Innovation & Job News

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St. Vincent's partners with Firecracker Foundation

A limited number of child survivors of sexual trauma will have access to therapeutic services through a new partnership between the Firecracker Foundation and St. Vincent Catholic Charities. The services are free and available to children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford high-quality, consistent care.
 
"This is one more step in helping us make valuable services available to people who lack the financial resources," says Tamra Johnson, community relations and marketing director for the Lansing-based St. Vincent's. "We are looking to serve as many children as possible."
 
The program began January 1 and is already serving one client. St. Vincent's provides therapists with specialized skills for working with survivors of sexual trauma, while the Firecracker Foundation provides funding supported through community donations. Clients may be referred to St. Vincent's through the Firecracker Foundation, or may call St. Vincent's directly for information on how to access services.
 
National statistics reveal that one in three girls and one in six boys will experience sexual trauma before the age of 18. Of those children, many will be among the 25 percent of children who live in poverty in Michigan. Further statistics reported by the Firecracker Foundation indicate that the lifetime economic burden of child abuse is estimated to be about $124 billion for communities across the United States.
 
"We are excited to partner with a local organization that is an essential resource to so many in need," says Tashmica Torok, executive director of the Firecracker Foundation. "This collaboration will help us extend treatment and prevent the consequences of untreated trauma for some of the youngest survivors in the tri-county area."
 
Torok says donations from the community will be crucial to sustaining the services of the Firecracker Foundation and the partnership with St. Vincent's.
 
"Every little bit helps," says Torok. "We hope to raise $65,000 by the end of 2015."
 
To learn more about services and how to apply, call St. Vincent's at 517-323-4734 or visit the Firecracker Foundation here. 
 
Source: Tamra Johnson, Community Relations and Marketing Director, St. Vincent Catholic Charities
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
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Swim Lively has legs as fashion-minded athletic and leisurewear

Thoughts of spring break or summer fun can be warming but also chilling when thoughts of pulling on a swimsuit come to mind.
 
Fine artist and sculpture Mary Gillis set out to take the edge off that shared anxiety by creating a swimsuit she felt comfortable wearing. Her design ended up being much more than a swimsuit, and became the platform for Swim Lively—her new Lansing-based business located in The Runway in downtown Lansing.
 
"I frequently travel and loved everything about it except putting on a swimsuit," says Gillis of her sojourns to sunny climes. "It seemed logical that a lot of women wouldn't want to wear a bikini or a typical swimsuit. I thought someone would design a comfortable suit, but no one did."
 
Gillis went to the drawing board combined elements of athletic and leisure wears and created a suit that can be worn for swim, yoga, sports, recreation or leisure. Made from high-tech fabric, the retro-styling provides more coverage in the hips and thighs with a chic, slimming silhouette. Side-zippered legs open to hips for lounging by the pool or beach, while options for bodice and back styles add to the figure flattering fits.
 
"I wanted to create something that was both athletic and chic," says Gillis. "I also wanted the structure of the suit to accommodate different body types by offering what I call the perfect fit equation."
 
Gillis made her first prototype suit in January 2014 and took it on a test run to Cabo. She said that so many women asked about her suit and where they could get one that she decided to take the plunge and launch the brand.
 
Gillis was among the inaugural members of The Runway in the renovated Knapp's Centre. She makes her own digitized patterns, sources materials, and works with a Michigan manufacturer who cuts and sews the suits. Swim Lively maintains a small inventory of suits in simple sizing from S, M, L and XL at the Runway store, with most sales directed online.
 
"Swim Lively is a sculptural art form I didn't anticipate getting into," says Gillis, whose work has been exhibited internationally through public, private and corporate collections, including Lansing's Accident Fund and the Board of Water and Light. "But I'm a visual problem solver. It goes with my DNA."
 
Source: Mary Gillis, Owner, Swim Lively
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
 Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Contest gives Greater Lansing residents a chance to show their love

Lansing residents have a chance to share their affection for the capital region by entering a video contest designed to show why it's so easy to fall in love with the area.
 
The Love Letters to Lansing Video Contest will award cash prizes for the best short videos that showcase the ways the Lansing area is a great place to live, work and play. The contest, say organizers, presents opportunity for residents to show off their artistic sides while also telling the region's story.
 
"Love Letters to Lansing is a way for our citizens to talk about why they love Lansing and win some prize money in the process," says Dominic Cochran, director of Lansing's Public Media Center. "In the end, we'll also have some great videos to help promote our area to others."
 
The contest is supported by the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitor's Bureau in cooperation with the Lansing Public Media Center—which also coordinates the Capital City Film Festival. Winning videos will join other user-generated content on the CVB website that shows everyday people talking about why they stay and what they love about the region.
 
The CVB provided funding for $4,000 in cash prizes to be divided among the top four winners, with other potential prizes from local merchants. The best-of-the-best entry will also be played before feature films, providing the chance for the winner and other contest participants to see works on the big screen.
 
