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Energy Sciences turns focus on sustainability into biz growth

The people behind Energy Sciences aren't focused on providing their customers with what they want so much as what they need. The downtown Birmingham-based consulting firm that specializes in energy efficiency is focusing its efforts on assisting commercial companies with the best possible strategy for lowering their energy costs.

"We wanted to give them what they really needed," says Frank Schulmeister, energy strategist for Energy Sciences. "What they really need is a comprehensive energy strategy."

Energy Sciences specializes in demand-side energy management services for the commercial, industrial and municipal sectors. It tailors solutions and develops strategic programs that reduce operating costs and minimize carbon footprints. Its customers range from small heating-and-cooling companies to large auto suppliers.

The 4-year-old company has doubled and tripled its bottom line in each of those years. That has allowed it to grow to three employees and a handful of independent contractors. Much of the growth has come from word-of-mouth. This year the company iintends to expand its client list by investing in marketing efforts.

"We would like to be a company of about 10-12 employees," Schulmeister says.

Source: Frank Schulmeister, energy strategist for Energy Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dragun Corp opens Windsor, Toronto offices

Dragun Corp, an environmental services company in Metro Detroit, is making its presence known in Ontario.

The Farmington Hills-based firm has added a few new staff members to
its Windsor office over the last few years. It also recently opened a Toronto office to supplement its new work in Canada.

"That market has been strong and helped us diversify away from the Michigan economy," says Alan Hahn, business development manager for Dragun Corp.

The 23-year-old company specializes in services such as brownfield and wellhead protection services for municipalities. Its namesake is
James Dragun, the famous soil chemist who still serves as the company's president. The staff of 20 has been able to expand the company's niche services, such as legal expertise and environmental forensics, and will be offering them both abroad and at home this year.

"We are anticipating good things coming," Hahn says. "We're seeing more activity out there. We have seen more activity over the last eight weeks than we have seen in a long time."

Source: Alan Hahn, business development manager for Dragun Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Air Movement Systems turns air purification into green tech

What do air systems and chickens have in common? A lot of money, Dennis Danville hopes.

His Southgate-based firm, Air Movement Systems, specializes in creating an air circulation and purification system.
Thanks to a recent microloan from the First Step Fund, it is now installing a prototype at a University of Georgia chicken farm to prove it can create a healthier environment for the livestock.

"We believe that by purifying the air we can remove the ammonia problem, which blinds them and causes other problems," says Danville, the president of Air Movement Systems. "It also removes other viruses and bacteria from the air."

The founders see this as a technology that can improve air quality and keep buildings cooler (or warmer) by improving air circulation. The system could be used by both residential and commercial customers.

"The low-lying fruit is the commercial applications," Danville says.

The two-year-old firm, which came from Detroit's TechTown small business incubator, has three employees, five salesmen, and plans to add one or two more positions later this year. It is aiming for $20-$30 million in sales within 3-5 years.

Source: Dennis Danville, president of Air Movement Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Michigan execs promote food and energy innovation through Epprentice Experience

Paragon Leadership International, a Novi-based corporate coaching and training outfit, is launching Epprentice, where rising leaders put their minds together to solve energy and food issues in the state of Michigan -- and have the opportunity to have their ideas judged by some of the area's top executives in that field.

On October 1, the Food Epprentice Experience will be held, focusing on food safety, nutrition, and the agriculture economy. On October 15, the Environment and Energy Epprentice Experience will take on energy efficiency, sustainability, alternative energy, and energy economy. Two teams will take on a challenge in each given topic -- such as designing a social media plan for the WARM Training Center -- which will be judged by top names in the field. The winning teams will be feted. "We're working on some high visibility recognition," says Paragon's Diane Ring.

Ring says Paragon was motivated to develop Epprentice to take action on what the group sees as "challenges to our region." As an example she cites DTE Energy, a client since the firm's inception in 2001, which has a mandate to develop alternative energy while still having to deliver electricity on the grid it currently operates. It is onto issues like this that Paragon is hoping that Epprentice can shed light.

