Innovation & Job News

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Student owned and operated cheese steak stand opens in East Lansing

It's not often you hear of a 19 year old and a 20 year old opening a business, and creating their own business plan to boot. But that's just what MSU students and long time friends Alex Lennard and Hunter Mowers did when they launched State's Cheese Steaks last week.
"We wanted to start our own business and had originally thought about opening a hot dog stand," explains Lennard. The City of East Lansing wouldn't grant a permit for that, which got Lennard thinking.
While in Panama City for Spring Break, the friends came across a cheese steak stand that had a line that lasted throughout entire day. Pair that inspiration with an entrepreneurial drive to provide something new in the East Lansing culinary scene, and you've got the recipe for a food stand.
Located on the corner of Abbott and Albert, the stand is open Thursday through Sunday. They hope to be able to hire 2 to 3 employees beyond themselves once business gets further off the ground.
A finance student, Lennard says "This is teaching us way more than the classroom could; we're dealing with real people and a real business."
Source: Alex Lennard, State's Cheese Steaks
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Williamston's Red Cedar Grill debuts new owners & management

As self-professed foodies, Mike and Amanda Luther always had the plan of opening a restaurant floating around in the back of their minds. The opportunity to make good on that plan came to fruition when they found out the Red Cedar Grill in Williamston was for sale.
"We wanted to breath new life into a restaurant people knew and loved," explains Amanda. "We're leaving some of the favorite menu items, like the carrot cake, but we're exploring some new options that will change seasonally and will offer some flavor experiences you can't get anywhere else."
With a focus on providing local fare and partnering with local vendors and farmers, the Luthers also keep their eyes on providing a value to their guests. They're happy to announce their daily Bar Bites menu, which offers entrees and drinks for $3 to $4, a la happy hour style from 3:00 to 6:00 during the workweek.
They anticipate hiring 5 to 10 new staff members for a variety of positions including servers and line/prep cooks, after promoting many of the existing staff to full time status. Their motto? "Big city tastes in a small town," says Luther.

Source: Amanda Luther, Red Cedar Grill
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here

Collaborative Art@Work installation debuts at Peckham

"Art@Work is a celebration - a celebration of a successful partnership and collaboration between Peckham, Inc. and MSU's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) and College of Engineering," says Shavonne Singleton, Peckham Public Relations Specialist. The partnership brings together higher education, the arts, accessibility and technology to highlight the abilities and diversity of each individual artist.
With Peckham’s emphasis on diversity and therapeutic and creative self-expression through art, and RCAH’s focus on civic engagement, community, and experiential learning in the arts and humanities, the two realized this collaboration would be an excellent opportunity to create a visual representation reflecting innovation, and inclusiveness. Students from the College of Engineering worked specifically to develop a proposed solution to install the art display, and most recently, collaborated with RCAH students to develop viewing technology for the installation.
"For the artists," Singleton explains, "we hope the Art@Work is a source of pride – to be able to express themselves and their stories artistically, and also share that story with the community at large."
The unveiling will take place on Saturday, February 23, from 10AM to 1PM at Peckham and is a free event open to the public.
Source: Shavonne Singleton, Peckham, Inc.
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Great Lakes Capital Fund celebrates 20-year anniversary, $130 million in local investments

Situated in the heart of REO Town, Great Lakes Capital Fund  is celebrating 20 years of local and national service and investments; $2.6 billion across the Midwest and $130.3 million in the Lansing Tri-County area.
"Twenty years of operation means twenty years of building vibrant, healthy, and sustainable communities," says GLCF advocacy specialist, Kelly Bernero.
GLCF is able to leverage private equity that otherwise would likely not be invested into local community development projects, through tax credits, mortgage and debt financing, grants, and other financing tools. Through $2.6 billion worth of investments, GLCF has supported 35,000 units of housing, 1 million square feet of commercial space, and in its 20 year history the Housing Credit has helped leverage 52,588 jobs.
Bernero says of GLCF and innovation: "As a full service community development finance institution, our organization is constantly seeking the most efficient, and flexible ways of doing things for people and communities."
In the Lansing Tri-County Area alone, GLCF has contributed $116.2 million to local incomes and $14.2 million in local government tax revenue. This amount of investment has leveraged 1,736 jobs in the Lansing Tri-County Area since 1993.
Source: Kelly Bernero, Great Lakes Capital Fund
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here

