Innovation & Job News

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Mason Farmer's Market expands vendors, hours and season

Mason's Farmers Market will start its 11th season doing what it does best. They'll just do it with more.
 
From July through October, the market will bring more vendors, more entertainment and events, and a longer schedule to Maple Street in downtown Mason. And the hope? To attract even more shoppers interested in fresh food, produce, and the farmers who bring it to market.
 
"It's a great way to spend the morning," says Jeff Collar, the new market master. "You learn a lot. Get to talk to farmers. And get excellent produce. It gives you a chance to get out and meet other people, too."'
 
Collar is applying ideas and making connections from what he learned by attending training for market masters put on by the Michigan Farmers Market Association. He volunteered to manage the Mason Farmer's Market after long-time market master Elaine Ferris retired. As a vendor and recent retiree from a food service career, Collar is well equipped to oversee operations and explore new ways of doing things.
 
"We're looking to feature a farmer or grower every week," says Collar. "They'll be able to showcase what they're doing and who they area. We want our customers to get to know the farmers at the market, and we want to make sure farmers get to know their customers, too."
 
To date, the Mason Farmer's Market has 12 to 15 vendors slated to participate—up from seven vendors in previous years. Collar says the major emphasis will be on produce, with some vendors also offering crafts and baked goods.
 
"It's a farmer's market after all," laughs Collar. "We want it to be a combination of foods."
 
The Mason Farmer's Market will kick off July 11 and run through the second or third week of October. Hours of operation are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
 
Sources: Jeff Collar, Market Master, Mason Farmer's Market
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Modern Cut Apparel frees designers from production side of business

Two friends with an inclination for entrepreneurship are helping fashion designers stick to the drawing board by providing production and fulfillment services that can cut into a designer's creative energies and time.
 
Founded in January by Jonathan Arias and Joe Abanto, Modern Cut Apparel sources production for brands and merchandise lines. With business operations in East Lansing and production capabilities in Peru, the end-to-end fulfillment house can deliver most any article of clothing or textile-based merchandise based on specifications set by the artist or brand.
 
"We want to reach out to designers and artists in the Mid-Michigan community who have an idea, but are constrained by the realities of production," says Arias. "We want to help take the limits off and allow artists to be as crazy and creative as they want to."
 
Modern Cut Apparel works with brands that have a solid, growing customer base, and that create products they would feel comfortable buying or wearing themselves. The company has produced lines of T-shirts and caps, including several Peruvian brands and an American brand named Population Dynamo. Items are crafted and manufactured from the company's facility in Lima, Peru, and shipped back to the U.S.
 
Arias and Abanto grew up together in Miami. Arias moved to Lansing a year or two ago to pursue his law degree at Michigan State University. Abanto moved to the Lima, Peru, to open a shop in the fashion and textile district. The two friends kept in close contact, and as their studies and careers evolved, they began to see a natural fit for a business that combined their talents and ingenuity.
 
"Brands are plentiful," says Arias. "Most of us can name a dozen. But what most of us can't do is to name the fulfillment houses that get the products done. Our goal is to be one of those sources and fulfillment houses."
 
Arias runs the company's business operations from his home office while Abanto manages production and fulfillment in Peru. The company received initial support and consultation from the Hatch—East Lansing's student-oriented business incubator.
 
"Our immediate goal is to establish a presence in Mid-Michigan," says Arias. "The business community is amazing here. The entrepreneurial culture is so robust." 
 
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Co-founder and Owner, Modern Cut Apparel
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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New film studies degree program premieres at MSU

The legacy of film and a growing presence of blockbuster filmmakers in Michigan spurred Michigan State University to premiere a new bachelor's degree program in film studies.
 
Housed in the College of Arts and Letters, the program welcomed its first 11 students in January 2015. Sites are set on ramping up to 80 to 100 degree candidates in the next few years.
 
Courses will be taught by seven core MSU faculty who are also award-winning filmmakers, and will provide students with training in production, history, theory and criticism of the cinema. The program will also equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to give back culturally and artistically to their communities.
 
"We're committed to growing the program and making it a vibrant component of MSU and East Lansing," says Program Director and Assistant Professor Josh Yumibe. "We want to contribute to expanding culture and the arts in East Lansing and to bring cinema back to downtown."
 
Yumibe adds that the new film studies program comes at a time when the accessibility of affordable digital filmmaking tools continues to push filmmaking beyond the boundaries of Hollywood. Targeted occupations for graduates will include film production, film criticism, arts management, advertising, public relations, software development and educational programming.
 
