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Business pitch event comes to Troy, creates investment opportunities for entrepreneurs

Pitch Club is coming to Oakland County.

Kyyba Innovations and Bodman PLC are hosting the event, which takes place at the Automation Alley offices in Troy on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Pitch Clubs are hosted throughout the year in cities across Michigan, including Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing.

The mentoring and funding program intends to connect economic ecosystems and smart zones throughout the state. The event is both an educational and networking opportunity for entrepreneurs.

In addition to an as-yet-to-be-announced keynote speaker, three entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. Entrepreneurs could then be selected to present to the investment team of Kyyba Innovations during their quarterly Angels meeting. Investment opportunities range from $25,000 to $100,000.

The list of judges include David A. Stone, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer, Professor, Health SciencesProfessor, Philosophy, Oakland University; Chris Stallman, Partner, FONTINALIS PARTNERS, LLC; Damien Rocchi, CEO & Founder, Grand Circus; Jacob Evan Smith, Director of Detroit Venture for America; Tember Shea, Director inGAGE, Inforum; and Kristin Welch, Corporate Strategist, Technology Leader, Relationship Builder.

"Pitch Club provides a tremendous opportunity for cross-pollination and increased deal flow across Michigan, something that currently is not at the level it should be. This program will be very valuable for both the startup entrepreneurs and investors and will hopefully create a meaningful dialogue, as well as a technological and economic impact for the entire region," says Tel Ganesan, Managing Director, Kyyba Innovations.

"In order to make this initiative even more successful, I encourage seasoned entrepreneurs in each of these areas to join us by serving as a mentor."

Visit Pitch Club online to learn about registration opportunities.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Historic local cemetery a focus as experts discuss preserving and revitalizing sacred places

Pontiac’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery will be featured at the 2018 Heritage Conference as national and local experts discuss strategies to revitalize sacred spaces, ensuring they have sustainability as special places and community assets.

“Sacred Spaces, Special Places” is set for Nov. 5 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 171 Pike St. in Pontiac. Registration is $25 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Online registration is available at AdvantageOakland.EventBrite.com.

The conference focus ranges from church buildings to cemeteries and their landscapes as sacred spaces and their value as special places for communities. The keynote speaker is Bob Jaeger, co-founder and president of Partners for Sacred Places, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that focuses on transforming and revitalizing historic and sacred spaces into special places that nurture, uplift and better serve their communities.

“For anyone interested in Oakland County or who wants to learn about some of our historical assets and strategies to preserve them – this is a must-attend conference,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said.

Two members of the county’s planning division will present workshops at the conference:
  • Ron Campbell, a principal planner, architect and expert in historic preservation, will give a presentation entitled, “The Architecture of Death: An Integral Part of Life Today. The aspect of death has motivated some of the most iconic structures in a community and created some of the most memorable spaces.
  • John Bry, a principal planner and Main Street Oakland County coordinator, has more than 20 year’s experience in historic preservation, heritage tourism and community revitalization. His presentation is entitled, “Thinking Outside the Fence: How to Preserve Your Historic Cemetery.
The conference includes a tour of Oak Hill Cemetery. Oak Hill was established in 1822 by the city of Pontiac and was named to the National Register for Historic Places in 1989. The remains of six veterans from the Revolutionary War, more than 27 soldiers from the Civil War, including Gen. Israel B. Richardson, and Michigan Gov. Moses Wisner are all interred there.

Bry said municipal cemeteries are often huge financial burdens for communities, requiring partnerships that may include the city, a non-profit and a third party to pay for ongoing maintenance and repair. He estimated the annual cost for upkeep on Oak Hill is more than $200,000.

There is a reception following the conference at Fillmore 13 Brewery, 7 N. Saginaw St. in Pontiac, which is sponsored by the Oakland County Historical Commission.

The conference is sponsored by the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs, Oakland County Parks, the Historical Commission and produced with the support of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

13 Michigan schools earn coveted Blue Ribbon awards


Does your school deserve a blue ribbon?

Thirteen Michigan schools received the coveted 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools award Monday  — a recognition of either overall strong academic performance or progress toward closing achievement gaps. It's the biggest honor a school can receive in the U.S.

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Crowning of South Lyon homecoming queen moves crowd to tears


It takes a special kind of person to transform South Lyon's raucous, adrenaline-pumping "Jungle" — the well-deserved nickname of the Lions' football stadium — into a sea of feel-good tears and spine-tingling cheers, especially during a football Friday.

