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SS Digital Media wins Platinum Award from the Marketing and Sales Executives of Detroit

SS Digital Media, a nationally recognized, integrated marketing agency, has won the Platinum Award from the Marketing and Sales Sales Executives of Detroit (MSED).

First bestowed in 1993, the Platinum Award recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves by helping their companies achieve critical business success. Two awards are given annually. This year’s Evening of Excellence gala will be held at the Gem Theatre on March 27.

“It has been a privilege to build an amazing team of digital strategists and experts for the last ten years,” says Nick Skislak, SS Digital Media CEO, who will accept the award. “By focusing on the customer journey, we have been able to achieve stellar results for our clients, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

The company is a finalist in three categories for the upcoming Interactive Marketing Awards and winner of the Best of Michigan Business award, as well as the IABC Renaissance Award and the PRSA Diamond Award.

600 jobs created and 2,200 jobs retained in Pontiac mortgage company deal

Six hundred new jobs have been added in the financial services sector in Pontiac, thanks to the Michigan Strategic Fund's approval of the Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority's $1,900,145 in local and school tax capture. The news also means the city will retain 2,200 existing jobs, says the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The mortgage company United Shore Financial Services and Pontiac Center Investment are responsible for the expansion project. United Shore announced a move of its corporate headquarters from Troy to the Hewlett Packard Enterprise building at 585 South Blvd. in Pontiac in June 2017.

An existing building will receive extensive renovations, which will serve as a corporate headquarters for the company. Also planned is the construction of a new outdoor recreation center and amphitheater. Surface parking lots will be renovated, as well as added.

The MEDC, the state organization that administers programs and performs due diligence on behalf of the MSF, expects the United Shore project to generate a total capital investment of $69 million in addition to the 2,800 jobs created and retained. The $1,900,145 in local and school tax capture will help in brownfield remediation, demolition, asbestos abatement, site prep, and improvements to infrastructure.

"We appreciate the opportunity to support the investment and job creation being made by United Shore at this brownfield site in Pontiac," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, said in a statement. "We are fortunate that a building of this size and stature was available for United Shore for its continued expansion in Oakland County."

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

Oakland County taking steps to retool its mobility workforce

There’s nothing like a challenge to get Oakland County fired up.

The challenge came in the form of a 2017 Connected Mobility Skills Needs Assessment conducted by Oakland County and the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.

The report said that if Oakland County is going to remain competitive in the coming connected mobility revolution, it needs to do a better job of developing and attracting a workforce with the right balance of engineering skills and automotive knowledge.

So local colleges and business groups are rising to meet the goal, by using this report to make improvements or changes to curricula.

Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of Oakland County Workforce Development, says the report surveyed 50 area employers that serve the connected mobility industry, asking them what knowledge, abilities, and skills they look for in potential hires. The report was presented to educational institutions, professional organizations, and business groups around the region.

"Our goal is to ensure Oakland County’s talent pool has the required knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to meet employer demand," Llewellyn says.

The assessment, the fourth in a series of surveys in emerging technology sectors since 2009, is frank in its conclusion that eight major areas need to be addressed before Oakland County can compete with other regions in developing a mobility workforce.

The top area of concern is an "insufficient pipeline of qualified workers." There's not enough local talent with advanced degrees, and those who do, lack experience in the automotive field. This leaves many local companies with no choice but to try to poach workers from other regions. The problem is that Southeast Michigan is still perceived as a region with an outdated manufacturing base, making it harder to compete with other metropolitan areas.

Other problems identified by the survey include educational institutions offering outdated engineering degrees, visa restrictions, deficient connected mobility training programs, and a general antiquated perception of the automotive industry.

The report, while frank in its conclusions, is being used by local institutions to make improvements.

"Oakland University used the data to help shape the curriculum for their Master’s in Systems Engineering," Llewellyn says. "Other entities are reviewing the report and using it to shape future curriculum in the connected mobility space."

Lawrence Tech-based business incubator receives state grant to continue fostering innovation, growth

Small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs throughout the southeastern Michigan region could be better equipped for success, at least up until March 31, 2019, as it's been announced that the Lawrence Technological University Collaboratory Gatekeeper Business Incubator has received further funding.

The Michigan Strategic Fund has granted the business incubator a $100,000 extension as part of its total of $1.7 million in grants awarded to foster entrepreneurial support throughout the state.

