Innovation & Job News

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Peckham Farms partners with Lansing-area Meijer stores

The Lake Lansing and Okemos Meijer stores are now featuring several Peckham Farms vegetables. Customers are able to purchase Peckham heirloom tomatoes and peppers, graffiti cauliflower, royal burgundy green beans and cucumbers.
The Peckham and Meijer partnership has been an ongoing effort for a number of years, beginning with an initial goal to place individuals with disabilities into employment opportunities at Meijer. The organizations have been working together by providing job training and skill development to create work environments that are more inclusive and accessible.
"The Peckham Farm products that are now in Meijer stores is just another extension of this partnership and speaks to our shared commitment to building local and sustainable communities," says Chris Wilson, Store Director of the Okemos Meijer.
"We are excited for Peckham Farms to be featured at local Meijer stores, and expand our reach into the community," adds Peckham Farms Manager, Rebekah Faivor.
Peckham Farms is in its third year of growing, and uses sustainable principles in its farming techniques. The farm is one of five social enterprises that focuses on providing paid job training opportunities in for persons with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Source: Shavonne Singleton, Peckham, Inc.  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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LRN 101 wraps two years of educational programming

The award winning show LRN 101 wraps a two year run of programming in August. The show has been a pro-bono project of Such Video and Keep Learning…Our Future Depends On It and made possible through an equipment grant by the Lansing Public Media Center.
The gran program asked local organizations to create two years' worth of content, or 48 episodes, using equipment provided by the Public Media Center. As a result, Such Video and Keep Learning developed LRN 101, focusing on highlighting education in fun and engaging way, and stressing for viewers how important it is to always keep learning.
"It was amazing to see so many people come together to help tell the story of education in Lansing," says Karen Stefl, partner at Such Video.

As part of the 48 episodes, 294 individual segments were filmed in the news-style show, with 399 interviews. Twenty student interns and one full-time employee were added to the Such Video team to help with the project.
"Supporting the Lansing community is something we value at Such Video, and we embrace education development as economic development," says Stefl. "The collaboration that is Keep Learning helps our community to flourish." 
LRN 101 currently airs on Lansing City TV and WKAR-HD at 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Full episodes are also available on Vimeo at
Source: Karen Stefl, Such Video  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News

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Michigan Farm Bureau plans for growth, for farmers and team

As a grassroots organization, Michigan Farm Bureau's future is in the hands of their more than 48,500 farming members. 
"We are more than an organization of farmers; we are a farmers’ organization. Our members set our policy and our member leaders provide direction; our board of directors is composed of leaders who make a living farming," says Scott Piggott, Michigan Farm Bureau chief operating officer.  
Farm Bureau goals include growing new opportunities to market and add value to farm products, to promote an environment where farming can grow responsibly and to grow member leaders in communities. 
In the past 12 months, the Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies has added 84 established, full-time staff members. That includes both new blood from outside Farm Bureau and those who have transitioned from a temporary pool into established positions. Adding some key new positions, including a technology director, is anticipated.
Piggott says that beyond their talented staff is a grass-roots membership - the heart of the organization.
"They’re the real innovators, developing policy at the local level and passing it up to statewide delegates at our annual meeting for refinement and consolidation. That’s where our direction comes from, year after year," he explains.  
Source: Scott Piggott, Michigan Farm Bureau  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Lansing Habitat for Humanity teams with Little Caesars to fuel volunteers

Habitat for Humanity Lansing is building three green, geothermal, energy star homes on Wayne Street in Lansing. Each home will be unique and have between three and five bedrooms, a nice-sized front porch and a natural setting for the children to play in. Once the homes are complete, the homebuyers will take possession and pay an interest-free mortgage to Habitat for Humanity Lansing.
"Our homes are built in partnership with hard-working homebuyers who will put in 300-500 hours of sweat equity on their own home and other Habitat projects. We provide a hand up, not a hand out to individuals that are living in poverty housing and offer a chance to own their own home, build equity and have a safe, decent, affordable place to live," says Dena Vatalaro, Development Director for Habitat Lansing.
The Lansing Little Caesars franchise, Oak Point Partners, is proud to be partnering with Habitat Lansing this summer by donating pizzas for the volunteer crews. Due to budget constraints, Habitat Lansing is not able to offer a lunch to the volunteers, so this partnership significantly improves the volunteer experience.
"We believe this gesture by Little Caesars will set an example for other local business owners to do what they can to help their local non-profits through in-kind donations. Habitat Lansing relies on area businesses to donate materials, services and products to continue the mission to eliminate substandard housing here in the greater Lansing area," says Vatalaro.
Source: Dena Vatalaro, Habitat for Humanity Lansing  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Taste of Downtown tickled tons of taste buds, experiencing record attendance