Breanna Strange, it turns out, has that kind of power.

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LTU hosts Girls in Future Technologies (GIFT) Day

Lawrence Technological University, in partnership with the Women of AT&T, hosted the second annual Girls in Future Technologies (GIFT) Day Saturday, Sept. 22. 

This year’s event in the Marburger STEM Center marked the first time the occasion was hosted on campus. More than 30 girls, mostly hailing from area middle and high schools, engaged in programs aimed at sparking their interest in a STEM career. 
“Our goal today is to break down barriers and let the girls to know that you can do this,” said event organizer Denisha Williams, who also serves as a board member and vice president of membership for Women of AT&T.

“Girls need to know that STEM and the evolution of technology does not have to be a male-dominated field,” agreed Shawn Caggins, vice president of programs for Women of AT&T and GIFT Day chair.  “The event is designed to educate, inspire and empower young girls to think about how they would like to have an impact on society through STEM.”

After a motivating welcome from Sibrina Collins, executive director of LTU’s Marburger STEM Center, the girls dove into various science and technology-themed activities. They started with a computer coding workshop, which challenged each girl to test their skills in the C programming language. Next, a mother-daughter law enforcement team led a candid talk with the girls about cybersecurity and safety. The dialogue was followed by more hands-on activities such as “Cards to the Sky” – a group engineering exercise which involved building the most effective structure out of playing cards and tape – and an interactive robotics demonstration, featuring a remote-controlled robot from LTU’s own Robofest.

The day ended with a fireside chat led by female professionals in STEM. Crystal Young, Mashia Tate, Angel Turner, and Yakita Turner shared their personal journeys, struggles, career advice, and encouragement with the eager youngsters. Girls of all ages took the opportunity to ask them many questions about career pathways, especially in STEM.

Said one attendee, Shelby, a student at Middle School North in Macomb Township: “I wanted to be a biomedical engineer before coming here today, and after today, I feel more confident” about a career in STEM. Added Nylah, a student at Berkley High School: “The workshops helped me know that I can do different things, and if do go into STEM, I can take some of what I learned today into it.”

Williams said she hopes that next year’s event will draw even more girls from more Detroit-area schools, adding to the momentum and interest towards girls in STEM careers.

Maple Lane Florist in Clawson: Serving customers for five generations


Anna Frost, from Clawson, was sending flowers to a funeral home. Her oldest friend’s mother had passed away at the age of 96 after a brief illness.

“I was sad for my friend, of course, but I wanted a flower arrangement that wasn’t ‘funeral-ish,’” Anna says. “I called Maple Lane Florist on Crooks Road in Clawson and was helped by a man that I believe was the owner’s son.”

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Record number of students and companies participated in Manufacturing Day


Nearly 1,000 local high school students took part in a national program geared towards showcasing careers in advanced manufacturing.

Manufacturing Day, an annual celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers, was celebrated locally, once again, at over 40 companies across Oakland County on Oct. 5. Since 2012, over 265,000 students have participated in Manufacturing Day events nationwide. 

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27 top-rated pizza places in Michigan


Whatever your favorite pizza style, there's probably a restaurant in Michigan that serves it. But how do you know which pizza is the worth the money?

We compiled a list of some of Michigan's popular top-rated pizza places based on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google reviews and ratings.

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Follow the trail through the woods and collect treats at Trick or Trees

Costumed children are invited to trick or treat through Suarez Friendship Woods Saturday, Oct. 27 from 5-7:30 p.m. at Red Oaks Nature Center in Madison Heights at the annual Trick or Trees.

Hosted by Oakland County Parks and Recreation, the event will feature popular costumed characters along the trick-or-treat trail, cider, donuts, face painting and the discovery of nature’s nocturnal wonders. Cost is $5/child if registered before 5 p.m. Oct. 24. After the deadline, cost will be $7/child. Adults are $1.

To register, call 248-858-0916 during business hours. For more information, contact NawrockiM@oakgov.com.

Red Oaks Nature Center is located at 30300 Hales St. in Madison Heights. Parking is available for Trick or Trees at Red Oaks Waterpark with a free shuttle to the nature center.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

STEM Quest at OCC to offer hands-on learning, robots and rockets

Sure, making pancakes with a 3D printer and assembling Snap Circuits kits into electronics sounds like fun, but wouldn’t it be cool to know the mechanics behind making those pancakes or how those kits come to life from parts and pieces?

