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Rochester Mills Brewing Co. builds huge facility to meet demand for suds

Rochester Mills Beer Co. is expanding on the success of its suds at its downtown Rochester brewpub by opening a production facility in Auburn Hills.

The new facility, a renovated 48,000-square-foot space, 50 barrel brewhouse, will produce the popular Cornerstone IPA craft beer will be brewed, bottled, canned and kegged for sale in stores, bars and restaurants around Michigan.

The 13-year-old company also plans to brew its Rochester Red Ale and Milkshake Stout from the new facility that will also house a tasting room in view of the massive fermentation tanks as well as its sales, marketing and management offices.

Construction has begun and equipment is arriving daily, says David Youngman, spokesman for Rochester Mills Beer Co. and production facility. The brewing plant will be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2012, he says. Already a handful of employees have been hired and more will be as the facility ramps up production, he says.

"When you look at what's happening with the craft beer industry it's so exciting. It's really caught fire," Youngman says.

While mass produced beer has experienced decreasing sales the craft industry is experiencing double digit growth, he says.

"When you look at states known for craft beer, California, some other West Coast states and far East Coast states, Michigan is really holding its own as a leader with over 85 craft beer breweries in the state that are part of the Michigan Brewers' Guild."

He says the company tested the market by hiring an independent company to bottle the beer and distribute it to 80 merchants around Oakland County.
With the new facility the company will bottle and can all its own.

"It was flying off the shelves. It was encouraging to see how people have embraced craft beer," he says. "This has been a long time coming. It was part of Mike's, the founder's original vision…"

Rochester Mills beer distribution plans adds to a thriving craft beer market that has brewers in Michigan winning national and international awards and selling their creations outside the state. The new production facility can brew up to 100,000 of additional barrels of beer a year in its initial opening, and more than 200,000 barrels if demand calls for the further expansion.

"We have some of the best brewers in the state," says Mike Plesz, president and founder of the Rochester Mills Production Brewery. "This expansion is an investment in our future to make sure that we are ready to make as much beer as necessary to meet demand."

Source: David Youngman, spokesman, Rochester Hills Brewing Co. and Production Brewery
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ford gets tax break to turn shuttered Wixom plant into alt energy lab

A plan to reincarnate the shuttered Ford assembly plant in Wixom as a renewable energy lab and production facility took a step forward last week with the approval of tax credits from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

Ford Motor Co. received $20 million in brownfield tax credits from the state to redevelop two areas of a 317-acre property at I-96 and Wixom Road. Ford plans to sell or lease the land to tenants that would re-use the plant, most likely for products related to renewable energy.

State officials say the investment could come to $160 million in renovations and new equipment on each of the parcels, bringing in much-needed revenue for the city and potential customers for businesses, both lost when the plant closed in 2007. As many as 600 new jobs, about 300 per parcel, could be created,

A company called Townsend Energy Solutions is interested in taking over at least one of the parcels. It has worked on a project since at least 2009 and is negotiating with Ford to buy property and turn the old plant into a place to develop products that provide alternative energy sources for cars, electronics and other power sources.

State economic officials see an opportunity for major job creation and development of an important sector of the new economy, but it may not be known for weeks or months when, if, the renovation of the plant would begin.

Besides the negotiations with Ford, Townsend Energy Solutions is also awaiting approval of federal tax incentives.

Source: Marcia Gebarowski, regional project manager, Michigan Economic Growth Authority, and city of Wixom
Writer: Kim North Shine

Altair Engineering opens Troy data center to manage icloud

Altair Engineering, a 26-year-old company that provides specialized software and consulting services to the fields of engineering, computing and enterprise analytics, has opened a new data center in Troy, just over three miles from its world headquarters.

The company says the "exceptionally high-powered data center" that equates to a scientific super computer will manage its growing Hyper Works on Demand cloud-based, computer-aided engineering program for companies that rely on high-performance computing to run their operations.

The data center, among other services, gives companies several software solutions and cloud computing that can permit as many as 150 engineering jobs to run at once. The data center should be operational within the next several weeks.

“Companies often turn to HyperWorks On-Demand because they have outgrown their internal capacity or do not have the resources internally to manage high-performance computing equipment,” Altair Chief Information Officer Martin Nichols says. “HyperWorks On-Demand provides all our products as a cloud service, and this data center allows us to scale up to provide much larger on-demand clusters for our customers. ”

“Our HyperWorks On-Demand data center essentially fits the power of an entire building of high-performance computers into a single room, making it feasible now for medium to large-sized organizations to access substantial computing resources via Altair’s private cloud,” Nichols says. “The compute-power density of this center is phenomenal, far higher than that of a standard commercial data center. Altair’s is much more similar to a scientific super-computing installation.”

