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OpTech repeats national, state honors for growth, diversity efforts

OpTech, a Troy, Michigan-based information technology and engineering talent and solutions firm, has been named as one of the “Top 500 Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S.” and one of the “Top 50 Woman-Owned Businesses in Michigan” by DiversityBusiness.com as part of the organization’s 14thAnnual National Business Awards program.
 
Judging for the program is based on a company’s annual gross revenue, along with a review of its business profile, according to DiversityBusiness.com President Kenton Clarke.
 
OpTech was chosen for the awards based on the company’s tremendous growth over the course of its 15-year history, its successful business operations, and its commitment to diversity in employee hiring, development, and promotion, according to Ronia Kruse, OpTech CEO. “We are pleased to be honored, in both categories, for the third year in a row.” said Kruse. “Our focus on creating a diverse business culture has allowed us to attract top talent who bring innovative solutions to our clients.”
 
OpTech and other award winners were honored at the annual National Business Awards Ceremony and Conference April 24-26 at the Wynn Resort, Las Vegas.  To see the full list of winners, visit www.DiversityBusiness.com.
 
About OpTech
 
OpTech is an award-winning workforce solutions firm specializing in connecting Fortune 500 and government clients to top information technology and engineering talent from coast to coast. Based in southeast Michigan with offices located in Washington, D.C., Denver, and Hawaii, OpTech’s innovative solutions address the critical needs of clients in the banking, manufacturing, insurance, utility, healthcare, mortgage, and government sectors. OpTech offers its employees outstanding career opportunities supporting innovative companies with cutting-edge technology. Visit www.optechus.com to learn more about OpTech.
 
About DiversityBusiness.com
 
Diversity.Business.com is the nation’s largest multicultural business website and association of privately owned businesses throughout the United States that provides goods and services to Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. Each year, DiversityBusiness.com collects and compiles the “Top Business List” on a state and national basis. The data is used to determine the top businesses and the most successful entrepreneurs across the United States. Companies recognized represent the nation’s top companies and challenge the unfair notion that women-owned businesses are small or insignificant.

iDashboards hires 18, looks to add 6 more positions

Troy-based iDashboards has been a growing business on the move in recent years. The software firm moved to a new 20,000-square-foot office last summer and is expanding its space by another 7,500 square feet.

"We have moved three times since I have been here," says Jenna Ryberg, human resources manager for iDashboards. "Now we're in a space where we can expand quickly."

Which means more hires. Lots of hires. The 10-year-old company has hired 18 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 67 employees. Four more employees are set to come onboard in early May and the firm has six open positions right now.

"We want to continue adding people," Ryberg says, continuing, "by the end of the year we should have 100 employees at the Troy location."

IDashboards creates real-time interactive computer dashboards for businesses. The personalized dashboards analyze, track and organize a wealth of data into critical informational tidbits for companies.

The firm's cloud and enterprise divisions have spearheaded its overall growth of 15 percent in the last year. It is aiming for a 25-percent revenue increase this year.

Source: Jenna Ryberg, human resources manager for iDashboards
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mango Languages adds 12 jobs, looks to expand into new sectors

Mango Languages is taking on new sectors after it cornered the first market it aimed for, meaning more hires at the Farmington Hills-based business.

The 7-year-old business develops language education courses. It started out making sales to libraries and became a leader in that space over the last year. It now has a catalogue of products that teach 60 languages, ranging from Spanish to Biblical Hebrew to Pirate.

"Pirate is genius," says Roberto Valdez, marketing director of Mango Languages. "It gets kids excited about learning a second language."

The company has hired a dozen people over the last year, including professionals in marketing, human resources, computer programing and product development. It currently employs 50 people and has three open positions in entry-level marketing and customer advocacy.

"We're growing exponentially now," Valdez says. "We are hiring quite a bit. We are averaging a hire a month."

And Mango Languages is working to expand into new sectors, such as higher education and corporate education.

"It's a very exciting time," Valdez says. "We have had a good amount of success in the library sector and now we’re looking for some new areas to grow."

Source: Roberto Valdez, marketing director of Mango Languages
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lawrence Tech receives $697K grant for entrepreneurial project studio

The Kern Family Foundation is giving nearly $700,000 to Lawrence Technological University as part of an effort to make the university’s curriculum more entrepreneurial in nature.

"We want to transform the educational experience of our students," says Maria Vaz, provost at Lawrence Technological University. "We want our students to have an entrepreneurial mindset."

The Kern Family Foundation is giving Lawrence Tech a $697,000 grant over three years, which is the final in a phase of $2.4 million worth of giving from the Wisconsin-based foundation that started in 2003. The grant is focused on incorporating the entrepreneurial mindset into undergraduate engineering education at Lawrence Tech.