Wireless Developer Agency plans for doubling sales and expanding staff

Wireless Developer Agency (WDA) puts relevant information in front of the people at the right time and in the right way. The East Lansing based high-tech mobile marketing company believes that special technologies need to provide customers with a more enriched experience.
President and CEO, Konny Zsigo says, "Consumers are looking for a more enchanting experience with their personal devices as they gain more control over them; the world is going to demand advertising as less of an interruption and more of a presentation of valuable information."
WDA is managing toward growth with that demand in mind; they’re looking at doubling their top line of sales in 2013 and plan to expand staff in response. An anticipated 16 employees will be added to the existing staff of 40 by the end of the year.
A big part of the WDA story is that they don’t generally hire people who are in their industry; they hire local and welcome them to an incubative culture. Of the choice to remain in the Lansing area, rather than head to other tech hubs like NYC or LA, Zsigo says: "We’d rather provide the culture that makes the magic, not move somewhere that has the culture."

Source: Konny Zsigo & Brennan Hayden, WDA
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association improves air quality through EPA grant

Through a pioneering EPA strategy focusing on the nation’s often-unseen sources of pollution, such as heavy construction, locomotive and marine engines, Okemos-based Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) collaborated with the state’s largest construction contractors to accomplish this goal.
"Were interested in the economic engine of Michigan," says Vice President of Membership Services, Rob Coppersmith. "What’s good for Michigan is good for contractors, so we’re always looking for opportunities to keep them going."
The EPA Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative targets large, off-road diesel engines using old technology to power high-performing, heavy construction equipment. Targeting engines causing the most pollution offers the greatest impact in managing air quality in the state. The older, less efficient engines are replaced with new clean burning components that meet more stringent emission standards.
Of this $1.26 million grant, Coppersmith says: "People who normally would have been laid off and businesses that would have been forced to close due to outdated equipment were spared by this grant. It’s a real win-win for Michigan’s economy and environment."

Source: Rob Coppersmith, MITA
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Smart Homes/Smart Offices continues hiring as automation systems business grows

Smart Homes, Inc./Smart Offices’ mission is to be Mid-Michigan’s preferred technology provider. The Okemos-based home automation systems provider strives to provide excellent home and office technology products and services within an environment of respect, innovation, continual learning, teamwork and fun.

The Smart Homes element of the company specializes in a variety of home automation systems, including Lighting Control, Audio and Video Control, HVAC Control, Security System Control, plus the Ultimate Home Theater experience. Whereas the Smart Office, the technology and business consulting division, offers a wide variety of software and hardware solutions and network installations (from large, corporate Wide Area Network with advanced security to simple in-home networks for sharing internet connection or files and printers between home computers).

"We currently have 20 employees on staff," says President, John Gilluly. "Of those 20, we added 7 in the past year and hope to add another programmer and senior automation installer soon.  A complete listing of available positions can be found on our website."

Of the region, Gilluly says: "We are truly grateful for the support that the Greater Lansing Area has given us.  We value our clients and seek to build long-standing, personal relationships with each of them.  Without them, we would not exist."
SHSO will host an open house event in the spring, where potential clients can personally see and experience smart living solutions. Also look for them at the 2013 Lansing Home & Garden Show, March 14-17 at the MSU Pavilion. 

Source: John Gilluly, Smart Homes/Smart Offices
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

King Media anticipates 10-20% job growth in 2013

King Media, a boutique, full-service advertising, marketing, and public relations firm based in East Lansing, "delivers the right message, at the right time, to the right audience every day," says marketing coordinator, Kerri Molitor.
The firm, founded in 1999, currently staffs 10, and intends to hire 1 to 2 people in the next year; a job growth of 10-20%.
Of being part of the Lansing area, Molitor says: "We are a woman-owned small business and we have always loved being rooted in the Greater Lansing community. Because of the State Capital and the University, the local economy has been surprisingly stable. It has been this economic stability and growth even in the recent economically challenged times that we have been grateful for.  In addition, we love the diversity of our great State of Michigan and as the capital; Lansing is the perfect example of that diversity."
King Media keeps focus on their customers and growing those businesses even more, knowing that if their clients are successful, they are successful. Additionally, they understand that technology has changed the way people shop, how they receive information, and how they communicate. Molitor says that continued education is mandatory for each member of the King Media staff in order to stay head of trends and to know where the market is going.

