Innovation & Job News

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MSU provides expertise in developing lighter materials for cars and trucks

The Obama administration has tapped Michigan State University to lead research and development into lighter composite materials for automotive and other industries as a core partner in a national consortium that advances composite manufacturing.
MSU will lead the light-and-heavy-duty vehicle portion of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation. Composite-material research is particularly important to the state of Michigan as the auto industry looks to manufacture vehicles that are fuel-efficient and safe.
Long recognized as a leader in the field of composite materials, MSU is home to both the Composite Materials and Structures Center and the Composite Vehicles Research Center.
"These two world-class facilities will serve as the foundation for future work in this program," says Lawrence Drzal, director of the MSU Composite Materials and Structures Center. "We're confident the IACMI will create new jobs, support the expansion of companies and educate technicians and engineers for these industries."
Drzal will serve as director of the Michigan Center for Excellence for the newly formed Institute. The IACMI will focus on advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites—or materials that combine strong fibers with strong plastics that are lighter and stronger than steel.
The 122-member IACMI is funded by a more than $70 million commitment over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy. Five other states will be part of the project—Illinois, Colorado, Kentucky and Tennessee.
In Michigan, MSU will serve as the primary academic partner and work closely with corporate partners that include the Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Col, TARDEC, and General Dynamics Land Systems. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has committed $15 million in matching funds to the Michigan portion of the Institute. 
"Polymer composites are one of the most transformational technologies on the horizon for reducing the weight of vehicles, whether it's automobiles, trucks, trains or aircraft," says Leo Kempel, dean of the MSU College of Engineering. "In concert with our partners, MSU will advance knowledge in this critical area."
Source: MSU Media Communications
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Thumb Tied expands distracted driving app to new users, new markets

A Lansing-developed app that can prevent texting and driving is expanding across platforms and markets as people look to keep drivers focused on the road and not on their mobile devices.
Developed by PNP Technologies and TucknologiesThumb Tied senses when the user of a mobile device is driving and blocks incoming texts, calls, emails and other notifications. Drivers can still access up to three emergency contacts and 911. When the user is done driving, the app shuts down, allowing the smart phone user to see missed notifications and messages. And since the app works with Blue Tooth, drivers can use navigation features as long as commands are voice activated and hands-free.
"Parents love it," says Waylon Sanford who came up with the concept for Thumb Tied with his business partner Kevin Karpinski. "But my personal point in developing the app was to get the trust of teens."
Thumb Tied can be downloaded for free from Google Play for Android as well as the parent's pairing feature for a small fee. Sanford says the app averages about three to five downloads a day since its inception in 2013, and has been downloaded on all continents except for Antarctica.
PNP is currently working on a corporate package for fleet and company drivers, with a release slated for late summer 2015. Plans are also in the works to develop a version for the iPhone, as well an in-dash apps for new cars.
While marketing of Thumb Tied has been limited to Lansing and social media, PNP is working with Michigan Creative and LEAP to push the campaign down the I-96 corridor in 2015. Sanford and Karpinski are also networking with grassroots organizations like Focus Driven and People Against Distracted Driving to build awareness on the harms of distracted driving.
"Our new campaign is 'just drive'," says Sanford. "A lot of the messaging around distracted driving is based on scare tactics. Our hope is to take away the negatives and just focus on the pure positives of driving."
Source: Waylon Sanford, Chief Operating Officer, Thumb Tied
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Chiropractor and massage therapist opens combination spa in Williamston