Approximately 1,100 people enjoyed the 4th Annual Taste of Downtown on Saturday, July 20. Event attendees enjoyed an afternoon full of delicious food from 16 downtown restaurants, sampling over 100 different wines, and dancing to live music on Washington Square.
"We're thrilled - this is the highest attendance that the festival has experienced in its four year history," reports Cathleen Edgerly, Communications and Marketing Manager for Downtown Lansing, Inc.
The official after party was held at P Squared Wine Bar & Bistro, sponsors and a restaurant participant in the event. The establishment was full with Taste of Downtown attendees after the festival ended at 8 p.m.
The Downtown Lansing event, steeped in collaboration was majorly sponsored by Lake Trust Credit Union and showcased a diversity of participating restaurants, including AnQi SushiWandering Waffles and Capitol City Grille.
"Our live entertainment was sponsored by Troppo, and attendees enjoyed the musical offerings from bands like Southpaw Isle SteelbandAvon BombRoot Doctor and The Squids," adds Edgerly.
Source: Cathleen Edgerly, Downtown Lansing, Inc.
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Capital Strategies growing team, growing impact

Capital Strategies, LLC is a comprehensive financial planning company residing in Lansing. Whether it's accumulation, distribution, or estate planning, they serve those in all phases of financial planning.
"Every person has a unique financial fingerprint, so every financial plan we design is tailored to meet individual circumstances," says Shannon Poynter, Business Development Director at Capital Strategies.
Capital Strategies helps to identify where clients are financially to help determine if they are positioned to sufficiently meet both current and future needs. They also assist in designing and implementing a plan based on client inputs and their professional recommendations and monitoring the plan once in place.
They recently moved to a new office after expanding their team. With a staff of five, Capital Strategies is looking to hire an executive assistant and an additional financial planner in the near future.
"The wealth of economic diversity in the area has definitely had a positive impact on our business. Greater Lansing has a diverse group of individuals with unique needs who we have been able to help with their financial needs and goals," adds Poynter.
Source: Shannon Poynter, Capital Strategies LLC  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Adopt A Spot labor of love keeps Downtown clean

With more than 155 flower gardens and 55 rain gardens within the downtown district, keeping all the debris and trash at bay could be a daunting task for any person. However, thanks to the countless volunteers who make up the 65 groups who annually adopt these gardens, downtown Lansing is a more beautiful place to be.
The seasonal Adopt a Spot Program runs annually from May-November. As one of the largest urban rain garden projects in the country, the program relies on the time and talent of volunteers to keep these areas clean and in shape. During the course of just a couple months, the program’s 65 adopting groups have logged over 170 hours removing over 3,400 gallons of debris, weeds and trash from entering the Grand River and city infrastructure system.
"The Adopt A Spot program began in in 2009 with a 45% percent adoption rate, which has grown to 73% at the end of the season in 2012. We are really pleased that the program is on pace to exceed last year’s adoption rate due to the continued increase of community volunteers," says Mindy Biladeau, Downtown Lansing, Inc. Executive Director. 
A seasonal Adopt-A-Spot Coordinator oversees all of the volunteer groups. The coordinator’s tasks include recruiting volunteer groups to pick up litter, pulling weeds, and basic maintenance, along with many other tasks to keep downtown Lansing looking clean and green throughout the year.
"Adopt-A-Spot volunteers take great pride and ownership in their gardens, and we appreciate their personal contributions to maintaining these public spaces," adds Biladeau. 
Source: Cathleen Edgerly, Downtown Lansing, Inc.
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Emergent BioSolutions anticipates 15 year anniversary, continues to set high goals