For instance, the grant helped infuse entrepreneurial aspects into 50 courses throughout the college. It also helped to establish a freshman studio for engineering students that is project-based and focused on creating an enterprising attitude in students. The latest installment of the grant will help create a sophomore version of that studio.

"We want to institutionalize even more of the changes we made to the curriculum," Vaz says.

Source: Maria Vaz, provost at Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cambridge Consulting Group launches healthcare exchange, adds 10 jobs

The bureaucracy that has come with the Affordable Healthcare Act has sent a lot of entrepreneurs scrambling to adapt. Cambridge Consulting Group is growing by running to these businesses with an answer.

The Troy-based company is launching its own healthcare exchange, Cambridge Exchange Solutions, that offers a defined contribution model. It enables the user to set an overall budget for benefits and employees.

"It creates a nice solution for a lot of groups that were thinking of getting out of offered benefits plans," says Cam Kennedy, partner & CFO of Cambridge Consulting Group.

The 29-year-old business offers insurance and financial consulting services, ranging from employee benefits to risk management to wealth strategies. It started to move toward offering the exchange as part of its services when it saw the market shift after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Cambridge Consulting Group has hired 10 people over the last year, mainly analysts and consultants. It now has a staff of 60 employees and five interns. It also has three open positions for analysts and a client services representative.

Source: Cam Kennedy, partner & CFO of Cambridge Consulting Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arab-American youth focus of Oakland U nursing school grant

A grant awarded to Oakland University's School of Nursing will test the effectiveness of community health education of Arab-American youth.

A nearly $80,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation will pay for a program that will pair Arab-American students from Dearborn with teen mentors who guide them through healthy eating and lifestyles. The students' responses, lifestyle changes and health will be compared to the effects of similar lessons given to them by teachers in a classroom setting. The effect of parental involvement will also be measured.

The grant is part of BCBS Foundation's program called Improving Health Behaviors in Arab American Youth.

“This project has a special emphasis on obesity prevention and is targeted at reducing the number of chronic illnesses for young Arab Americans,” says Dr. Suha Kridli, the grant’s principal investigator. “We are going to offer specific guidance and provide practical tools that can improve students' overall health while lowering health care costs."

Dr. Kridl says Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Arab-American youth is increasing, while preventive programs are not.

The program begins this month in Dearborn, where the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S. live, and will be administered in partnership with Wayne State University, Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Board of Education.

Sources: Brian Bierley and Suha Kridli, Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Giffels Webster helps communities obtain $3.5M in grant funds

Giffels Webster may have moved its headquarters to downtown Detroit a few years ago, but the civil engineering firm isn’t leaving the rest of Metro Detroit behind.

The 62-year-old firm has helped three suburban communities in Metro Detroit score $3.5 million in grants from the state of Michigan over the last year. Those grants include $2 million for the Macomb County Wastewater Disposal District to complete a wastewater asset management plan, $994,410 for Washington Township to a create a wastewater assessment management plan, and $515,700 for Lyon Township to design the township’s wastewater treatment plant expansion.

"That $3.5 million is more than what we normally get for communities in a year," says Jason Mayer, senior project manager at Giffels Webster.

Giffels Webster employs 69 people, including 22 in its Macomb office and 18 in its Birmingham office. The remainder are in the company's headquarters in downtown Detroit. The firm has hired 18 people over the last year, with a dozen of them working in the offices in Macomb and Oakland counties.

Source: Jason Mayer, senior project manager at Giffels Webster
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Telemus Capital adds 4 positions, $100M in new clients

Telemus Capital isn't trying to make its clients rich. It's trying to keep them wealthy. That’s part of the reason why the Southfield-based financial management firm has been growing so much in the past year.

The 9-year-old firm has watched its revenue increase by 20 percent over the last year. That’s due in part to strong performances from stock markets. It also is due to an infusion of new customers.

"Our new clients that have come to us have exceeded our expectations," says Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital. "We have brought in $100 million in new clients to the firm in the last year."

Telemus Capital acquired Concentratic Capital in Los Angeles earlier this year. The new acquisition will serve as Telemus Capital’s new LA office. Telemus Capital has also hired four new people, including a new partner and a few research analysts.

"We have done quite a bit of hiring," Wolberg says.

Source: Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Walsh College launches online program for aspiring entrepreneurs

Walsh College has always prided itself on being a friend of small business through education, but now its Troy campus is trying to make that help easier to access.

The Walsh Institute is debuting its new Business Launch program, an online guide focused on helping aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their business dreams into reality.

"We took everything we do and centralized it," says Tara R Miceli, director of Walsh Institute. "We put it online and put it out there."

