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Innovation & Job News

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EO survey: local business leaders optimistic about economy, startups

More than 85 percent of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Detroit members — 129 business leaders who collectively generate $1.4 billion in annual sales and oversee more than 7,500 employees — would start a new business in today’s economic environment, according to a new survey.

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State Champs Sports Network adds 12 new hires

State Champs Sports Network has come a long way in its first 10 years.

The Southfield-based company got its start when Lou Bitonti was working at Chrysler managing the Jeep brand. Shortly after he left he started the high-school sports-centric broadcast company as a way to highlight Michigan’s emerging highlights.

"I wanted a show that focuses on all of the sports," Bitonti says. "The kid that runs cross country or does swimming does as much as the kids that play football or basketball."

State Champs Sports Network broadcasts local sports and feature TV shows, series, programming, and radio shows. Among its offerings are the State Champs! High School Sports Show, a weekly, half-hour TV program providing a comprehensive look at the athletic events, lives and accomplishments of Michigan’s high school athletes.

Starting last month, State Champs Sports Network launched a radio program, called High School Football Report, that airs weekly on CBS Detroit’s WXYT-AM 1270 from 9 to 11 a.m. each Saturday. The company also expanded its audience when its four-time Emmy-award-winning High School Sports Show! began airing on FOX Sports Detroit each Sunday from 9 to 9:30 a.m. It is also debuting a new television program called Extra Point Football Show! on WXYZ-TV Channel 7. It will air weekly each Sunday during the area’s high school football season for 10 weeks.

"We just started growing and we have a lot of shows," Bitonti says.

All of this new programing has prompted a hiring spree at State Champs Sports Network. The company has hired a dozen people over the last year. It now has 14 full-time employees and another 15-20 independent contractors.

"We're spreading the word out there," Bitonti says. "We're trying to keep this on a positive note. There are a lot of positive things happening in Michigan."

Source: Lou Bitonti, founder of State Champs Sports Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Global LT lands private equity investment, adds 15 jobs

Global LT is making a big change as it positions itself to grow exponentially over the next few years.

The Troy-based firm specializes in language services, cultural training, expatriate destination services, and workforce training courses for international locales. It recently accepted a significant investment from Growth Equity Fund, an affiliate of the private-equity firm Vicente Capital Partners.

Hortensia Albertini started the company from her kitchen table in Metro Detroit in 1979. Albertini built Global LT into a multi-million-dollar company and eventually handed over control to her daughter, Lisette Poletes, who worked out the deal with Growth Equity Fund.

"It was a necessary step to in our path to get capital resources and technology to help us scale," says Tom Hanson, president of Global LT.

Between 2010 and 2013, Global LT clocked a 31-percent compound growth rate. It is aiming to grow 15 percent annually for the next few years. To accomplish that, Global LT's leadership is looking to expand its work with its existing customer base, land more contracts with the U.S. Dept of Defense, and penetrate the Asia-Pacific markets.

To do that, Global LT has hired 15 people over the last year, creating jobs in sales, operations, recruiters, and project managers. It’s also looking to add another six people to its existing staff of 103 employees, an intern, and several thousand independent contractors.

Source: Tom Hanson, president of Global LT
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

September and October business workshops offered by the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center

Business owners and entrepreneurs who need assistance are encouraged to attend seminars offered by the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center. Unless otherwise noted, all programs are held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph, in Waterford. For pre-registration and a location map, visit www.AdvantageOakland.com/businessworkshops or call (248) 858-0783.