Emergent BioSolutions is a global specialty pharmaceutical company that seeks to protect and enhance life by offering specialized products to healthcare providers and governments to address medical needs and emerging health threats. This September, Emergent will celebrate its 15-year anniversary.
"It has been incredible to see how we have grown in the past 15 years and I couldn’t be more excited to watch as our organization strives to reach the high goals we have set for ourselves," says Adam R. Havey, Executive Vice President and President, BioDefense Division.  
With their Growth Plan Goals in place, Emergent BioSolutions is determined to reach three main objectives by 2015 - generate annual product revenue of more than $500 million, achieve a three-year net income compound annual growth rate of more than 15% and secure diversified revenues from at least three marketed specialty products.
The company has 437 Lansing employees, a large number of whom are active in community. A Corporate Social Responsibility program was recently implemented: Give, Invest, Volunteer in their Emergent Communities (eGIVE), which provides the opportunity for employees to direct charitable contributions to charities of their choice. eGIVE has four areas of focus - advancing global health, protecting those who protect us, educating tomorrow’s scientific leaders and improving the communities in which we live and work.

"Each full time Lansing employee is granted eight hours of volunteer time per year to volunteer in the Lansing area," explains Havey.
Source: Adam R. Havey, Emergent BioSolutions
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Capital Area Restaurant Week partners 28 area restaurants to benefit Greater Lansing Food Bank

Local, independently owned restaurants will put their cuisine on display during this first ever Capital Area Restaurant Week (CARW) July 21-25th in the hopes that it will bring additional traffic to the restaurant during a traditionally slow traffic time. 28 participating restaurants have created 3-course meals for either $25 per person or $25 per couple, depending upon the restaurant.
"Customers can choose from their favorites and make reservations now. The restaurant will make a 10% donation to the Greater Lansing Food Bank for every restaurant week meal sold during this event," says CARW Treasurer/Board of Directors, Angela Padgett.
The organizers of CARW believe innovation breeds excellence and success in the hyper-competitive world of the restaurant business and that It is even more important to keep fresh ideas in front the customers and the community in this particular industry because of the its competitive nature.
"We plan to make this an annual event and feel like this first one is already a success because of the community support and visibility to the Greater Lansing Food Bank as well as the restaurants that are participating," says Padgett.
Participating restaurants and menus are posted at
Source: Angela Padgett, Capital Area Restaurant Week, Inc.  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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PTD Technology grows staff, fosters self-reliant clients

PTD Technology is a technology solutions provider for businesses, the retail market, non-profit, higher education, and government entities. Their objective is to help customers capitalize on their technology, ultimately contributing to increased profitability, efficiency, and the ability to provide enhanced service to their clients. PTD specializes in custom applications, technological education, consulting, project management, technical writing and IT support.
"Since 1978, PTD Technology has ranked among the Midwest's premier providers of technical services to businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and colleges of all sizes and types," says PTD VP of Finance, Jennifer L. Hogan.
The woman-owned company, located in East Lansing, has around 20 staff members. Two new full time positions were added this spring, in addition to being able to convert a part time employee to full time. 
"Our hope would be to consistently grow our staff by 5-10% per year," says Hogan.
PTD's goal is always to provide highly rated services as a partner to clients. 
"Our purpose is not to make our clients reliant on us, rather to be able to implement our services in order to make them more self-reliant," Hogan explains.
PTD strives to better innovation in their industry, combining a staff comprised of some of the best talent in the area, to provide better products and services to customers, allowing them to be innovators in their respective industries.

Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce partners with social gifting program

The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce began a relationship with Conpoto earlier this year after being approached by the company about a potential partnership. The Chamber was impressed with the social gifting concept and the ways that social gifting could support Chamber activities by rewarding current members, entice and drive membership efforts and assist with retention.
"We were also very pleased with the potential for merchants to rake in some additional revenue. It really was a win-win situation for us," says Michelle Rahl, Director of Marketing and Events for the Chamber.
Conpoto is a great tool to reward LRCC members or prospects for things like membership purchases or renewals, having a meeting with the Chamber, or participating on a board or panel. The Chamber is able to reward members with things like a cup of coffee or an appetizer at a local member establishment.
The Chamber was very impressed with the concept of social gifting and the idea of rewarding people with their everyday purchases. Born out of college campuses it was a natural concept to adapt to the Chamber model.
"The Greater Lansing region is a wonderful place to offer Conpoto as we have an eclectic dining scene. And as this program grows in familiarity, we expect more and more merchants to participate," explains Rahl.
The Chamber is in discussions with Conpoto about approaching other industries in the region, outside of restaurants.
Source: Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Gillespie Group strives to bring positive placemaking, adds staff

The Gillespie Group is dedicated to transforming spaces and buildings throughout the state, but embraces the old adage 'home is where the heart is.'
"The Lansing area continues to be a great market for us to take our creativity a little further than we would elsewhere," says Jason Kildea, Director of Commercial Real Estate. "Bottom line, while we may look at other communities, we will always look at opportunities in and around Lansing that help make a difference."
Gillespie has approximately 15 full time employees at their corporate office and hires another 60 or so across the state. They've hired for three new positions in the past year and anticipate adding two more in over the next six months.
"We have incredible staff that has a can-do attitude," adds Kildea. "While Pat is our leader, it takes a team and we have a great one."