Simone Ranes set out to create a healing space for her customers and patients based on the principle of moderation. She found the perfect space in Williamston, and has been providing a combination of massage, chiropractic and informal education classes to people with a range of needs since mid-2014.
Located at 1235 E. Grand River Road, Williamston Wellness provides what Ranes says is a place for healing where ancient wisdom and modern science come together in a luxury clinical environment.
"It's a much more comfy and cozy space than most health care offices," says Ranes who is both a massage therapist and chiropractor. "We've built the space with a respect for the past as well as for modern techniques and specialties."
Ranes is a graduate of Michigan State University, Lansing Community College's massage program, and of the Palmer Chiropractic College. Originally from the Upper Peninsula, she made her home in Williamston about two years ago after working for a decade in East Lansing.
Designed as a suburban spa and retreat, Williamston Wellness also provides specialized care to people with specific or complex health care needs. In addition to the use of Thompson drop and Flexion-Distraction tables, Ranes uses Sacro-Occipital Technique (S.O.T.) for analysis and treatment of most chiropractic cases. Clinical massage, Mayan abdominal massage, cranial-facial balancing, reflexology, and Reiki and divine healing.
Ranes says the mix of chiropractic and massage services provided through her 1,300-square foot center set her apart, as does the emphasis she places on Scandinavian values. Her décor reflects simplicity and tradition, with elements of wood, stone and rich warm colors. Patients also have access to landscaped gardens owned by the adjacent Miller Photography Studio that include a gazebo, river, waterfall and plenty of outdoor seating.
"Good health has to do with moderation," says Ranes. "Moderation is one of the most challenging things we face in our lives, and something I want my business to epitomize."
Upcoming plans include offering a line of homemade spa and bath products as well as unique seasonal gifts. Ranes is also working to develop and offer classes in natural health.
Source: Simone Ranes, D.C., Owner, Williamston Wellness
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Historic warehouse finds new life as meeting space for businesses and organizations

Businesses, executive boards and non-profits looking to strategize in an environment apart from the office or corporate meeting room will find a new space in Lansing expressly designed to inspire.
Beginning in February, David Seitz and Traci Riehl will open the doors to ThinkSpace—a repurposed warehouse that sets the tone for innovative thinking through flexible, edgy and comfortable meeting spaces.
"We've both used traditional external spaces a lot," says Seitz who has worked in the tech sector and public policy arena. "I ran into some really innovative spaces in Chicago and New York but not so much here in Michigan. Traci and I thought we'd start by building an amazing space that inspires people to come together."
The two co-founders scoured the commercial real estate market for months and happened upon the facility at 416 S. Cedar Street last summer. Located on the River Trail, the building emanated with potential, and had the post-industrial-forward-thinking vibe envisioned by the two experienced facilitators and meeting planners. 
Seitz and Riehl rolled up their sleeves and remodeled the interior to create what they say are ideal collaborative and one-on-one spaces for fostering creativity. The end result is a facility repurposed for the future—reflecting their mission to provide spaces where organizations can take old ideas and recreate them into something new.
"ThinkSpace is designed for creativity," says Riehl. "It sets the tone that you'll be undertaking a brand new experience."
Riehl and Seitz decked out the former 100-year-old storage facility with bright colors and flexible furnishings, accentuated the building's natural light, and provided "back door" access to the River Trail. Equipped with a kitchen, a loft, and various meeting spaces, the 2,000-square-foot facility can accommodate training sessions, strategy meetings, retreats and off-site sales pitches. Groups can also enlist professional facilitators and motivational speakers to guide meetings and sessions held within ThinkSpace.
"Our focus was to build a complete experience," says Seitz. "We're really excited to be doing this in Lansing. It's a chance for people to come here as a destination and to build a future for their own organization."  
ThinkSpace is planning a grand opening event for sometime in March.
Source: Traci Riehl and David Seitz, Co-founders, ThinkSpace
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea? Contact Ann Kammerer here.

Tripper's new Comedy Club keeps Lansing laughing

Steve Tripp has his mind set on giving Lansing something to laugh about.
That's why in early January the owner of Tripper's Sports Bar partitioned off underused space in his Frandor sports bar for a comedy club—one that he says can help fill the void when the long-standing Comedy Connxtions closed in April 2014.
"We're convinced there is still a market for comedy in this town," says Tripp. "And since we've wanted to broaden our demographic for a while and have this space we've never used, we thought the timing was perfect."
Tripp opened the Comedy Club inside Tripper's immediately after New Year's Day. The club will occupy 2,500 square feet and seat 180 people. Tripp says his 40-member staff have the option to pick up extra hours in the club, with Jacob Burkhart serving as the comedy manager. He plans to add more staff in the coming year as the club grows to satisfy Lansing's appetite for comedy.
The Comedy Club becomes Tripper's newest wheel, adding to the mainstays of sports, food and beverage, and charity fundraising. Having comedy in a separate, dedicated area, Tripp says, ensures that sports fans can enjoy sports and comedy fans can enjoy comedy—without any interference.
Shows run Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays. Thursdays are set-aside for college night and open mike, and weekends reserved for nationally recognized headliners and up-and-coming talent. Dinners, appetizers and full cocktail service are offered during show time.
"While we have national acts coming in, we're also giving up and coming comics a place where they can get up on stage and hone their skills," says Tripp. "We're looking to help develop new talent, and there's really no where to start out but in these types of venues."
Tripper's inaugural act featured comedian Shane Mauss, followed by Kris Shaw. Upcoming acts include Mike Stanley, Vince Morris, Grant Lyon, Spencer James, April Macie, and Dave Landau.
"These are comics who have worked the road and paid their dues," says Tripp. "We want to keep comedy going here and want comics to know they still have a place to go in Lansing."
Source: Steve Tripp, Owner, Tripper's Sports Bar
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Non-profit ITEC to put STEM on the road in Lansing low-income neighborhoods

