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Innovation & Job News

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Giving a hand-up to local entrepreneurs


Alex Chudzinski is working hard to transform the small cell phone repair business he started as a student at Lake Orion High School into a thriving, growing company.

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Reising Ethington law firm of Troy marks 150 years


People might not think of a 150-year law firm as being high-tech, but that is one of the features that set Reising Ethington apart. The Troy-based firm is celebrating a significant anniversary this year, one that is very uncommon for a firm in Oakland County.

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LTU student designs and transports digital fabricating tool to Albania

In keeping with the old proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” Lawrence Technological University architecture student Brendon Veldboom has provided a proverbial fishing pole – in this case, a three-by-five-foot, three-axis CNC milling tool that he designed, built, packaged and then reassembled for a workshop in Albania.

It is one of a number of interesting projects to emerge from the makeLab, which opened five years ago in LTU’s College of Architecture and Design when Associate Professor James Stevens and his students began assembling machines to construct physical products, including furniture, graphic displays, and models of architectural projects.

Architecture modeling and design in general is now practiced almost exclusively on computers with sophisticated software, but Stevens seeks to reconnect design to the act and art of making objects. The process starts with computer-aided design (CAD) and the resulting designs are translated into wood and other forms through computer numerical control (CNC) programs. The makeLab now has a laser cutter, a 3-D printer, and two large three-axis CNC machines.

For the past few years Stevens had led workshops at Polis Universiti in Albania. At the conclusion of those workshops, the LTU group packed up their portable CNC milling tools to bring back to the United States. This year Veldboom decided to build a large CNC milling tool that remains in Albania for future students to use.

His project began with hand sketches that were turned into a digital 3-D model using Rhino software. During the prototyping process that involved many tests and revisions, Veldboom used the makeLab’s own three-axis large CNC milling tool to cut components out of high-density plastic. The main design challenge was to build a CNC tool that would meet all government guidelines for international flight and also be robust enough to work at a high-performance level without breaking down.

The machine was designed, built, broken down, packed, and flown to Albania for a 12-day digital fabrication workshop in July. Fifteen students from both Lawrence Tech and Polis Universiti learned how to operate the machine and ran it for more than 30 hours without any problems.

"Facing the challenges of designing, prototyping, and building the machine gave me great respect for the tools we have at Lawrence Tech,” Veldboom said. “Watching the Lawrence Tech and Polis Universiti students be introduced to digital fabrication and the amazing projects that came out of the workshop was exciting to see. … More importantly, it has helped educate others and will continue to do so.”

The milling tool can be used for building objects out of wood, plastic, synthetic plastics, foam, and some construction materials. During the workshop, the Albanian students designed and created pieces for a masonry wall.

As an added benefit, Veldboom also developed a manual and parts list for operating and maintaining the CNC milling tool. The tool was also designed to be easily upgraded as the Polis Universiti program expands.

This project was made possible by an LTU Presidential Undergraduate Research Award of $1,000.

Oakland County's robust economy drives down jobless rate

Oakland County’s economy is among the better performers in Michigan with a 4.6 percent jobless rate, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced today.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates in its September 2015 report that Oakland County’s jobless rate outpaces the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (5.7 percent) by 1.1 percentage points, edges Michigan (4.7 percent) by one tenth of a percentage point, and bests the United States (4.9 percent) by three tenths of a percentage point.

“We’ve reached what economists call ‘full employment,’ or below 5.0 percent unemployment,” Patterson said. “The University of Michigan and Wall Street both have said the strength of Oakland County’s economy lies in our diversification into the knowledge-based economy.”

Patterson launched Oakland County's Emerging Sectors initiative in 2004 to identify the top 10 sectors that will attract and retain sustainable, high-paying jobs to the region in the 21st Century. Companies in these emerging sectors place Oakland County solidly in the knowledge-based economy and are involved in leading-edge fields such as advanced electronics & controls, advanced materials, and robotics & automation.

Oakland County's Medical Main Street markets the county’s largest emerging sector, healthcare and life sciences, to the U.S. and the world. About 1 in 6 jobs in Oakland County are in healthcare, the life sciences, biopharma, and medical device manufacturing. That’s well over 100,000 jobs. Of the county’s top 15 employers, about half are health systems.

Oakland County’s second largest and fastest growing sector is information technology with more than 2,000 IT companies. Patterson launched Tech 248 to harness the power of its IT companies. Tech 248 helps tech companies collaborate and attract, develop and retain talent while promoting Oakland County as a global technology hub.