This marks the third such grant for the LTU business incubator, allowing it to continue helping small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs in their scale-up efforts. The focus of the incubator remains on early-stage technology companies in the product design, engineering, and prototyping and manufacturing sectors.

"Collaboration resources such as those available through Automation Alley, TechTown and SmartZones across Michigan are essential in providing our state’s entrepreneurs the necessary support needed to spark innovation and spur the business economy," Fred Molnar, vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said in a statement. "The continued funding of these programs demonstrates their impact in not only building and growing startups in Michigan, but in attracting out-of-state talent."

The LTU incubator falls under the city of Southfield's SmartZone, a state program that fosters the growth of tech businesses and jobs by connecting universities, research facilities, and industry to one another, building a network of growth. The business incubator itself connects business leaders with everyone from mentors to college students, from workshops to workspace.

Visit the LTU Collaboratory online to learn more about its programs.

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

Krytronx in Novi to distribute $100M in free smart sensors for manufacturing industry

Excerpt: 

Krytronx in Novi and its iToolTag platform, which wirelessly tracks sensors placed on manufacturing tools, industrial equipment, vehicles, and other components, announced it will invest $100 million to provide free worldwide installation of its blockchain-based iOT (Internet of Things) asset tag product line.

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OCC K-9 program prepares handlers and dogs for partnerships that protect public

To protect and serve is a phrase made famous with officers in training. For the more than 200 canines and their handlers who have graduated through Oakland Community College’s (OCC) K-9 program, it is the aim and purpose of their training and profession. Whether seeking out narcotics, locating missing people, or finding crime scene evidence, these highly trained teams work in seamless partnership fighting crime and protecting our community.

OCC’s academy-structured program is the first of its kind in Michigan and, this year, proudly celebrating twenty years of specialized training and service. Its unique advantage is the hands-on immersive experience provided by veteran police canine trainers and handlers for members of police agencies.

Robert Loken oversees the College’s K-9 program. Prior to joining OCC’s nationally-recognized public service training programs, he was a handler for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years where he had three canine partners on the job: Kaiser (German Shepherd), Eiko (Dutch Shepherd), and Lex (Dutch Shepherd). Loken currently has an eight month-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever who is in training for narcotic detection.

Several local police departments utilize OCC’s program to train their K-9 partners. After retiring their last K-9s in 2016, the Waterford Police Department reactivated their program in 2017, adding Diesel, a Dutch Shepard, and Zorza to the staff. The two new recruits, along with their handlers, attended OCC’s program and are actively serving the community. The cost to obtain and train the dogs, was funded with drug forfeiture money.

According to Loken, the success in training a new K-9 and K-9 handler, through weeks of Police K-9 training, comes when their success is accomplished on the streets they patrol. In addition to his work in this region, Loken is also a master trainer with the National Association of Police Canine Handlers and serves on their executive board.

In partnership with their human handlers, the four-legged OCC program trainees participate in seven intensive weeks of training covering all aspects of specialized training including K-9 handling, a K-9 first aid class and classroom work including legal updates. Handlers most often represent police or security agencies. The College’s program trains approximately 10 canines each year, most often working with German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers, whose temperaments are well suited for the work.

For handlers who received training before their canine partners, OCC provides uniquely qualified dogs for law enforcement officers enrolled in the Narcotic and Patrol Dog academies. The College’s program also trains handlers who have already been assigned canine partners by their employers.

A recent graduate of the program, Joe Miller from the West Bloomfield Township Police Department, attended the academy with his partner, Lonzo, from October to December 2017, after Lonzo joined the force in June.

“My dog was able to ride along with me before the academy, which really helped with our bonding,” Miller said. “The training allowed both of us to gel and mold into a team that could be effectively deployed on patrol duties.”

Lonzo is one of five explosive-detecting K-9s in Oakland County. He and Miller are now able to deploy immediately in cases of threats, suspicious packages, and more.

The OCC Academy was just the start for Miller and Lonzo. The two train every Wednesday with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and Miller is currently undergoing additional explosives training. “The OCC K-9 Program holds the teams it trains to a high standard,” observed Miller. “They challenge not only the dogs, but also the handler.”

For more information on the OCC K-9 program, which is part of the College’s Police Academy, visit https://www.oaklandcc.edu/crest/police/k9.aspx

About OCC

With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields as well as university transfer degrees in business, science and liberal arts. The College provides academic and developmental experiences allowing each student to reach their full potential and enhance the communities they serve.  More than 45,000 students annually attend OCC; more than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.