Oct. 8, 9-11 a.m.
Many small businesses face obstacles when trying to obtain a business loan. The recognition of the serious need for working capital for existing businesses, start-up or expansion, equipment purchases, and job creation is not the priority it once was. If you have a need for alternative financing consider the Microloan Program. Discover the requirements and process necessary to apply and obtain a microloan.
Fee: This workshop is free, but pre-registration is requested.
Sept. 17, 9 a.m. - noon
Oct. 8, 6-9 p.m.
Thinking of starting a business and want to research your business idea? Do you want to identify market trends and opportunities to grow your sales? Are you looking for new customers or to diversify your market base? Business Research shows you ways to find your ideal customers, your competitors, perform competitive analysis and more. Presented by The Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center, Oakland County Market Research Department and an Oakland County Public Library business reference librarian.
Fee: This workshop is free, but pre-registration is requested.
Sept. 17, 9-11 a.m.
Learn about the benefits and process of becoming a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). Benefits include certification to private sector WBE's and access to procurement opportunities with major national companies.
Fee: $25 per person, pre-registration is requested.
Sept. 23, 9 a.m. - noon
This class provides an overview of QuickBooks®. It is designed for a person who is new to QuickBooks® or worked within the software in a limited capacity. It covers the basic areas within QuickBooks® so that you can generate financial statements. Additional support outside of the class is available upon request to help with specific company questions or areas of concern.
Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is requested.
Oct.16, 9 a.m. - noon
Join ATD Solutions as we explore the possibilities within QuickBooks. Our QuickBooks for Business Owners class is recommended for owners and financial decision makers who would like to explore the options available within QuickBooks. ATD Solutions will review best practices to limit your exposure to embezzlement or fraud within your company, the best version to use, and which industry specific reports to use to make great business decisions. Further resources will be presented to help you after this introductory class.
Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is required.
Know Your Numbers: Five Keys to Using Financial Statements
Sept. 23, 9 a.m. - noon
Business owners and key staff who need a better understanding of how to use their financial statements should attend. The ideal participant will have 2-3 years of financial history and be pursuing financing or having challenges with cash flow. Topics include how to:
Use your balance sheet and income statement in managing your business
  • Use break even analysis to improve your decision making
  • Find the source of your cash flow problems
  • Increase your company’s cash flow
  • Get the banker on your side
Location: Fifth Third Bank, 1000 Town Center, Southfield
Fee: $25 per person, pre-registration is requested.

SCORE® Small Business Loan Workshop
Sept. 30, 9 a.m. - noon
Getting a small business loan can be a challenging process. Learn the "5 C's of Credit," how to develop a winning loan proposal and what you need to know to position your business to be "bankable" before you meet with a lender.
Fee: $20 per person payable at the door to SCORE

Team SBA Financing Roundtable
Oct. 23, 9 a.m. - noon
Before you apply for a business loan, we recommend that you first attend the SBA Forum on Small Business Lending. This is a free loan orientation conducted by a business banker, a business consultant from the SBA’s network of Small Business Development Centers, and an SBA representative. During the roundtable, we’ll debunk the myths and demystify the process of small business financing. You'll learn how the lending process works and what is expected of you and you'll understand how the SBA can assist with our SBA Guaranteed Loan Program. This session is best suited to those who have good credit, a solid business idea, and some money to invest in their business. Because the SBA does not provide loan guarantees to real estate investment firms, including purchasing and rehabbing houses for sale, this type of financing is not discussed at the roundtables.
Fee: This workshop is free, but pre-registration is requested.

Legal Business Basics
Oct. 28, 9 a.m. - noon 
Legal and Financial Basics outlines the key legal considerations for entrepreneurs operating Michigan businesses. Learn how to select the best legal entity given your management structure, potential liability and tax consequences, safeguard your proprietary interests while serving customers, and working with suppliers and contractors, and establish short and long term succession plans. 
Fee: $20; payable at the door. Pre-registration is requested.

Upcoming Workshops
Nov 6:   Business Research: Feasibility to Expansion (PM) at Novi Library
Nov 12: CEED Small Business Loan Orientation
Nov 13: Know Your Numbers: Five Keys to Using Financial Statements (at Automation Alley in Troy)
Nov 18: Create Your Marketing Plan

3LG Tech Solutions spins out with new database technology

3Leaf Group got its start with audio books 19 years ago in a room full of tapes. This year it's spinning out a tech startup, 3LG Tech Solutions, that specializes in database management. Make sense? Trust us, it will.

The Oak Park-based firm has grown to include more comprehensive DIY education solutions, such as streaming instructional videos and training assets. That meant a bigger immersion in technology and a lot of information to manage. The next thing the company knew, it had what it took to create solutions for next-generation database technologies.

That prompted the spinout of 3LG Tech Solutuons six months ago. Today the company and its team of a dozen people are putting the finishing touches on the software platform and working to establish sales with big clients. It currently is running a pilot with a Big 4 accounting firm and installing its software at a shoe manufacturer in Florida. It is also targeting government contracts, including sales in the defense sector.

"There are so many needs," says Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions. "There are so many exit points. We believe there is a lot of value we can bring to the table."

3LG Tech Solutions is currently working to land a variety of customers across industries, ranging from automotive to professional services. Newman points out his firm is doing the hard work of making the long sell to big clients that take a long time to make decisions. But when he gets them to bite he expects to make a lot of sales progress quickly, as soon as next year.

"I'd like to have four signed deals by December 31st," Newman says.

Source: Stuart Newman, president of 3LG Tech Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Telemus Capital makes transition to national financial management firm

Telemus Capital is working to turn itself into a national financial management firm, and it’s making a few key hires to pull that off.

