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My Pontiac Story: Plain and Fancy Food's Ashleigh Altemann

As is often the case with start-ups, the idea for Plain and Fancy Food arose out of a simple need. 
 
Ashleigh Altemann and Evan Monaghan, friends since they were fourteen years old who eventually became romantic partners and then business partners, had odd work schedules. With Ashleigh working for an e-commerce design and marketing firm and Evan working in a professional kitchen, the Pontiac couple found that they couldn't eat dinner together until late at night. They found the local late night dining scene to be lacking, so they decided to do something about it.

"It came out of a need we had, so we just thought that we should do it ourselves," says Ashleigh.

Enter Plain & Fancy Food. The company specializes in American street food, with sliders as its main specialty. Plain & Fancy Food also offers homemade ice cream and is developing vegan and vegetarian sliders. 
 
The menu focuses on fresh and local ingredients. Altemann and Monaghan do a lot of gardening at home and the Baldwin Center and hope to purchase land in Pontiac to expand their gardening capacity and better outfit their kitchen with fresh and local produce.

For now, the main goal is to procure a food truck. In the meantime, Plain and Fancy Food is serving at special events and pop-up kitchens until they find the right vehicle. Altemann says they hope to partner with as other special events around Pontiac, such as Menagerie. 
 
Currently, the easiest way to find them is at Exerimentation Brewing Company, where they take over the kitchen every first and third Sunday of every month.

We asked co-owner Ashleigh Altemann about Pontiac and her relationship to the city.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

I love that it doesn't feel like the big box or Disney version of life. Pontiac has character and a history. We often say it's a big city, small town. I love the green spaces Pontiac has. This past year I've had the opportunity to travel a bit. I went to Spain and Italy with my family and Denver with Evan. I found myself wanting for nature.

I love the taco truck down the street from my house. I love the bar down the street where we can unwind with our neighbors. I love the art that can be found in town and the beauty of people's gardens.

I love the entrepreneurial spirit people have.

Q: Why did you come back to Pontiac?

I have always had a little place in my heart for Pontiac. I don't know where exactly it started. Maybe it is just because I was born in the city. I remember as a kid going along Huron and seeing the big, beautiful houses on the way to my grandparent's house in Waterford.

When I got out of college, I wanted to buy a house. I wanted a dog and a yard, and I didn't want a landlord telling me I couldn't do this or that. I had lived in Detroit when I was in school and was in love with the city, but it's a little bit expensive for me. Pontiac could give me the city life that I wanted, but without giving up a yard or all my money. I was making $10 an hour and found a home where I could live within my means.

I stay because I love it here. My home is my little refuge from the world, and Pontiac feels like an extension of that. Driving between communities, it is rather obvious when you cross the border into or out of Pontiac. There's a lot that contributes to why that is, and it's not all pretty. 
 
But there is good in it too. I guess I could say that in Pontiac I feel an escape from some of the pressures of a capitalistic society. A lot of the people I have met here embrace alternative lifestyles, be it raising chickens and farming or supporting barter economies (for example Pontiac SUN TimeBank).

Q: What's a pressing challenge that Pontiac faces and how can it be addressed?

I think public transportation would make a big impact on the city. We have a little bit of service presently, but it's not nearly enough. We are lucky to live on one of the bus routes through the city and we rely on it often because Evan and I currently share a car.

This isn't just a Pontiac issue, but better regional public transportation would have a great effect on Pontiac, more so than in other communities where personal transportation is generally a given. People without access to a personal vehicle are greatly limited in their options for employment, enrichment, life in general. We can't get to Rochester on a bus. We can't go next door to Waterford. In the places where there is service, a trip that might take 30 minutes by car can take many hours by bus.

When I first moved here I met a guy in his 30's who had hardly been anywhere outside of Pontiac. I have had the opportunity in my life to travel the state, and the country. I've been able to travel overseas. There is so much that can be learned when a person has the ability to travel. 

