Velocity Hub grand opening highlights new cybersecurity asset

Stone.jpgFriday, March 18 marked the grand opening of the Velocity Hub. This is the first secure cyber range in Michigan available to companies to test their technologies on early-stage connected products. It is an extension of the Michigan Cyber Range that is powered by Merit Network and managed by the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator (Mac-OU INC). The highly-anticipated grand opening was filled to capacity with 225 registered guests representing government, business and academia.

The event was emceed by Sean Carlson, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan Defense Center. His first introduction was Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor who presented a video explaining the importance of cybersecurity to large and small businesses and how the Velocity Hub came to fruition.

The next speaker was Sen. Gary Peters who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Peters recently introduced a bill, the State and Local Cyber Protection Act, intended to provide state and local governments access to training against cyberthreats. He stated that cybersecurity is critical to keeping the automotive and defense industries in Michigan, especially when the state faces competition from Google and Apple headquartered in California.

“This center will make sure Macomb County and Michigan are the center of new technologies that will change the world forever,” said Peters.

Brig. Gen. Michael Stone, assistant adjutant general for installations with the Michigan Army National Guard, spoke next. He is working with the federal government to establish a nationwide network of cyber ranges to train tomorrow’s workforce.

“We planted the seeds, now it’s time for Macomb County to take off with it,” said Stone.

He called the Velocity Hub a unique asset for the entire country, praising the public/private partnership that enables it to be self-sustaining.

FrontCyberRangeSteve Arwood, MEDC CEO, spoke about the strong relationship Macomb County has with the Michigan Defense Center, thanks in part to the effort of individuals such as Stephen Cassin, former Macomb County Planning & Economic Development director. He stated Michigan has what is needed to retain and attract talent and warned against complacency during this time of vast technological change.

With experience as the former Macomb County sheriff, Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel stressed the importance of having someone to turn to when Internet crime happens. He stated there is a need to cultivate subject matter experts who can tackle issues, such as cyberattacks, that affect the public. He cited Planning & Economic Development Deputy Director Vicky Rad as being an expert in the Macomb County cybersecurity initiative.

Dr. Betty Youngblood, vice president for strategic planning and Macomb outreach at Oakland University, thanked the Mac-OU INC staff for their hard work readying the hub, which included numerous meetings, events and grant research.

“Today begins the next chapter in services offered here,” she said.

Dr. Joe Adams, vice president of research and cybersecurity at Merit Network, presented Larry Herriman, interim executive director at Mac-OU INC, and Jennifer Tisdale, cyber programs manager for defense and automotive offices at MEDC, with coins. He credited the two individuals for making the hub happen. He said the hub will not only create a more cyber-aware workforce able to protect their organizations, but it will also serve as an economic development magnet.

The last speaker at the event was Nathan Dragun, director of cyber range development for the Michigan Cyber Range at Merit Network. He addressed the audience from a hacker’s perspective, stating the focus should not be on controlling the Internet, but embracing and working with it, reminding everyone the tools used to attack are the same used to defend. The hub is valuable because it will enable users to keep up with technology and to gain a true understanding of how to use it through hands-on training, testing and collaboration.

Source.jpgPamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative, had the honor of cutting the ribbon. An open house followed where attendees networked and explored the Velocity Hub. Decked out with a new front desk, computer stations, white boards and mounted projection screens, guests were able to view a live Alphaville exercise where Oakland University students were participating in a virtual match of capture the flag.

The Velocity Hub is the result of the collaboration of the Merit Network, the Michigan Defense Center of the MEDC, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, the city of Sterling Heights and Oakland University. It offers training space, hosts live hacking exercises and assists in software testing for local companies. Small businesses in the defense, homeland security and advanced manufacturing industries may benefit the most from these services as hackers may view them as vulnerable and a way to hack into larger companies for whom they are suppliers. Mac-OU INC will also offer certification classes in more than 20 different cybersecurity disciplines.