The Southfield-based company recently hired Lloyd A. Perlmutter as the firm’s new COO. Perlmutter previously served for seven years as president of Gap, Inc. in Canada. The executive team at Telemus Capital created the COO role for Perlmutter so the experienced manager can oversee the firm's day-to-day management and execution of its strategic initiatives.

"We're evolving it from running it like a practice to running it like a business," Perlmutter says. "We want to make it to the $10 billion mark. It's going to need some more full-time managers doing what they do best."

For Telemus Capital that means letting the firm's partners focus on growing the clientele of high-net-worth individuals and expanding the firm's assets under management. The strategy is paying off. Assets under management are up 25 percent over the last year.

"We need someone to run the day-to-day of the business," says Lyle Wolberg, managing partner of Telemus Capital.

Telemus Capital has offices in Ann Arbor and Los Angeles. The latter is a result of Telemus Capital's acquistion of Concentratic Capital in Los Angeles earlier this year. The firm has hired six people over the last year, expanding its headcount to 38 people. It is currently looking to hire a director of marketing and communications and a high-potential advisor.

Source: Lloyd A. Perlmutter, COO of Telemus Capital, and Lyle Wolberg, managing partner of Telemus Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HTE hits stride with PlantWatch software platform

Lots of local software companies dream of doing what HTE is doing with its PlantWatch software platform. Get it up, running, easy to use, and attract a growing list of paying customers.

"It really came to maturity about three years ago," says Dan Reed, president of HTE.

The Auburn Hills-based firm creates software for the manufacturing industry. It started off making custom platforms for companies 25 years ago. Today it sells about 20 software products. PlantWatch allows the end user to monitor production while building their own system to maximize cost reduction. HTE just sold the platform to MTD Products, which is using it to monitor and control 25 scanners for error proofing and traceability. It's one of about a dozen firms using the product.

HTE has enjoyed prolonged success with sales of PlantWatch because of its "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy. The company created the software with the idea that integrating it into the users' operations should happen seamlessly and without any problem. That allows the customer to cut out integration costs, which makes it about one-third less expensive than competing products.

"There are thousands of software products out there and every one needs integration," Reed says. "Ours doesn’t."

The "so easy an end user can do it" philosophy is a lesson learned over time for HTE. The company and its nine employees and one intern toiled for more than a decade making software for other people before creating a platform for everyone. Then it realized it needed to make it as simple to use as possible, finding its stride and hitting it.

"We've done it for other people for years," Reed says. "It probably took us 15 years for us to do it for ourselves."

Source: Dan Reed, president of HTE
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DENSO Foundation gifts OU with $30,000 grant

A $30,000 grant from the DENSO North America Foundation will support multiple programs and enhance educational opportunities for students in Oakland University's Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The funds will be used to provide Oakland's award-winning Formula SAE team and Oakland Robotics Association (ORA) with professional-grade manufacturing equipment, according to Dr. Brian Sangeorzan, professor of mechanical engineering.

“This generous grant from DENSO North America Foundation will provide needed, state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment that will help our student teams compete with the best, and will better prepare them for careers in a globally competitive environment,” Dr. Sangeorzan said. “Our students compete against much larger schools, with more team members and much bigger budgets. This grant allows us to remain competitive.”

Comprised of more than 40 students from engineering and business majors, Oakland's Formula SAE team competes in the International Formula SAE student design competition each year and is currently ranked 86th in the world, 18th in the nation and second in the state. For the competition, students operate a fictional manufacturing company and develop a formula-style racecar, which is evaluated for its potential as a production item. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype racecar based on a series of rules that promote innovative problem solving. The competition encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry, including research, design, manufacturing, testing, marketing, management and finance.

“These types of programs provide an invaluable experience to students – combining teamwork, real engineering design and hands-on experience. Students not only take everything they have learned and apply it, but they are also challenged to decide for themselves what new topics they need to learn. I cannot think of an experience that better prepares students for their careers.”

In addition, the Formula SAE chapter takes part in many other events, including the Woodward Dream Cruise, Concours d’Elegance of America, Rockin’ Rods in Rochester and the SAE World Congress at Cobo Center in Detroit. For the past four years, their formula style racecars have been displayed at the North American International Auto Show held at Cobo Center. In 2014, one of their vehicles was showcased on the center’s main level as part of the DENSO exhibit. 

“It’s important for these students to work with technology, to get creative in their problem solving and to learn all aspects of the industry – from research and design to manufacturing and marketing,” said Doug Patton, president of the DENSO North America Foundation and executive vice president of Engineering at DENSO International America. “These are the students who will be driving innovation and the future of our auto industry.”