2012 a year of expansion for Michigan Creative, 2013 slated for the same

Over the past year, Michigan Creative has expanded quite a bit in both customers and in staff.  They have begun to expand their reach to both small and large Michigan businesses and are continually investigating and adding more services to better serve their customers. CEO Brian Town says: "we are working towards being a marketing company that anyone can come to for any business need."
Michigan Creative currently has a core staff of 5 in addition to 9 interns. The fluctuation of student interns is vital to the company, as it brings in new faces and new knowledge. Town says they’re looking to grow as much as they can, to as many people as they can.
Of the future, Town says: "We are always coming up with wild and crazy dreams and very lofty goals.  I have a team of very ambitious staff members that are always looking to help move us to that next step.  Long term, we want to turn Michigan Creative into a truly full service marketing company; video recording studios, photography studios, a large venue for company events, and so much more." Michigan Creative is also looking into a few different small business ventures of their own; which include a tie company as well as a food truck.  Short term, Town looks to hire full time staff and expand the intern program.

Lansing's MBI recipient of $2.5M U.S. Department of Energy biotech award

On January 3, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it has awarded Lansing's MBI International and Novozymes up to $2.5 million to develop new enzyme-based technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels.
"This award marks a significant milestone in MBI’s efforts to develop and commercialize our novel AFEX™ technology," says Allen Julian, MBI Chief Business Officer. "The collaborative effort with Novozymes made possible by this award will enable us to progress the technology needed to make efficient, economical cellulosic sugars available to biofuels and biochemical companies that are looking for non-food competing sugar sources."

The award will be used to further fund research and development needed to optimize the enzymes needed to extract fermentable sugars from AFEX™ treated biomass. Creating enzymes that are specifically engineered to work with AFEX™ treated biomass will reduce the cost of cellulosic sugars.
Julian explains the relationship between Novozymes and MBI: "There are two key challenges in converting agricultural biomass into bio-based fuels, chemicals, and other products: finding an economical way to handle, store and haul low density biomass from the farms where it is produced to biorefineries where it can be converted into useful products; the second involves technologies to efficiently break the biomass down into fermentable sugars. MBI’s AFEX™ technology addresses these challenges by providing a very effective and economical means to convert raw biomass into a stable, dense, pellet that can be produced close to the source of the biomass and readily shipped, using existing infrastructure, to biorefineries. Novozymes brings world-class enzyme development capability to the collaboration, enabling the development of an enzyme system specifically engineered to work with AFEX™ treated biomass to extract the maximum possible sugars at the lowest possible cost."

Hunter Park GardenHouse recipient of $60,900 grant for youth programming

Lansing’s Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC) will receive a $60,900 service-learning grant for a Health & Wellness service-learning community project from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. An innovative, youth-driven, community-oriented program housed within the ANC is the lucky recipient.
The Hunter Park GardenHouse Youth Program promotes food awareness, park stewardship, job and life skills development, and civic engagement. Program manager, Rita O’Brien says, “This grant will fund so many projects within the GardenHouse Program; our Youth Service Corps is busy with projects such as Garden-In-A-Box, Edible Park, and the Youth Food Cart.”
The Youth Food Cart was developed by the Service Corps group, made up of children ages 11-17, and comes complete with a business and marketing plan. The Garden-In-A-Box project gets the Corps building mobile gardening kits as well as relationships with their neighbors. The Edible Park provides harvesting opportunities to the neighborhood, and is managed by the Corps.
“The kids love it,” O’Brien says. “They love getting in the dirt, working with their hands and being active. There aren’t very many outlets for the youth in Lansing that want to do something for their community, and these kids are so excited to be able to serve their community.“

Center for Business Innovation sees continued growth, anticipates hiring for 2013

2012 was a year of growth and fine-tuning for the Center for Business Innovation (CBI). The technology service provider, headquartered in Lansing, experienced growth in their Cloud Computing and Managed Services offerings, as well as their Enterprise Wireless services. Because of this, CBI is continually expanding their storage and resources for their datacenter. 2013 is shaping up to be just as successful.
“One of our main goals this year is to continue focusing on mobility,” explains Marketing Coordinator, Katie Martz, “especially as tablets, mobile phones, laptops and other mobile devices are finding their way into organizations.” Another 2013 focus for the company is to continue educational events. “The technology world is quickly and forever changing. Our educational events are designed to keep our partners updated on the latest trends. Our partners can also learn of new ways technology can be implemented within their own organization,” says Martz.

