Innovation & Job News

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Plutonium Paint adds products, grows its color palette

Plutonium Paint has already made a name for itself as a high-end aerosol paint brand, but this year it's looking to expand its product line.

The Southfield-based startup's principal product is a high-end spray paint targeting contemporary creatives, such as street art artists, muralists, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and do-it-yourselfers. Now the 4-year-old company will grow its pallet of colors.

"We have a few new products coming out this year," says Barry Fleischer, president of Plutonium Paint.

Plutonium Paint plans to offer more colors and shades without forcing its retailers to carry each product. The paint will be available in dozens of colors, all flat.

"We are coming out with a clear coat that will protect the paint," Fleischer says. "It will be available in semi-gloss and in gloss."

Plutonium Paint, which has added a few people this year to a staff of six employees and six independent contractors, is also looking to beef up its sales this year. It has traditionally sold its products at hobby stores for DIYers. It is now expanding into hardware chains and traditional paint stores.

"We also received a vendor number from Ace Hardware this year," Fleischer says.

Source: Barry Fleischer, president of Plutonium Paint
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Grow Michigan fund hits $31M in investments in companies around the state

The Grow Michigan investment fund has deployed a little more than half of its $60 million after making a handful of new loans to close out last year.

"I think we will be fully invested by the end of 2015," says Russell Youngdahl, Jr. CEO of Grow Michigan. "We are not in a hurry to be fully invested. We are chasing quality with our loans."

The 2-year-old organization launched as a joint effort between the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund and a number of leading Michigan-based banks. It has invested in 19 Michigan-based companies for a total of $31.8 million since May of 2013, helping those companies leverage more than $200 million in financing. Those small businesses have hired a combined 380 new employees as a result of the loans and now employ nearly 2,000 people in Michigan.

"We are in the business of providing growth capital to lower-to-middle-market light manufacturers," Youngdahl says.

Grow Michigan made five loans totaling $11.1 million in the fourth quarter of last year. Three of those loans went to metro Detroit-based companies, such as Barracuda Industries (a Wixom-based specialty glass fabricator), Michigan Custom Machines (a Novi precision machine manufacturer), and PF Michigan Group (a Northville-based exclusive Michigan franchisee for health and fitness facilities).

The 19 loans Grow Michigan has made have touched eight different counties in Michigan. Of those loans, 11 were to metro Detroit-based companies, including six in Wayne County and five in Oakland County.

Source: Russell Youngdahl, Jr. CEO of Grow Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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TSP Enterprises aims to raise $350K to bring pickup truck storage system to market

TSP Enterprises thinks it has the next big thing in pickup truck storage systems, and the Farmington Hills-based startup aims to bring its technology to market later this year.

TSP Enterprises principal product is advertised as a better way to haul small amounts of stuff in the back of a pickup truck. The small-yet-sizeable truck bed insert is made of durable plastic that forms a box to keep small items, like bales of hay or golf clubs, contained near the truck's tailgate. The company has been calling its product The Pickup Tuck, though it might rebrand. Check out a video of how it works here.

"It keeps your truck bed contained, neatly organizes, and secure," says Carlton Powell, president & CEO of TSP Enterprises. "They are also easily accessible from the tailgate when parked."

TSP Enterprises is looking to raise $350,000 in seed capital to help perfect product development and create the molds for manufacturing. It has been pitching the product at local angel groups and business plan competitions like Great Lakes Angels.

The TSP Enterprises team hopes to close on the seed round later this spring. The plan is to start marketing and selling the product in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

"We're making this a cargo-management system for the light- to medium-duty pickup truck," Powell says.

Source: Carlton Powell, president & CEO of TSP Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Rose-A-Lee Technologies creates nightPLOW, a fast-charging, solar-powered light trailer

Rose-A-Lee Technologies recently partnered with Protobox, an Ohio-based company, to bring a solar-powered lighting trailer to market.

"We worked with them to offer a higher-level of manufacturing," says Patricia Lopez, president of Rose-A-Lee Technologies.

Rose-A-Lee Technologies, which calls Sterling Heights home, teamed up with Protobox to develop nightPLOW (Portable Light on Wheels), a trailer that comes equipped with work lights. The nightPLOW is powered exclusively by solar energy and is a self-contained unit. It is built upon a compact, lightweight aluminum trailer.

The trailer uses a Protobox proprietary algorithmic software to maximize power usage. The unit can be managed remotely via an android device and under normal usage can operate for four nights on a single charge. It recharges with less than 10 hours of sun light.

"They are very cost-effective," Lopez says. "The government is very interested."

Rose-A-Lee Technologies provides engineering services that help manufacturing companies increase their production by identifying time and cost efficiencies. The two-person team is looking to add more small-yet-emerging companies to its clientele this year. It's also looking to hire someone.

"I want us to be a place where companies can come in and we can help them develop their technology," Lopez says.

Source: Patricia Lopez, president of Rose-A-Lee Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Credit Union One merges with Good Shepherd Credit Union

Another consolidation among local credit unions is underway now that Credit Union One is absorbing Good Shepherd Credit Union.