With more than 20 members, the Oakland Robotics Association participates in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, which challenges teams to build and operate autonomous robotic vehicles on an outdoor course with defined lanes, GPS waypoints and obstacles. The four-day event, held annually on Oakland’s campus, was co-founded in 1993 by OU engineering professor KaC Cheok and the U.S. Army. The ORA has won the competition's top prize the past two years, beating dozens of collegiate robotics teams from around the world.

This is the DENSO North America Foundation's second $30,000 grant to OU since fall 2013. In addition to this grant, the foundation is supporting a two-year research project in OU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science with a grant of up to roughly $180,000 total. The project aims to develop an information management framework for capturing, processing, indexing, tagging and mining sensor data gathered by specially-designed vehicles used in research and development of technologies and algorithms for autonomous, self-driving cars.

DENSO is a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems and components for the world’s major automakers. Founded in 2001, the DENSO North America Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) corporate foundation that provides grants to colleges and universities to help students advance their education in engineering, technology and other related programs. For more information, visit densofoundation.org.

Three siblings share Young CEO of the Year title for their decorative eyeglasses


After coming home from a kids’ 3-D movie, Melia and Sophia Hosler decided to pop the lenses out of their special theater glasses and add stick-on jewels and tiny beads from a craft set to enrich the rather plain spectacles.

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Troy-based Seco Tools hires 20 for tech engineering group

Seco Tools is on a bit of a hiring spree as it works to fill out a new custom manufacturing space in Troy.

The Troy-based company specializes in metalcutting work in manufacturing. It recently consolidated an out-of-state facility with a new location in Troy that specializes in specialty manufacturing and testing. The firm has been staffing up the facility for the last year, making 20 hires in its technical engineering group.

"It's really just a skeleton crew. We need to add two more people to bring us up to where we need to be here," says Bob Goulding, tech engineering manager for Seco Tools. "We hope to add another shift next year."

The 35,000-square-foot space near the Automation Alley offices is the result of the company moving some work from a former location in Tennessee last fall. The new facility will do custom manufacturing and testing work when it’s all done.

"We're really just finishing it now," Goulding says.

Source: Bob Goulding, tech engineering manager for Seco Tools
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Clarkston State Bank grows off increased commercial lending

The financial crisis wasn't a crisis for everyone. For Clarkston State Bank it was an opportunity.

The Clarkston-based bank filled in the vacuum of commercial lending in recent years while larger banks ran scared from the sector. That has allowed the local bank to grow its bottom line and a few other things.

"We've been a very active lender, specifically commercial lending," says Grant Smith, president & CEO of Clarkston State Bank. "It's why we have been hiring a few people this year."

The 15-year-old community bank has hired three people over the last year, including a vice president of credit administration and a treasurer. It now employs a staff of 44 people among four branches in Clarkston, Waterford, and Independence Township. It is currently building a replacement branch near McLaren Hospital.

Clarkston State Bank has watched its revenue grow by 20-30 percent for each of the last few years. Its net income is up 20 percent while retail deposits are up $15 million. The bank also booked $30 million in new lending last year while it reviewed nearly $60 million in deals during that time. It hopes to add a few million more in lending this year.

"That's quite a bit for a small bank," Smith says.

Source: Grant Smith, president & CEO of Clarkston State Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opens office in Troy

Carlisle/Wortman Associates opened its first satellite office in Troy last May, bringing three people from its Ann Arbor office to jobs in Oakland County. The planning firm assists local municipalities in Michigan’s wealthiest county in keeping up with demand for new development.

"Oakland County has always been an economic engine in Michigan," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "As the economy improves those are the communities that see an increase in interest."

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has made a name for itself helping local municipalities overhaul zoning ordinances, create master plans, and complete other civic planning projects. It has seen a jump in business over the last year as the economy improves and developments are coming back to life across Michigan. More and more communities are facilitating new developments in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors.

"We are definitely seeing a resurgence in residential development," Carlisle says.

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Small-business center addresses unemployment for adults with autism


Four organizations in Oakland County have teamed up to address Michigan’s employment shortcomings for adults with autism with the launch of the Small-Business Center.