Q: What would you like to see happen in the city?

What I see most every day, people working hard, helping each other. Showing love to their community.

Q: What should people in Metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac isn't part of the sprawl of Detroit suburbs, it has a history and character of its own. There's a supportive, can-do spirit here.

Keep up with Plain and Fancy Food online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

First Capital Fund established to help Michigan's early-stage startups thrive

Young startups across Michigan will get a helping hand from a new multi-million-dollar fund managed by Invest Detroit Ventures and supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the New Economy Initiative (NEI).

 

The First Capital Fund's goal is to raise $4.2 million in two years and offer up to $150,000 in capital to tech companies in the earliest stages. MEDC has made an initial $2 million investment in the fund, which Invest Detroit aims to double by bringing private capital into the fund. NEI will support the fund with $800,000.

 

Adrian Ohmer, principal with Invest Detroit Ventures, says the fund does not require startups to bring along any additional financiers because funding for early-stage startups has become harder to find.

 

"Something we've observed in our seven years of existence is that a lot of the capital pegged as early stage has moved down the pipeline," Ohmer says. "Even angel investor groups only want to fund startups in the post-production phase."

 

Ohmer says awarding up to $150,000 to startups means they don’t have to spend months on the road, raising more capital from various investors, in order to move on to the next level and then do another road trip to raise even more funds a year later.

 

"We want to make sure they have enough money to meet certain milestones that we work with them to set in order to get them to a fundraising round that makes sense for them in their industry," Ohmer says.

 

While Invest Detroit is based in Detroit, it has always had a wider focus, Ohmer says.

 

"With the rebirth of Detroit, the city is certainly central to a lot of what we care about, but our team has always had a statewide focus," Ohmer says.

 

That focus includes Ann Arbor, which Ohmer calls a "hotbed for startups."

 

"Ann Arbor companies are more than likely going to be a prominent part of our fund," Ohmer says.

 

He notes that the fund hopes to engage a broad range of Michigan startups, including those in the Upper Peninsula.

 

"Companies from the Upper Peninsula have always come down to big events that the state hosts, like the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, so we're going to find ways to establish a presence there, though it might be mostly through web-based meetings," Ohmer says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Adrian Ohmer photo courtesy of Invest Detroit.


April in Dearborn: Celebrating the arts with a little bit of Martian thrown in for good measure

April is for the arts in Dearborn. The city has launched its first-ever Dearborn Arts Month, which encourages residents to, "Look, Listen, and Learn." Events can be found throughout the city, all month long.

Taking place over the course of the month is the Business in the Arts-Artists in Action program. Several businesses in Dearborn have opted into the program, where businesses host area artists. Patrons can walk through businesses during select times and observe and even interact with artists as they create their works. A wide range of art media is represented, including oil painting, watercolor painting, rug hooking, and music performances.

Examples of the Business in the Arts-Artists in Action program include Janus Benda's watercolor/acrylics demonstration at La Fork on Tuesday, April 18, the General Dearborn Quilting Society at the Henry Ford Centennial Library on Thursday, April 20, and Janice Frank's rug hooking demonstration at Village Ford Parts & Service on Friday, April 21.

Planned for Wednesday, April 19, is the Youth Arts Festival at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center. The event will feature a 4 p.m. art exhibit that features the work of hundreds of students. A variety show "collage concert" featuring vocal, instrumental, and theater performances will start at 7 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Dearborn Arts Month will culminate with the Mayor's Arts Awards at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. The event will showcase the individuals and businesses in Dearborn that champion the arts. This event is also free and open to the public.

Click here for a full schedule of Dearborn Arts Month events.

Martian Marathon: Though it may not be part of Dearborn Arts Month, a marathon planned for Saturday, April 22, is no less creative. Dubbed the Martian Marathon, the event features a marathon, 10K, 5K, and half-marathon runs, all carrying Martian themes.

