Regionalism :Innovation & Job News

47 Regionalism Articles | Page: | Show All

Renaissance Venture Capital Fund raises $50M

The venture capital fund of all funds in Michigan is now fully operational, and it has ties all over Metro Detroit.

The Renaissance Venture Capital Fund closed a $50 million investment vehicle earlier this week from a number of local business institutions. The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm, which also has an office in downtown Detroit, plans to invest that money in both local venture capital firms and out-of-state venture capital firms with the intent to invest in local companies.

"It's probably going to invest exclusively in other venture capital funds," says Chris Rizik, CEO of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund and a Northville resident. "We feel we will have more leverage that way."

The fund of funds has already invested almost $6 million (for a total commitment of $20 million) in half-a-dozen venture capital firms. Those firms in turn have invested more than $23 million into 12 Michigan companies, creating about 200 new jobs. Those companies have leveraged that investment to receive over $146 million in further venture funding. Renaissance Venture Capital Fund expects its money will touch 100-150 companies, creating hundreds of new jobs rooted in the new economy. It has already disbursed its first profits to investors.

The fortunate six venture capital firms include Ann Arbor's Arboretum Ventures and RPM Ventures, along with Kalamazoo-based T-Gap Ventures. Out-of-state firms receiving an allocation include San Francisco-based 5AM Ventures, Houston's DFJ Mercury Ventures, Illinois-based MK Capital, and Florida's Arsenal Ventures. The last two are opening Michigan offices following Renaissance Venture Capital Fund's investment.

The Renaissance Venture Capital Fund was put together by the Business Leaders For Michigan and is funded by the likes of DTE Energy, AAA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Huntington Bank. Most other funds of funds are supported with public money. Michigan's private model makes it an industry leader and example of how Michigan is breaking new economic ground when it comes to reinventing its economy.

"That isn't happening anywhere else in the country," Rizik says.

He expects his 3-person firm, which is looking at adding interns next summer, to finish disbursing the money over the next year or two. Fundraising for the next investment vehicle, which might also make investments directly into companies, will begin in 2012.

Source: Chris Rizik, CEO of Renaissance Venture Capital Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

Macomb-OU INCubator, Automation Alley sign on for regional alliance

Automation Alley and Macomb-OU INCubator are making up the core of a new regional alliance for economic development - the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan.

The new collaboration brings together Metro Detroit's four major business accelerators - Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, Ann Arbor SPARK, and TechTown - so they can share resources and strategy. The idea is to work together in order to more effectively play the hands they're dealt and to grow local start-ups and small businesses.

"For southeast Michigan to be great, we need to embrace the notion that we need to grow our own," says David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative, which is supporting the network with a $3 million grant over three years.

The business accelerators have already been quite successful on their own. They have invested $18 million in 339 start-up companies that have created more than 1,000 jobs and have helped secure more than $101.2 million in additional capital for local businesses.

"That's one year," Egner says. "That's not even our best year. I think more will be coming."

Enabling such collaboration is nothing new. Other major metropolitan regions have utilized regional partnerships to reinvent their economies and images. For instance, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance harnesses the economic strengths of the entire 10-county area in the southwest section of Pennsylvania to continually create new businesses and jobs. The Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan hopes to mimic that success.

"To me this is a perfect example of regional cooperation," says Ken Rogers, executive director of Automation Alley.

As one of the Top 10 technology organizations in the U.S., Automation Alley is the big dog in this group. It could stand alone, but its leadership looks forward to utilizing the resources of fellow organizations to save on time and money spent on developing its own. The Macomb-OU INCubator, which is just getting started, sees this as a big hand up in building its organization.

"By all means, it's about the businesses," says David Spencer, executive director of the Macomb OU INCubator. "It's about the people they hire."

Source: David Egner, executive Director of the New Economy Initiative; Ken Rogers, executive director of Automation Alley; and David Spencer, executive director of the Macomb OU INCubator
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metro Detroit stars in latest Pure Michigan ads

Look for Metro Detroit's urban areas to play a major role in this year's round of Pure Michigan advertisements playing across North America.