A daylong STEM QUEST event November 10 at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills Campus, 2900 Featherstone Road, will provide answers to these questions and a more.  The event, open to Scouts and non-Scouts, will let young people interact with staff from businesses and organizations such as Legoland, Magformers and the Michigan Science Center.

Kevin M. Bratton, Ph.D., dean of social sciences and human services at OCC, said the college’s collaboration with the Boy Scouts was driven by the need to expose more young people to fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition, Magformers will demonstrate principles of conceptual geometry using materials other than paper, pens and calculators.

Participants will get hands-on training in STEM areas such as building cars for a Lego Pinewood Derby, using pieces of fruit to learn how parts of coding communicate with each other, and seeing what underwater robotics is all about.

“With the economy growing at one of the fastest rates of all time, employers are lacking highly skilled workers,” Bratton said.  “OCC and the Scouts are partnering together to produce an event that introduces students to STEM disciplines as well as to the college’s high-tech programs, where  students can develop their skills and earn a degree or certificate for successful entry into the workforce.”

Said Eric Suender, STEM executive with the Michigan Crossroads Council of the Boy Scouts of America, “We were very intentional in making sure that each activity offered will give our participants hands-on learning under the direction of experts in their fields.”

The activities will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 3:30 p.m.  Suender said participants should bring a sack lunch or snacks and water if they plan to stay for the entire day.

The cost of STEM QUEST is $10 per person. To register, visit the Michigan Crossroads Council website.

For additional information, contact Suender at Eric.Suender@scouting.org or call (517) 885-3618.

The Kroger Co. and The Kroger Co. Foundation supports Forgotten Harvest with $139,000 grant

Nonprofit food rescue organization Forgotten Harvest recently received a $139,000 grant from The Kroger Co. Foundation at the request of The Kroger Co. of Michigan. Michigan Kroger has proudly partnered with Forgotten Harvest since 2004.

The Kroger Co. Foundation’s grant is part of Zero Hunger | Zero Waste, Kroger’s plan to end hunger in local communities and eliminate waste across the company by 2025.

During 2017, Forgotten Harvest partnered with Michigan Kroger to collect over 4.15 million pounds of surplus nutritious food donated from 93 southeast Michigan Kroger stores and distribution facilities. According to USDA calculations, Kroger’s food donations gift will help provide enough food for 3.4 million meals to help those in need. Current U.S. Census data indicates that one in six people (589,000) and one in four children in metro Detroit face hunger and food insecurity.

Since 2010, Forgotten Harvest’s capacity has grown from rescuing 19.3 million pounds of food each year to 45.8 million pounds in 2017, a 135 percent increase.

“Forgotten Harvest stands proudly with corporate partners like The Kroger Co. of Michigan and its visionary Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative to end hunger and food insecurity while delivering healthy, nutritious food,” said Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest. “Forgotten Harvest would not be able to help so many in need within our community without Kroger’s partnership and support.”

“The Kroger Co. of Michigan is pleased to endorse this generous grant to help end hunger and food waste in southeast Michigan,” said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager for Michigan Kroger. “Everyone benefits from our ongoing ability to boost the nutrition level for hungry neighbors while diverting food from area landfills.”

About Forgotten Harvest

Oak Park, Michigan-based Forgotten Harvest was formed in 1990 to fight two problems: hunger and waste. Forgotten Harvest “rescued” over 45.8 million pounds of food last year by collecting surplus prepared and perishable food from over 800 locations, including grocery stores, fruit and vegetable markets, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, wholesale food distributors and other Health Department-approved sources. This donated food, which would otherwise go to waste, is delivered free-of-charge to over 250 emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area.

Learn more about Forgotten Harvest and how to help drive hunger from our community at www.forgottenharvest.org.

About The Kroger Co. of Michigan
Incorporated in Michigan in 1909 and headquartered in Novi, The Kroger Co. of Michigan includes 19,000 associates, 125 Kroger stores, 75 fuel centers, 104 pharmacies and the Michigan Dairy. Purpose: to FEED the Human Spirit, by serving the region through food, inspiration and uplift, and creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025.

Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs more than 375,000 associates who serve customers in 2,640 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 786 convenience stores, 320 fine jewelry stores, 1,240 supermarket fuel centers and 38 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber's Million Dollar Club.

