Innovation & Job News

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Collaboration gives Ypsi High students professional photography opportunity

A new partnership between Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) and Ypsi clothing boutique Puffer Reds is giving Ypsi high school students their first shot at professional fashion photography.

Under the terms of an agreement struck last month, YCS district photographer Nick Azzaro has begun engaging Ypsilanti High School students in promotional photo shoots featuring Puffer Reds gear. Students volunteer for the shoots, and Azzaro coaches them as both photographers and models. The first shoot occurred earlier this month.

"They're pretty much doing everything, and they're learning lighting along the way," Azzaro says. "They wouldn't be able to walk away and recreate it on their own quite yet, but we'll get to that point."

Puffer Reds owner Eric Williams provides apparel for the shoots and will use the resulting photos for promotional materials. No money will change hands under the arrangement. The program is coordinated through the Learning Studio, Azzaro's studio at YCS, which he hopes to eventually turn into a full-fledged student-run photo studio with multiple clients.

Azzaro has worked with YCS since 2013, when he began teaching photography for the district through Eastern Michigan University's Bright Futures after-school program. He recently closed his downtown studio, Chin-Azzaro, to refocus on his work at YCS. He says he'd long envisioned a collaboration between YCS and a business like Puffer Reds.

"So far, I haven't met a student that doesn't like to be photographed," Azzaro laughs. "I knew the recipe would work. It was just a matter of getting a backer like Puffer Reds."

Since photos from the first shoot appeared on Puffer Reds' blog, Azzaro says he's received an "overwhelming number" of inquiries from students interested in participating in upcoming shoots. As an incentive for academic performance, the program is currently only open to students who have a GPA of 3.2 or higher.

"The kids are talking about it: 'Hey, when are you going to get me in there?'" Azzaro says. "'What's your GPA?' – that's my first question."

Patrick Dunn is the managing editor of Concentrate and an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer for numerous publications. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere.

Photos courtesy of Nick Azzaro.

Ann Arbor-based reversible baby bottle launches

After a couple of years of designing, fundraising, and testing, the brothers behind Ann Arbor-based Flipsi Bottle have launched Flipsi Baby, a baby bottle that can be turned inside out for easy cleaning.

The bottle is also designed with a natural nipple shape to help transition babies from breastfeeding to bottles, and it features flexible, food-grade silicone sides that collapse inward while feeding to minimize air intake and help prevent colic. Flipsi cofounder and chief technology officer Jeff Plott and brother, CEO, and cofounder Chris Plott originally conceived their product as a reversible sport bottle, but pivoted to focus on a baby bottle design in 2014.

The Plotts have had an eventful 2016 leading up to the launch. That included winning an Innovation Fund grant from Macomb Community College and a Business Accelerator grant from Ann Arbor SPARK.

"This funding provided the last push we needed to kick off the bottle’s mass production," Jeff Plott says.

Next came extensive quality testing for choking hazards and harmful substances in build materials. The bottle passed all required testing.

Flipsi Baby has been available at Flipsi's website and through Amazon since mid-October, and Plott says user reviews and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive so far.

"One thing that really sticks out from the initial feedback is that babies who had refused other bottles seem to really latch onto the Flipsi Baby right away due to the natural shape," Plott says. "We are extremely pleased to hear how much parents and babies love our bottle."

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

U-M Law School startup offers equity crowdfunding

Investors of all stripes may now purchase shares in University of Michigan (U-M) Law School startup Court Innovations through the equity crowdfunding platform NetCapital.

Launched in 2014 with intellectual property developed at U-M, Court Innovations' Matterhorn online case resolution platform is now in use in 20 courts across Michigan and Ohio. Matterhorn allows courts, law enforcement, and citizens to communicate about and resolve minor infractions without setting foot in court.

"It's kind of exciting to be able to extend equity investment to more people, just like we're extending the court to have more people access it," Court Innovations president M.J. Cartwright says. "It really fits our model."

That extension is made possible under the federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) by way of a 4(a)(6) crowdfunding offering, with the transaction facilitated by NetCapital's Securities and Exchange Commission-authorized funding portal. The JOBS Act is meant to encourage funding for small business by easing some securities regulations. The act was passed in 2012, but provisions for companies to issue securities through crowdfunding finally took effect in May of this year.