Construction on the the data center finished last week. It features extensive physical and cyber security measures and is monitored inside and out by video surveillance, night-vision cameras and sensors. Firewall devices protect data.

Altair has 1,500 employees in offices in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Source: Jenn Korail, account supervisor Airfoil Public Relations
Writer: Kim North Shine

Alternative energy in metro Detroit not so alternative in 2011

Go Green! In 2011 metro Detroit municipalities increasingly saw a win-win in implementing energy-saving practices and policies. Businesses, schools and homeowners got in on the alternative energy game too, in large part inspired by grants, tax breaks and incentives offered by the federal and state governments and DTE. The result: saving money and possibly the earth.

It was a year that saw the landscape changed by green rooftops, solar installations, wind farms, geothermal-powered facilities, electric car charging stations and in Auburn Hills, for example, a plan to assist builders in building alternative-energy-based homes and businesses of the future.

Auburn Hills prepares for wave of electric vehicles

Auburn Hills makes energy efficiency a priority

Rochester Fire Department goes solar-powered

DTE adds 16 new electric car-charging stations to growing network

Macomb County breaks 100-mark in schools state certified as green

State grants enable dozens of Michigan schools to turn up solar and wind power

The story at Ferndale library is about going green

Metro Detroit's institutes of greener learning

Oakland County Airport first LEED-certified terminal in Michigan

Propane vehicles deliver for Wright & Fillippis
Interest in DTE's Solar Currents program so hot it's reached its goal

Downtown Royal Oak parking meters go solar

Sign of the times: Southgate hotel goes solar

By Kim North Shine

How metro Detroit municipalities tried to create the downtown experience

The word downtown was tossed around a lot in 2011. Everybody has one or is working on creating one as they pursue the newfound love of things urban. Downtown Development Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, Main Street programs had Main Streets - and their equivalents - throughout metro Detroit putting money into makeovers and facelifts in 2011 as city leaders saw promise in creating places that preserve history, have varied businesses and invite walking, biking, strolling.

The changes were big and small. Together should convey: You want to come here. Decorative, energy-efficient street lights, attractive, theme-appropriate benches, trash-receptacles, pedestrian-safe sidewalks and crosswalks, art installations, benches, historic preservation projects, special events, facade grants, kiosks to direct visitors, even phone apps to get them around town - all wrapped in business recruitment and PR.

Cities with the most real downtowns: Rochester, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Mount Clemens, Dearborn, Plymouth, Northville. The up-and-comers: Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Berkley, Novi, Wyandotte.

Downtown Rochester $1 million streetscape re-do is on

Downtown Lake Orion gets $2 million streetscape, new microbrewery

Mount Clemens invests more than $250K in way-finding signs

Wyandotte DDA's business improvement grants paying off

Nightlife builds in downtown Plymouth

Ice rink cometh to Auburn Hills heating up plans for downtown

Graduate housing, downtown parking and retail complex coming to Auburn Hills

Main Street Oakland recognizes top downtown projects

By Kim North Shine

The train has left the station - sort of

Regional mass transit champions, especially of train and light rail, received several pieces of good news in 2011 as Amtrak operators and bus service providers saw ridership hit record numbers. Funding added up, new stations opened and Woodward Avenue light rail moved as close as ever to leaving the station.

Metro Detroit suburbs liked what they saw and threw money and manpower behind studies and possible land acquisition into linking their main corridors, namely Woodward Avenue and possibly 8 Mile, to light rail or other regional mass transit system.

Of course, the Woodward Avenue Rail project has been put on hold in favor of a rapid bus transit plan... but the conversation deepens and most assuredly continues. 

Note: The record numbers and the funding have been a "trend" since at least 2008, but 2012 might show us if this thing that has brought so much economic stimulus to other towns can happen in metro Detroit. It's why we posed this in 2011: If Dallas can do it, why not Detroit?

As train and bus ridership gorw, $47 million is committed to new transit options

Transform Woodward ponders light rail beyond Detroit

Woodward Avenue as linear city

If Dallas Can Do It, Why Can't Detroit?