Film studies have a rich tradition at MSU, producing alumni like Sam Raimi of "Evil Dead" and "Spiderman" fame. The program, says Yumibe, will distinguish itself through its broad global dimension and opportunity for students to pursue screenwriting and film production in conjunction with the study of film.
 
"We're committed to thinking globally in terms of film and technology," says Yumibe. "And we're training students to think on their feet by teaching them to write, read and speak thoughtfully about what they're working on."
 
Yumibe says MSU is formalizing internships with several film festivals and film offices. The program also recently welcomed the Toronto-based experimental filmmaker Mike Hoobloom as part of the program's filmmakers in residence series.
 
In addition to the new bachelor's degree program, students can earn minors in film studies, fiction filmmaking and documentary production, and pursue concentrated studies in TV, cinema and radio.
 
Sources: Josh Yumibe, Director, MSU Film Studies Program
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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MHSAA teams with Sparrow to transforms care of student-athletes

The Michigan High School Athletic Association and Sparrow are teaming up to keep student-athletes fit, healthy and in the game through a partnership that draws on the knowledge and skills of experts from both organizations.
 
With Sparrow named the official health system of the MHSAA, players, parents, coaches and administrators will have instant access to the region's health care experts on student-athlete related issues such as training, nutrition and concussions.
 
"It will draw attention to health and wellness and improve communication and safety," says Jack Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA. "There's such a blizzard of information out there that this will help sort it out and communicate things clearly with schools, administrators, coaches, parents and athletes."
 
Roberts says the partnership builds on the capacity of MHSAA to address daily questions the organization receives about the health and wellness of student-athletes. The partnership will also tackle key concerns of school sports safety including those related to health histories and screenings, head trauma, heat and humidity, and the heart.
 
Sparrow offers programs for athletes at all levels and includes primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and athletic performance trainers. The health system will lend its expertise to the MHSAA through "Ask the Expert"—a feature on the MHSAA website which connects users directly to Sparrow caregivers. Experts from Sparrow will also be onsite at MHSAA tournament events to answer questions and discuss sports medicine issues.
 
"It's rare for an organization like ours to have a connection like this with a health care provider," says Roberts. "And it's unprecedented for us to have a year-round, comprehensive partnership with all sports."
 
About 1,500 high schools and middle schools—both public and private—are members of the MHSAA. Roberts says that in a typical school year, the MHSAA will receive up to two or more questions a day on issues that range from skin-related concerns to injuries to playing conditions that can affect health and wellness.
 
Based in mid-Michigan, Sparrow has more than 10,000 caregivers and is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
 
Sources: Jack Roberts, Executive Director, MHSAA
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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Bubble soccer bounces into Lansing

Sometimes, being in a bubble isn't all that bad. Damon Grace will tell you.
 
Grace is the guy behind bringing bubble soccer to Mid-Michigan. The European phenomena popularized by the Internet has bounced, rolled and settled in East Lansing, offering the soccer-inclined at any level the chance to knock around on the playing field.
 
Bubble Soccer Detroit opened a branch at 210 Abbot in East Lansing after the West Bloomfield native and MSU student launched his business from the Hatch. Grace says the office rents out all the equipment anyone would need to play the high-energy, hilarious sport with friends or coworkers.
 
"It's basically contact soccer with a twist," says Grace. "You can do flips and hit the ball super hard. It brings in a huge crowd all the time and everyone wants to play."
 
Grace says he and his business partner Luke Andrews supply the bubble soccer balls, referees and all the setup and teardown for birthday parties, graduation events, corporate meetings, bachelor or bachelorette parties, fundraisers, and other occasions suitable for the rousing, camaraderie-building sport. Plastic bubbles are inflated onsite, and worn by players like a circular backpack of bubble wrap.
 
"It can get a little hot when you're inside the bubble, but there's a hole at the top so it's not too bad," says Grace. "It's really fun and exciting and seems safer than regular soccer."
 
Since coming to Lansing in December 2014, the two-person company has coordinated more than 20 bubble soccer events. Customers play the event on basketball courts, in gyms, on soccer fields or in backyards. Grace says one group even held a competition on a stage. Leagues and other partnerships are in the works with the Hope Sports Complex and Lansing Soccerzone.
 
"Our goal is to go national," says Grace. "We want to have events across America, and tournaments and leagues everywhere. We've found that few people have ever seen it before and once they do, everyone wants to play."
 