Ring expects Epprentice days to be "high energy, very busy, very intense days" with much "innovation, imagination and collaboration." Find out more here.

Source: Diane Ring, Paragon
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

National Recycling turns recycled shingles into jobs

National Recycling is making waste disposal sustainable and profitable with the help of something few people want anything to do with – old roof shingles.

Four partners have spent nearly two years perfecting the idea. They created the Romeo-based start-up about one year ago and based it on a core product – the Boxxster. The innovative dumpster is split into sections so roofers know where to throw old shingles, metal drip edges and wood.

"It makes it really easy for them to sort the debris so it can be recycled," says Dominic Ulisse, operations manager of National Recycling.

The shingles are ground up and recycled into an asphalt additive. Metal is recycled and the rest of the waste is either recycled or disposed of properly. The firm expects to keep 100,000 tons of roofing waste out of landfills this year with the Boxxster.

It has proven popular in the Metro Detroit, Flint and Ann Arbor areas. National Recycling is also looking at expanding into Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and Jackson, along with finding ways to recycle other types of construction waste, such as drywall.

That has allowed the firm to expand to 15 people, including six new hires within the last two months. It hopes to hire another 10-15 people by year-end, based solely on its recycling efforts.

"We're anticipating big growth this year in the state of Michigan," Ulisse says.

Source: Dominic Ulisse,
operations manager of National Recycling
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Sturgeon spawning returns to the Detroit River

Nice to hear some good news about Detroit for a change: Lake sturgeon have spawned four times on the reef constructed last year at the head of Fighting Island in the Detroit River. This is the first time in 30 years that this threatened species has spawned in this neck of the river.

Building the reef was the first Canada-U.S. funded fish habitat restoration project in the Great Lakes. John H. Hartig, the refuge manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge housed on Grosse Ile, has this to say about the accomplishment: "Think of this: 35 years ago we had major oil slicks on the Detroit River, elevated phosphorus levels, much more raw sewage, much more contaminants like DDT, PCP and mercury."

"Now we've had these amazing environmental improvements, seeing this ecological comeback, seeing not just sturgeon, but whitefish and walleye, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. And if it's cleaner for them, then it's cleaner for you and me."

I couldn't resist asking Hartig about the beaver I spotted on Belle Isle last weekend (true!). I'd read that they returned to the river for the first time in 75 years, which he confirmed. "The beaver also points to the amazing recovery of this ecology," he says. "We've come an amazing distance."

Source: John Hartig, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

GREEN SPACE: Oakland County's Independence Oaks Park displays environmental stewardship

Parks equal green space, so they must be "green," right?

Negative.

Many of them waste a ton of resources with non-native plantings that require frequent watering and fertilizer. These plants can overtake native ones, meaning that land meant to preserve nature instead re-imagines it in a suburban-friendly palette.

One park in Oakland County is turning that notion on its head with an enhanced effort to consider park maintenance as a kind of environmental stewardship. The county hopes that its "green" effort at Independence Oaks County Park includes initiatives that are easily transferable to other parks in the area.

Independence Oaks is 1,088 acres. It has a 68-acre glacial lake and is home to the headwaters region of the Clinton River -- a watershed encompassing 760 square miles of land in four counties. Its ecosystem consists of wetlands, rolling grasslands and a large portion of wetlands that are hardwood-conifer swamp which has been identified as a rare natural resource in Michigan.

The parks department started its efforts in 2006. First up was combating invasive species including buckthorn, phragmites, honeysuckle and autumn olive. These efforts, which have included mechanical removal and chemical treatment, continue to the present.

Next up: a prescribed burn program, which began in 2007. "Our goal is to combat non-native species and give our native, fire-adapted grasses and wildflowers a competitive edge in landscape," says Brittany Bird, natural resource planner.

The burns, conducted in spring to minimize disruption to nesting birds and snakes, are part of a long-term strategy that aims to restore historical natural communities like prairies, oak-hickory woodlands and wet meadows. They take place under the supervision of both park staff and local fire departments.

The results: so far, so good. Increased abundance of native plant species has been observed, as well as nine species of butterflies never before seen at Independence Oaks.