Case for Detroit light rail grows with $25M federal grant, 23 percent growth in Amtrak ridership

Nearly $200M federal grant accelerates high speed rail in Metro Detroit

Next stop: Dearborn. New new train station pulling in

New transit center in Pontiac welcomes bus, train commuters

By Kim North Shine

Streets for all. Designing cities that welcome all forms of transportation

Streets for everyone. The Michigan Complete Streets initiative gained momentum in 2011 in metro Detroit and around the state as cities enacted changes or made plans to design roads and sidewalks that take pedestrians, cyclists and drivers into account. The Michigan's Complete Streets movement got props for being a role model nationwide. Separately from Complete Streets, cities and various nonprofits worked on the same goal: streets that accommodate all. It's been a process playing out for a few years now so expect to see more bike lanes, new style crosswalks and other changes coming to a town near you.

Michigan is national leaders in street design that serves cars, bikes and pedestrians

Streetscape grants from Royal Oak's WA3 help unify Woodward Corridor

Royal Oak's non-motorized transportation plan is out for public feedback

Walkers, cyclists may like changes coming to Grosse Pointe, Dearborn

By Kim North Shine

New Year to ring in two new Birmingham restaurants

Downtown Birmingham may be seeing two new restaurants in early 2012, one a tapas-style eatery, the other a European bistro with specialties from a stone oven.

The Social Kitchen & Bar will be located at 223-225 Maple Road and serve small-portion, shareable tapas in an indoor dining room, a small bar and rooftop cafe.

Market, the European bistro, will be located at 474 N. Old Woodward and Ravine and offer a casual and relaxed atmosphere with outdoor seating, says Jana Ecker, Birmingham's planning director.

Variety "is what we're after," Ecker says.

The restaurants were two of six that went through a pre-screening before the city commission weeks ago to determine which two in the group should receive coveted bistro licenses that allow food establishments to serve food and alcohol outdoors and with limited seating. While they won the blessing of the commission in the prescreening, a new process aimed at equalizing the awarding of the licenses and decreasing the time from proposal to opening day, both proposals will go before council Jan. 9, ideally for the last time.

If all goes as expected, Ecker says, construction and renovation can begin and opening day could come in early 2012.

Social Kitchen would fill in vacancies along Maple, one a former sushi restaurant, the other a retail store. Market will move in to the spot formerly occupied by Root & Sprout, and before that, Arkitektura.

Both restaurants have under 65 seats.

Source: Jana Ecker, planning director, city of Birmingham
Writer: Kim North Shine

Entrepreneurial fashionista moves from trunk to Ferndale storefront

As a hairstylist and a self-employed vendor of boutique-style clothing to her salon clients, their friends and her friends, Letise Eaton has decided it's time to go the brick-and-mortar way.

Until opening a storefront at 23236 Woodward Avenue in Ferndale in November, Eaton had sold her goods from the trunk of her car.

"I had been keeping my eye on this spot for a long time," she says. "I had looked at leasing places in other cities, but this was the most affordable, and the longer I'm here I see how the city is always busy."

Her Letise Collections took over a long-vacant spot and now she's hoping her presence in one of metro Detroit's most pedestrian-heavy business districts will bring her more connections.

Though her sales method has changed, her philosophy on style and keeping it individual has not, so her store will sell only up to six of the same item.

"When it's sold, I buy something different," she says. "No one wants to buy something they love and them bump into someone on the street who's wearing the same thing."

It's a philosophy she hopes will set her store apart.

"Most stores buy 12 to 24 of each item," she says. "What I have to do is make sure people know that will not be our approach at Letise."

Source: Letise Eaton, owner, Letise Collections
Writer: Kim North Shine

Medical center to bring 44 jobs, business traffic, to downtown Wyandotte

Wyandotte's Biddle Avenue, the main street through its downtown, will see much more traffic -- and potential customers -- when a medical office building opens on a two-acre piece of land that's long been the site of vacant and blighted properties.

The two-story, minimum 22,000-square-foot medical and professional building will be located at 2070 Biddle Ave. and be largely connected with Henry Ford Health Systems. The project received approval from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority on Tuesday. The approval was required as the city has declared the plot of land a brownfield redevelopment project eligible for tax relief for developers, who will invest $4 million in the project.

The project, which will create 44 permanent jobs and bring business and new tax revenue, is the culmination of five years of work by the city, which painstakingly acquired properties so that something more substantial could take their place. The city has spent $1.6 million on the project in order to bring about a development that would generate local taxes for the city, schools, county and state. There have been nearly 30 structures on the plot of land since 1912, including single family homes, a gas station and a commercial print facility.