Approved budget invests in improving customer experience

Oakland County will invest in both its employees and government campus to improve customer service and safety after the Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s three-year, balanced budget today in a unanimous bi-partisan vote.

The county will continue to invest in infrastructure improvements on the government campus which include technology enhancements, security upgrades, and building renovations all of which are aimed at furthering efficiency and customer service. County employees will also see a general salary increase of 2.0% beginning October 1.

“Oakland County wants to remain an employer of choice in a booming economy and a highly-competitive talent market,” Patterson said. “Therefore, we’re continuing to invest in our employees after we asked them to make sacrifices during the Great Recession.”

Patterson also acknowledged the BOC and other county elected officials for their bipartisan cooperation in passing the three-year, balanced budget for fiscal years 2019 – 2021.

“If I had to identify the primary factor responsible for our financial management successes, it would be our committed adherence to long range planning and budgeting practices,” Patterson said. “It is forward planning coupled with action that separates Oakland County from other governments around the country.”

The general fund budgets for fiscal years 2019, 2020 and 2021 are $466,382,128; $467,444,492; and $476,224,907, respectively. The total budgets are $893,513,720; $893,953,685; and $901,630,539, respectively.

To see Patterson’s approved budget, go to OakGov.com, scroll to the bottom of the page to select the “County Budget” button, then click on the link for the “FY2019 - FY2021 Adopted Budget and General Appropriations Act.”

The Oakland County Executive's Elite 40 Under 40 Program now open in search of "best of the best"

?If you know a young entrepreneur, community leader, teacher or any person who has made significant contributions to their chosen field and the quality of life in the region, and you want them recognized for their good work, here is your chance.

Nominations are being accepted for the Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 Under 40 Class of 2019. County Executive L. Brooks Patterson started the program in 2012 to honor young professionals and thought leaders who excel in their field and have demonstrated dynamic leadership.

“We are blessed to have so many talented young people who are vital to Oakland County and the region and committed to improving their communities,” Patterson said. “If you know of one or more individuals – or you want to nominate yourself – I encourage you to submit a name for consideration.”

Nominees must live or work in Oakland County to be eligible. To submit a candidate, go to Elite40.com where two entry buttons can be found – one for those who want to nominate someone and one for those who want to enter themselves. Nominations must be completed by Oct. 29. If you enter yourself, you have until Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. to submit a completed entry.

A panel of former Elite 40 class members will review and score all completed applications and reduce the number to the top 60 entrants. An independent panel of judges will choose the top 40. Of that group, the three candidates who scored the highest will be placed before the public from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, 2019, for an online vote to determine the winner.

The class will be announced Jan. 16, 2019.

The winner will be revealed in February 2019 at Patterson’s State of County address. All class members will be invited to participate in a host of county events. Past members have joined the Oakland County Business Roundtable and other advisory committees within the county.

Oakland County awarded for excellence in popular financial reporting

Oakland County has won the Award of Excellence for its 2017 Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for the 21st year in a row. The PAFR summarizes for taxpayers how the county spends their money. It is one of the ways County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s administration works to make county government more transparent and accessible to residents.

"Oakland County’s fiscal services team is terrific,” Patterson said. “Their outstanding performance, evidenced by these awards, is indicative of the culture of excellence at Oakland County.”

The GFOA gives the PAFR award based on reader appeal, understandability, creativity, and overall quality and usefulness of the report, among others. The GFOA established it to encourage local governments to produce a high quality PAFR based on their comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for individuals without a background in public finance.

The PAFR award comes on the heels of the GFOA bestowing the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting upon Oakland County for its CAFR for the 27th year in a row. Fiscal Services Officer Lynn Sonkiss praised the team that put the PAFR together, particularly Gaia Piir, who coordinated the project; Dave Nelson and Carol Morin, both of fiscal services; and Pam Tremble, graphic artist.

“I am very honored and grateful to work with such dedicated staff that continue to make this GFOA award possible,” Sonkiss said.

To view the Fiscal 2017 PAFR, go to oakgov.com/mgtbud/fiscal, click on the “Oakland County 2017 Financial Summary.”

Royal Oak's Tania's Pizza celebrates 31 years


Talking to Amos Sheena, his energy is palpable.

“I get enjoyment from so many parts of it. It’s the challenge of seeing the next level,” Sheena said. “I don’t want to be 1,000 stores across the country, at least not today. The vision is there, but I want to focus on a true feeling of accomplishment I get when I can help the youth understand more than they did yesterday.”

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