"You don't have to necessarily be an accredited angel investor, and you can actually invest in companies that are, like ours, offering some of their common stock, and you can be involved in company investment," Cartwright says. "Which we think is very, very cool."

Founded with funding from U-M's Third Century Initiative, Court Innovations is now looking to raise close to half a million dollars, staff up, and expand into courts in all 50 states.  
 
Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

TechArb's latest group of U-M student startups pursues next-gen orthotics and more

Class is in session for the next generation of University of Michigan (U-M) startups in TechArb's 2017 winter cohort.
 
Between now and mid-April, the student venture accelerator's latest group of 11 student-run startups will conduct customer research, refine their business models, and receive mentorship from industry experts.
 
For the team at ArborThotics, that includes working with orthotists, federal regulators, and 3-D printing labs to continue the work they started in their capstone software engineering class last fall at U-M. ArborThotics cofounder Dom Parise and his team developed software to help produce custom ankle-foot orthotics using U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved scanners and 3-D printing.
 
Parise says producing this type of custom orthotics is currently a lengthy process that can involve plaster molds and specialized plastics baked for several days by technicians. From consultation to prescription to finished product, the process typically takes two to three weeks.
 
"It's really long, and kind of archaic at this point," Parise says. "With the 3-D printing, we can now print them in probably six to eight hours on the high end."
 
With FDA sign-off on the product and process, Parise hopes the team will have its solution on the market by mid-summer, but he's prepared for a longer haul.
 
"We can improve the product at the rate of software, but sales are at the rate of healthcare," he says.
 
For now, Parise and his team enjoy working with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who are all at similar stages in their work, as well as the structure and deadlines provided by the TechArb program. For instance, the accelerator holds weekly meetings in which each company reports on its progress.
 
"The entrepreneurship process can be solitary if you don't have the right network," Parise says.
 
In addition to custom orthotics, the new TechArb cohort includes ventures working on original approaches to hassle-free funeral planning, healthy food choices, and connecting people living with chronic illnesses for local peer support.
 
TechArb was founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute at U-M's Ross School of Business. Forty teams have participated in TechArb this year, and have since received more than $2 million in funding.
 
Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Photo courtesy of TechArb.

Winter Art Tour offers prizes for gallery visits this weekend

Each summer, the Ann Arbor Art Fairs draw in thousands of art lovers from all around the world – but what about winter? This weekend Ann Arbor's Yourist Studio Gallery will team with an expansive group of local artists and studios to launch the inaugural Winter Art Tour, featuring the work of over 150 local artists spread across nine Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti venues.
 
Organizer Cara Rosaen says the event, which runs Dec. 9-11, was conceived with the goal of improving "the visibility and viability of local artists, and to create a more vibrant arts community for everyone."
 
The experience begins when a participant obtains a "Passport to Art" online or at any of the nine participating venues, which range from the Ann Arbor Art Center to this weekend's DIYpsi art fair. From there, participants are encouraged to visit as many of those venues as possible, collecting stamps on their passports at each stop. Once four stamps are collected, passport holders may be entered into a drawing with a chance to win one of 21 pieces of art from participating artists.
 
Rosaen says ceramic artist Rosie E. Gomez brainstormed the passport idea to connect numerous art shows across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
 
"We realized there were nine-plus art shows on the same weekend last year, and wanted to figure out a way to make everyone's event bigger," Rosaen says. "Once we got nine great art shows on board, we knew we had something special."
 
Participating galleries were hand-selected in an effort to offer "a good mix of artists and atmospheres for tour-goers," according to Rosaen, and to highlight everything from intimate home studios to "large indie art shows with over 80 artists."
 
With larger galleries such as Selo/Shevel and Clay Gallery having closed their doors in recent years, Rosaen and her collaborators see events like the Winter Art Tour as an increasingly important means of keeping the pulse of the local arts community strong – even in the dead of winter.

Jason Buchanan is a writer, father, and film fanatic living and working in Ann Arbor.

MGoBlog-endorsed OSB Community Bank pursues Ann Arbor community banking niche

Brooklyn, Mich.-based OSB Community Bank has been barely a stone's throw from Ann Arbor for nearly a century, with six branches including Jackson, Onsted, and Adrian locations. But the bank is now making its first foray into Ann Arbor in an effort to fill a community banking void in the city.
 