Sources: Damon Grace, Owner, Bubble Soccer Detroit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Cuts and Convos provides haircuts and hope to Lansing homeless

When you look good you feel good. Most everyone has heard that. Jonathan Arias took it to heart.
 
In November, Arias founded Cuts and Convos, a Lansing nonprofit that offers beauty and barber services to low-income residents. Arias also provides legal, health and spiritual information to the people he serves—all during or immediately following their hair cut and styling.
 
In just four months, Arias and a cadre of volunteers have cut and styled hair for nearly 70 people through the Lansing City Rescue Mission, Cristo Rey Community Center, Haven House and Homeless Angels. Services are scheduled every-other-week or once a month. On occasion, speakers from local nonprofits or pastors provide the "convos."
 
"Many of the people we meet haven't received any tender loving care in a while," says Arias. "That's the beauty of what we do."
 
Arias says he came up with the idea for Cuts and Convos by combining his passion for justice with his long-time hobby of cutting and styling hair. After discussing the project with classmates and instructors through the MSU College of Law, Arias realized the value his blended service could bring to both individuals and the community.
 
"Sometimes the biggest barrier to employment is not being clean-cut and well-groomed," says Arias. "Our services can help give someone a shot at getting their foot in the door."
 
Arias says his greatest reward is hearing how the services of Cuts and Convos have changed someone's life or perceptions. A high school student, for instance, received compliments instead of taunts after Arias and other volunteers cut and styled her hair. And two men told him how their job interviews had led to employment after Cuts and Convos helped them prep with a shave, hair cut and coaching.
 
"We cut people's hair and we listen to their stories," says Arias. "We feel it gives them hope to know that regardless of where you've been, someone cares about you and wants you to feel good about yourself."
 
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Founder, Cuts and Convos
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Bootcamps hit the ground running for Lansing startups

Bootcamps aren't just for the military or fitness industry anymore. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are putting people to the test with rigorous curriculums or programs designed to build skills and acumen quickly.
 
Lansing's entrepreneurial sector joins the mix. In February, The RING—Lansing's Innovation Network powered by LEAP—partnered with a handful of organizations to host a second year of bootcamps for startups. Seeking to build on the effectiveness of the inaugural year, bootcamp organizers restructured the format from two weeklong sessions to a series of six, one-day bootcamps in 2015.
 
Tony Willis, manager of business acceleration at LEAP, says the bootcamps are a product of like-minded organizations on a mission to nurture Lansing's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Those organizations include the Small Business Development CenterMichigan Creative, MSU Innovation CenterRough Draft Solutions, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
 
"We just threw out the sketch paper and asked ourselves what would make sense for our demographics here in Lansing," says Willis. "By working together we identified subjects that are important for entrepreneurs to master for success."
 
The first educational bootcamp for 2015 focused on branding and marketing, and featured presentations from industry leaders that ranged from connecting key small business development resources, techniques, trends, social media and video marketing, public relations and content creation. Nearly 40 people attended the event held in the 300 Room, located between the Technology Innovation Center and The Hatch incubators in East Lansing. Participants included new startups, established companies, and future entrepreneurs.
 
"Our overall outcome for all our bootcamps is to enhance and increase the knowledge base of our entrepreneurs," says Willis. "At the end of the year, we want participants to be able to say they've increased their business, they've identified things to improve on, and they've taken action that will help move them ahead."
 
Topics covered in upcoming bootcamps include creating business plans, legal issues, investment strategies, contracts and proposals, and attracting and working with lenders. A full slate of workshops and topics can be found here. 
 
Sources: Tony Willis, Manager of Business Acceleration, LEAP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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International exchange program offers global health education to medical residents

A new partnership between Sparrow, Michigan State University and Mexico's Yucatan Department of Health will foster opportunities for medical education, training, research and outreach between the Mexican state and mid-Michigan.
 
The Global Health: Medical Residency Exchange Program begins this July when the first medical residents travel from Lansing to the Yucatan capital of Merida. Two medical residents from Mexico will also travel to Lansing to work at Sparrow as the two-year initiative gets underway.
 
"As we look to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, we look to offer training that offers experiences in global health," says Ted Glynn, M.D., vice president of medical education at Sparrow. "This partnership provides that and will be of value in serving the mid-Michigan community in the future."
 