SS Digital Media selected as finalist for Killer Content Awards

SS Digital Media, a nationally recognized digital marketing agency, is a finalist for the Killer Content Awards, in the category “Measurable ROI.” The awards are bestowed annually by the B2B Marketing Exchange at a ceremony in February in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“This is what it’s all about,” says president Nick Skislak.  “I feel it solidifies us as a leader in digital marketing that focuses on measuring ROI.  We don’t just ‘drive traffic’ or ‘get clicks,’ we’ve focused heavily the last seven years on user experience and customer journey.  It’s great to be recognized for that.”

In 2017, the agency has been a finalist or has won a half dozen local and national awards for strategic marketing excellence. Michael Taylor, creative director and agency partner, says, “Our approach is as scientific as it is creative, because success relies on a delicate balance between the two. The data doesn’t lie, and when understood and used properly, the data is the difference between a mediocre campaign and one that gets truly amazing results.”

The agency’s work for Avian Enterprises impressed the judges because of the results generated by solution-based content created for the company that supplies bird-repellents for farms, golf courses, dairy barns, and outdoor venues. Prior to this, products had been sold primarily through distributors. Now, Avian has a thriving e-commerce presence and has seen an increase of 511% in online sales revenue.

About SS Digital Media

SS Digital Media is a nationally recognized digital marketing and advertising agency in Troy, Michigan, focused on e-commerce companies. Services include e-commerce strategies and development, search and social marketing, brand strategy and implementation, website design and optimization, video production, measurement and reporting. For more information, please visit www.ssdigitalmedia.com.


Troy High School auto lab receives $200K in improvements

David Easterbrook was walking the halls of Troy High School when he saw the sign for the school's auto lab. He had just finished giving a speech on behalf of Ashley's Dream, the foundation he started to combat the threat of drunk driving. It's a subject he knows all too well; his own daughter, Ashely, was killed by a drunk driver nearly 20 years ago.

Seeing the sign for the auto lab, Easterbrook decided to pop his head in the room. Cars are also something that he knows well, having founded the automotive company AME Vertical in 2001.

Easterbrook says he saw an auto lab that could use an upgrade. So he put the wheels in motion to do just that. Drawing on his own company and its clients, as well as his foundation, Easterbrook successfully raised $200,000 to improve the Troy High School auto lab, an accomplishment that was celebrated earlier this week.

"My daughter would always say, how can we make life better for people," says Easterbrook. "I think this does that."

The money raised was used to gut the old auto lab and parts room. The old carpet is gone, and the floors were ground down and polished. Walls were painted. New parts shelving and racking were installed. And new computer stations and desks were delivered for the students.

With his experience in the auto industry, Easterbrook says there's a real need for automotive and mechanical education. Gone are the days of mechanics only knowing how to do oil changes and tire rotations. Today's high-tech automobiles require more education and technological know-how.

There is a dearth in the workforce, he says. It's a good living, and an industry that could use the investment in young talent.

"The mechanics today are working on computers as much as they are cars. This is high-tech stuff and these are smart kids," says Easterbrook. "We need to encourage people to go into these fields."

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

New co-working space for entrepreneurs and small businesses opens in downtown Pontiac

There's a new co-working space opening in downtown Pontiac, and it's hoping to gather like-minded people and grow a community of entrepreneurs and start-ups.

It's called Pontiac Tribe, and the co-working space is celebrating its grand opening with an open house on Thursday, Feb. 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Ben Carr is looking to jump-start downtown Pontiac's start-up scene. One of the things the community was lacking, he says, was a co-working space that offered desks, conference space, and a collaborative environment. While co-working is a trend that has taken off in downtown Detroit, Carr believes that Pontiac is uniquely situated to become a start-up destination in its own right.

The city is not only located in the center of Oakland County, but its centrally located within the region itself. Carr contends that leaving from Pontiac, he can meet clients in either downtown Detroit, Ann Arbor, or Port Huron, and all within 45 minutes. And towns like Flint aren't that far away.

"Hopefully this opening will attract people that want to be in Pontiac," says Carr. "This is dedicated office space that's affordable, and without driving all the way to Detroit."