Click here for more information on the Martian Marathon.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

New microbrewery in downtown Oxford ready for grand opening

HomeGrown Brewing Company is set to officially open its doors on Wednesday, April 12 in downtown Oxford.

The brewery will have several beers on tap, and will also carry a number of ciders and wines. Beers include an Australian-hopped IPA, a nutty Brown, and the Whamber, HomeGrown's unique Amber-and-Wheat ale hybrid. A 15- to 20-item food menu featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients is also planned.

HomeGrown is run by the Powers family, with each member assuming roles suited to their strengths. John Powers is Brewmaster while his wife Marie handles interior design duties. Eldest son Joe is Brewer and Production Manager and his wife Kate serves as Media Liaison. In the middle is Jeff, front-of-house General Manager who also oversees Brand Design. And youngest sibling Katie takes on the task of promoting the brewery on social media.

For Jeff, spring is the perfect time to open HomeGrown. The Powers family took the time to make sure the brewery was done right, overhauling a former VFW and Township Hall. Drop ceilings and beige walls have been removed to reveal brick and warm accents. 

They've also used pieces of their family farm throughout the brewery, which contributes to a down-to-earth feeling. Barn doors have been used to create the bar facade. Even grandma's old furniture has been reupholstered.

"You watch so many people open breweries, and one thing I've learned is that you can't discount atmosphere. And we have it," says Jeff. "It's rustic. It's approachable. Down-to-earth is kind of our motto."

HomeGrown Brewing Company is located at 28 N. Washington St. in downtown Oxford.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Rock for Refugees concert to take place in downtown Dearborn

This Sunday, April 2, musicians of a wide range of sounds and backgrounds are joining together to play the Rock for Refugees concert in downtown Dearborn. The concert, which will also feature an art auction and food trucks, takes place at the Arab American National Museum from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

All proceeds from the event will benefit two local groups: Freedom House, a temporary and safe home for asylum seekers, and ACCESS and their Take on Hate campaign, a grassroots campaign to challenge the discrimination and misconception of Arab and Muslim Americans, including refugees.

The scheduled performers are varied and many. Included in the line-up is a pairing of world musician Sean Blackman and Detroit blues singer Thornetta Davis, Detroit rock band Casual Sweetheart, the Foundation for Women in Hip Hop, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Youth Jazz Ensemble, to name just a few.

Ismael Ahmed suggested the idea for the concert and helped organize it. And if there's anyone qualified to do so, it's Ahmed. Currently the Vice Provost at University of Michigan-Dearborn and also the host of the radio program This Island Earth on 101.9 WDET-FM, Ahmed helped start the Concert of Colors, now in its 25th year. Ahmed also organized Rock Against Racism concerts and was the director of the Michigan Department of Human Services during Governor Jennifer Granholm's administration.

"Culture is a powerful force," says Ahmed. "There's a reason musicians fill giant concert halls and lecturers attract 100 people. These events appeal to the brain and the heart."

In coming up with the idea for the benefit concert, Ahmed was inspired by recent demonstrations at the country's airports, protesting President Trump's immigration ban, and the Women's March on Washington. A concert is just one more way to demonstrate the power of community.

"Some will come for the music and others will come for the cause," says Ahmed. "Hopefully the synergy of that moves us forward."

Tickets for the Rock for Refugees concert can be purchased online. More information, including a full line-up, is available on the Facebook event page.

The Arab American National Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Menagerie returns to downtown Pontiac with pop-up dinners and a kitchen incubator

James and April Forbes know their way around the food industry. James has 30 years of restaurant management experience, while April has 15 years as a trained pastry chef. The couple even competed and won a national reality show contest, having won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012. Most recently, the Forbes family has switched from selling their creations to helping other chefs sell their own.

In 2015, they opened the Menagerie, a food business incubator and pop-up kitchen. After a hiatus, they've moved from their first location to another downtown Pontiac location, operating out of Lafayette Market. It's there where they facilitate incubator kitchen and pop-up dining programs, helping foster the emerging food scene in downtown Pontiac.