The park has also instituted a Natural Resources Stewardship Program to conserve rare species, including the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. It conducts frog and toad and grassland bird surveys, butterfly counts and nest box monitoring programs as well.

It turns out that just 35 miles north of Detroit, in Clarkston, lies a real slice of nature.

Source: Desiree Stanfield, Oakland County Parks and Recreation
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
Photos by John Meyland

Ann Arbor's WindSight wins ACE competition, plans to add up to 60 people

WindSight has its sights set on job creation in Ann Arbor, after taking home top prize at ACE's elevator pitch contest

Excerpt:

Ann Arbor's WindSight is on a hot streak and expects that to translate into upwards of 60 jobs within the next five years.

But the alternative-energy firm still has a long way to go to reach its goal. Right now it has two employees but expects that number to reach 10-20 by the end of next year.

"We're looking to ramp up hiring this year and next," Williams says.

Read the rest of the story here.

Strategic Energy Solutions grows to 21 people in Berkley

Eleven years ago, Strategic Energy Solutions employed three people and focused on the telecom industry. Today it has a staff of 21 and focuses on designing sustainable mechanical and electrical systems, such as geothermal.

One thing has been constant for the Berkley-based firm – growth. It averages a new hire or two each year. Last year was no exception for Strategic Energy Solutions. It took on two more people and plans to do so again this year.

"I want to not just survive, but thrive," says Steve DiBerardine, president of Strategic Energy Solutions. "I refuse to participate in the downturn."

He is putting his money where his mouth is, rehabilitating a new home with much more space in Berkley. He should be set for the next seven years if he continues bringing on two people annually.

Strategic Energy Solutions is also walking its talk, going for silver LEED certification for its new home. Not the cheapest way to go, but a sure-fire way to send a message that it means business.

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

Ann Arbor's Shepherd Advisors helps create more green jobs in Michigan

Shepherd Advisors is helping bridge the gap between Michigan's clean-tech potential and reality.

Excerpt:

In 2000 Loch McCabe saw a need and started to fill it. Given the recent focus on sustainable industries, he was a bit ahead of the curve. McCabe's Ann Arbor-based Shepherd Advisors helps businesses and institutions either break into the clean-technology sector or helps them become greener.

"There was a huge gap between the potential for clean technology companies in Michigan and what was actually happening," McCabe says. "I started Shepherd Advisors to help the progress of clean technology companies in Michigan."

Read the rest of the story here.

GREEN SPACE: Program links local food to local schools

As more and more people embrace the locavore movement, it makes sense to introduce it to a young and impressionable audience -- especially when they are captive.

I'm not talking jailbirds here, but schoolkids.

Which is why the news that the Food System Economic Partnership in Southeast Michigan will receive $40,000 to support the expansion of its Farm to Schools lunch program from the Kellogg Foundation is so great.

Last year was the pilot program for Farm to Schools, and it worked with multiple schools in Chelsea and Ann Arbor as well as one in Dearborn. This year, they will spread more into Wayne County and out to Jackson.

"Farm to Schools is a win-win for students and farmers and the community," says FSEP's executive director, Jennifer Fike. "We are promoting farmers being able to keep farming in this region and allowing them another avenue to sell what they produce; for the students, eating food tends to taste better when it's fresher and it's healthier; and it's cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions."

The pilot year helped the organization work through the challenges -- like outsourced food service providers and working with distributors -- of getting fresh local food into schools, says Fike. She points out that seasonality can also be an issue, but that Michigan products like apple sauce, canned beans and whole grains can be worked into menus in the winter months.

Food to Schools also works on educating students by bringing in local farmers explain to then where their food is coming from. Hint: That banana was not grown in Michigan, Johnny.

Kellogg is funding Food to Schools via its People and Land (PAL) initiative -- part of its efforts to increase regional collaboration and promote Michigan prosperity in the emerging knowledge-based economy.

Source: Jennifer Fike, FSEP
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Biomin International brings water purification to the world

Joseph P. Cool has been all around the world. His career at the U.S. Department of Defense took him to just about every corner imaginable, ranging from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria.

