-golf-club company is also planning to move its grinding operations to Warren. It's a move that could add up to an investment of $1 million in Metro Detroit and bring 8 new jobs to the region. The reasons why are as simple as familiarity and the opportunity that comes with a major metro region.

"Most of us are from Michigan," says Ari Techner, president & CEO of Scratch Golf Clubs. "We were looking for a bigger city to sink our roots in."

Scratch Golf Clubs specializes in making custom golf clubs with radar and scan equipment that gauges a player's point of attack on the ball. It also shapes the club's head, weight, shaft rigidity and attack angle to fit the golfer's swing. The idea is to change the club to maximize the player’s swing instead of trying to get the player to change their swing to fit the club.

"We produce a club that fits a player better much better than anywhere else," Techner says.

The 10-year-old company executed the move late last summer and immediately saw a bump in sales with the new location. It expects to score a significant sales increase during next year’s golf season.

Source: Ari Techner, president & CEO of Scratch Golf Clubs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Luxury Updated Homes upgrades small homes into larger luxuries

James Danley hates mediocrity. So much so that the local entrepreneur started a business focused on turning ho-hum homes in Oakland County into high-end living spaces.

Luxury Updated Homes specializes in taking run-of-the-mill bungalows and ranches in Oakland County's tony municipalities and turning them into larger, luxury houses that fetch top dollar. Most of the houses are foreclosures in need of a lot of tender loving care. Danley's business acquires them, enlarges them and infuses high-end materials and finishes.

"We will spend a lot more money on materials than a lot of other contractors will," Danley says.

The 1-year-old firm now employs four people and 50 independent contractors. It has renovated 10 homes so far in Farmington Hills, Beverly Hills, Franklin and West Bloomfield. It got its start tackling houses in the $100,000 range. Its most recent renovations have hit the $500,000 price point and Danley is starting to focus on even more expensive housing stock in Birmingham.

Luxury Updated Homes will often take a bungalow or ranch, tear off the roof and add a full second story to double the square footage. Danley is also looking to get into some new construction projects where older, smaller homes will be razed to make way for bigger, more up-to-date houses.

Source: James Danley, president & owner of Luxury Updated Homes
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Craft beer goes mobile with Had That Beer app

Mathew Piccinato enjoys a good craft beer in an enjoyable setting as much as anyone. So much so that he created a mobile app to track the good places to drink the best beers: Had That Beer.

The free iPhone app allows users to rate not only the beers they are drinking but the places where they are enjoying them, too. It gives people a living history of the beers they like, even if they don't remember them the next morning.

"That way you can look up what you had before," Piccinato says. "It can help you make decisions on what you want to drink next."

Had That Beer is currently in a private Beta testing, but Piccinato is letting anyone try it before its official launch later this fall. The 27-year-old software programmer is currently making iOS apps for a Florida firm, but would like to see the Berkley-based Had That Beer become a business of its own.

"Once I figure out a monetization strategy, I would like to make it my full-time job," Piccinato says.

Source: Mathew Piccinato, founder of Had That Beer
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland County Medical Main Street now $61M program; 45,000 jobs to come

A now 3-year-old Anderson Economic Group study called for the health-care and life science sector to be the fastest-growing in Oakland County, prompting it to create the Medical Main Street program to encourage investment. That prediction is beginning to ring true today.

The Oakland County Medical Main Street program scored investments
totaling $34.8 million from five companies either moving or expanding in the county in the first quarter of this year. This contributed to the creation or retention of more than 1,000 jobs. Fifteen companies have put $61 million into Medical Main Street since it was founded in 2008, a trend Oakland County officials expect to continue as the economy rebounds.

"We're seeing this accelerating," says David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development. "This is trending upward."

Among the recent investments are $3.7 million (162 new jobs) from Ascendant MDx for a new clinical laboratory for diagnostic tests in Farmington Hills and $28 million (640 new jobs) from health-care info tech provider CareTech Solutions to complete the second phase of its expansion project.

Oakland County already had a strong base in the health-care and life sciences industries. The 2008 study shows approximately 93,000 jobs at about 4,300 life science and medical facilities there. About 45,000 more positions are expected over the next 10 years.

Source: David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland County announces cloud computing, Wi-Fi initiatives

Oakland County is making more and more of its IT and tech services wireless, according to County Executive L Brooks Patterson in his State of the County speech on Tuesday.

Oakland County will introduce a cloud computing initiative where it will conduct its own IT services through the cloud computing platform, and offer the services to local municipalities. The new program will eliminate the need for each local government entity to have its own servers and applications, instead accessing the county's for a nominal fee. The first offering will be Oakland County's eHealth software.

The county is also revamping its Wireless Oakland initiative with a new partnership with Frankenmuth-based Air Advantage. The 8-year-old Internet provider will provide Wi-Fi services to communities in northern Oakland County, utilizing the county's towers. In exchange for selling these services, Air Advantage will provide free wireless Internet in some downtowns, starting with Holly, Oxford and Clarkston. More communities will be announced later this year.

"Our philosophy is all people should have access to the Internet," says Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage. "The Internet is becoming a necessary utility like electricity or water."