A bus outfitted with high-tech instructional gear will start rolling into Lansing's low-income areas this summer to help kids with math and science concepts, prepare for college, and train as tomorrow's scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.
The TechTransport Bus is among the latest innovative strategies of the nonprofit Information Technology Empowerment Center to bring STEM education to local communities whose residents have limited access to home computers and the Internet.
The bus serves as a mobile computer lab, bringing courses in robotics, digital media, game design, animation programming, and web and app development. A "spaceship simulator" will enable students to travel to distant planets and serve as members of a crew. Basic computer literacy, college readiness workshops, after school tutoring programs in math and science, and GED prep and entrepreneurship classes will also be part of the curriculum.
"We're looking at fantastic educational opportunities that can help people develop the skills needed for 21st century jobs," says Luke Kane, director of education programs at ITEC. "We hope to take the bus to whoever wants to use it."
ITEC expects to have the bus on the road as early as July 2015, with stops anticipated at local schools, community centers, business parking lots, summer camps or special events. The bus can accommodate up to 14 students at a time. ITEC expects to serve 2,500 students annually throughout the Capital region through TechTransport programs.
Kane says ITEC plans to hire several staff to provide programming, and is in the process of recruiting students from Lansing Community College to work on the bus.
Lansing's Dean Transportation donated the bus, while the R.E. Olds and Joe D. Pentecost foundations helped outfit the bus exterior with a high-tech look. ITEC is seeking additional funds to help cover the costs of hardware, classroom materials, maintenance and upkeep.

Source: Luke Kane, Director of Education Programs, Tech Transport
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Innovation News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association relocates to Okemos, renews focus on education

An association with a statewide presence approaching 110 years will focus on growth and renewal in 2015 after moving to a new location in late 2014.
The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association picked up 300 square feet plus easy-on, easy-off access to I-96 with the cross-town relocation from Lansing to 2175 Commons Parkway in Okemos. The 18,000-square foot office, says association leadership, also provides space to grow and for coordinating conferences and educational events related to Michigan's lodging and tourism industry.
"We've grown in recent years," says Steve Yencich, president and CEO of the MLTA. "This move serves as an opportunity to expand our operations and to put our best foot forward as we move toward the future."
The upcoming year, Yencich says, will renew MLTA's focus on education, with plans to develop up to eight regional education seminars on leadership skills for all levels of hotel and lodging industry staff. Other core activities include leading advocacy efforts for the Pure Michigan Campaign, and fostering professional development and networking opportunities through the coordination of the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism. Started in 2006, the conference has grown from an initial 275 attendees to nearly 1,000 in 2014.
Formed in 1905, the MLTA is the only statewide trade association that advocates for Michigan's lodging and tourism industry. The association represents hundreds of hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts across the state, comprising more than 50,000 guest rooms. The MLTA membership includes suppliers and vendors, convention and visitor bureaus, colleges and universities, students, attractions and transportation operators.
Tourism, says Yencich, generates upward to 18 billion dollars in economic activity each year for Michigan, and employs more than 200,000 people statewide.
"That includes high school and college students, and high school and college graduates," says Yencich. "It's a wonderful career opportunity for people of all ages."
The MLTA currently employs three full-time staff, two part-timers, several college interns, and works with dozens of industry professionals for seminars and job- and leadership-based educational training.
Source: Steve Yencich, President and CEO, Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Innovation News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Mason resident creates website to find deals, coupons

Mason resident Chris Bishop has always been someone who hunted for deals. He became so adept at it, that he became the go-to guru for many of his friends when it came to finding coupons. After he got three questions in one night, he decided to build a website and was born. 