This Sunday, April 2, the Menagerie at Lafayette Market will host Chef Layla Outita Siklawi and her five-course Moroccan dinner, A Taste of Marrakech. The couple says they plan on hosting pop-up events about every other Sunday.

"We're on the other end now, less hands-on in the kitchen," says April. "But now as hosts, by doing pop-ups, we've been able to taste the best food and share that with people, food that you wouldn't think you could get in your own backyard."

Pop-up dinners have a number of benefits, say the Forbes. They allow chefs at different career points to gain more exposure while also introducing new dining options to the community.

"Pop-ups are great for chefs," says James. "By selling tickets to the events, it allows chefs to know exactly how much to buy and prepare, eliminating risk."

James says Menagerie has an exciting year planned, including guest chefs from Ocean Prime in Troy and the Hell's Kitchen television show.

More information and tickets for the Menagerie at Lafayette Market pop-up dinners can be found online.

Menagerie at Lafayette Market is located at 154 N. Saginaw St. in Pontiac.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Lincoln Park Farmers Market joins national program to encourage kids to eat healthy

Fresh off the heels of their first Winter Market in several years, the Lincoln Park Farmers Market is getting ready for its next phase of growth. 
 
Starting with the 2017 season, Lincoln Park will be members of the POP Club, a national program designed to engage children in the importance of healthy eating and shopping habits.

Lincoln Park Farmers Market is one of only a handful of Michigan farmers markets to join the POP Club program. The Muskegon Farmers Market and Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market are also members.

First started in Oregon, the POP Club, or Power of Produce Club, uses a number of techniques to teach children aged 5 to 12 years old about fresh and local produce. Once registered in the POP Club, a child receives $2 to spend as they wish on fruits, vegetables, and plants. Lincoln Park will also host produce-related activities and classes for the children.

"POP Clubs have always intrigued me. I just thought this would be a really good thing to have," says Leslie Lynch-Wilson, President of Friends of Lincoln Park Farmers Market. "It's great for the community, families, and farmers. And it's something for the kids to do and not just stand around bored while their parents shop."

Registration for the POP Club is available at the first regular Lincoln Park Farmers Market of the season on Sunday, June 4. Lynch-Wilson encourages children to register upon entry to the market.

Lincoln Park is also hosting a special holiday market this Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14.

Lincoln Park Farmers Market occurs every Sunday from June through October. It is located at the southwest corner at the intersection of Southfield Road and Fort Street in Lincoln Park.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Downtown Pontiac's Riker Building celebrates first major tenant: MadDog Technology

The redevelopment team of the historic Riker Building in downtown Pontiac is taking a top-down approach. The ten-story building, opened in 1928, welcomed prominent Michigan public officials and business leaders this past Wednesday, March 22 for a luncheon and open house celebrating the building's first major tenant, MadDog Technology.

From the top floor of the Riker, a group that included the building's developer Tim Shepard, MadDog Technology co-founders Pete Karmanos, Jr. and Mark Hillman, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, and Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, among many others, gathered for the grand opening of MadDog Technology.

The venture capital firm MadDog has moved four technology startups into the 6,000 sq. ft. space on the building's tenth floor. Redevelopment of the building is happening one floor at a time, from the tenth floor on down to the first.

The overall theme of the celebration was one of rejuvenation, not just of the prominent downtown office tower but of the city as a whole. Speakers forecasted a pending technology boom for the city, encouraging the audience to invest in Pontiac.

Mark Adams, Senior Business Development Representative for Oakland County's Economic Development & Community Affairs department says that Michigan nearly lost MadDog to another state, but work at the city and state levels, including a state grant, helped convince MadDog to stay in Michigan.

Adams says he expects 100 IT workers to be hired over the next few years, and that MadDog's move to the Riker, "will be a catalyst for more businesses coming to the city of Pontiac."