Since inception, there have been 358 Emerging Sectors successes totaling $3.2 billion of investment in Oakland County creating 36,630 jobs and retaining 20,704. In addition, University of Michigan economists Dr. George Fulton and Donald Grimes have forecasted that Oakland County will add another 57,000 jobs through 2017 mostly in the medium- to high-wage categories.

Some of that Fulton and Grimes forecast has come to fruition in the past month with major expansions at three companies. BASF invested $20 million in its North American Plastic and Coatings Excellence Technical Center in Southfield; HIROTEC America moved its corporate headquarters, body-in-white closure tooling integration site, and stamping die tryout center into a new 216,000-square-foot facility in the Oakland Technology Industrial Park in Auburn Hills; and BorgWarner added 46,000 square feet to its Powertrain Technical Center in Auburn Hills.

For more information about Emerging Sectors, go to www.AdvantageOakland.com.

PawnGuru brings pawnshop business model into 21st Century

Many people see pawnshops as something that should be avoided. The guys behind PawnGuru see them as a big opportunity in the new economy.

"We knew there weren’t a lot of startups tackling the problem pawnshops face," says Jordan Birnholtz, director of marketing for PawnGuru.

The Southfield-based startup specializes in bringing pawn shops into the 21st century by digitizing their business model. Specifically, the company brings customer engagement for pawnshops online.

"We believed we could get shops to engage customers and make offers online," Birnholtz says.

That turned out to be much easier said than done. When the PawnGuru team started approaching pawnbrokers with the idea of online engagement a little more than a year ago, the nearly all said no. They wouldn't make an offer on an item over the phone, or via email with photos. It had to be in the store.

PawnGuru's team kept asking. Eventually they found a pawnshop willing to buck tradition and try PawnGuru's new platform. Today it has serviced 15,000 people, helping them choose between multiple offers from pawnshops.

"Mostly in Detroit, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta," Birnholtz says. "More than 1,000 pawnshops have signed up and more than 100 are very active."

PawnGuru's team of six people plans to continue growing across North American in 2016. It has landed a $600,000 convertible note earlier this year to help make that growth happen, including attracting seed capital from Invest Detroit.

"We're raising a $1.5 to $2 million seed round right now to grow more," Birnholtz says.

Source: Jordan Birnholtz, director of marketing for PawnGuru
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

LTU chosen for pilot project to create fast track for architecture licensure

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has named Lawrence Technological University and a dozen other highly rated architecture programs to participate in its Integrated Path Initiative for licensure, a pilot project designed to give students more flexibility in their pursuit of licensure as architects.

This initiative will result in a more structured experience for students that will provide the opportunity to complete the requirements for architecture licensure at the time of graduation.

According to NCARB, LTU’s architecture program was chosen for its creativity, commitment to maintaining its accreditation, and the desire to enrich both the academic and experience elements of architectural licensure.

LTU’s Department of Architecture in the College of Architecture and Design and the other participating architecture programs have been asked to propose a pre-graduation integration of education and experience requirements so that students will be prepared to complete the requirements for the intern development program and take each of the six divisions of the new Architect Registration Examination® 5.0 prior to graduation. In Michigan and many other states, enabling legislation will also be needed to change existing state law.

It has taken NCARB’s Licensure Task Force two years to develop an integrated path framework that promotes individual academic program flexibility while addressing all regulatory requirements for architectural licensure.

“The Integrated Path Initiative to architectural licensure aligns perfectly with Lawrence Technological University’s longstanding tradition of teaching theory and practice,” said Associate Professor James Stevens, interim chair of LTU’s Department of Architecture. “It will allow the Department of Architecture to better coordinate and support our students’ academic and professional pursuits.”

Interim Associate Dean Scott Shall noted that the new Integrated Path will be “an opportunity and a challenge to build a more robust dialogue between our academic ambitions and professional pursuits.”

Associate Professor Amy Deines, interim dean of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design, said the Integrated Path Initiative will help LTU focus more on the critical relationship between education and related experiences with professional licensure. She added that LTU’s emphasis on architecture students becoming involved in community projects should grow even stronger.

“The return on investment from this initiative will greatly benefit our region, particularly as it helps us address the complex issues that face American cities, as in the case of Detroit, which is so important to the College of Architecture and Design,” Deines said.

NCARB has formed a new Integrated Path Evaluation Committee (IPEC) to monitor the initiative. IPEC will “coach accepted programs, promote engagement with jurisdictional licensing boards regarding necessary law or rule changes to incorporate integrated path candidates, and oversee the acceptance of future program applicants.”