That's thanks in part to bank president and CEO Rick Northrup, who joined the bank just this January. Northrup has worked as a banker in Ann Arbor for nearly 20 years, most recently at the now-defunct United Bank and Trust. Northrup served as that bank's executive vice president and was promoted to senior vice president at Old National Bank when it acquired United Bank and Trust.
 
"I stayed for a while, but I didn't like it," he says. "I wanted to get back into community banking."
 
When Northrup took the job at OSB, he saw an opportunity to give Ann Arbor another locally-owned banking option. He notes that both United Bank and Trust and Ann Arbor Commerce Bank have closed in recent years, leaving Bank of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor State Bank as the only community banks in town.
 
"They're really good banks and I have friends that work at both of those institutions," Northrup says. "But where there used to be four, now there's only two, and we felt there was a need in the marketplace for another alternative bank."
 
OSB's new loan production office at 305 E. Eisenhower currently employs two people, with a third hired to join the staff early next year. The bank is currently seeking a fourth employee for the branch as well. Northrup says the location is already running "pretty well ahead of plans" for loans and other new business.
 
OSB arrives in town with the notable endorsement of Brian Cook, editor of the popular U-M sports blog MGoBlog.
 
"I've met [Cook] once," Northrup says. "But I'm a big fan, as a lot of people are, of his writing and the website."

Patrick Dunn is the managing editor of Concentrate and an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer for numerous publications. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere.

Ann Arbor baby carrier company employs moms with challenges

Being a new mom is challenging, but continuing to work at the same time can be overwhelming. Ann Arbor resident and mother of two Brea Albulov knows this struggle well, so she created a baby carrier to allow women to do both.
 
Founded in 2015, Albulov's company Hope Carried offers a wrap-like baby carrier in three different styles, made by moms who struggle with a variety of barriers to employment. Albulov endeavors to hire women whose language skills, cultural restrictions, transportation issues, or simple lack of experience make it difficult for them to find employment.
 
Albulov was seeking a way to inspire positive social change with her business when images of Syrian refugees prompted her to begin researching local refugee services.
 
"My heart was breaking," Albulov says. "I kept seeing mothers and thinking about what it would be like to not to be able to feed my child. That spurred the idea to try and find women who needed employment but for various reasons couldn't enter the traditional workforce."
 
It wasn't long before she came into contact with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFS), an Ann Arbor-based resettlement organization, and organized an open house.
 
The response was overwhelming, and resulted in the hiring of her first three employees. Today she's up to six, and JFS has pledged to provide a sewing machine for any woman who goes to work for Hope Carried.
 
Albulov is currently seeking to take her business to the next level with a Kickstarter campaign. Funds raised through the campaign will allow her to buy fabric wholesale and eventually add eight new employees to her team.

Jason Buchanan is a writer, father, and film fanatic living and working in Ann Arbor.

What drew San Francisco's SF Motors to Pittsfield Township?

San Francisco-based SF Motors, a subsidiary of Chinese auto manufacturer and supplier Sokon Industry Group, has announced plans to invest in a $10.7-million research and development facility in Pittsfield Township.
 
The facility is expected to create around 150 jobs. It will focus on product, powertrain, and new battery development in order to create the next generation of electric vehicles, according to Yong Yang, the company's VP for strategy, planning, and PR.
 
Yang cites the Ann Arbor area's reputation as a driver in automotive technology, and success with engineering and research and development centers, as key factors in the company's decision to move here. He is hopeful that proximity to the University of Michigan will give SF Motors access to the engineering talent the company will need to support its long-term goals of automotive innovation.
 
The company conducted a multi-state selection process that weighed such factors as business environment, incentives, location, talent pool, and resources. Yang says the "confluence of automotive and mobility experience and expertise" in Michigan ultimately proved the deciding factor in the company's plan to expand here.  
 
Additionally, the facility provided to the company by Pittsfield Township proved a perfect match for the company's growing needs.
 
"Advanced automotive technologies such as connected and automated vehicle research and implementation will be an important feature that our team will be working on," Yang says. "Our manufacturing team on site will be working on building a world-class manufacturing facility using best practices in the industry."
 