It is unclear when construction will start and end.

Source: Michigan Economic Growth Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

The whos, whats and hows of bus ridership in SE Mich

A recently completed survey of bus riders on six systems in Southeast Michigan will help transportation planners and system operators learn what's needed to better serve riders.

The last survey, a project of SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) was completed in 2002 and much has changed since then.

"With all of the economic impacts that have happened recently, it's changed travel patterns, especially with transit," says Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG's Plan Policy Development Group.

"By performing this survey we get to better understand what these travel patterns are and use the information to design a system-wide transportation plan."

While the focus was on bus riders, the information gathered could factor into planning for other forms of mass transportation and transportation dollars, especially as plans for light rail, train and similar transportation in Detroit, metro Detroit and Ann Arbor are moving further along.

The survey, conducted in person, asked 18,500 people their views on topics such as destinations, purpose of trips, and transportation methods to starting and ending points, as well as personal attributes. Surveys were taken from riders on Detroit Department of Transportation, Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University of Michigan Transit Service, Detroit People Mover, Blue Water Area Transit and Lake Erie Transit.

"By performing this survey and getting more information on our fixed route system we're able to utilize it for other purposes, such as how it could be applied to  light rail…We need to have the proper information to apply for dollars out there," Bruff says. "We also have to do the survey for compliance with receiving federal funds and also monitoring and improving air quality."

Only preliminary results of the survey, which was taken in 2010 and 2011 and completed in the spring, are available at this point. They are available ln SEMCOG's website and will be updated as new findings are released.

Among the preliminary findings:

* More than 222,000 bus boardings occur on the six systems each day.
* About half of transit usage occurs on 10 percent of the system
* 54 percent of trips were work and university related
* More than a third of riders were between 18-25
* 90 percent of riders did not get any fare subsidy.
*20 percent of riders are unemployed
*46 percent of riders did not have a valid driver’s license and nearly 52% had no access to any vehicle.

The information will be further broken down and analyzed to determine how much has changed since 2002 and to compare the findings to other cities, Bruff says.

"First and foremost it gives us more recent and relevant information that we can use and the transit operators can use to plan for changes in the transit system," Bruff says. "We'll take this information and include it in our travel demand forecast model…We'll put in transportation projects that are being planned…and determine how are those projects improving the system….

Bruff himself is one of metro Detroit's bus riders. "I go from Macomb County to downtown Detroit every day," he says. "I go by choice. There are a lot of riders who need affordable, reliable transportation because it's their only means of transportation, and there are a number of riders who are choice riders."

The goal of the survey is to serve them all.

Source: Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG's Plan Policy Development Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

Berkley Book Corner fills Borders void in downtown Berkley

Another book-loving entrepreneur has opened a bookstore to fill the void left by Borders' bankruptcy.

Vic Wooddell brought The Berkley Book Corner to downtown Berkley about three weeks ago and says he gets thanks on a regular basis from former Borders customers.

"Everybody comes in and says how sad they are that Borders closed and they're happy to see I'm here," he says. Berkley residents had two Borders within three miles of downtown. Wooddell likes to let them know that he picked up his bookshelves from Border's liquidation.

Opening a bookstore "was an idea we had been tossing around for awhile."

When he was laid off from over the summer his job as a business professor at Wayne State University due to state budget cuts, the idea heated up. And once Borders closed, "it was the perfect time," he says.

The Berkley Book Corner sells new and gently used books, and offers a children's area and lounge for adults.

"It's going very well. We've had a good couple of week. Of course it's the Christmas purchasing season, but we're getting a lot of positive feedback that people are happy we're here," he says.

Other entrepreneurs in Mount Clemens, Royal Oak and other metro Detroit cities felt the same and have opened their own independent bookstores.

The Berkley Book Corner fills in a vacant spot previously occupied by a PO Box store, bringing the sort of traffic that makes downtown a place to stroll and lounge.

"A lot of my customers are walk-in because they go to the bakery nearby…or they get a coffee," he says. "We fit in with that."

Source: Vic Wooddell, owner, The Berkley Book Corner
Writer: Kim North Shine

OCC's solar power education mobile hits the road

Oakland Community College is taking what it knows about solar and wind power, putting it in a mobile trailer and taking it onto campus and into the community so that students and the public can learn about renewable energy.