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Apply by Sept. 11 for entrepreneurial mentoring at LTU

Thursday, Sept. 11, is the deadline for innovators and entrepreneurs to apply for the nine-week Saturday mentoring program at Lawrence Technological University that helps advance new product ideas and establish new business opportunities. 
Michigan I-Corps@LTU, established with funds from the Coleman Foundation and the Kern Family Foundation, is part of a statewide program designed to foster and grow an innovation ecosystem throughout Michigan. It provides participants knowledge about what it takes to successfully commercialize their ideas and focus on meeting customer needs. 
The program is free for Lawrence Tech students, faculty and alumni. The cost is $500 for teams without an LTU connection.
The next nine-week session kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 4. Each innovation team will:
•           Be matched with an industry mentor.
•           Develop a greater understanding of its product and how it can benefit customers.
•           Find customers and markets.
•           Discover what it takes to commercialize a product and the barriers to adoption.
•           Save years and money by developing a structured business model.
•           Expand its network.
•           Be eligible for a $1,000 cash prize for the best team.
“If you’re ready to really advance your innovation, to truly understand who will buy your product and what kind of business you can build, then this is the program for you,” said Tex Criqui of the Tech Highway consulting firm, who is team leader for the Michigan I-Corps@LTU program. “We are offering this nine-week program on Saturdays so that busy students and working professionals can advance their ideas and innovations.”
To apply or for more information, see www.ltu.edu/i-corps.  Or contact i-corps@ltu.edu.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for return on undergraduate tuition investment, and highest in the Detroit metropolitan area.  Lawrence Tech is also listed in the top tier of Midwestern universities by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. Students benefit from small class sizes and experienced faculty who provide a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus include over 60 student clubs and organizations and a growing roster of NAIA varsity sports.

Students, business leaders kick off MAT2 program at OCC

Oakland Community College welcomed dozens of area employers and some of Oakland County’s brightest technology students to the Auburn Hills Campus Tuesday to formally kick-off the 2014 Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²) program.
The groundbreaking initiative, in its second year at OCC, is coordinated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and combines paid-work experience with three years of classroom instruction in the fields of mechatronics, information technology and technical product design. Tuition and wages are paid by corporate sponsors. Participating corporate sponsors so far have included: Brose North America, Heller Machine Tool, ZF Group, FTE Automotive, Volkswagen of America, Kostal Group, EMAG, Durr, Jenoptik, Kern, Link Engineering, Weil Engineering, Orbitak, Secure 24, BorgWarner Auburn Hills,  Pontiac Coil, Magna and American Axle.
Based on the German Dual Education System, MAT² integrates business and education to grow technology jobs and provides an innovative and efficient way to produce qualified workers. Students learn mechatronics, a combination of electrical, mechanical and electronic competencies that enable a technician to identify, analyze and solve systems-based problems.
“These are some of the smartest students in Oakland County,” said Timothy Taylor, president of OCC’s Auburn Hills Campus to a crowd of about 100 students, families and employers. “They figured out that to be successful in the workplace, you have to apply your skills. They’re going to school and the learning they’re doing is more than theoretical. It’s become relevant in the ‘real world.’”
MAT²  students will graduate with no student-loan debt while earning a competitive wage in an industry they enjoy, Taylor said. They’ll also get an early start on their careers with a guaranteed job in a high-demand field upon successfully completing the program.
Since MAT² launched in 2013, 18 students have begun training for various companies at OCC. The ceremony also highlighted 15 students that will take part in the program’s inaugural Information Technology cohort this fall. The initiative officially started last week with a technology ‘bootcamp’ at Grand Circus in Detroit.
“It’s been a pretty amazing experience so far and I’m excited to meet and start building relationships with the other students I’ll be seeing for three more years,” said Malik Fox, 19, of Farmington Hills.
Fox said he entered the Information Technology cohort with the intent to become a video game programmer, however, he’s already seen benefits MAT² can offer for several different career paths.
“This will help me learn so many other aspects of (IT) so I know I’ll be able to have skills that can translate into many other fields, not just what I know I want to do now,” he said.
Alex Ryszama, 17, said the first year of the program exceeded his expectations and ignited his passion for learning.
“The ability to learn something from a book or instructor and then apply it to something tangible is going to allow me such an advantage and opportunity to be successful,” he said.
“This was a perfect fit for him,” said Ryszama’s mother, Pamela, who attended the ceremony. “Anything he can do hands-on is a real plus and it’s been a great opportunity.”
Mike Gidley, Executive Vice President of Clarkston-based Pontiac Coil, commended students for tackling the rigorous coursework and application process to participate in MAT², which he said can fill a critical need in his industry.
“As a business owner, I struggle every day to hire people with the skill set that you will receive in this program -- marketable skills that all the companies here have been chasing after and not finding in the job market,” he said.
About OCC: With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC 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 more than 160 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 www.oaklandcc.edu.
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