The site’s goal is to be a one stop shop for information on budgeting, finding coupons, and saving money. Bishop says it can be hard to find the information you need online, but the site can help. It also gives guidance on how to save daily and how to use the stores you like but pay less. 

When the site went up, it only took a few weeks to gain a large following. The more content he added, the more attention he got on social media until eventually maintaining the site became another full-time job. He’s getting calls from across the country and multiples countries with requests for content and has also been in touch with the television show, Shark Tank. 

If the site continues its growth rate, Bishop could definitely see hiring in the next six months to a year. “I’m having a hard time keeping up, and we have a chance to be very large.”

Source: Chris Bishop, Founder-Deal Baby
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

400,000 gallon tank at MSU creates renewable energy

The gas coming out of the 400,000 gallon kettle on Michigan State’s campus is more than just hot air. 

The waste, manure or compost that goes into the kettle will produce gases, methane being the most preferred, that will support electrical generation. The tank is located next to MSU’s dairy farm and because of its partnership with Meijer and other local restaurants and cafeterias, the tank produces more energy than other dairy farms twice its size. This production rate also has to do with, according to Dana Kirk, Assistant Professor and manager of MSU's Anaerobic Digester Research and Education Center, that they are “using organic waste to power it.” They are not only creating energy but also keeping more waste out of landfills by extracting the nutrients from it and reusing them. 

The project has created energy, reduced waste and also created jobs, and will continue to do so. While the project itself created one full-time position, it also creates more service jobs through the servicing of the machine and the delivery of the waste materials. As more are installed throughout the state, more businesses will be created to maintain them. It also offers valuable work in the way of experience for the students who help run the project. 

Source: Dana Kirk, Assistant Professor
?Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Hatching contestant pitches Mini Maker Space

With the introduction of various Maker spaces in the area, inventors and creatives are getting more opportunities to bring their ideas to life. But, with all these opportunities, Melissa Rabideau Allen noticed a particular group that was being left out. “Kids are pretty much geniuses,” says Rabideau, “but their creativity isn’t always harnessed.”

As part of the team that brought us The Poochie Bowl, Rabideau presented her idea for a Mini Maker Space at last months’ Hatching and brought home the grand prize. The space will be open to kids ages 4-12, but Rabideau says they won’t exclude those older or younger that would like to participate. “A lot of the time kids have ideas, they just don’t know how to make them happen,” says Rabideau. 

The space will have hands on tools, technology and other inventors available to them that can help with the logistics of their idea. They will have access to 3D printers and scanners, motors, circuits and anything else that will help them take an idea and turn it into a product. 

The Mini Maker Space will have a flagship store in the Meridian Mall and will look to other Maker Spaces to connect with them. They expect to hire at least 10-12 people within the next 6-12 months. 

Source: Melissa Rabideau Allen, Founder
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

LEAP launches foreign investment program, welcomes new companies, jobs, to the area

As manager of business attraction for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), David Olson is currently in Italy as a part of the newly launched Direct Foreign Investment Attraction Program. Here, he will spend three weeks connecting with businesses and firms interested in expanding and bringing new business and jobs to the region. 

Many other regions in the state have had great success with programs like this over the last few decades and Bob Trezise, President and CEO of LEAP, is happy that it’s happening here. “We are very excited that with David Olson’s leadership and a very targeted and smart approach, the time is right for us to be able to attract investment in Lansing.” 

There are many reasons the time seems to be right for Lansing to launch a program like this one one of the biggest being that, for the first time in a long time, Lansing has a story to tell. “We really are a great place to invest,” says Trezise, “we are a fired up, emerging, global economy.” 

And while it may take a few years for the program to have maximum effect, it has already landed a few contracts with smaller plants, a typical starting point. These contracts will bring at least 5 jobs to the area and are just a jumping off point. 

Source: Bob Trezise, President and CEO, LEAP
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MSU chosen to screen unique, violence prevention video

Michigan State University is one of four colleges chosen to pilot test and screen the One Love Foundation’s relationship violence prevention educational video. MSU was chosen because it has one of the top violence prevention programs in the country.