"Lansing is full of passionate, energetic residents who take pride in where they live," says Tracy Padot, vice president of marketing communications for the Greater Lansing CVB. "This contest is a perfect opportunity for those who just can't contain themselves to tell the world why Lansing is the place to be."
 
The deadline for entry is March 16, 2015, at noon. The contest entry fee is $10 per entry, and videos must be no longer than three-minutes in length. Entries must be emailed here or physically delivered to Lansing Public Media Center, 2500 S. Washington Ave., Lansing. Full contest rules and more information can be found here.
 
Source: Dominic Cochran, director, Lansing Public Media Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Records Redone puts new spin on old vinyl, expands to five retail outlets

Two friends with a penchant for music are putting a new spin on old vinyl by repurposing records into conversation-starting décor.
 
With creative operations in Lansing, Records Redone transforms 33-1/3 long-playing records into silhouettes of recording artists, city skylines, or custom images on request. The recreated works are suitable for framing, says co-owner Derek Vaive, and are a perfect way to up cycle less-than-collectible records gathering dust in basements or attics.
 
"We had both been vinyl junkies for a long time," says Vaive who co-owns the online business with Michael Fleyte. "We came up this idea to take what we had around the house and see what we could come up with."
 
Vaive and Fleyte started by cutting the 2-D sculptures by hand using a Dremel tool. The initial pieces got friends talking and prompted requests for custom works. Within months, the two began retailing their creations through a novelty store in Chicago.
 
Since laying down those first tracks in 2012, Records Redone has spun its way into retail outlets in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Denver, Minnesota and New Orleans. Five of those connections, Vaive says, were made in 2014.
 
Bestselling pieces include the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis. City skylines like Detroit and Chicago also make the top 10. Custom works have included a skyline for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and silhouettes of U.S. presidents for a D.C. restaurant. Pieces typically retain the original recording label, or customers can choose to embellish with a signature Records Redone label.
 
Because of demand, Vaive and Fleyte switched their means of production to a custom-built CNC machine. Images are designed on laptop, cut by machine, and meticulously trimmed and cleaned by hand. All production is done in a home-based workshop, with business driven online. Customers can supply their own record, or request vinyl from the Records Redone stock.
 
Charting a record year in 2014, Vaive and Fleyte are looking to possibly hire an employee and open a brick-and-mortar shop.
 
"It's great," he says. "It's amazing what's happened since that first request from a friend for a hand-made disc."
 
Source: Derek Vaive, Co-Owner, Records Redone
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
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Area partners invests in kids with innovative education savings initiative

Families of kindergarteners in Lansing are getting a boost toward saving for their future education thanks to a new financial program unveiled in mid-January through the City of Lansing, the Lansing School District, and the MSU Federal Credit Union.
 
Lansing SAVE—or Student Accounts Valuing Education—involves opening up an MSUFCU savings account for 357 kindergarten students at five schools to help families save for their child's post-secondary education. Students at Cumberland, Lyon, Reo, Riddle and Willow schools were enrolled in the first phase of the program. Other schools and groups of elementary students will join over the next four years, with the end goal being an MSUFCU savings account for every kindergartener in the Lansing School District.
 
"We all have the same goal to see our children be successful in life and be a positive contributing member of the community," says April Clobes, MSUFCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. "That ultimately leads to a better community for everyone."
 
The MSUFCU provided the initial funds to open up the individual accounts for students. Lansing SAVE will seek private sponsors to contribute to accounts, while family members and friends are encouraged to make regular contributions. The credit union has also committed to provide a $100 graduation gift to students that complete the program, graduate from high school, and go to college.
 
Lansing SAVE account holders will also receive in-school financial education from the MSUFCU in cooperation with the Lansing School District. The programs will include teaching children about money through a progression of age-appropriate courses. Subjects will include how to save, spend and donate, as well as future lessons on budgeting and understanding credit. All the lessons are paired with activities children can do at home with their family.
 
"Our children are our future," says Clobes. "They're our future employees, parents and elected officials. Investing in children and helping them to be successful is how we continue to have a vibrant and successful community."
 
Source: April Clobes, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, MSU Federal Credit Union
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
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ALIVE expands fitness center, increases membership and jobs

An inventive expansion of one of mid-Michigan's premiere fitness centers will ensure community members have even more space to make good on their New Year's resolutions.
 
In mid-January, the Charlotte-based ALIVE unveiled a new, reconfigured area in the MOVE fitness center that creates more areas for stretching, building strength, and working cardio routines. ALIVE invested $30,000 to upgrade training equipment, install a cardio theater sound system, and add several new programs like CrossFit, POUND, PiYo and high intensity interval training—or H.I.T.T.
 
Patrick Sustrich, CEO of ALIVE, comments that the 1,5000-square foot expansion of the fitness center represents ALIVE's commitment to be an experienced-based destination health park, operated by Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital.
 
"Back in 2009 when we were looking to expand key clinical areas of our hospital, it forced us to reflect on our role in the community," says Sustrich. "We realized our bigger purpose was to enhance the overall vitality of the community in addition to treating sick people."
 