Mayor Waterman believes MadDog will help establish Pontiac as a technology hub, saying that the city has the largest unused fiber optic network east of the Mississippi River.

"We want to change the narrative of what Pontiac is," says the mayor. "We're at the center of Oakland County."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Q&A with the owners of joebar, Hazel Park's newest bar and restaurant

With the relatively recent openings of notable drinking and dining establishments Cellarmen's and Mabel Gray, Hazel Park is increasingly becoming a go-to spot for a night on the town. Here is our conversation with Joseph and Cari Vaughn, owners of the newest joint to open on John R Road, joebar.

Q: If you were on vacation in a foreign land, how would you describe joebar to a stranger at the bar? 

A: Super chill neighborhood spot to drink, eat, and meet up with friends. Like your living room, but with a bartender and someone to make really good food. 

Q:  In coming up with the concept for joebar, what was it that you set out to do? 

A: Create a food community for our friends, clients, and colleagues--sans any pretentious energy. 

Q: What's the story with the restaurant within joebar, Frame? 

A: Peter at (revolver) knows how to create dinner experiences. We are both connected to the local and national chef scene. Creating an anti-popup residency for chefs is a perfect complement to joebar. When Katoi had their fire, we decided to put Frame into beta mode and give them a home. We are happy to smell lemongrass and ginger every day when we walk in.

Q: What's your relationship with Mabel Gray like? 

A: If you moved in next door to your cool sister that did everything right, made sure you didn't mess up, and let you hang with her hot friends, that's Mabel Gray to joebar. James, Sam, Paul, and Rachel have been godsends in the process. We love them!

Q: What is it about your location that made it the right spot for joebar

A: Hazel Park is the forgotten Main Street. We love it here. It's the small town that makes you feel like you've lived here your whole life. We're home.

joebar is located at 23839 John R Rd. in Hazel Park

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Fresh fruits and vegetables store opens in Pontiac

It's only been a few weeks since Sprout Fresh Food Store opened in Pontiac--Jan. 26, to be exact--and co-owners Bethany Blackburn and Coleman Yoakum are quickly learning about their neighbors and customers.

They're starting to learn about people's families, about their lives. They're learning about people's buying habits, too; Sprout can't keep enough grapes and bananas in stock, they're flying off the shelves so quickly. But that's part of Sprout's mission, says Blackburn. Not only did they want to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to a neighborhood slim on such options, but they wanted to become a part of that neighborhood, too.

"Everything's been really well received," says Blackburn. "It's not that we didn't think we wouldn't be, but people are visibly excited when they come in."

The nearest grocery store is two miles away, which is a problem for neighbors with limited transportation options, she says. And the nearby party stores and gas stations don't exactly carry a wide range of fresh produce, either.

Sprout makes an effort to keep prices low and affordable for its neighbors. The co-owners volunteer at community gardens and farms in places like White Lake, Oakland Township, and Romulus in exchange for free and low-cost produce. They also have their own two-acre garden in the neighborhood.

Blackburn says they just found out they've been approved to accept Bridge Cards and SNAP benefits.

Yoakum first moved to Pontiac for an internship, eventually deciding to stay and start Micah 6, a community development non-profit. He reconnected with his old friend Blackburn, who moved to the neighborhood from Arkansas to help run the produce shop. Sprout, she says, is just one avenue of community outreach that Micah 6 has planned.

"This next year is all about building relationships with our neighbors and opening our arms to the rest of Pontiac," says Blackburn.

Sprout is hoping to throw a grand opening party in the next several weeks, and more information on that can be found on their Facebook page as plans develop.

Sprout Fresh Food Store is located at 580 W. Huron St. in Pontiac. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Wyandotte hopes to build Arrowhead Pavilion in front of city hall, draw more people downtown

The City of Wyandotte is hoping to raise funds for the completion of the Arrowhead Pavilion, an enhanced outdoor public space in front of Wyandotte City Hall.