Pontiac Tribe occupies 1,800 sq. ft. on Saginaw Street, a floor above two street-level breweries, Exferimentation Brewing Co. and Fillmore 13 Brewery, and each with their own kitchens. Desks, private offices, and a dedicated conference room are available to rent on a monthly basis, ranging in prices from $155 per month to $350 per month. Fresh paint and carpet are complemented by modern amenities like wifi Internet service and more.

Carr's own business is among Tribe's tenants. He owns and operates advertising firm Ad Local, and does so out of Pontiac Tribe. He believes that the co-working environment can only help grow his firm.

"I can work from home if I want to. I don't need an office but I wanted to plant my business here and grow it here in Pontiac," says Carr. "There's nothing like Tribe here in Pontiac."

Pontiac Tribe is located at 7 N. Saginaw St. Ste. 300 in downtown Pontiac.

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

Southfield debuts online toolbox to increase odds of success for small business

A healthy small business community is vital to any city's success. With the announcement of a new online interactive toolbox for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the city of Southfield hopes that its newest investment in small business will further nurture along existing businesses while also help to attract new ones.

It's called the Business Catalyst, and it provides local business owners and would-be entrepreneurs with several data sets to help them inform their decision-making and succeed. Data includes information on business climate, industry trends, customers, competition, local opportunities, zoning controls, workforce, and available properties.

According to Southfield’s business and economic development director Rochelle Freeman, the Business Catalyst is a resource designed to help business owners thrive in Southfield. The online toolbox will be kept up-to-date and easily accessible.

"It can be challenging for new businesses and entrepreneurs to find the correct resources and information they need to create effective business plans," Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said in a statement. "The Southfield Business Catalyst will address these challenges by providing the most current data available in one convenient place. We’re excited to offer this toolbox and want entrepreneurs to know that Southfield is open for business!"

The Business Catalyst website also serves as a promotional tool for the city itself. The online portal touts the benefits of Southfield's infrastructure, access to high-speed fiber optics, broadband, and satellite services, as well as its central location within the metro Detroit region.

Interested entrepreneurs and businesses can access the Southfield Business Catalyst online.

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

Thousands of high school students from five-county region to explore in-demand jobs this fall

As many as 10,000 students from area Michigan high schools will be exposed to opportunities in America’s hottest job sectors this fall at the inaugural MiCareerQuest Southeast, the region’s largest hands-on career exploration experience.

Set for Nov. 28 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, the event aims to connect students from Oakland, Livingston, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties with working professionals from nearly 100 companies from throughout the region. The students will take part in hands-on, interactive demonstrations and conversations that highlight in-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, construction, health sciences and information technology.

The event is being organized by the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs and Michigan Works! agencies throughout southeast Michigan. The Michigan Talent Investment Agency is the presenting sponsor.

“Our goal is to help thousands of students connect classroom learning with the real-world jobs in greatest demand today,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “MiCareerQuest Southeast promises to be very interactive, giving the students opportunities to touch, feel and work with actual workplace equipment, tools and technology, plus ask working professionals questions about what they do and how to get there. And of course, we want to show students these jobs are right here in their own backyards.”

MiCareerQuest Southeast is an offshoot of a program created by the West Michigan Works! Agency, which hosted the inaugural MiCareerQuest event in Grand Rapids in 2015. Since then, it has become a hugely popular event for schools and employers alike, with available spots filling up in hours. In 2017, more than 9,000 students attended MiCareerQuest in Grand Rapids.

Schools can sign up to participate on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are approximately 10,000 student spots available. Starting March 1, high schools will have the option of signing up for one of three time slots, each lasting two hours: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; 10 a.m. to noon; and noon to 2 p.m.

“This will be a fast-paced, high-energy event, with groups of students working their way through the four separate career quadrants,” said Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of Oakland County Michigan Works! “Working professionals will be sharing their enthusiasm for what they do through engaging, hands-on demonstrations. Students should be prepared to get involved. They’re going to be busy during their two-hour visit.”

The success of MiCareerQuest Southeast will rely on financial support and involvement of sponsors and employers who will staff the career quadrants, Llewellyn said.

There are event sponsorship opportunities available, with varying degrees of exposure. Organizations that purchase a platinum, gold or silver sponsorship will have a seat on a career quadrant steering committee and reserved space on the show floor to showcase their technology or vocation. Interested companies may also participate as a quadrant exhibitor and engage students directly, share career expertise and advice.