The video is the first in the nation and breaks ground by following an abusive relationship from the very beginning to its heartbreaking end. No other video has touched on those crucial, early stages in an abusive relationship. “It touches on all the nuances of abuse,” says Dr. Amy Bonomi Professor and Chair of the Human Development and Family Studies Department at MSU, “Not just the physical, but the emotional as well.” 

The video also takes a unique view at the role that technology plays in abuse; the control strategies that can be used through texting and social media to track a victim's whereabout and harass them. 

Those screening the video have the opportunity to discuss what they saw and voice their opinions. So far, around 100 students have seen the video and Dr. Bonomi says the overall reactions have been positive. Many who have had the experience said it was very realistic, others said they recognized behaviors, and others were inspired to enter careers in violence prevention. 

Source: Dr. Amy Bonomi, Michigan State University
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Prima Civitas, Maker's Coalition push for re-growth of the cut and sew industry

Prima Civitas is working with the Maker’s Coalition to re-establish an industry that has been brought back to Lansing’s attention through the establishment of The Runway Fashion Incubator; the Cut and Sew Industry. While the incubator has sewing machines that will take a design from prototype to product, this industry is much more than clothes. 

The Cut and Sew Industry can include awnings, tarps, clothing, boat covers, leather goods and much more. But whatever they produce, they need human hands to create it. And, in many of the companies in this industry, those human hands are about to retire. Prima Civitas and the Maker’s Coalition want to work with community colleges to provide the training one would need to enter the growing industry. “We want to couple the curriculum with a workforce development program,” says Prima Civitas CEO, Arnold Weinfeld, “Hopefully to get people on the job and re-establish the industry in Michigan.”

The program has already been initiated in Southeast Michigan but they see Lansing as a great future city. They are looking to establish a program of six months or less that would teach sewing techniques, preparing people for a career with good wages and bright future. 

Source: Arnold Weinfeld, Prima Civitas 
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

BWL announces smart meter pilot program

On Thursday, November 6 the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) General Manager J. Peter Lark announced the launch of the community smart grid pilot project. 

Beginning on November 20 with the Bailey neighborhood in East Lansing, the BWL will install 140 smart meters in homes. They decided to start the pilot in this neighborhood because, according to Amy Akers of the BWL, “There are a lot of students there. We will be able to test the features that allow us to turn the features on and off remotely.” 

The hope is that meter readers will no longer need to be sent to homes. Residents will be able to get an energy reading every fifteen minutes and see exactly where energy is being used. “They can see where their money is being spent and why their bill is what is,” says Akers. The meters will also instantly inform the BWL when and where the power goes out instead of waiting for a call. They will then be able to dispatch someone immediately. 

“It’s something people have wanted,” says Akers. There will be no charge to those having meters installed now. This pilot phase is simply to see how customers feel about the meters. 

Source: Amy Akers, The Lansing Board of Water and Light
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Quantum Medical Concepts invests and brings Advanced Amputee Solutions to East Lansing

Advanced Amputee Solutions will receive the first investment from Quantum Medical Concepts, a partnership between Michigan State Medical Society and Common Wealth Enterprises. The goal of the partnership is to provide early-stage funding for developing medical advances. Advanced Amputee Solutions uses the Cushioning Implantable End Pad (CIEP) a polymer-based cushioning device, to eliminate pain and discomfort associated with amputated limbs. 

While the business is based in Metro-Detroit, they will be moving to the Michigan State Medical Society Headquarters in East Lansing. “We are drawn to Lansing because of the amount of resources,” says Gordon Maniere, Founder, “The network in Lansing is unbelievable.” Maniere says it’s that network, and the plan put in place by Tom Stewart of Common Wealth Enterprises, that will help take them past the startup phase. “There are a lot of people here with a lot of influence.” 

Advanced Amputee Solutions produces an innovative product that looks to change the way prosthetic sockets are made. “The product will have a dramatic result across the country and hopefully internationally,” says Maniere. There are an estimated two million amputees in America that will benefit from the product. It is currently in development and the investment will help with further prototyping and testing. 

Source: Gordon Maniere, Founder Advanced Amputee Solutions
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
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