The SF Motors facility is only the most recent major development in next-generation automotive research in Washtenaw County. The 23-acre Mcity automated vehicle test facility has been in operation at the University of Michigan in operation since July of 2015, and another such site is set to open next year at the site of the former Willow Run bomber plant.

Jason Buchanan is a writer, father, and film fanatic living and working in Ann Arbor.
 

Acclaimed Espresso Bar changes hands, becomes Literati Coffee

Two years after the Espresso Bar moved from Kerrytown's Braun Court to Literati Bookstore in  downtown Ann Arbor, the much-lauded coffee shop is taking on a new name and ownership.
 
Jess Harmon will manage the renamed Literati Coffee under the supervision of Literati owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson, who now own the coffee shop. Sanford Bledsoe, who originally founded the Espresso Bar on the main floor of the Bar at 327 Braun Court, is no longer involved in the shop. Bledsoe could not be reached for comment.
 
On the surface, much will remain unchanged at the shop. Neither Harmon nor the Gustafsons seem eager to alter the shop's winning formula, which earned it a spot on "Cosmopolitan"'s list of America's best coffee shops earlier this year.
 
But watchful regulars may indeed notice improvements that the trio hopes will help integrate the once-separate spaces into a cohesive whole. Harmon says that having the same owner preside over both the coffee shop and the bookstore "opens up a world of possibilities."
 
"Everything just seems to be running a bit smoother now that we have the ability to pay attention where we should overlap," Harmon says.
 
Harmon notes that the shop's long-standing barista is now working with the bookstore itself in a building manager capacity, making it easier to smooth out labor issues and assist with the store's events team.
 
For now, the focus will be on making the shop's event space more inviting and establishing a more consistent means of quality control behind the scenes. In the months ahead, customers can anticipate more coffee-focused events like a latte throwdown – where baristas compete to create the best latte foam art – coming this January. Harmon will use coffee roasted by Stove Top Coffee owner and area newcomer Steve Holm for that event, aiming to foster a sense of community among the region's roasters, baristas, and coffee lovers.

Jason Buchanan is a writer, father, and film fanatic living and working in Ann Arbor.

Photo courtesy of Literati Coffee.

Washtenaw County companies win $200,000 in state employee training grants

Eleven Washtenaw County companies will receive over $200,000 in grant funding from the Michigan Talent Investment Agency for employee training initiatives ranging from Six Sigma certifications to hazardous materials training.
 
The grants are made possible by the state of Michigan's Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF), established in 2013. Michigan Works! Southeast (MWSE) helped 40 southeastern Michigan employers submit applications for funding this year and will administer a total of $1.2 million in grants to the 27 regional awardees.
 
Despite the name of the fund that makes the awards possible, MWSE spokesperson Nicole Bell says it's been "exciting" to see how the scope of award applicants has grown each year since the STTF's inception.
 
"Some of the companies we are working with are kind of outside the box of 'skilled trade,'" Bell says. "We have a couple food industries. In a couple other counties we have hospitals. When you think of skilled trades some people think of welders or electricians or something to that effect. This is just a little bit different and it encourages retention or new employment."
 
Some Washtenaw County awardees are very much in the traditional skilled trades wheelhouse, such as Milan Metal and Mahindra Tractor Assembly in Ann Arbor. However, this year's local awardees also include software consulting and developing companies. Ann Arbor's Menlo Innovations will use its $13,500 grant to offset onboarding training for its developers and Quantum Signal in Saline will use a $9,000 grant for CompTIA security and Linux certification trainings.

Patrick Dunn is the managing editor of Concentrate and an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer for numerous publications. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere.

Tech Homecoming offers networking opportunities on year's biggest bar night

Local expatriates heading out to meet up with old friends on Thanksgiving Eve will also have a chance to meet some new Ann Arbor technology companies at the second annual Tech Homecoming event next Wednesday at Babo.
 
Hosted by Ann Arbor SPARK and Duo Security, SPARK's vice president of entrepreneurial services Bill Mayer says the event helps showcase the city's "growing and vibrant ecosystem" to those considering a move back to the area for work in the tech field.
 