The Lansing and corporate locations currently staff 46, and hired approximately 10 new staff members throughout 2012. CBI plans to hire an additional five to ten positions by the end of the 2013 as they expand their product and service offerings. The expanding CBI team will look at their partner organizations as a whole, beginning with building a relationship, understanding their everyday work styles and identifying their goals, in addition to looking for new ways to help optimize business operations through the use of technology.

Integrated Strategies provides world-class consulting while maintaining small-town values

Integrated Strategies CEO, Steve Trecha, perhaps explains it best: “Our focus is helping organizations identify, capture and sustain double-digit value creation.  Value is measured in price/cost reductions, revenue enhancement, asset utilization, business efficiencies and employee job enrichment.”
The Okemos-based supply chain, strategic sourcing, logistics, and warehousing company not only provides innovative solutions to companies in the likes of Georgia Pacific, John Deere, and Michigan State University, but strives for balance and always, always puts family first; something of an anomaly in the industry.
But, it’s not surprising, considering Trecha built the company based on the concept of balance and family almost 20 years ago. Those values shine through in Integrated Strategy’s guiding principles: Client Focus, Personal Dignity, WOW and Stakeholder value. This approach has garnered the company a variety of prestigious accolades and positions them as a fierce competitor with some of the largest and best known consulting firms in the world.
 “Innovation is achieving higher levels of value, quicker while continuing to get better at achieving higher levels of value, quicker and have fun doing it,” says Trecha. “This is how we think and what we deliver to our clients.”
Integrated Strategies operates with a core staff of 12, having hired 2 new members over the past year. Trecha anticipates hiring another 2-4 full-time staff in 2013. 

Lansing City Market receives grant to add to staff and expand programming

A grant from the Michigan Nutrition Network/Michigan Fitness Foundation has enabled the Lansing City Market to grow its staff. The grant covers the hiring of a Market Nutrition Specialist to help with the planning and coordination of nutrition education programming and to ensure educational services at the Market are optimally provided.
Heather Hymes, City Market Manager, shares this news with great excitement and anticipation, as staffing has been light since she arrived last May. “This grant will help us in reaching our goal of working to increase and improve upon our programming for the public and to provide superior customer service to our customers and the community we serve,” says Hymes. She also looks forward to hiring an AmeriCorps member over the summer.
“The new position is now allowing us to do some fantastic programming for children and their families through our Family Education Day and for adults who could use a nutrition intervention in their lives through our new program Today’s Special Program,” Hymes explains. Both of these programs will be taught and coordinated by the Nutrition Specialist and feature educational pieces in addition to food demos.
The City Market is open year-round, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10am-6pm and Saturdays 9am-5pm. Family Education Day is scheduled every Thursday at 4pm and the Today’s Special Program every Tuesday at 5:15 starting February 5. 

Courtland Consulting focuses on customer relationships, grows staff

Courtland Consulting is an equal opportunity employer based out of East Lansing. The consulting firm focuses on hiring exceptional people for both public and private sector contracts with a specialization in project management, project evaluation, system conversion and deployment, training development and delivery, and web design and programming. 
Relationships are important at Courtland. Director Sharon Pizzuti says, “We are proud to be based in Greater Lansing and we have maintained a strong community presence. Our outreach activities include: participation in community volunteer work, Lansing-based networking groups and local firm business partnerships. Working in Greater Lansing has provided us access to local high quality employees, and strong IT community partners.”
In addition to their existing team of 23, Courtland anticipates hiring 12 new staff members to work on anticipated contractual consulting work. In the last year, they have hired 8 additional resources from Michigan for Michigan-based jobs.
On innovation, Pizzuti explains, “For over 20 years, Courtland evaluates and contributes to technology and industry trends by continually building on our best practices while balancing contract work with ongoing training, research and development.”
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