The state is spending $14.9 million to roll out a handful of new TV, radio and newspaper ads featuring the beauty of the Great Lakes State. Many of the prominent spots (narrated by Tim Allen) in Pure Michigan's first year spotlighted the state's stunning vistas and natural beauty. This year look for more of an even split exposurewise between those images and the uniqueness of Michigan's cities, especially Metro Detroit.

"The urban experience that Michigan offers is critically important to the overall perception of the state," says Dave Lorenz, manager of public and industry relations for Travel Michigan. "We need to build up and change the perception that there is about Detroit."

The ads will begin playing in major markets in the U.S. and Canada in May and run through June. The idea is to hook people as they are making their summer vacation plans. Some of the ads are partnerships, such as one between the state and Ann Arbor that produced a radio spot highlighting the famous college town.

The case for highlighting Michigan's urban areas is also bolstered by the fact that Metro Detroit is the place most visited by tourists. It offers the normal culinary and music culture points, but pales in comparison to the major draw that is sports in southeast Michigan. A region with major teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Piston, Lions and the University of Michigan athletic teams makes a good argument for letting the urban area define itself to visitors.

"We try to balance it out the best we can," Lorenz says. "We think it works."

Source: Dave Lorenz, manager of public and industry relations for Travel Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Transit Action Conference lands in Detroit on Jan. 30, TRU hiring

This Saturday, January 30, transit advocates will spend an afternoon hunkering down and working towards moving ahead with regional transit goals in the coming year. Hosted by none other than Transportation Riders United (TRU), the 1 to 6 p.m. session includes training workshops as well as organizational business like TRU board elections.

Workshop options include improving the area's existing bus systems, SMART millage renewal, advancing rapid transit, outreach, and leadership development. The opportunities are geared towards both seasoned transit advocates and newer volunteers to the cause. "No matter their skill level, (attendees) will be able to get actively involved in promoting transit in our community," says TRU executive director Megan Owens.

The conference takes place at the new MSU Detroit Center, located at 3408 Woodward, south of Mack. Register here.

While on the subject of TRU, we'd be remiss not to mention that the organization is currently hiring a new assistant director. Job description and application instructions can be found here. The application deadline is Monday, Feb. 1, so get cracking!

Source: Megan Owens, TRU (Read her Metromode blog here.)
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

One D flips switch on new regional website

One D will try to flip the script on Metro Detroit's stereotype of regional cooperation (or lack thereof) when it flips the switch on its new website Saturday.

The idea is for the website to generate activity and new content from users on the five areas that One D focuses on: Regional mass transit, economic prosperity, education, race relations, and quality of life.

"It's really a virtual Campus Martius for people coming together around regional solutions," says Kat Owsley, director of One D.

The new website will accomplish this with web forums, guest speakers, and other avenues that will allow people to express their opinions and ideas on improving Metro Detroit. It will also benchmark the region's status, progress, and even regression on these issues and how they compare to other major metropolitan areas.

One D is a partnership of six regional civic organizations that came to life in 2006. Its focus is on regional revitalization.

Source: Kat Owsley, director of One D
Writer: Jon Zemke

GREEN SPACE: Program links local food to local schools

As more and more people embrace the locavore movement, it makes sense to introduce it to a young and impressionable audience -- especially when they are captive.

I'm not talking jailbirds here, but schoolkids.

Which is why the news that the Food System Economic Partnership in Southeast Michigan will receive $40,000 to support the expansion of its Farm to Schools lunch program from the Kellogg Foundation is so great.

Last year was the pilot program for Farm to Schools, and it worked with multiple schools in Chelsea and Ann Arbor as well as one in Dearborn. This year, they will spread more into Wayne County and out to Jackson.