"If you were to relocate to Ann Arbor to join, let's say Duo or Nutshell, and you decide you put in two or three years and are ready for a change, you can see a whole inventory of companies that are directly relevant to the work that you do," Mayer says. "You don't have to leave the area to find your next job."
 
The idea for the event came from Duo chief operating officer and cofounder Dug Song, who Mayer says put together last year's outing as a way to leverage the "biggest bar night of the year" to help tell the story of what's been happening here and attract talent back to the area.
 
That first outing featured 13 companies and drew around 200 guests for an informal evening of networking at Babo.
 
Mayer estimates about half of the attendees were recent college graduates who had moved from the area in the last five years. He says the most common response from attendees was pleasant surprise about how much the tech workforce in their hometown has grown in recent years.
 
It's hard to say if the event specifically led anyone back to the area, but Mayer believes it did make an impact in the ongoing recruitment of candidates looking to make a change.
 
"The great thing about Ann Arbor is you can buy a house, [and] you have a great public school system, as opposed to some of these other innovation areas like San Francisco, or Chicago, or New York," Mayer says.
 
The private event is free to attend, but registration is required.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Ann Arbor companies win $100,000 at Accelerate Michigan competition

Three Ann Arbor companies took home a combined $100,000 in prize money last week at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit.
 
Digital wellness platform developer JOOL Health was the biggest winner of the three, placing third overall and winning $50,000. Movellus Circuits and Workit Health each won $25,000 awards in the University Research Highlight and People's Choice categories, respectively.
 
This year's semi-finalists for the state's largest business plan competition were narrowed down from nearly 200 applicants across the state and also included Ann Arbor's ContentOro, PreDxion Bio, and ShapeLog.
 
More than $1 million in cash and prizes were awarded in total, including a $500,000 grand prize for SPLT. The Detroit-based mobility company took advantage of intern placement and business incubation resources at Ann Arbor SPARK's Central Innovation Center earlier this year.
 
Movellus' prize money will go toward more protection for the intellectual property behind its semiconductor chip optimization software, which has already netted three major customers and significant interest from Silicon Valley, according to chief operating officer and cofounder Muhammad Faisal.
 
Faisal launched the company three years ago while finishing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M). Today, Movellus employs five full-time and four part-time employees in its downtown Ann Arbor office. Faisal credits the U-M networking community with helping get the company to where it is now.
 
In his pitch to the Accelerate panel last week, Faisal said we all benefit and depend on more powerful, less expensive electronics released every couple of years, thanks to regular advances in chip technology. But the physical space on those chips isn't unlimited real estate, and it's running out.
 
"There's a need for software and architectural innovation, and that's exactly what we do," Faisal says.
 
Using Movellus' algorithms, Faisal says developers can produce chips that consume less power, cost less, and get to market faster.
 
A new release is due out from Movellus in early 2017, and there are plans to open a "customer- and investor-facing office" in California in the next six months. Faisal says the company will continue growing the engineering side of its business in Ann Arbor.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Jolly Pumpkin to add new restaurants in Chicago, Dexter

2017 is shaping up to be a big year for Dexter-based Jolly Pumpkin. The popular portfolio of Michigan restaurant-breweries announced last week it will open a new location in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, and partner and CEO Tony Grant says a much smaller farm-to-table restaurant is also coming to Jolly Pumpkin's Dexter brewery.
 
The 5,800-square-foot Chicago restaurant will serve craft beers, distilled spirits, and wines from the Northern United Brewing Company brand, including Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company, Nomad Cidery, Civilized Spirits, and Bonafide Wines, as well as a full pub menu.
 
Grant calls the new location a "no-brainer" for Jolly Pumpkin, which also has locations in Traverse City, Ann Arbor, and Detroit and is known for its distinct brand of sour, barrel-aged beers. Plans for a Chicago expansion have been in the works since Jolly Pumpkin opened its third location in Detroit's Midtown last year.
 
Grant says getting in front of new customers is key to the brewery's success, and opening shop in a "great Midwestern city" like Chicago provides new opportunity to do so.
 
"The point of direct contact with the beer drinker is just so important for Jolly Pumpkin, because the beer is very different," Grant says. "Being able to interface with who's drinking the beer and talk with them about what they're drinking and what they're experiencing is just really important for us."
 
Also new for Jolly Pumpkin next year will be a farm-to-table restaurant at its Dexter brewery, which currently has a tasting room with snacks, but no dining.
 
The new venture will seat 50 to 70 patrons and will be run by Maggie Long, the longtime chef at Jolly Pumpkin's Ann Arbor location. Long was also recently tapped to help develop the menu for Avalon International Breads' new Hearth and Soul Cafe in Ann Arbor.
 
"It'll be more intimate, like you're sitting in her kitchen environment," Grant says. "It'll be a really neat experience for the guest."
 
Grant hopes the city of Dexter will greenlight the project once a new wastewater system is installed, and the new venture will also open next year.
 
Grant says Jolly Pumpkin's ownership and management team is always looking for new opportunities, especially within Michigan, if and when the timing is right. But he also says they're mindful about not overextending.
 
"We're still very small," he says.
 
Grant credits business partner and brewer Ron Jeffries' dedication and craft with putting the company in its current position.
 
"He makes great beer, [and] he does not sacrifice quality to cut costs or cut corners or get something out the door quickly," Grant says. "He's a perfectionist, and it really shows in the end product."

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

"Escape room" trend reaches Ann Arbor with civic engagement twist

The owners of a new Pittsfield Township "escape room" hope their venture not only entertains visitors but also gets them exploring their own communities after they've puzzled their way out.
 
Guests at Decode Detroit pay for the challenge of being "locked" in a room with the "adolescent artificial intelligence" Minerva, which they must then outwit in order to "escape." Escape rooms have been popular in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago for several years now and have more recently made their way to Detroit. They've caught on for both entertainment and employee team-building purposes.
 
With his parents' help, Patton Doyle founded Decode Detroit earlier this year and opened its first location last month. The 25-year-old Ann Arbor native spent the last several years studying transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That's where he and his roommate developed the technological thriller storyline that drives Decode Detroit.
 
Doyle and his team started scouting locations last spring. Doyle settled on launching in the Detroit area in part because of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan's (RTA) proposed regional transit master plan, which Doyle hopes will yield new job opportunities in his field if voters approve it next week.
 
But as he got familiar with Detroit, he saw another opportunity to help guide people through its disconnected developments.
 
"The goal in the short term was to open this escape room and see if we could make a go of it," Doyle says. "Then we started thinking about how you could use this same sort of puzzle, goal-oriented story, or adventure to do some real good with it."
 
The idea is for players to continue the game after "escaping" by visiting stations around Ann Arbor for a sort of scavenger hunt of additional puzzles that will lead them to the game's final conclusion.
 
Details for this part of the plan are still being worked out, but Doyle envisions partnering with local businesses as a means of cross-promotion. He hopes that approach will benefit all parties and be fun for players as they learn more about their community.
 
Other cities could eventually be included in the scavenger hunt beyond the walls of Decode Detroit. While plans to buy or lease space in Detroit have temporarily stalled, a second Detroit location is still being pursued as well.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Photos courtesy of Decode Detroit.
 

Spanish auto parts supplier to create nearly 200 jobs in Chelsea

Gestamp, an international supplier of metal parts and assemblies for auto manufacturers, will expand its North American operations into Chelsea, investing $68 million and creating 195 new jobs over the next four years.
 
The Madrid, Spain-based company specializes in products for developing lighter, safer, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. In Chelsea, Gestamp will build a chassis assembly line, an electronic coat paint line, and a remote laser-welding 3D technology line.
 
The location is Gestamp's fourth in Michigan and its first in Washtenaw County. The company currently has plants in Lapeer and Mason, and offices in Troy. Ann Arbor SPARK helped Gestamp choose Chelsea by providing demographics and economic statistics, as well as information on available incentive programs, says Jennifer Olmstead, senior manager of business development at SPARK.
 
Working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, city of Chelsea, and Michigan Works, Olmstead says SPARK put together a proposal that convinced the company to locate in Chelsea.
 
"This project is a great example of the power of collaboration," she says.
 
Another determining factor was Gestamp's timeline, which called for operations to begin by early 2018. By purchasing an existing and vacant 190,000-square-foot production facility previously occupied by Jaytec on Sibley Road, Olmstead says the company can "hit the ground running."
 
Renovations on the property will start next year, with hiring to follow in 2018.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
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