Business Launch can walk budding businesspersons through the steps of growing their ideas and give them access to Walsh College's resources, mentors and faculty. The idea is to streamline the business-creation process so new entrepreneurs go through less of a learning curve.

It costs $195 per idea to use the program, which includes filling out a questionnaire and receiving customized feedback. Users of the program will have access to a variety of business resources, including articles, blogs and case studies featuring small- and family-owned business success stories.

"It just makes more sense," Miceli says. "We want to give the real-time answers to what a business needs at that time."

Source: Tara R Miceli, director of Walsh Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan First Credit Union aims to add 17 jobs

Michigan First Credit Union is in the process of hiring another 17 people right now, including a new spokester for its Young & Free Michigan program.

The Lathrup Village-based credit union currently employs 247 people across six stand-alone branches, plus three more in Meijer stores. It is replacing a branch on Gratiot Avenue, which is expected to open this fall. Michigan First Credit Union has hired 17 people over the last year. Its new positions range from IT professionals to branch operations. For information on those jobs, click here.

Among the new positions is the credit union’s spokester job for its Young & Free Michigan program. The 3-year-old program employs one college student for a year, making the person the credit union’s spokester. The spokester engages local college students through social media, community events, blog posts and online videos. The idea is to encourage smart financial behavior and help attract more young people to the credit union.

"The year goes by so fast," says Vicky Goldwater, young & free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union. She worked as a waitress and studied communications at Macomb Community College before taking the position. "The experience was awesome."

Michigan First Credit Union is taking applications for this year's spokester. The position comes with paid gas and insurance. Applicants are expected to make a video when applying. More info can be found here.

"Have fun with the video," Goldwater says. "Be yourself."

Michigan First Credit Union has about 94,300 members in Michigan, which is up more than 4,000 since the beginning of 2013. It has added $30 million in assets in the last year, totaling $674 million.

Source: Vicky Goldwater, Young & Free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

May 2014 business workshops offered by Oakland County

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 take place at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph in Waterford. For pre-registration and location map, visit www.AdvantageOakland.com/expand or call 248-858-0783.


Get a Grip on Your Business | EOS Workshop
May 1, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
If you are the owner, leader or manager of an entrepreneurial organization who wants to see your business consistently run better and grow faster, Mike Kotsis, a professional EOS implementer, can help you and your team simplify, clarify and achieve your vision. You will walk away with a focused action plan using the EOS workbook containing the tools that will help you to gain more traction in your business. Don’t let the company run you – Get a Grip on Your Business.
Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is required.

Business Research: Feasibility to Expansion

May 7, 9 a.m. to noon
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. This is presented by the Oakland County 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 required.

Know Your Numbers: Five Keys to Using Financial Statements

May 13, 9 a.m. to noon
Who Should Attend: Business owners and key staff who want to have a better understanding of how to use their financial statements. The ideal participant will have two-to-three 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, and get the banker on your side.
Fee: $25, pre-registration is required.

CEED Microloan Orientation

May 14, 9 a.m. to 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 required.

QuickBooks® for Business Owners

May 15, 9 a.m. to 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.

Break the Rules, Close More Sales

May 15, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A business development workshop for business owners, company Presidents/CEO's and professional service firms and sales people; in two short hours, you'll learn how to establish trust with your prospects, prospect more efficiently, shorten the sales cycle, eliminate stalls and objection, take control of the sales process, and differentiate your company.
Fee: $40 per person, pre-registration is required.

Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification Orientation

May 21, 9 a.m. to 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 required.

Team SBA Financing Roundtable

May 22, 9 a.m. to noon
Before you apply for a business loan, we recommend that you first attend the Small Business Association 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 required.

EB-5 Immigration Investment Opportunities for Michigan Conference

The Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA), a leading Michigan-based, nonprofit trade association for relationships between American and Chinese businesses, is hosting the EB-5 Immigration Investment Opportunities for Michigan Conference. Sponsored by Global Detroit and Aspire Lending, the event will take place from 3-6 p.m. April 23 at the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
 
“We’re excited about this event,” said DCBA’s President Jerry Xu. “It brings together the best of both the public and private sector to discuss how we can continue to bring top talent and foreign direct investment into the State of Michigan.”
 
The conference will feature dynamic speakers, including Bing Goei, director of Michigan’s Office for New Americans, Joe Borgstrom, director of the State of Michigan’s EB-5 Regional Center at the Michigan Community Development Corporation, and representatives from Civitas Capital Group, a leading public-private partner for the EB-5 program.
 
“Events like this are great mediums to exchange ideas and information about how we can continue to bring highly skilled, job-creating immigrants to the State of Michigan,” Goei noted. “This is a key pillar of our state’s economic growth plan and we’re working diligently to move the right policies forward to support this initiative along with creating a welcoming community and culture for immigrants.”
 
Borgstrom said the State of Michigan has taken a proactive approach to attract foreign investors through the utilization of the EB-5 visa.
 
“With decades of housing and development experience in Michigan, we’re optimistic about the role EB-5 capital can play in the revitalization of our cities as well as potentially retaining existing foreign national students and new immigrants,” Borgstrom said.
 
Civitas Capital Group Chief Executive Officer Dan Healy added that he is looking forward to the event, the dialogue it will generate and the opportunity to deepen relationships with key stakeholders across the state.
 
“Our full-service asset management approach for global investors and unique expertise with public-private partnerships have created thousands of jobs at zero cost to American taxpayers. This model is a great fit for the comeback taking place in Michigan,” Healy said. “We want to play an influential role in the state’s efforts to marry high-quality investment opportunities with the appropriate risk-return profile of global institutions and individuals.”
 
Seating is limited and tickets are $50 in advance or $75 at the door (if available), which includes dinner, beverages and a cash bar.  Please register online at www.dcba.com or call +1-248-918-0391.
 
About Detroit Chinese Business Association
 
Founded in 1995, the Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA) is a Michigan-based, non-profit organization. Its primary goal is to advocate, educate and form business relationships between American and Chinese companies. For more information about DCBA, please visit www.dcba.com.

Walsh College launches online program for aspiring entrepreneurs

Walsh College has always prided itself on being a friend of small business through education, but now its Troy campus is trying to make that help easier to access.

The Walsh Institute is debuting its new Business Launch program, an online guide focused on helping aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their business dreams into reality.

"We took everything we do and centralized it," says Tara R Miceli, director of Walsh Institute. "We put it online and put it out there."

Business Launch can walk budding businesspersons through the steps of growing their ideas and give them access to Walsh College's resources, mentors and faculty. The idea is to streamline the business-creation process so new entrepreneurs go through less of a learning curve.

It costs $195 per idea to use the program, which includes filling out a questionnaire and receiving customized feedback. Users of the program will have access to a variety of business resources, including articles, blogs and case studies featuring small- and family-owned business success stories.

"It just makes more sense," Miceli says. "We want to give the real-time answers to what a business needs at that time."

Source: Tara R Miceli, director of Walsh Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carbon Media Group hires 30, expands outdoor-related digital content focus

Carbon Media Group is not trying to keep its growth slow and steady. The digital media firm is in the midst of taking a couple of big steps forward.

The Bingham Farms-based company has hired 30 people since the beginning of 2013, more than doubling its staff to 56 employees. It is looking to add some interns this summer. Many of the new jobs included positions in software development, account management, business development, sales, content writing and editing.

"We're getting ready for a big growth year in 2014," says Hyaat Chaudhary, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

For most of its first seven years, Carbon Media Group focused on digital advertising. Think banner ads, aimed at outdoors enthusiasts. It has since expanded its scope to include agriculture and action sports, like snowboarding or rock climbing. It is now working to become the largest digital content producer for the outdoor sporting world.

"It's really a growth in the breadth of the business," Chaudhary says.

Carbon Media Group now helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It also has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors.

That expansion has allowed Carbon Media Group to grow its revenue by 33 percent in 2013. It is on track to hit its goal of 60-percent revenue growth this year, an expansion that should allow the firm to continuing hiring at a brisk pace.

Source: Hyaat Chaudhary, CEO of Carbon Media Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Warner Norcross & Judd staffs up IP practice in Southfield

Intellectual property work is becoming a bigger part of Warner Norcross & Judd's law practice in Southfield.

The Grand Rapids-based law firm, the third-largest in the state, has had a sizable office in Southfield for the last decade. That office has handled mostly business law work, such as contract work.

It is growing the Southfield office with the addition of a handful of new intellectual property attorneys. It has hired three over the last eight months, bringing the Southfield office’s number of attorneys to 35.

"It looks like we will bring two more on board in the next month or so," says Greg DeGrazia, intellectual property attorney for Warner Norcross & Judd. He adds, "We are ramping up our IP services on this side of the state."

Warner Norcross & Judd has a total of 220 attorneys on its payroll, including 25 in its intellectual property practice. Its new hires are taking on more technology work not only in the local automotive industry, but also for companies in other fields, such as Dow-Corning and the band KISS.

"We do all industries," DeGrazia says. "We have a lot of East Coast companies."

Source: Greg DeGrazia, intellectual property attorney for Warner Norcross & Judd
Writer: Jon Zemke

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