Sparrow is the sixth largest training site in Michigan for resident physicians with more than 220 residents and fellows. While providing a global medical experience for Sparrow trainees, the partnership also holds promise for collaborative research and clinical work. From a diversity and cultural standpoint, Glynn says, the program will help strengthen care and communication with Lansing's growing Hispanic population.
 
Glynn recently traveled with Reza Nassiri, director of the MSU Institute of International Health, as well as others from Sparrow and MSU to meet with the Yucatan state health department, university and hospital. The trip formalized the medical resident exchange program between Sparrow and the Hospital O'Horan, and explored research partnerships with the Marista University School of Medicine.
 
The idea for the global exchange program originated at MSU and will be overseen through the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Jacob Rowan, an MSU associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine, will coordinate activities from Merida. Rowan was previously based in Merida to coordinate a medical education exchange between the Yucatan and the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
 
"We're very proud of the groundwork that Nassiri and Rowan have done in Merida, Mexico," says William Strampel, dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. "The collaboration with Sparrow will enable us to build on established efforts to offer residents rich and rewarding experiences."
 
Source: Dr. Ted Glynn, M.D., Vice President of Medical Education, Sparrow
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Ashlee Willis Floral takes the sneeze out of flowers with quality artificial arrangements

Sometimes when you say it with flowers, you also say it with a sneeze, watery eyes or an occasional prick of a rose's thorn.
 
Ashlee Willis has a solution: artificial flowers.
 
Two years ago, Willis transformed her hobby of creating floral decor using artificial flowers into a blooming business. And while some may immediately think dollar store when they think artificial flowers, Ashlee Willis Floral Decor looks as fresh and natural as real petals and greenery without the pollen.
 
"Everyone tells me they just love the look and design," says Willis. "Most people can't believe that they're not fresh flower arrangements."
 
Willis is on a quest to remove the stigma surrounding artificial flowers, as well as to bring affordable, maintenance free beauty to any home, office or special event. Her arrangements can be as small or large or as varied as most any bouquet ordered from a florist, and include roses, daisies, tulips, orchids and various accents and greenery.
 
Flowers are available primarily for rental, with some customers renting new arrangements each month for a "pick-me-up" for their home or office. Organizers and hosts of special events and parties also can enjoy the carefree setup and maintenance of Willis' arrangements, with no wilting, falling petals or drooping stems to detract from the ambiance.
 
"I just love the mood and memories flowers can create," says Willis. "I did a wedding recently where I surprised the bride with a bouquet that featured a charm of her mother who had recently passed away. The bride told me it was the best thing she ever had since she got to walk down the aisle with her mom and could keep the arrangement forever."
 
Willis runs her online business from home, and sometimes receives expert advice on arranging and color selection from her two toddlers. She hopes to move to a storefront once her kids are in school. Until then, she's planning to hire an intern or two to help out with her growing calendar of spring and summer events.
 
"I'm really into entrepreneurship," says Willis. "It's my passion."
 
Source: Ashlee Willis, Owner, Ashlee Willis Floral Decor
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
     
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Promotional video targets international visitors, helps build Lansing tourism

Numbers tell the story when it comes to the impact of tourism in Greater Lansing. And tourism watchers with the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau say those numbers will continue to grow as more organizations and individuals pick Lansing as their destination for events, attractions, or just plain R&R.
 
"Associations and sports are our bread and butter," says Tracy Padot of the organizations and travelers who chose Lansing for conventions, meetings and events. "But we're looking to attract more leisurely visitors to the community—including Chinese travelers."
 
Chinese and other international visitors, Padot points out, can be a unique source of tourism given that nearly 8,000 international students attend Michigan State University—with more than 6,000 being Chinese.
 
In early 2015, the GLCVB released a three-minute video that encourages Chinese viewers to consider visiting Greater Lansing. Produced through a partnership with Brand USA, the video features an on-camera host speaking in Chinese and sharing Greater Lansing visitor information in his own cultural style. Shots were taken across the region including the Michigan Historical Museum, Lansing City Market, the Lansing River Trail, the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, and other landmarks.
 
The videos are pat of an initiative by Brand USA to encourage international travel to the U.S., and were produced in cooperation with Travel Michigan. The piece is also being used for international market promotion in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and China.
 
Other recent information campaigns by the GLCVM included "Tourism Counts," revealing the 4.7 million annual visitors to the region, creating a $472 million economic impact, and supporting 6,400 local jobs.
 
