Innovation & Job News

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Twenty-year-old tech firm DASI Solutions grows staff, revenue in downtown Pontiac

DASI Solutions has grown significantly over the last year by expanding its work from within. The 20-year-old tech firm grew its revenue by nearly 10 percent last year. All of that new work has come from familiar sources.

"Our growth has come from our existing base," says David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions. "They are buying more from us as the economy rebounds. It’s a good indicator we're doing something right."

DASI Solutions specializes in engineering and tech work, helping companies implement of CAD, CAE, and PDM collaborative technologies for product development. It bought and renovated its current headquarters in downtown Pontiac a little more than a year ago.

The firm currently employs a staff of 43 after hiring five people, including customer support and community outreach professionals. It is also looking to hire another four people in web design, marketing, engineering, and sales.

Darbyshire expects the company’s current trajectory to continue this year in much the same way it did in 2014. "I expect to grow even more," Darbyshire says.

Source: David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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An Auburn Hills-based company may have revolutionized the wheelchair

Clinton River Medical Products, an Auburn Hills-based company, may have revolutionized the wheelchair.

The company's new model, Tailwind, combines both the freedom of manual operation and power to make using a wheelchair easier. It also includes a sleek, lightweight design with an intuitive software that helps provide a little extra push when users want it deployed. Check out a video of how the product works here.

"It's a hybrid between a manual and a powered wheelchair," says Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products. "It provides you with a boost when you place your hands on the grips."

Clinton River Medical Products finished development of this wheelchair in 2013 and has spent the last year introducing it to the marketplace. Doescher expects significant sales in 2015 because his company is launching a full-on marketing campaign to support the Tailwind.

"We're hitting the point where we have been in the market long enough for broad recognition to develop," Doescher says.

Clinton River Medical Products has a staff of 11 employees and one intern after hiring five (mainly sales and engineering professionals) over the last year.

Source: Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Detroit Home magazine expands thanks to increase in home building

Detroit Home magazine is expanding in size and staff as the glossy publication begins printing for 2015.

"More and more people are reading it," says Megan Swoyer, editor of Detroit Home. "I also think that home building industry is growing as the economy gets stronger."

Detroit Home, part of the Hour Media family of publications, specializes in giving an up-close look at the inside of metro Detroit's most interesting homes, covering the latest trends in Detroit-area home design, construction, décor and landscaping. It will increase from four issues annually to six.

The 15-year-old publication has added two people over the last year, including a new art director. That expanded team will flesh out the magazine’s bulletin board, design, and other sections. It will also add more special sections.

"We will be expanding those departments," Swoyer says.

Source: Megan Swoyer, editor of Detroit Home
Writer: Jon Zemke

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KTISIS doubles staff as it develops natural gas technology

KTISIS is a growing startup that is both diversifying Metro Detroit's economy and catering to its strongest economic asset..

"We are catering to the natural gas industry, especially transportation," says Stephen Chue, principal of KTISIS.

The Sterling Heights-based company offers consulting services dealing with alternative fuels and technologies.  It’s currently working on a gas tank for automobiles that would facilitate both liquified and compressed natural gas. Currently vehicles that run on natural gas are only able to utilize one or the other.

"We'll be able to break down that barrier," Chue says.

The KTISIS natural gas tank is currently in the development phase while the company tests a prototype at the Macomb-OU INCubator. It recently received a $15,000 grant from the state of Michigan to push along this development.

"The target is to role it out before the end of the year," Chue says.

KTISIS currently employs five people after hiring an engineer and a technician over the last year. It is currently looking to hire another engineer and a marketing professional.

Source: Stephen Chue, principal of KTISIS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Southfield attorney grows staff of Rights First Law firm to three

Stephanie Fakih was not out of law school long when she launched Rights First Law. A year later, the freshly minted attorney is growing her firm.

Rights First Law now employs three people and helps a broad range of clients across Metro Detroit. Fakih expects to keep growing through word of mouth this year, too.

"We're seeing that return a lot quicker than we expected," Fakih says.

Rights First Law is a general practice law firm. It has been helping a broad range of clients including people starting businesses and people planning for retirement. Fakih choose to open her law firm in Southfield because of the high concentration of other small businesses.

"I felt like it was the perfect place to get a business going," she says.

Source: Stephanie Fakih, founder & principal of Rights First Law
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Adams Fellows places final cohort of fellows with local startups

The Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program is welcoming its final fellows this year, placing a handful of ambitious young entrepreneurs with local startups throughout metro Detroit.

The Automation Alley-sponsored initiative places up-and-coming business people with local startups and established entrepreneurs and investors. The idea is to get more recent college grads working with startups and pursuing a career in entrepreneurship.

"We have a very strong cohort," says Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program. "I would be very happy if we finished up with four successful entrepreneurs. They certainly have the entrepreneurial drive and spirit."

Adams Fellows are normally among the first employees of the startups with which they are placed. They have daily job responsibilities and are encouraged to participate in local entrepreneurial, business development, and leadership events. Participants are given opportunities to network with one another and with other young emerging leaders in the region.

The Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program has graduated 18 fellows since its inception in 2006. All but one of them went on to become full-time entrepreneurs.

"I think it's thrilling," Cross says. "Nothing could make me any happier."

Source: Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Troy couples launches home goods company, June & December

Nick and Katie Forte needed a change in life. Nick found his catering business to be less and less rewarding. His wife, Katie, worked in graphic design and felt similarly about her career path. So the Troy couple decided to launch their own business, June & December.

"We teamed up and decided to move forward with this business," Nick says. "We always had a great appreciation for great products and products that are made in America."

June & December specializes in home goods -- everything from designer napkins to stationary to towels to pillow cases. All of the products are made in the U.S. and have a rustic, refined design, according to Nick.

The couple launched the company in September and sells these items online. They are looking to expand into dining items and other home goods later this year.

"We also want to expand into our own studio space," Nick says.

Source: Nick Forte, co-founder & business director of June & December
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Broadsword Solutions hits 30 percent growth, hires more staff

Broadsword Solutions scored some big wins in 2014, setting the stage for the Waterford-based firm to consolidate a lot of those gains this year.

The technology consulting company grew its revenue by 30 percent in 2014. That enabled it to hire two more people, including a senior consultant and a director of strategic solutions. It is still looking to hire another senior consultant. The 10-year-old firm currently employs 10 people.

"Last year was our biggest year ever," says Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword Solutions. "We have grown into new states. We're currently in 12 states now."

Broadsword Solutions got its start providing tech consulting to local automotive and manufacturing industries. It has transitioned to doing more work with the federal government. It spent much of last year doing work with the likes of NASA and the U.S. General Accounting Office.

"Now we are focusing on the clients we have, and make what we do with them even better," Dalton says.

Source: Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Lighthouse Molding joins Automation Alley's 7Cs program

Lighthouse Molding, a small electronics manufacturer based in Sterling Heights, has become one of the first entrants to Automation Alley's 7Cs program.

The 10-year-old company plans to leverage the program's resources in advanced manufacturing to grow its business in the automotive market.

"The potential for new electronics in automotive has grown," says Scott Lowes, president & CEO of Lighthouse Molding. "We have always done electronics assemblies in consumer applications. In automotive, the electronics have gotten much more complex."

And necessary as the automobiles become more digitally oriented. Lighthouse Molding specializes in low-pressure overmolding to encapsulate and protect electronic assemblies. It has hired two people and is looking to add another three to its staff of eight employees.

The Automation Alley 7Cs program is focused on helping local companies integrate more advanced manufacturing methods to their business model. The idea is to help them accelerate their growth and create more jobs.

"It puts emphasis on the advanced manufacturing aspects of electronics," Dalton says. "They are also helping us become a better-managed company."

Source: Scott Lowes, president & CEO of Lighthouse Molding
Writer: Jon Zemke

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IT sales pros launch own firm, Prime-IT-Solutions

Pete Kaczmarek worked for someone else for 20 years. He did sales in technology and IT, and it did it well. So well that he decided he could do it better on his own and launched his own company.

"I felt like I was on a remote island, and I am doing everything anyway," Kaczmarek says.

So he started Prime-IT-Solutions. The Troy-based company is value-added reseller of technology. Kaczmarek and his team of eight people are selling equipment for the likes of data centers and other IT applications.

Prime-IT-Solutions is targeting small businesses at first, primarily those with fewer than 50 employees. Kaczmarek sees that section as underserved and have significant growth potential. He is also selling to a few larger businesses, mainly because of his history in that area.

"I knew the people," Kaczmarek says. "It was a smooth transition."

Source: Pete Kaczmarek, president of Prime-IT-Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Southfield-based Onu preps to launch 3-D mobile app

A Southfield-based startup is getting ready to launch a new mobile app that specializes in showing off products in 3-D.

Onu's principal product will target sales professionals looking to show off product demos and catalogues. The patent-pending technology is a subscription-based platform that utilizes 3D technology for that allows sales professionals to make their pitch on a mobile device.

"Anyone who sells consumer goods in a business-to-business scene," says Sam Sesti, president of Onu.

The four-person team has been working on the product since last August. It is gearing up to launch the app this winter. It is targeting sales forces in automotive aftermarket, sporting gods, medical devices, audio-and-visual equipment, and household devices.

"Some of it was because of the proximity in the area," Sesti says. "Some of it was the size of the items that are difficulty to show in real life."

Source: Sam Sesti, president of Onu
Writer: Jon Zemke

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365 Retail Markets hires 20 in Troy, looks to add 10 more

365 Retail Markets has acquired AirVend, a Utah-based vending machine technology company

365 Retail Markets is working to reinvent the vending machine industry with its MicroMarket technology, a platform that streamlines the remote food purchasing process. AirVend designs, develops, and distributes interactive touchscreen devices that can be retrofitted to nearly any vending machine.

"We are always looking to grow in this space," says Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets. "It's not often technology becomes available in the food service space, but when it does we look at every opportunity."

The Troy-based company's MicroMarket platform serves the vending, foodservice and hospitality industries with a 24/7 unmanned self-checkout system. That way employee break rooms can continuously serve fresh food and beverages. It pulls this off by harnessing new technologies, like touch screens and electronic payment methods.

"We are a technology company that plays in the vending space," Hessling says.

And 365 Retail Markets is proving to be a growing one. It’s revenue is up 75 percent last year and Hessling expects to hit 50 percent revenue growth this year.

The company has been hiring at a steady clip to keep with that growth. It has added 20 people over the last year, including software developers, technicians, and support staff. It is also looking to hire another 10 people right now, including data architects, software developers and project managers. Check out those job openings here.

"We are always hiring for different positions," Hessling says.

Source: Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Genisys, Tri-Pointe Community credit unions kick off year with merger

Genisys Credit Union and Tri-Pointe Community Credit Union are merging into one financial institution which will continue on under the Genisys Credit Union banner.

Auburn Hills-based Genisys Credit Union is the larger of the two financial institutions, a factor that played into Fenton-based Tri-Pointe Community Credit Union decision to join up.

"Tri-Pointe Community was seeking another strong, larger credit union to combine with so that they could be sure that sufficient resources would be devoted to meeting the ever changing needs of its members," says Tom Alter, chief marketing officer of Genisys Credit Union. "Genisys was interested in expanding into Genesee County and a merger with a credit union as successful and strong as Tri-Pointe makes great sense for the members of both organizations."

TriPointe Community Credit Union has five branches clustered in and around Flint. Those branches, along with the credit union's 63 employees, will be integrated into Genisys Credit Union’s operations. Combined, the credit union will have 29 branches, assets totaling more than $1.8 billion, and nearly 175,000 members.

"The merger becomes official on April 1," Alter says.

Genisys Credit Union has been growing steadily in recent years. It has hired 69 people in 2014 and is looking to add another four right now. Alter expects that hiring to slow a little bit this year as the credit union works to consolidate the merger.

"It's going to be all hands on deck to get our systems combined," Alter says.

Source: Tom Alter, chief marketing officer of Genisys Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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LJPR expands staff by 6 on double-digit revenue gains

LJPR is not one of those financial adviser firms that sits idly by and waits for things to turn its way. It goes out and gets what it wants. At least that is what it has done with hiring lately.

The Troy-based firm has hired six people over the last year, including five in the last 100 days. Those new hires include tax professionals, financial advisers, support staff, and marketing professionals. It now has a staff of 23 employees and a handful of interns. It’s also looking to hire a financial adviser or two.

"We are always looking for good people," says Leon LaBrecque, founder & chief strategist of LJPR. "Always. We will warehouse a good person if we can find them."

The 26-year-old firm is centered around independent wealth management and is 100 percent employee owned. It specializes in individual retirement planning, investment management, executive financial counseling, nonprofit investment services, estate planning, and tax planning. The firm is currently managing $691 million in assets.

"A lot of the time when there is turmoil in the market some financial advisers stick their heads in the sand," LaBrecque says. "We look for opportunities."

Which would explain its most recent growth streak. LJPR's revenue is up 14 percent over the last year. It was also up 20 percent the year before that. This year it is shooting for a 15 percent gain.

"We have had record earnings seven years in a row," LaBrecque says.

Source: Leon LaBrecque, founder & chief strategist of LJPR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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PublicCity PR adds to clientele as company grows

PublicCity PR has come a long ways in its first six years. The boutique public relations firm has literally gone from kitchen table to some of the larger boardrooms in Metro Detroit.

The Southfield-based company has recently expanded its client list with some big names, including the likes of Gardner White, Belle Tire, Affinity Tool, InstaBOOST, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and

"I never imagined six years ago that we would be in this position to win business from such big establishments," says Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR. "It's all from a lot of hard work."

PublicCity PR started on Brown's kitchen table in Oakland County. At the time he was just a former reporter who had been working in PR for a decade, looking to scratch out a living in the communications world. Now he oversees a growing staff of four employees and an intern in the company's own office.

Part of those gains have come from PublicCity PR joining the PRConsultantsGroup as the new Michigan representative. The nationwide organization is composed of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants in every major market in the U.S. Members often work together on projects with each member acting as the expert for their region. PublicCity PR recently work as part of that conglomerate on campaign for Travelocity where the company’s mascot (a gnome) made appearances across Metro Detroit.

"That was an easy project but there is more work to come," Brown says.

Source: Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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