Arrowhead Pavilion will be a new gathering space in downtown Wyandotte. Situated at the corner of Sycamore Street and Biddle Avenue, the pavilion will feature outdoor seating, dining spaces, lighting installations, art, and improved landscaping. The venue will also host events, including the Wyandotte Street Art Fair, Christmas Tree Lighting, and monthly 3rd Friday celebrations.

To raise funds to build Arrowhead Pavilion, the city has signed on with the Public Spaces Community Places initiative. Michigan Economic Development Corporation will contribute a $50,000 matching grant to the city if Wyandotte successfully raises $50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign via the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.

Wyandotte has until March 31 to raise the funds. It's an all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign, meaning that Wyandotte only receives the money if they successfully reach the $50,000 mark.

"This is a project that can really enhance our Downtown, providing additional public space for residents and visitors to gather and relax," Joe Gruber, Downtown Development Authority Director for the City of Wyandotte, says in a statement. "Achieving our goal is only possible with everyone’s participation, and we are confident that lots of folks will participate, because they are deeply connected to this town and its growth and development."

By improving downtown placemaking and pedestrian infrastructure, the city believes that it will attract more residents, visitors, and businesses.

Arrowhead Pavilion was designed by Rochester Hills-based architects D'Anna Associates.

Click here to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Networking event for young Muslim professionals to be held in Dearborn

A networking event targeted at millennials is being held at the Arab American National Museum this Saturday, March 4. The event, illMuslims: Be Social Detroit, will provide art, music, food, and refreshments while offering attendees the opportunity to connect with each other and local artists and retailers from the community.

The national organization illMuslims has thrown similar events across the country, in cities that include Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles. According to a release, the networking event will provide "a platform to create a strong network of Muslim-run initiatives in Metro Detroit."

"illMuslims was founded in September 2014 after a series of conversations that centered on supporting creativity between my co-founder, Sadaf Javaid, and I," Rummi Khan, co-founder of illMuslims, says in a statement. "The term ‘ummah’ translates to 'community', which is defined as divergent populations interacting in a meaningful way. We didn't feel like we had seen that in any place for our generation of Muslims in North America. We created illMuslims as an effort to bring these divergent groups together to focus on what we agree on, supporting creative output."

The March 4 event offers a number of attractions, including vendor booths, mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails), and food and refreshments from local shops The Bottomline, Cannoli Pastry, and AlJoom's BBQ. A pop-up shop by Threads and Beams footwear will also be on hand.

Music performances include DJ Bornswift, Omar Zidan, a.k.a. Omar Okz, and Abir, a New York-based Moroccan American R&B artist most recently featured in a Beats by Dr. Dre headphones commercial. Organizers also promise a surprise performance from a Metro Detroit dance group.

Artist Zeinab Saab, illustrator and muralist Marlo Broughton, and photographer Ji La Zand will each have artwork shown at the event.

illMuslims: Be Social Detroit takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. All are welcome.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Pontiac public art competition now accepting artist submissions for 2017 season

"You bring the artists back, and you bring everybody back."

That's what Robert Karazim says about the reinvigoration of cities and, in particular, Pontiac.

It's why he started Canvas Pontiac. The public art project, now in its fifth year, is currently accepting submissions for the 2017 season. A panel of judges will select 25 pieces of art to be enlarged to the size of 8 ft. by 10 ft. and hung on the sides of buildings throughout downtown Pontiac.

The contest is in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts and has been since its second year. There are a number of prizes for winning artists, ranging from $25 to $2,000, made possible by sponsorships from local businesses. Submissions are due this April 16, 2017.

Beginning last year, Canvas Pontiac started a similar competition for the artists of both the public and private high schools in the city.

"We have a really great team," says Karazim, who owns K and R Architectural Studios. "It's all volunteers, and we're not making any money from this. It's all done for a love of Pontiac."