For more information about certification courses or how you can utilize the Velocity Hub, contact Larry Herriman at (586) 884-9332 or email him at herriman@oakland.edu.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman-owned businesses find success in Macomb County

Working for the Department of Planning & Economic Development has introduced me to a diverse array of interesting businesses. It just so happens, many of them are owned or co-owned by women. Since March is Women’s History Month (we all knew that, right?), I’ll share my insight into just some of the many woman-owned businesses that contribute to Macomb County’s economy. Click on the links to learn more about the mothers, sisters and daughters running these amazing businesses.

safieNot long after I first started working here, I began dabbling with writing press releases, which is how I became aware of Safie Specialty Foods Company Inc. in Chesterfield Township. They pickle and package locally-grown vegetables like asparagus, beets and, of course, pickles. I have always advocated shopping small and buying local, but it hadn’t occurred to me that Macomb County products were being carried by major retailers. I quickly sought out the brand at Meijer, and if a jar of pickles can be considered luxurious, then these certainly are – with sliced green pickles contrasted by a colorful blend of whole spices and arranged by hand in elegant glass jars.

Through work, I also began to write blogs for Make Macomb Your Home and Macomb Business. This has allowed me to interview hard-working entrepreneurs, learn how they got started and share my love of their products and services with Macomb County readers. Plaza Mexico in Eastpointe is a tiny little restaurant serving the best Mexican food in the area. Pilar’s Tamales in Warren offers must-try Salvadoran fare made with all-natural, free-range and organic ingredients from local farms. The father of the Detroit square pizza, Gus Guerra, passed the family business down to his children who are still serving up outstanding pizza and cold beer at Cloverleaf in Eastpointe.

New to Macomb County is Minha’s Coffee Haus in Mount Clemens, serving fair trade, organic, kosher coffee in compostable cups. The Twisted Pretzel makes dangerously delicious bark, caramel clusters and gourmet pretzels available at Viviano Flower Shop branches in Chesterfield Township, Shelby Township and St. Clair Shores. Champagne Chocolates in Mount Clemens is a well-established confectionary producing a wide variety of delicious, freshly-made chocolates and toffee.

Choices Natur Kosmetik in Shelby Township hand-makes natural, customizable bath care products like lotion, soap and scrubs. Mount Clemens-based Paperback Writer Books sells a wide selection of gently-used books, and you can listen to some good tunes while you peruse. Iron Ivy in Eastpointe is packed with vintage items and artwork made by local artists.

More recently, I learned about several woman-owned businesses when I wrote the company descriptions for the 2016 Macomb Business Awards program and attended the event. Nominees included Roseville-based Gotta Have Products which manufactures and internationally distributes promotional products such as vinyl decals and hat clips that hold writing implements. Also based in Roseville, I.F. Metalworks is a growing company that supplies both industrial tools and ornamental metalwork. Clinton Township-based JEM Tech Group helps businesses evaluate energy usage and proposes energy-saving solutions. Recently relocated to Mount Clemens, Relevar Home Care helps families to make informed decisions about long-term care options and to find solutions. Ruma Organics in Macomb Township is a natural personal care business that began with a mom making organic deodorant cream for her family.

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There are hundreds of woman-owned businesses in Macomb County, and the economic development specialists on our staff work with many of them on a regular basis, offering resources to help them thrive and see success in Macomb County – which is good news for consumers like you and me!

If you are a Macomb County business and would like to know more about the services our department offers, contact us at (586) 469-5285 or visit our website at MacombBusiness.com.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

The Macomb-Oakland University INCubator launches a comprehensive cybersecurity initiative

As the state of Michigan strategically executes its Michigan Cyber Initiative, a new, unclassified hub of the Michigan Cyber Range (MCR), powered by Merit Network, has been developed at the Velocity Center, home of the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator (Mac-OU INC).

Mac-OU INC is managing this publicly-accessible MCR extension hub, the first of its kind connected to an incubator program targeted toward startup and emerging companies in the state of Michigan. This effort is in collaboration with the Merit Network, the Michigan Defense Center of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, the city of Sterling Heights and Oakland University.