He is now putting all of those years of experience into helping Biomin International spread its product around the globe. The Oak Park-based firm makes a product, Organoclay, which helps take impurities like oil out of water.

"In some areas of the world people are running out of drinkable water," Cool says.

That may seem like a distant idea here in the heart of the Great Lakes, but it's a reality in places like the United Arab Emirates where Biomin hopes to start marketing its product. The United Arab Emirates is one of the Middle East's richest oil-producing countries. It’s also fresh-water poor, which is why Cool thinks its market is ripe for Biomin's products.

The firm is also aiming for other regions around the world that have similar situations, such as the Caribbean and Africa.

Biomin is 20 years old, has five employees and owns a factory in Oak Park. However, Cool expects their expansion to the far corners of the world will help create employment both there and back home in Metro Detroit. That could mean another 5-10 jobs here in the next few years.

Source: Joseph P. Cool, international business development/export director for Biomin International
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: National consultants converge to design a 'leaner, greener' Detroit

Over the Halloween weekend, sustainability experts from around the country joined with local architects, planners and other interested parties in Midtown Detroit for an SDAT, or Sustainable Design Assessment Team, charette.

A sobering aspect of each and every discussion was the understanding that Detroit will continue to shrink -- down to about 500,000 or 600,000 residents by 2025. So what to do with an extra 88 square miles of land?

First, let's look at the core 50 square miles of livable space. It would be developed as a series of densely populated urban villages, each with housing, recreation, entertainment and work opportunities, each linked to each other and the downtown, or urban core.

From this base, SDAT worked at making policy and design recommendations in five areas, all of which fed into one another as well as the urban villages concept: community development, transportation and transit, open space, economic development and local food systems and community gardens.

Some points of note: many ideas centered on one of the city's greatest assets, the Detroit River -- for example, "blueways" were discussed as a mode of transportation; the importance of incorporating wind turbines into Detroit's energy system was stressed; Eastern Market was lauded as "the best farmers market in the country" by Edwin Marty, the executive director of Jones Valley Urban Farm in Alabama; reduction of energy costs for individuals was stressed as a method of creating wealth; and local food production within each urban village node was recommended.

A serious lack of jobs was examined -- and a strategy was developed for the creation of 75,000 over 10 years by leveraging new green industries as well as existing employment leaders like health care.

Next step: implementation. Local SDAT leaders will begin working with organizations and institutions to move its strategies forward. Funding from Kresge Foundation has been secured to undergo this process.

A tall task with a promising start.

For more info about SDAT, check out Zachary and Associate's website or contact Zachary at 313-831-6100 or WARM Training Center at 313-894-1030.

Source: Diane VanBuren Jones, WARM
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Battery Solutions doubles staff to 50 people, moves to new offices

Battery Solutions takes on all comers. The Livingston County-based firm has been recycling everything from AAAs to car batteries since 1991.

"There is no battery we won't recycle," says Justin Jungman, executive account manager for Battery Solutions.

However, the firm hasn't really started to hit its stride until the last couple of years. The company has increased its staff 100 percent to about 50 people. That has prompted it to move from its home in Brighton to an even bigger space in Howell, an upgrade from 20,000 square feet to 43,000 square feet.

"In the last two years our business has doubled, easily," Jungman says.

The company recycles several million pounds of batteries each year. Those numbers are expected to increase as the firm sustainability movement really starts to take hold.

"Recycling is even more popular today than even a few years ago," Jungman says.

Source: Justin Jungman, executive account manager for Battery Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Macomb Community College to offer courses in sustainability

Macomb Community College is introducing five classes based on sustainability.

The courses, offered through the college's Center for Continuing Education, focus on everything from renewable energy getting better gas mileage. The classes include "Hybrids 101" and "The End of Cheap Oul: Crisis & Opportunity."

The class will be offered this fall and range in price from $49 and $149 each. They will be taught either online or at the Clinton Township campus.

For more information, call (586) 498-4000.

Source: Macomb Community College
Writer: Jon Zemke
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