The other architecture programs in the pilot program are Boston Architectural College, Clemson University, Drexel University, New School of Architecture and Design, North Carolina State University, Portland State University, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Cincinnati, University of Detroit-Mercy, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, University of Southern California, and Woodbury University.

OCC forensics students winners in intercollegiate competition

Participants from nine colleges and universities across Michigan recently came to Oakland Community College to participate in a forensic tournament and workshop. The event focused on competitive speech and performance in four categories: Prose Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Impromptu Speaking and Dramatic Interpretation.

Proudly, OCC students took first place in two of the four events:
  • Samantha Wahlman, first place, Prose Interpretation
  • Dovid Roetter, first place, Informative Speaking
Additionally, OCC students Brandon Burnett and Kacey Greaves competed with high marks from a panel of 18 judges. The finishes of all four students placed OCC in second place overall. 

“I am very proud of each of these students and their commitment to expand their learning and growth through state-wide competitions,” said OCC faculty member Carole Bennett. “These events provide vital collegiate experiences for students across the state and OCC continues to be represented year-to-year with exceptional talent, state and regional champions, and future leaders in speech and debate.”

In addition to oral competitions, the event included workshops from 8 instructors representing 7 different colleges state-wide. The free event was open to the public; a number of OCC students and community members attended to watch the team and learn. 

For more information about the Oakland Community College Forensic Team, please contact faculty member Carole Bennett at cabennet@oaklandcc.edu. Bennett is also Executive Director of the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League. 

Oakland Community College, Forensics Team winners: (left to right) Kacey Greaves, Samantha Wahlman, Dovid Roetter, and Brandon Burnett
About Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League
The Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League (MISL) provides college students with competitive public speaking and competitive performance opportunities in order to foster each student’s oratory skills and refine their professional presence. To learn more, visit: https://michiganspeech.wordpress.com/

About OCC
With five campuses throughout Oakland County, Oakland Community College is committed to providing academic and developmental experiences that allows each student to reach their full potential and enhance the diverse communities they serve. It offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. More than a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit oaklandcc.edu.

Over 100 attended prescription drug abuse prevention training

More than 100 healthcare professionals from southeast Michigan attended one of the country’s premiere prescription drug abuse prevention training programs in Oakland County earlier this month. County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was among those who spoke about continuing efforts to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic at the SCOPE of Pain training lead by Boston University School of Medicine’s (BUSM) Dr. Daniel Alford.
"Addressing the prescription drug abuse crisis requires partnerships at every level to strengthen education, prevention, and treatment. Improving training for providers can help prevent the overprescribing of opioids that can lead to addiction and heroin use," Patterson said. “I applaud the work of healthcare professionals and look forward to every hospital and medical center continuing their ongoing efforts to halt drug addiction through safe and effective opioid prescribing practices.”
The Oakland County Prescription Drug Abuse Partnership, facilitated by the Oakland County Health Division, hosted the training at Oakland Schools in Waterford on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Troy-based tech startup brings hunter education into 21st century

Jim Moore was working for Remington Arms when he noticed a gap in the hunter education market. That'w when he decided to start his own business, a tech startup called Hunter Ed Course.

The Troy-based company provides state-required hunter education through online courses. The courses enable people to purchase hunting and fishing licenses with a few key strokes from the comfort of their own home.

"It is a good chance to bring change and disruption to the hunter education market," Moore says. "That hasn’t happened since hunter education’s inception in the 1940s."

For decades if you wanted to buy a hunting license, you needed to sit through a couple hours or hunting classes that teach everything from safety to how to field dress game. Users can purchase hunter education online courses through Hunter Ed Course for as little as $13.

Moore has been working on the company for the last three years. It now employs six people after recently hiring a marketing person. The company is in 20 states right now, up from 14 last year, and looking to continue expanding its geographic footprint in hunter-friendly states for the rest of 2015 and 2016.

"We have a strong Midwestern presence with Wisconsin and Michigan," Moore says. "We are probably strongest in the southeastern states."

Source: Jim Moore, president of Hunter Ed Course
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

TEDxOaklandUniversity speakers selected for Oct. 23 event

The speakers have been finalized and tickets are now on sale for Oakland University’s second TEDxOaklandUniversity event scheduled for Oct. 23 at the sports O’rena on campus. TEDxOaklandUniversity 2015 will feature more than a dozen of the best and brightest minds sharing their passion, wisdom and innovations. 