Making this deal possible is a $64 million grant from the federal stimulus package. The grant is meant to help Air Advantage make Internet services available in underserved areas within a 13-county section of eastern Michigan. That section stretches from Bay County to the north, Shiawassee County to the west and Oakland County to the south.

Source: Oakland County and Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland Co Medical Main St hits $21M in investment

Oakland County's Medical Main Street notched a strong 2010, attracting $21 million in investment that retained or attracted about 600 jobs.

The Medical Main Street program began in 2008 as a tool to help diversify Oakland County's economy by growing the health-care and life-science industries. Those industries represent 93,000 jobs today and are expected to create 45,000 new jobs over the next decade. The program helped six companies relocate or expand their operations in Oakland County.

"In the next couple of months you'll hear about more companies moving into the area," says Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team. "We have a lot of projects in the pipeline."

This year's totals are up from four deals worth $5.2 million in investment that took place in 2009. Spanos is expecting an even better 2011. She points to Oakland University's new medical school opening this year and its new stem cell center as reasons for optimism.

"This is going to be a good resource for us," Spanos says. "We can build on that."

Source: Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

PublicCity PR hires, lands client a Today Show spot

The first year PublicCity PR got its feet underneath it, signing clients. In its second year the firm started hiring. Next? The budding boutique public relations firm hopes to keep signing and hiring and find some space for a permanent office, but it's trying to keep growth in check.

"I don't see it as a 20-40 person operation," says Jason Brown, principal and founder of Beverly Hills-based  PublicCity PR. "I see it as a 4-6 person operation that does a great job of serving our clients."

Brown, a former journalist, started the company in 2008, signing a number of local clients looking for public relations services without the high premiums of the big PR agencies. He now has doubled his client base to 20 and hired a full- and a part-time employee to help him handle the workload. He hopes to hire another 1-2 people over the next year.

Those companies, all Metro Detroit-based, range from Hard Luck Candy (St. Clair Shores) to Assets International (Southfield). The firm handles mostly local media work, but has been able to snag some national attention for Rochester-based Bandals, which was recently featured on the Today Show in July.

"Just because we're small doesn't mean we can't go after the big national media outlets," Brown says.

Source: Jason Brown, principal and founder of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County Medical Main St attracts $11M in investment, 275 jobs

Healthcare, an industry long taken for granted in Metro Detroit, is proving to be an increasingly strong job source in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Medical Main Street program has attracted $11 million in investment, creating 275 new positions, over the last two years. The latest round comes from Royal Oak Medical Devices. The company plans to spend $2.6 million to expand its medical device design, manufacturing, and distributing operations, a move that is expected to create 26 new jobs over the next few years.

"In the past we have taken these jobs a little for granted because they were part of our infrastructure," says Maureen Krauss, director of the Dept of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Oakland County.

No longer. Oakland County's life sciences industry employs 93,000 people and is projected to create another 45,000 jobs over the next decade, according to a study by the Anderson Economic Group. This industry also has deep roots in the research sectors. Just under 4,900 clinical trials are currently underway in Oakland County -- more than what is taking place in California, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey.

Oakland County started its Medical Main Street program in 2008 with the idea of helping fast-track growth in the life sciences industry. "It keeps the talent, assets, and people here," Krauss says. "It's a really strong part of our retention program."

Source: Maureen Krauss, director of the Dept of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County's Emerging Sectors program hits $194M in investment

If Metro Detroit's economy is turning a corner, then chances are it's going to be first apparent in the numbers from its new economy programs, like Oakland County's Emerging Sectors. The signs are looking good.

The business attraction and retention program for Oakland County has helped facilitate $194 million in new investment and create about 5,900 new jobs through June. That's enough to surpass total numbers in both categories for all of 2009. County officials expect similar growth for the rest of this year.

"It's certainly a great trend," says Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County. "So many projects that were on hold last year are back on track again."

The Emerging Sectors program began in 2004 with plans to diversify the county's economy and replace vanishing manufacturing jobs. It helps international companies looking to expand their North American operations and local firms based in the new economy.

Some of the recent investments include WABCO Reman Services of Rochester Hills investing $6 million and creating 228 new jobs; Southfield's Direct Sourcing spending $2 million to create 100 new jobs and retain 80 others; and EcoStore USA (Auburn Hills) putting $2.5 million towards the creation of 30 new jobs and the retention of three more. These and more made up the investment for June alone.

Source: Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County's OakGov Challenge taps techies for apps

Oakland County is looking for a few good apps, or at least some for its OakGov Challenge.

The county teamed up with AT&T to offer $10,000 in cash prizes to software developers to come up with applications, or apps, for smart phones, or web-based software that will streamline local government, making it more efficient and cost-effective. The OakGov Challenge's organizers purposely haven't asked for any specific types of apps and haven't specified which problems they are to address.

"What happens over time is the general public's needs change," says Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County. "We don't claim to know everything they want."

First prize receives $6,500, second prize is $3,000, with $500 for third. The competition is open to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Oakland, Genesee, St. Clair, Lapeer, and Livingston counties. Anyone who creates an app or comes up with an idea for one can submit it by June 11. The finalists will be chosen by July 8 and the winners will be announced on August 13.

For information on the contest, click here.

Source: Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke
102 Berkley Articles | Page: | Show All
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