"We have a lot of great conventions, meetings and sports tournaments coming to town this year, with some being new," says Padot. "It's should be a great year of events."
 
The GLCVM employs 25 full- and part-time staff, with two part-time positions going to full-time in the past year.
 
Sources: Tracy Padot, VP, Marketing Communications, Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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UZoom Media unites with Michigan Creative to create premier agency

The merger of two small Lansing-based companies promises to make a big impact in helping other businesses meet marketing goals.
 
On March 5, Michigan Creative and UZoom Media will become one, with a focus on being a leading provider of creative and marketing services that include web, video branding and strategy.
 
"The merger will really help us speak to our message of being a company's marketing department," says Melissa Meschke, COO of Michigan Creative. "We can step in now and offer more diversified and enhanced services to all our clients."
 
Operating under the brand of Michigan Creative, the merged company will add additional expertise and services including complex marketing strategies, targeted social media campaigns, inbound marketing, buyer persona research, advanced search engine optimization, and search engine marketing.
 
Anne Craft founded UZoom media five years ago, and began working with Michigan Creative in 2014. The more projects she worked on with Michigan Creative, the more she said it made sense for the two to join forces and offer combined, client-centered services.
 
"I knew I had found a good fit," says Craft. "We're both about fostering entrepreneurship and the local economy, and believe we can do things collaboratively to get the job done for the client."
 
Michigan Creative was founded more than three years ago and operates out of the NEO Center at 934 Clark St. The newly-merged company has 11 staff that includes full-time, part-time and interns. By year's end, Michigan Creative hopes to transition at least three-part time employees to full-time.
 
To celebrate the merger, Michigan Creative and UZoom will host a 'Waiting for Spring' open house, Thursday, March 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the NEO Center. The open house will include live music, light refreshments and drinks. To RSVP click here. 
 
Sources: Melissa Meschke, COO, and Anne Craft, Chief Strategist, Michigan Creative
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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YMCA of Lansing receives grant from Consumers Energy Foundation

A $30,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation will help fund facility improvements to two branches of the YMCA of Lansing, and enable the nonprofit to continue expanding services that focus on health, wellness, and special needs of children, teens and adults.
 
 "Youth development, social responsibility and healthy living are part of our mission," says Cheri Schimmel, development director of the YMCA of Lansing. "We're grateful for support of the Consumer Energy Foundation in helping us reach our goals through our ongoing Capital Campaign."
 
Renovations to the Oak Park branch in South Lansing will include improvements to the childcare center and kids' gym. The Consumers Energy Foundation grant will also be used toward the creation of a recreational outdoor sports park on the branch's backgrounds.
 
The Oak Park YMCA opened in 1982 and provides childcare and recreational programs for the community. Estimates are that 82 children each week will be served by the branch's improved childcare center. About 250 children a week currently use the kids' gym, and will continue to use the improved facilities. The YMCA projects that about 3,000 youth will find a safe, controlled place to play through the new recreational outdoor sports park each year. 
 
At the Parkwood branch, funds will be applied toward extensive renovations to the wellness center and improvements of the indoor track. The Parkwood YMCA was established in 1961 and serves 13,000 people each month. About 750 scholarships are awarded each year to enable qualifying families and individuals to participate in programs and activities.
 
"The Lansing Y has been here for 137 years," says Schimmel. "We reflect the needs of the community and work to serve those needs."
 
The YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing has six operating units, including Mystic Lake Camp near Clare, and branches downtown, on Lansing's west side, in the Oak Park area to the south, in East Lansing, and DeWitt. The YMCA employs nearly 500 individuals, and serves nearly 16,000 memberships throughout the community.
 
Sources: Cheri Schimmel, Development Director, YMCA of Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Collaborative design project celebrates Lansing, raises funds for art education

From T-shirts, to stickers, to tongue-in-cheek humor, Lansing's grittiest, grassroots, art-driven promo company has ventured into fundraising—forever empowered by the #LoveLansing movement.
 
JiveOne5even—a collaborative art project started by Paul Vetne and Marcus Cottom—recently held it's very first fundraiser in the form of a #LoveLansing party at the Green Door. The event was organized to raise dollars for elementary art programs in the Lansing School District. After an afternoon of live music and activities involving local vendors, Cottom says the event pulled in about $3,600 to purchase art materials and fund scholarships for places like REACH and MSU SmART.
 
"We're going to try to do this on an annual basis," says Cottom, a Lansing native. "Both Paul and I are artists, so it was something we felt strongly about."
 