This year’s speakers come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. They include corporate business leaders, entrepreneurs, dancers and musicians, physicians and attorneys, college professors and motivational speakers who will each be permitted between three to 18 minutes for their talk.

See complete speaker list here: http://tedxoaklanduniversity.com/speakers/ 

In the spirit of spreading ideas, spurring dialogue and sharing knowledge, this year’s TEDxOaklandUniversity theme is “Aspire to Rise.” The theme echoes the philosophy of OU founder Matilda Dodge Wilson, who envisioned Oakland to be a place of intellectual engagement. 

“Matilda Dodge Wilson used these words of Andrew Carnegie at Oakland University’s groundbreaking when she donated the land needed to found our institution,” said Laura Dinsmoor, TEDxOaklandUniversity leader and associate director for outreach for OU's School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Since this time, Oakland has continued to provide an environment for academic curiosity and research to thrive.”

Dinsmoor describes TEDx events as “one-of-a-kind ways to share ideas, inspire wonder, and bring the community together to celebrate innovation and provoke the imagination.”  She added that this year’s TEDx Oakland University speakers were chosen through a curated process that took into consideration ideas, speaker styles, and the flow of the event.

Oakland University is partnering with Oakland County for this year’s conference. 

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said, “Partnering with Oakland University to host a TEDx event demonstrates our commitment to being one of the top high-tech regions of the country.”

Launched in 1984, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and has hosted conferences around the world. TEDx events are independently organized to promote intellectual exchange on a community level.

For more information and tickets, visit tedxoaklanduniversity.com or email tedxoaklandu@gmail.com.

Community college works with 8 companies to train nearly 700 new workers


Eight Oakland County companies will hire 693 new employees under a new training agreement with Oakland Community College.

The agreement leverages training and funds under the Michigan New Jobs Training (MNJT) program, which enables companies working with community colleges to divert the Michigan income taxes of new employees to provide new jobs training.

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Seco donates tools to school shop-training programs

With great emphasis on education, training and strengthening the U.S. manufacturing workforce, Seco Tools, LLC has donated almost half a million dollars in metalworking tools to training centers, community colleges, technical programs and high schools throughout the Midwest and Pennsylvania. The selection of tools included a variety of new and unused high quality solid-carbide, high-speed steel (HSS) and cobalt end mills used for milling operations.
Seco is dedicated to closing the skills gap and ensuring the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow is well trained. Collaborating with and supporting learning institutions that specialize in hands-on shop training can aid in filling the growing number of jobs being vacated by many individuals retiring from the workforce. Plus, the training programs can retrain existing workers on technological advances that help to further overall manufacturing productivity.
"Throughout the year, we perform audits of our warehouse stock to clear out discontinued items, over-produced specials and other products that cannot or are unlikely to be sold in the future," said Dale Higgins, technical support specialist at Seco. "In the past, we have recycled these tools to recoup a portion of our costs, but this year we decided that giving the entire $412,035 worth of tooling to schools that are training the future workforce is really more valuable to us and to our industry."
One recipient of Seco's donation, the Cleveland Industrial Training Center, is a CNC training facility located within an actual manufacturing facility in Cleveland with a second facility in Akron. The centers provide concentrated CNC training that prepares 180 graduates each year with the skills they need to program and run machines and produce accurate parts. The program, in its 22nd year, boasts an extremely high job placement rate.
"We often get donations, but certainly not of this quantity and quality," explained Tim Duffy, president of Cleveland Industrial Training Center when asked about the significance of this gift. "The scope and breadth of what Seco donated will take care of us for years to come for certain categories of tools."
In addition to the Cleveland Industrial Training Center, the following schools also received tool donations from Seco:
  • Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan
  • Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan
  • Vincennes University in Vincennes, Indiana
  • Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry in Hudson, Michigan
  • Capital Area Career Center in Mason, Michigan
  • Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois
  • Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, Illinois
  • Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
  • Warren Lincoln High School in Warren, Michigan
  • Romeo Engineering & Technology Center in Washington Township, Michigan
Scott R. Siebers, machine tool instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, and Guy Hart, instructor at Romeo Engineering and Technical Center, also pointed out how valuable the donations are to their programs. Both instructors are grateful for the high-quality cutters that would otherwise have been unobtainable due to budget constraints. They also assured that students will put the tooling to good use as they learn about modern carbide tooling and machining processes.
For more information about Seco Tools, LLC, visit: www.secotools.com/us

OCC connects students and businesses at the Work Zone Job Fair

Oakland Community College (OCC) is holding its annual employment event “OCC Work Zone Job Fair,” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, October 16, on the Royal Oak campus.