Via Gov. Snyder’s Michigan Cyber Initiative, Mac-OU INC’s goal is to educate the public and raise awareness on the ever-increasing importance of cybersecurity. Over the years, technology has become deeply ingrained in everyday life, resulting in a world that is more interconnected than ever. This has dramatically increased the number of cyberattacks and system intrusions, which resulted in sensitive personal and business information being released, financial losses, and disruptions of business operations. These attacks and intrusions have created a twofold problem, in that organizations need a way to test the security on products and services before launching them, and a workforce is needed to help protect against cyberattacks and intrusions. A cyber range is a facility with a unique internet connection that can be used for this testing and training.

Are you interested in learning more about how this new Macomb County asset will provide a vital service to area businesses, help attract new business and fortify our workforce?  Plan to attend the official launch of the Velocity Hub on Friday, March 18 from 9 a.m. to noonClick here for more information and to register to attend.

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How Can You Utilize the Velocity Hub of the Michigan Cyber Range?

Education: We hold certification courses for over 20 different cybersecurity disciplines.

Mac-OU INC will host certificate education through the Merit Network. Each certification can be obtained through an approximate four- to five-day course including an exam. These programs will run through Oakland University’s Professional & Continuing Education and will earn participants continuing education units. As stated on the Merit website, “Each course prepares you for real-life situations and for the related certification test. When you successfully complete a course, you will be able to confidently take a certification exam on the final day of the course.”

Validation: We conduct security “best practice” checklist reviews and in-depth product validation penetration tests.

In this Velocity Hub, small and large businesses alike will have the opportunity to conduct assessments and exercises on early-stage connected products. Similar to a shooting range for gun use and training, this secure sandbox environment is stocked with tools and targets to complete safety, performance and efficiency tests.

Preparation: We lease virtual space within our secure sandbox environment stocked with hardware and software.

Companies of all sizes need access to this isolated sandbox environment, which mimics a real-world setting, in order to test products or hold demonstrations. Our business model allows companies to rent virtual space within our sandbox environment.

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About the Michigan Cyber Range
The state of Michigan chose the Merit Network to begin operating this cybersecurity range and program. The project is a public-private collaboration that includes government, the National Guard, universities, community colleges, K-12 schools and private industry.

The MCR is a program that leverages the physical range to develop world-class cybersecurity professionals. There is a full program of meetings and workshops as well as tools to develop and promulgate best practices in cybersecurity training and cybersecurity itself. The range is used for individual as well as collective training. The staff are experts in the best and most current practices of cybersecurity training and are focused on meeting the specific needs of the people and organizations that use the range.

The MCR provides students and IT professionals with a solid foundation in cybersecurity through challenging hands-on coursework, exercises and labs. Courses are aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The NICE framework organizes the skills that America’s cybersecurity workforce needs to meet the national preparedness goals of detecting, mitigating and defeating malicious actors.

Contact Us
The Macomb-OU INCubator is located in the Velocity Center of Sterling Heights at 6633 18 Mile Road. More information on the Velocity Hub can be found at macouinc.org/cyber or by contacting Larry Herriman at (586) 884-9332 or via email at herriman@oakland.edu.

Joan Carleton is the marketing and communications manager for the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator.

 

Connecting students with in-demand careers

 

Last week, the L’Anse Creuse School District hosted Career Night, an annual event focused on igniting student interest in learning and preparing to enter the workforce.

Nearly 500 participants joined the evening festivities, which included a mix of students and their family members. With over 60 careers represented, students were exposed to a wide variety of professional opportunities.

Career Day_Macomb table.jpgMacomb County’s Department of Planning & Economic Development Deputy Director Vicky Rad and I were present to encourage students to explore career paths in both government and STEM-related industries. We spoke to students not only about careers in planning and economic development, but also about those that are in high-demand and directly impact our local businesses.

As an economic development specialist, I meet regularly with companies that are in need of talented engineers, machinists and cybersecurity professionals, so we spoke to students about the increasing demand for these types of positions and the local opportunities in higher education that support these career paths. Many of the students we spoke with were passionate about finding a career in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and more importantly, they were preparing themselves for higher education opportunities after graduation.