“This is a win for everyone involved,” Llewellyn said. “The sponsors and employers will have the opportunity to connect with the students and start building a talent pipeline for the future, while the students will be exposed to many job possibilities that are expected to be in hot demand for many years to come.”

Organizations or school representatives interested in participating in MiCareerQuest Southeast should attend a special kick-off meeting Thursday, March 1, from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m., at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford. Register at AdvantageOakland.Eventbrite.com.

For more information, visit OakGov.com/MiCareerQuestSE or call Oakland County Michigan Works!, 248-858-5520.

IoT TechConnect conference in Troy to increase awareness of opportunities, threats posed by Internet

Excerpt

The Internet of Things (IoT) TechConnect conference, to be held on April 4 at the Troy Marriott, will provide attendees with a greater understanding of the opportunities and threats posed by IoT. As more devices connect to the internet, there are more opportunities for hackers to get into computer systems. The event will focus on IoT companies, experts, and training in Michigan.

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Criminal Justice Department offers OCC's first complete online degree program

Oakland Community College (OCC) has expanded its reach and is now offering its first fully-accredited, completely online degree program in Criminal Justice.

The Criminal Justice-Generalist Associate of Applied Science degree was chosen for online delivery based on the versatility of the degree. The degree can be applied to a four-year university transfer or to those students electing to obtain a two-year degree and become a police officer. Students who endeavor to become a police officer in the State of Michigan need to have an associate degree for admission to a police academy if they will be self-sponsored while attending the academy, explains Ken Aud, OCC Criminal Justice Faculty and Department Chair. 

“With family or work obligations, many of our students want the convenience of accomplishing their academic and career goals with a personalized schedule. These students want to obtain a degree, but the traditional face-to-face classes often do not work with their many demands outside of the classroom or for those who are challenged by transportation issues or simply geography,” says Aud. “This online program allows us the ability to offer quality educational experiences and competencies to a diverse population and fill a growing need for public service and public safety professionals in our community.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of protective service occupations (such as police, corrections, and security) is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations, which will result in about 158,200 new jobs.

While this is a fully online degree program, many Criminal Justice-Generalist courses are cross-listed with the College’s other three Criminal Justice degree options, including Corrections, Law Enforcement, and Police Evidence and Technology. Students who enroll in one of these other degree programs can also take advantage of these accredited online classes.

Students interested in online learning at OCC must successfully complete a free, one-time, mandatory Online Learning Readiness Course. The three-hour course offers students a hands-on experience of the online learning tool and addresses topics such as time management and technology skills designed to ensure students are prepared for both the rigor and flexibility of online learning.

For more information on online learning and the Criminal Justice programs, visit www.oaklandcc.edu/programs/crj.

About OCC

With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields as well as university transfer degrees in business, science and liberal arts. The College provides academic and developmental experiences allowing each student to reach their full potential and enhance the communities they serve.  More than 45,000 students annually attend OCC; more than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.


Southfield debuts online toolbox to increase odds of success for small business

A healthy small business community is vital to any city's success. With the announcement of a new online interactive toolbox for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the city of Southfield hopes that its newest investment in small business will further nurture along existing businesses while also help to attract new ones.

It's called the Business Catalyst, and it provides local business owners and would-be entrepreneurs with several data sets to help them inform their decision-making and succeed. Data includes information on business climate, industry trends, customers, competition, local opportunities, zoning controls, workforce, and available properties.

According to Southfield’s business and economic development director Rochelle Freeman, the Business Catalyst is a resource designed to help business owners thrive in Southfield. The online toolbox will be kept up-to-date and easily accessible.

"It can be challenging for new businesses and entrepreneurs to find the correct resources and information they need to create effective business plans," Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said in a statement. "The Southfield Business Catalyst will address these challenges by providing the most current data available in one convenient place. We’re excited to offer this toolbox and want entrepreneurs to know that Southfield is open for business!"

The Business Catalyst website also serves as a promotional tool for the city itself. The online portal touts the benefits of Southfield's infrastructure, access to high-speed fiber optics, broadband, and satellite services, as well as its central location within the metro Detroit region.

Interested entrepreneurs and businesses can access the Southfield Business Catalyst online.

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

The University Center: An International Education Destination

Excerpt

The University Center (UC), located in Downtown Auburn Hills at 3350 Auburn Road, is a local public-private partnership that has blossomed into something greater, even worldwide in recent years.

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