In starting Canvas Pontiac, Karazim believed that he had to give people a reason to visit downtown. A series of state-appointed Emergency Managers and vacant storefronts had left some people with a bad taste in their mouths. Karazim felt public art was a way to get "feet on the street." The art, he says, is "a big neon sign saying that Pontiac is alive and healthy."

Now the downtown is bouncing back with new restaurants and businesses. And Karazim is one of those buying into downtown Pontiac, having purchased a three-story building in 2014. The building, erected in 1868, will be converted to two floors of loft space and a theater on the ground floor. Called The PLAT, or Pontiac's Little Art Theater Karazim is hoping for a spring opening.

Visit the Canvas Pontiac website or their Facebook page to learn more about the artist submission process.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Photos courtesy of Canvas Pontiac.

Placemaking success in Mount Clemens as Clinton River project reaches crowdfunding goal

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and a corresponding $50,000 grant from state agencies, the Clinton River Watershed Council now has the funds to build a universally accessible canoe and kayak launch at MacArthur Park, as well as some improvements to the park itself.

In total, MacArthur Park: Clinton River Project is set to receive $110,760 to complete construction. The project was first announced at the end of November 2016, a result of being named as part of the state's ongoing Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative. Because the project successfully raised $60,000 by Jan. 28, 2017, state agencies Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority have contributed a $50,000 grant toward its completion.

In addition to the canoe and kayak launch, also planned are universally accessible restrooms and a universally accessible picnic table with a charging station. Other enhancements include kayak storage and lockers, enhanced pedestrian connections to the existing boardwalk, way finding and interpretive signage, local art murals, and improved parking facilities. Expect improvements by this spring and summer.

"Adding a universally accessible kayak launch at MacArthur Park will allow users of all abilities the opportunity to experience all that Mt. Clemens and the Clinton River have to offer," Mt. Clemens Mayor Barbara Dempsey said in a statement originally released at the announcement of the project. "The Clinton River is one of the unique environmental and recreational assets of the region and Mount Clemens, and we look forward to finding more ways to utilize this asset as an economic development tool while continuing to protect its natural beauty."

The importance of protecting the Clinton River has been especially relevant lately, the result of a sinkhole and collapsed sewer line in the nearby city of Fraser.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Macomb County recognizes local business leaders with Valentine's Day breakfast awards ceremony

This most recent Valentine's Day, Macomb County threw a big party to show affection for its business leaders.

The 5th Annual Macomb Business Awards breakfast was held Tuesday, Feb. 14, honoring the county's business community with awards in six categories. A keynote speaker and local officials and celebrities also highlighted the event.

From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township, Fox 2 Detroit's Huel Perkins and Charlie Langton emceed an awards ceremony that included a keynote speech from Menlo Innovations founder and CEO Richard Sheridan. 53 organizations were nominated for the six categories, which were then voted on by a panel of judges made up of local officials and business executives.

Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel and Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development Director John Paul Rea were on hand to recognize the winners. 
 
Said Hackel, “Strong businesses are essential to the quality of life we enjoy here in Macomb County. Their efforts to build a strong foundation for success make them good job providers and neighbors for us all."

Winners of the six awards were R&E Automated Systems of Macomb Township, Champion of Workforce Development; Binson's Medical Equipment and Supplies of Center Line, Corporate Citizen; Baker Industries of Macomb Township, Diversification Leader; JEM Tech Group of Clinton Township, Efficiency Expert; Arts Academy in the Woods High School of Fraser, Model of OneMacomb; and United Shore Professional Baseball League of Utica, Startup Business to Watch.

Rea, who recognized Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! as the Economic Development Partner of the Year, said, "The creativity and passion on display in this year’s group of nominees is inspiring. The Macomb Business Awards provide us with a great opportunity to showcase how our private sector partners are helping us move this community forward."

Dr. Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College, was also recognized with the Beacon of Economic Development award.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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