Nearly 19,000 people visit Alive annually for various services and activities. By expanding MOVE, Sustrich says, the in-house fitness center can accommodate up to 250 people at a time. MOVE currently has 2,000 members.
 
"We are now the correct size for the volume of people using our facility," says Sustrich. "And we still have more than 13,000 unfinished square feet we can expand into overtime."
 
Located at 800 W. Lawrence Ave. in Charlotte, ALIVE draws guests and visitors from Charlotte, Eaton Rapids, South Lansing, Nashville, Potterville and Olivet. In total, he says, the health-focused destination attracts people from nearly 100 ZIP codes statewide.
 
"We're excited," says Sustrich. "Having so much group exercise space allows us to change with the trends in the fitness industry. As new, innovative classes come up, we can bring them here. It keeps things fun, mixes things up, and keeps things fresh."
 
ALIVE and MOVE are currently hiring full- and part-time fitness staff. Additional jobs are also being filled at ALIVE's cornerstone restaurant: The Big Salad.
 
Source: Patrick Sustrich, Executive Director, ALIVE
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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New women-in-construction group builds membership

A newly formed group in Lansing is building momentum within just four months of breaking ground.
 
In September, a couple dozen women launched the Greater Lansing Chapter of the Professional Women in Building Council. Since then, numbers have climbed to 45 strong, with more women joining or expressing interest about careers in the building trades.
 
For PWB member Jessica Cooper, the uptick is astonishing, but not totally unexpected.
 
"In Michigan, women are do-it-yourselvers," says Cooper who was among the council's inaugural members. "I grew up in the area and was always raised that if you could do something, you'd do it. To me, women in Lansing aren't scared to pick up a drill and are able and want to be in this industry."
 
Cooper, who works as a remodeler for the Meridian Company, came to the building trades through her 10-year stint at Home Depot. After seeking out additional training and education in the trades, she settled at her current post with the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and remodeling company a few years ago.
 
The building trades, Cooper reflects, provide decent career paths and wages. Over time, she says she's seen more women working in construction, design, and building and doing tasks like drywall and tile work.
 
"We'd like to encourage more women to consider the building trades," says Cooper. "There's a fair amount of job availability and it provides you with some pretty empowering skills."
 
Cooper comments that women can offer different perspective on building outcomes that men sometimes overlook—which adds dimension to a traditionally male-dominated industry.
 
"We approach things differently than men," says Cooper. "As a remodeler, I know how a woman would use her kitchen or bathroom—what would be functional for her."
 
The PWB is among local chapter nationwide, and is affiliated with National Association of Home Builders. The local Lansing council receives support from the Home Builders Association of Greater Lansing and provides a means for professional women in the building industry to network, support one another, and give back to the community through grants and scholarships.
 
Source: Jessica Cooper, Member,  Greater Lansing Chapter of the Professional Women in Building Council
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
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Ham Sweet Farm ventures into second year of meat CSA program

Kate Spinillo shines with the eternal optimism of a farmer.
 
For three years, Kate and Christian Spinillo have been hard at work building Ham Sweet Farm—a small, 30-acre farmstead in Williamston specializing in meat from animals that lived good lives.
 
"In the short time we've been on our property, we've taken back the land that was overgrown and covered in weeds," says Spinillo of the farm at 357 Holt Road. "It's amazing how much more area we have for raising our animals and growing."
 
Last year, the Spinillos launched a Community Supported Agriculture program for people interested in getting a diversity of meats each month. Ham Sweet Farm partners with Schneider Organic Beef and Grandpa's Best Pork to offer customers small, medium or large monthly packages that start at about 7 pounds of meat on up to 30. Packages are seasonal and may include selections of chicken, beef roast, ground beef, pork chops and pork sausage. Adds on include stock bits, bacon, rib eye and New York strip.
 
Ham Sweet Farm's CSA is slated to run from March to November, with signups beginning in February. Customers pay up front, and pick up meat each month. And since the program culminates in November, customers can select their own Thanksgiving turkey in the spring, and experience how the animal is being raised. It's a connection, Spinillo says, that's invaluable and represents one of the driving missions of the farm.
 
"If we can pinpoint one reason why we do what we do, that's it," says Spinillo. "We want to connect people with what they're eating, and to allow them to see how the animal lived. That's a connection that's really been lost and something we feel strongly about."
 
The Spinillos work with local processors that reflect their humane farming philosophy, including Munsell's Poultry Processing and Countryside Quality Meats. Last year, Ham Sweet Farm raised up to 250 animals including chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigs. Animals rout, roam, graze and feed in pastures and woods, living as natural a life as possible while also being offered protection and shelter from the elements and predators. Other animals and pets include goats and sheep, and a family dog.
 
"They're our farm ambassadors that greet our visitors," says Spinillo. "We love all our animals."
 
Source: Kate Spinillo, Co-owner, Ham Sweet Farm
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
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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
 
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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
 
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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
 
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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
 
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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
 
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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.
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