What makes this event different from other job fairs? In addition to inviting student, alumni and community members to meet potential employers, OCC’s off-campus Work-Study program offers qualified organizations the option to receive reimbursement for wages paid to work-study students. This option provides organizations an administrative savings while offering valuable professional experience to students. Last year, 45 employers received 50-75% reimbursement of wages paid to eligible off-campus work-study student hires.

The OCC Work Zone Job Fair has had repeated success with participating companies, many of which find well-qualified candidates and immediately fill positions.

“This annual event provides a great opportunity for business and community organizations to meet and interview students from more than 100 degree programs,” said Willie Lloyd, OCC director of placement services. “We’ve had consistent success with this college-wide job fair hosting employers with an immediate need to hire entry-level talent.

Lloyd added, business owners, non-profits, students and alumni, community members and the tri-county economy all benefit. OCC’s Work Zone job fair provides a link to business talent with an opportunity for students to gain industry experience with hiring organizations.

The Work Zone Job Fair is free to employers and students and accommodates up to 40 organizations with verified openings only. Registration closes at 11:59 p.m., on Monday, October 12, for students and employers. Employers already signed up include: TTI Global, Walled Lake Schools and Wayne State University Physicians Group.

OCC’s Royal Oak campus is located at 739 S. Washington, Royal Oak, Mich., 48067.

To learn more click here, or contact OCC’s Placement Services office at (248) 232-4143.

About OCC
With five campuses throughout Oakland County, Oakland Community College is celebrating its 50th year. OCC is the largest community college in Michigan and the 25th largest in the nation. It offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. More than a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit oaklandcc.edu.

Free-spirited brothers launch vodka company


Michael and Adam Kazanowski found success in a bottle of spirits.

The 25-year-old twin brothers from Birmingham just launched their own vodka company called Gypsy Vodka. The vodka is produced at a distillery in Colorado and distributed in Michigan through Great Lakes Wine & Spirits. It’s already on the shelves at Kakos Market, Hills Fine Wine & Spirits and other locations in the Birmingham area.

Read more.

Baker College of Auburn Hills offers new welding programs in Pontiac

Baker College of Auburn Hills will launch two new welding programs beginning 2015 fall quarter. One is for a certificate; the other is for an associate degree. Classes begin Monday, Sept. 28.

Those interested are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as enrollment may be limited. Classes will be held in the welding lab of Oakland Schools in Pontiac.

The new programs are intended to help meet the needs of area employers, according to Peter W. Karsten, Ph.D., CPA, Baker College of Auburn Hills president.

“Though there is an increasing demand for trained welding specialists, employers are telling us they can’t fill current available positions,” he said. “The Baker College programs will provide training for those who have interest in becoming a welding engineer, welding inspector, structural ironworker, custom vehicle designer and metal art sculptor, among other welding professions.

“The basic skills of welding are the same across industries, so welders have a wide range of opportunities, and can easily shift from one type of work to another.”

The two welding programs are already offered at Baker College campuses located in Flint, Owosso, Cadillac and Cass City. Karsten believes that Baker’s established welding curriculum will provide superior training beginning on the first day of classes.
“Another ‘Baker benefit’ of having five campuses in the state offer the same programs is that if students need to relocate before completion of their program, they can easily transfer to another campus.”

Graduates will have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level employment in the welding industry — skills such as oxyacetylene welding, cutting and brazing, shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding and destructive weld testing methods. The curriculum will meet or exceed the requirements set by the American Welding Society.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the 2014 mean annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $40,040.

For more information about the welding programs, contact Nicole Chirco in the Baker College of Auburn Hills admissions office at 248.340.0600 or nicole.chirco@baker.edu., or visit www.baker.edu. Financial assistance opportunities are available.

The largest private college in Michigan, Baker College is a not-for-profit higher education institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It serves more than 28,000 students on multiple campuses and online. Baker grants certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 150 programs across diverse academic fields, including business, health sciences, engineering, information technology, education and human services. An impressive 97 percent of available graduates are employed. Every Baker graduate receives Lifetime Employment Assistance—free and forever. Baker is a pioneer in distance education and offers students the option of completing a degree 100 percent online, without ever visiting a campus. For information, visit www.baker.edu or follow Baker College on Twitter, @bakercollege, or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/bakercollege.
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