The Ferndale-based credit union is taking over Good Shepherd as part of its plan to grow its membership and extend its reach across metro Detroit. Lincoln Park-based Good Shepherd has 8,300 members and branches in Lincoln Park and Woodhaven.

"Growing into downriver has always been a goal of ours from a geographic standpoint," says Gary Moody, president & CEO of Credit Union One. "Adding 8,000 members also made sense."

The merger, if approved, will be complete by the end of June. The addition of Good Shepherd Credit Union will add $93 million in assets to Credit Union One's existing $860 million in assets. Credit Union One has 120,000 members and 18 branches mainly spread across Oakland and Macomb counties. It also has branches in Grand Rapids and Traverse City.

Credit Union One has grown its assets and membership by 10 percent over the last year. It has also grown its deposits and loans by 20 percent to $765 million and $715 million respectively. The credit union employs a staff of 302 people and has one intern. It has hired 13 people over the last year and is looking to add to that number.

"We're always hiring branch staff," Moody says.

Source: Gary Moody, president & CEO of Credit Union One
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Morpace adds staff as it diversifies client base

Morpace, a Farmington Hills-based market research and consulting firm, is looking to continue growing its revenue, adding staff, and diversifying its clientele in 2015.

"We want to build on our current growth," says Duncan Lawrence, president & CEO of Morpace.

The firm helps its clients figure out and overcome marketing challenges through product development, customer experience, and brand strategy. It has grown its revenue by almost 10 percent over the last year. That has allowed it to hire 30 people, expanding its staff to 220 employees and a handful of interns. It also recently promoted Lawrence, who has been with the company since 1994, to CEO.

"I have hired six people so far this year," Lawrence says.

Morpace has been able to keep growing by diversifying its client base. It has traditionally focused on the automotive industry, but has expanded into a number of other sectors like financial services, retail, and healthcare.

"Healthcare is our fastest growing vertical," Lawrence says. "It has doubled over the last couple of years."

That doesn't mean the 40-year-old firm is ignoring its roots. It is aiming to grow its workload with existing clients and is looking to find more work in overlooked areas in automotive, such as commercial trucks, or power train.

"It's in an area where no one has any deep expertise," Lawrence says. "It's also going through deep change."

Source: Duncan Lawrence, president & CEO of Morpace
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Detroit Materials joins Automation Alley’s 7Cs program

Steel startup Detroit Materials is looking to leverage one of the regions new up-and-coming business support programs to help it commercialize its high-performance steel.

The Wixom-based firm has joined Automation Alley's new 7Cs program, which helps fledgling businesses leverage advanced manufacturing.

"You try to build your business as much as you can, but it's difficult," says Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials.

The advanced materials startup spun out of Wayne State University a little more than a year ago. Its technology is commercializing ultra-high performance structural cast steels. Its steel is both lighter and stronger and has applications in a broad range of industries, including defense, infrastructure, and automotive.

"Our basic technology is developed," Guillen says. "It's being validated right now."

The two-person team is currently working to raise a $500,000 seed round this year. It is also working to get its first orders under its belt later this year, which it hopes the 7Cs program will help make possible.

Source: Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Michigan Israel Business Bridge grows team in Bloomfield Hills

The Michigan Israel Business Bridge is growing its staff and its influence in metro Detroit.

The Bloomfield Hills-based, chamber-of-commerce-like organization has been making connections between the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Michigan and Israel since its launch in 2007. That includes helping companies from both regions do more business with each other and bridging not-so-obvious divides.

"It's also two different cultures you need to bridge," says Pamela Lippitt, executive director of the Michigan Israel Business Bridge. "In Israel a handshake means more than what it means here."

The non-profit, which recently doubled its staff to two people, works with both high-tech and low-tech businesses. For instance, it is hosting a roadshow for four medical device startups from Israel on March 25th. The Michigan Israel Business Bridge also helped organize Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent economic development visit to Israel.

Michigan Israel Business Bridge's members include two Israel-based auto cyber security firms (TowerSec and Argus Cyber Security) open North American offices in Michigan. It's all part of a long effort to further connect the two economies.

"It's a long process that you have to be patient with," Lippitt says.

Source: Pamela Lippitt, executive director of the Michigan Israel Business Bridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

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WIT hires 7 as it makes inroads to Ohio, Ontario markets

Business intelligence consulting firm WIT's revenue is up and the area from which it draws clients is expanding.

The Troy-based firm grew its revenue by 20 percent in 2014, mainly through work from new customers. That enabled it to hire seven people in IT consulting, expanding its staff to 32 employees. The company is currently looking to hire three more staff members.

"We have also expanded geographically," says Quaid Saifee, president of WIT. "We have always been in Michigan, but we've also made inroads in northeast Ohio and Ontario."

WIT offers software and professional services focused on managing business intelligence systems. Those services range from data warehousing to dashboard development to predictive analytics.

The 19-year-old company has grown its clientele with traditional marketing, webinars, and by participating in seminars. Saifee plans to keep expanding the company's footprint throughout the Midwest over the next couple of years.

"We expect similar growth in 2015," Saifee says.

Source: Quaid Saifee, president of WIT
Writer: Jon Zemke

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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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