Cottom and Vetne launched JiveOne5even in the spring of 2014. The two came up with a handful of original designs, printed them on T-shirts, and ventured out to test the appeal through local festivals. The T-shirts caught hold, leading them to branch into stickers, buttons and other items that pay homage to the city.
 
While not Versace or Nike, Cottom says the JiveOne5even label projects a certain cache, and celebrates Lansing through an ironic, urban and respectful sensibility. Designs are created using elements from existing concepts—similar to how a rapper or DJ would build music from samples.
 
"Sometimes I think Lansing has a bad reputation," says Cottom. "You can look at it from the outside and say one thing, but when you live here, you see there's a lot of good going on. It's not just potholes and a big cement parking lot where GM used to be. It's a place full of people starting businesses and making music and art—all kinds of things."
 
JiveOne5even currently has eight designs that can be printed on T-shirts, stickers, buttons, and other small novelty items. Most are available through local stores on the East Side, East Lansing and near downtown.
 
Source: Marcus Cottom, Co-Owner, JiveOne5seven
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Lansing-based target marketing firm rebrands and increases outreach

A targeted media firm in Lansing recently rebranded as it reinvigorates its mission to harness the power of data to drive sales, growth, and donations for businesses and organizations.
 
Shortly after the calendar turned over to 2015, Change Media Group transformed from the previous Michigan Blueprint Strategies, and set out to expand its reach and track record to a broad base of clientele.
 
"We wanted to communicate that we're a targeted media firm that can help clients adapt to the changing media landscape," says CEO Amanda Stitt. "Our rebranding shows who we are, and communicates that we are working with clients outside of Michigan, too."
 
Stitt says that Change Media integrates sophisticated data and targeting with the most up-to-date tools and technology to help organizations adapt to a dynamic media landscape. The way people consume news, information, and media is ever-changing, she adds, and can leave organizations with more limited resources outside the communication loop.
 
"We saw there wasn't a lot of help out there for non-profits and small- and mid-sized businesses," says Stitt. "We see ourselves as strategists, designers, writers, data scientists and storytellers that can help you find your audience in an incredibly targeted way."
 
Stitt and her husband, Ryan Irvin, launched Change Media in 2012 under its original name. In three years of business, the company has grown from a handful of clients to about 60. Services include research, data analysis, custom audience modeling, targeting, digital advertising, website and video creation, direct mail, graphic design, data visualization, and general consulting.
 
Change Media relocated from a smaller downtown office to the NEO Center at 934 Clark St. in the summer of 2014. The move, says Stitt, helped accommodate the addition of two new staff members. Stitt projects the small company will grow from six employees to about 10 staff by the end of 2015.
 
Source: Amanda Stitt, CEO, Change Media
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Grand Ledge park may expand to offer increased recreational opportunities

A signature park in Grand Ledge that is home to the unique sandstone and quartz rock formations that gave the city its name may soon double in size.
 
The city of Grand Ledge signed an agreement in late January to purchase 3.5 acres of undeveloped land that borders the west edge of Oak Park. The purchase of the land enables the city to offer additional recreational opportunities and increased access to the ledges, while also protecting the environment and natural features of the park.
 
"The expansion shows our city's continued commitment to incorporate and recognize recreation and public space as critical infrastructure in attracting and retaining families and residents," says Adam Smith, Grand Ledge city administrator. "Quality of life is the bottom line."
 
Smith notes that the expansion is contingent on funding to offset the cost of the acreage being offered for sale by Terry Hanks. The city has applied for funding through the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund. If approved, the grant would fund 70 percent of the $48,000 sale price, with the city paying the remaining $19,000. Hanks, city officials say, is offering the property at considerably less than the fair market value.

The new acreage would expand the now seven-acre park by nearly 50 percent. The current park is located on a northerly bluff that overlooks the Grand River, and offers shaded picnic and wildlife viewing areas within a canopy of red and white oak, sugar maple and black cherry trees. The sandstone formations which front the river are an attraction for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and for recreational rock climbers.

Parks and green space are an important aspect of life in Grand Ledge, with Oak Park being one of nine parks or recreational facilities owned by the city.
 
"One of the great things about Grand Ledge is you have the ability to go from a downtown urban setting to parts of our community that resemble being in northern Michigan," says Smith. "The ledges are a part of that."
 
Source: Adam Smith, City Administrator, City of Grand Ledge
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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