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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

Oakland County set for big job gains next year

If it's always darkest before the dawn then the same sentiment rings true for job creation in Oakland County.

The fourth-wealthiest county in the U.S. took it on the chin in 2009, losing 60,000 jobs. It's set to lose another 9,900 jobs this year, but those numbers will start to reverse considerably in 2011 and 2012. Oakland County can expect to create 2,400 jobs next year and 8,000 the year after, according to economists George Fulton and Don Grimes of the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor.

A big part of this success is the county's efforts to diversify its economy away from over-reliance on the automotive and manufacturing industries. It's now capitalizing on other areas such as health-care and alternative energy.

"We  feel we're quite diverse already," says Maureen Krauss, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County. "We know we have the assets that not only help the auto-supplying industry, but the robotics and alternative energy industries."

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson likes to call this plan a way to help make his municipality recession resistant. It's an economic formula that has been employed with success in other Rust Belt metro areas such as Pittsburgh.

"We understand that we not only need to invest in diversifying our economy but that it's a long-term commitment," Krauss says.

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

Oakland County opens $500K microloan fund

Microloan funds are spreading through Metro Detroit faster than the flu, with the latest outbreak taking place in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Microloan Program will provide loans of $500 to $35,000 to small businesses. It is modeled after the highly successful Michigan Microloan Fund run by Ann Arbor SPARK. The idea of the microloans is to help fill the capital void for small businesses that want to grow and create jobs but are being hampered by the nearly frozen credit lines of the financial industry.

"We expect the demand will be high for these loans because traditional lending channels are all but dried up for small businesses," says Maureen Krauss, director of Economic Development and Community Affairs for Oakland County. "There are a lot of people who want to start their own businesses."

Eligible businesses must be based out of Oakland County, pay a $75 application fee, have a business plan if they are under three years old, and at least two letters of denial from traditional lending sources. Owners must be current on child support, student loans, and income taxes.

Oakland County, in partnership with the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration, is giving $100,000 towards creating the fund, as well as a $500,000 pool to start with.

The Michigan Microloan Fund draws from a $1.5 million pool and also from other six-figure funds provided by Washtenaw County and the city of Ann Arbor that are geared toward businesses in those respective communities. It
expects to make 24-48 loans this year. Detroit's TechTown has also formed its own fund and Oakland University's OU INCubator is taking steps to set up its own program.


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

Oakland County Emerging Sectors program hits $191M in investment

Oakland County's Emerging Sectors program isn't trying to remake the county's economy in the image of Detroit, but more in the image of Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The program, the pet project of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, helped attract $191 million in investment from non-existing-automotive and non-automotive companies last year and created 3,200 jobs. The idea is to diversify the county's economy so it has several major players, like the current economies of Chicago and Pittsburgh, instead of how the automotive sector has
dominated Michigan for generations.

"This program won't make Oakland County recession proof, but it will make Oakland County recession resistant," Patterson says.

The county started the program in 2004. Since then it has helped attract $1.4 billion in investment and created more than 16,000 jobs. It claims investments from 133 companies, including 33 last year.

"I always said this program is a 20-25 year commitment to diversifying Oakland County's economy," Patterson says.

Source: L. Brooks Patterson, executive of Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County introduces voting reminder emails

Oakland County is using cyberspace methods to get more real people voting in the next election cycle.

Its latest innovation is to send out an email reminder to voters
two weeks before elections and then again on election days. The reminder will also include a bevy of other information voters can use to make the process easier.

"It's kind of like an electronic post-it note," says Ruth Johnson, Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds.

The emails will be sent out before all local, school, state, and federal elections and will link to the clerk's website. The site will feature a list of candidates and ballot proposals, campaign finance reports, polling locations, and instructional videos for using voting machines.

It will also feature a new election reporting system that reveals results in real time. Also included will be information on voter registration and on how to become a poll worker, and a link to the state's Voter Information Center.

"This is just one more tool in the tool box," Johnson says.

For information on these new systems, click here.

Source: Ruth Johnson, Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds
Writer: Jon Zemke
98 Berkley Articles | Page: | Show All
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