The 10-foot-by-20-foot Mobile Renewable Energy Center has a working solar cell system that converts solar energy to DC and AC electricity that can run household appliances and power tools. There also is a working solar water heater and space center. The wind energy generator is also on board as are educational displays of information on renewable energy and energy conservation.

“The function of our center is to show students, the general public and businesses interested in green technology how we can use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to reduce bills, enjoy cleaner air and grow a green economy while increasing energy efficiency,” says Debra Rowe, OCC professor of sustainable energies and behavioral science. Rowe is also president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, and an advisor to the Higher Education Association’s Sustainability Consortium.

The mobile alternative energy lab is located at the Auburn Hills campus and will be used as a teaching tool for OCC's sustainability program. It will go off off campus to county school districts and other public places upon request.

Source: Debra Rowe, professor of sustainability energies and behavioral sciences at Oakland Community College
Writer: Kim North Shine

National chains and Big Apple visit shaping Birmingham's downtown

Downtown Birmingham has grown by two national retailers in recent weeks, adding a Paper Source artisan paper and stationery vendor and a J. McLaughlin clothing store. Representatives from the city head to New York City next week to make a case for why other nationals should bring their business to Birmingham.

The push to attract stores better known in larger cities such as Chicago -- where a Paper Source draws metro Detroiters -- started about two years ago as a new initiative of the city's Principal Shopping District..

Cindy Ciura, a consultant for the district and principal of CCConsulting, says the city is achieving that goal while also attracting local businesses.

"i think most urban areas are a combo of both local and national... the successful ones. There are a few holes for retailers like Paper Source and J. McLaughlin that fill a need out there in the market…"

She says the two newer establishments have reported huge crowds and great sales.

"When you talk to retailers about Michigan in general there is concern because of auto companies, unemployment, etc. Having these national retailers here shows others that we are OK, that there is a market here."

J. McLaughlin, which sells Ralph Lauren-esque American classic styles for men, women and pets, is located at 268 Maple. Paper Source, which deals in artisanal papers, specialty stationery invitations, greeting cards and unique gifts, is at Maple at Pierce.

In the last year several local businesses, including Sanders, have opened and are doing well, Ciura says.

The business success combined with some good press, including Birmingham being named by CNN and Money magazine as one of the top ten towns with six-figure incomes, and as the fifth most successful  walkable suburb by the Wall Street Journal, has generated excitement around a trip to the International Council of Shopping Centers national conference in New York City.

Members of the principal shopping district, which is backed by 300 retailers, will go to New York City to share the successes and the headlines and more, Ciura says.

"It's a great opportunity to mix," she says, "and tell these retailers what's great about Birmingham."

Source: Cindy Ciura, spokesperson, Birmingham Principal Shopping District
Writer: Kim North Shine

Graduate housing, downtown parking and retail complex coming to Auburn Hills

A four-story, 97-apartment-unit, 279-parking space mixed-use development with room for 6,150 square feet of retail on the bottom floor is moving toward the start of construction and a completion date of January 2013.

The project in the Auburn Hills downtown area about two miles from Oakland University and Cooley Law School will be designated a preferred residence for the schools' graduate students. As many as 130 students could live there.

City officials see potential to transform the city's developing downtown at Auburn and Squirrel roads.

The $14 million development is a public private partnership with the city's Tax Increment Financing Authority owning the parking structure and putting in about $4.5 million and the building being developed, owned and operated by Lansing-based Prescient Growth LLC, which is committing $9.5 million.

“With Oakland University, Cooley Law School, Baker College, Oakland Community College and an extension of Central Michigan University located here, Auburn Hills is visited by more than 20,000 college students on most week days. With the addition of this new residence, we will add a critical mass of students who bring energy and vibrancy and want to create a sense of place in downtown Auburn Hills,” City Manager Pete Auger says in a statement announcing the groundbreaking.

The building and parking structure will be done in a wrap style, where the housing wraps around and is attached to the parking structure. It masks two sides of the structure from view.

Amenities for the student residents will be plentiful and ideally the businesses in and around the building will be their go-to spots, says Stephanie Carroll, coordinator of community relations and legislative affairs for Auburn Hills.

That's more in line with what comes to mind in a college town.

"We're not trying to be an Ann Arbor at all," she says, "But we thought what better way than to capture that student population but give them a place."

Source: Stephanie Carroll, coordinator of community relations and legislative affairs, city of Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine
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