Gillespie has two exciting projects underway in Lansing: Marketplace and Midtown. Marketplace will be an 80 unit for rent residential building located next to the City Market. Midtown will be situated on the former Silver Dollar site and will have 66 rental units with a bank on the first floor. 
"We have a ton of great stuff going on right now," says Kildea. "The next 12-18 months are going to change our company again, for the better."  
Source: Jason Kildea, Gillespie Group
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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WetFusion Creative expands team, set sights on continued growth

WetFusion Creative is a marketing and design consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses "get creative" in their branding and marketing.
"We work with small and medium sized businesses on projects from simple design work, through complete branding campaigns, using a combination of traditional, digital and social media," says Jason Aten, WetFusion Founder and Creative Director.
Founded in 2009, WetFusion is looking to the next few years with excitement for staying ahead of the curve and helping their clients take advantage of new technology to meet their customers where they're at.  
"We continue to grow and expect to expand our ability to provide a full-service creative team to meet client needs," says Aten.
WetFusion currently has a staff of five, three of whom were hired over the last year.  As their client base continues to grow, Aten anticipates doubling staff size over the next 12 months. 
Aten says the Lansing area has had a significant impact on WetFusion's on business. 
"The level of creative talent based here - both as a result of Michigan State University and the various other colleges and the base of innovative companies that call the Lansing area home - has had a positive impact on our company."
Source: Jason Aten, WetFusion Creative
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Ele's Place recognizes Jackson National Life for over $700,000 in contributions

Michigan’s First Lady Sue Snyder, who serves as the statewide spokesperson for Ele’s Place, presented a special award to Michael A. Wells, Jackson National Life Insurance Company President and CEO, for the profound impact their Lansing associates have made on the lives of grieving children at Ele’s Place. The award was presented on June 6 at an Ele’s Place donor appreciation event at the Michigan Governor’s Residence.
“Jackson’s continued financial support is especially important to Ele’s Place as we support more grieving children than ever before,” says Laurie Strauss Baumer, Ele’s Place President and CEO. 
Having contributed over $700,000 to programs over the past 10 years, Jackson’s support includes the title sponsorship and host of Ele’s Race 5K and the presenting sponsorship of the Ultimate Spartan Challenge.
"Our employees give time and money to countless charitable causes, but Ele’s Place has a special place in the hearts of many Jackson employees," says Danielle Robinson, Jackson Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist.
Since 1991, Ele’s Place has provided grief support services at no cost to families whose children are grieving the death of a parent, sibling or other loved one. Ele’s Place supports an average of 350 children plus their family members each week through its Lansing and Ann Arbor branches. 
Source: Molly Day, Ele's Place
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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GreenStone awards $21,000 in scholarships to MSU veterinary medicine students

GreenStone Farm Credit Services, an agricultural lender based in East Lansing, recently announced $21,000 in scholarships for seven Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine students.
"We believe in supporting the education of those who are our potential future customers and helping to make sure agricultural businesses are profitable down the road by strengthening the resources of the future," says Melissa Rogers, GreenStone's Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations.
GreenStone is committed to preparing tomorrow's leaders for their careers in the diverse agriculture industry. The scholarship recipients are passionate about veterinary medicine and help preserve the legacy of Michigan's agriculture industry. GreenStone feels it is important to help these students succeed, as they will be the next generation of veterinarians helping members maintain healthy and productive herds.
"It about more than just the bottom line for us," explains Rogers. "It's about being involved in and delivering quality resources to our local communities."
A member-owned cooperative, GreenStone owns and manages approximately $6.3 billion in assets and serves more than 23,000 members with 37 branch locations in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin.
Source: Melissa Rogers, GreenStone Farm Credit Services
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.
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