One of the documents we shared with students was the Workforce Intelligence Network report naming the top jobs in Southeast Michigan in advanced manufacturing and information technology. Among the most in-demand positions are mechanical, electrical and civil engineers, as well as industrial designers, each of which pay roughly $35 to $40 per hour. When students were able to directly compare careers with salary ranges and educational requirements, they had a much easier time understanding how their work in school can prepare them for future success.

By connecting with students and talking to them about the careers of the future, we hope to inspire the next generation of great thinkers and doers!

Tracey, Alyssa IMG_0194Alyssa Tracey is a senior economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

 

Hot Jobs in Macomb: What’s in demand in Macomb County?

Good news for job seekers: In Macomb County there were 49,949 total job postings in January 2016 representing 13,553 unique jobs. (Source: EMSI’s proprietary job postings data.) These numbers indicate a posting intensity of 3.68-to-1, meaning that for every available position there were 3.68 job postings for it.

Heavy and Tractor Truck drivers are most in demand with companies looking to fill 2,334 unique positions. The average wage for this group in the county is currently $18.79/hour.

Registered nurses were the highest posting intensity, with 7.16 job posts for each job available, implying strong demand.

See the chart for the most in demand jobs.

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Are you looking for work, or do you know someone who is? Head on over to the Michigan Talent bank at www.MiTalent.org or reach out to the local Michigan Works! office.

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is a Senior Planner for Macomb County, often providing content for the Macomb Business & Make Macomb Your Home websites and associated social media accounts. If you have something you’d like to feature, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.

Natural product line gives Choices Natur Kosmetik edge

As an amateur soap maker, I was really excited when Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns and Project Coordinator Camille Silda invited me on a retention visit to Choices Natur Kosmetik. Not only did I learn about the company’s philosophy and incredible growth, but I also got to smell some really delightful aromas in the process.

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As is the case with many entrepreneurs, Choices started out in the creator’s basement. This past June, Helga Soave opened a 2,000-square-foot storefront in Shelby Township. Her primary focus was on selling wholesale, but since her boutique has opened, retail sales have doubled her wholesale revenue. Soave credits the uptick to Macomb County consumers’ desire for healthy and natural products.

According to Soave, while the cosmetic industry suffered during the Great Recession, organic body care saw an upward trend, and the market for organic products continues to increase. Choices’ revenue is up an impressive 200 percent from last February. The company is looking to hire more staff and intends to open several other retail locations and a manufacturing site.

Mickie Wolf, the company’s cosmetic chemist, handles product development. Soave found Wolf through Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! and is working with them to add another employee. Soave has also been working with the Small Business Development Center to explore franchising opportunities. Our staff at Macomb County Planning & Economic Development has been collaborating with the company for several years, providing site analysis reports when they began their search for a commercial building.

In an effort to create a healthy lifestyle for her family, Soave found that she couldn’t find the type of chemical-free products she was looking for, so she began to make them herself. She uses natural and organic ingredients and essential oils. She adheres to the European Union Cosmetics Regulation, which is more restrictive than the United States’ regulations.

Soave credits her current success to the Beaumont Hospital farmers markets, which gave her the opportunity to interact with customers, gauge her prices and evaluate her packaging. Today Beaumont is one of Soave’s wholesale clients.

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Choices is the only bath care company in the United States that enables customers to create their own custom blends. Soave, who previously worked as a chemist and an esthetician, saw that people with many different skin issues were being treated with the same products. This gave her the idea to let customers choose their own essential oils to build a combination that best suits their needs.

“We use exactly what you need, so it fits,” said Soave.

Each customer’s scent combination is stored on file, making it easy to reorder next time. The store also strives to be environmentally friendly. Many of their products come in reusable glass jars. When you run out of product, instead of buying another container that may end up in a landfill, you buy a pouch to take home and refill your jar.

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Choices is a very welcoming environment. There are sinks in the middle of the building so customers can try soap scrubs to find which ones they like best. The essential oils are available for smelling and trying new combinations. Soave encourages customers to read the back of each essential oil to learn more about it. The staff is also willing to answer questions and provide guidance.

The natural product line, customized merchandise and environmentally-responsible focus set Choices apart from other bath and body product manufacturers and retailers. This is definitely a Macomb County business to watch.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.