"Farm to Schools is a win-win for students and farmers and the community," says FSEP's executive director, Jennifer Fike. "We are promoting farmers being able to keep farming in this region and allowing them another avenue to sell what they produce; for the students, eating food tends to taste better when it's fresher and it's healthier; and it's cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions."

The pilot year helped the organization work through the challenges -- like outsourced food service providers and working with distributors -- of getting fresh local food into schools, says Fike. She points out that seasonality can also be an issue, but that Michigan products like apple sauce, canned beans and whole grains can be worked into menus in the winter months.

Food to Schools also works on educating students by bringing in local farmers explain to then where their food is coming from. Hint: That banana was not grown in Michigan, Johnny.

Kellogg is funding Food to Schools via its People and Land (PAL) initiative -- part of its efforts to increase regional collaboration and promote Michigan prosperity in the emerging knowledge-based economy.

Source: Jennifer Fike, FSEP
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

GREEN SPACE: Building a sustainable transit network...sans dedicated transit

While the powers-that-be continue to draw lines in their little sand boxes regarding the future of transit in Southeast Michigan, some hopeful signs continue to rear their pretty heads around town.

Metromode heard from upstart The Night Move not too long ago, when the dedicated Woodward Corridor bus shuttle was the subject of a guest blog by Chris Ramos, its founder, and Jennifer Harlan, its marketing director.

If you read it, you already know that the service runs between Royal Oak and downtown Detroit with a stop in Ferndale -- with the intent of transporting young professional between the places they tend to live and seek entertainment.

The kicker is that the shuttle bus runs on biodiesel.

This already cool service has just amped it up a notch by connecting with Michigan
Green Cabs
and the Detroit People Mover to extend the system's -- and yes, this is a kind of transit system, folks -- reach.

Night Move riders can get free DPM tokens from their driver, which gets them onto the downtown loop just steps from the shuttle's drop-off point in Greektown.

On the other end, Night Movers can get discounted cab rides from Michigan Green Cabs -- which boasts the area's first all-hybrid fleet.

While far short of a viable transit system in Metro Detroit, this kind of thing is encouraging on many levels: environmentally, regionally, entrepreneurially...

Another system-extender worth mentioning is that the Detroit Department of Transportation just got a state grant that will allow it to phase in bike racks on all its buses over the next three years. And SMART will be upgrading theirs to enable them to hold three bikes as opposed to two.

Good stuff, all. Now how about that light rail?

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Quicken Loans to relocate 4,000 employees to Downtown Detroit

Ending months of speculation, Quicken Loans CEO announced plans to move the headquarters of his on-line mortgage company to downtown Detroit.

U-M president urges universities to assist in state's transformation

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman spoke at last week's University Research Corridor conference about the need for local universities to fully engage in Michigan's struggle to transform its economy.

University Research Corridor to stimulate economy, Pfizer wet lab space tops agenda

The Big 3 of Michigan's knowledge-based economy -- Wayne State University, University of Michigan and Michigan State University -- have teamed up to throw their collective weight behind some job-growing initiatives.

Automation Alley's X-OLOGY Magazine covers emerging tech in SE Michigan

Metromode has found a kindred spirit in X-OLOGY Magazine, a publication of Automation Alley that covers new technologies being developed in Southeast Michigan.

Detroit International Auto Salon launches Oct. 25, will connect global industry to local suppliers

The Detroit International Auto Salon will be a one-stop shop for suppliers to the auto industry, with a goal of connecting local companies to global customers.

Transplants to SE Michigan find much to love

While natives grumble about the economy and the weather, new residents of Southeast Michigan are pleased with the quality of life they find here.

Group formed to grow sustainable and fair economy in SE Michigan

International sustainable business network, Net Impact, has formed a Southeast Michigan chapter.

Creation of aerotropolis is a bi-partisan, regional effort

United States Representatives John Dingell and Candice Miller sit on opposite sides of the aisle. But they are of like minds when it come to establishment of an aerotropolis.
47 Regionalism Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts