Getting fit while having fun at Mount Clemens Jazzercise

It seems like everyone I know is talking about exercising to feel better during these cold winter days and nights. And while we all have our own ideas around where to work out, the one thing that many people seem to agree on is needing a place that is welcoming, with a lot of options and of course, fun to visit. I recently stopped by one local exercise studio that meets all of this criteria – Mount Clemens Jazzercise at 300 North Groesbeck Hwy, located inside the Mount Clemens Community Center.

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I met the owner, Lisa Michalik, five years ago when she leased a little space on the second floor of the Mount Clemens Ice Arena. From that first meeting, I could tell that she’s an incredibly motivated individual. Exercise is a part of her life and it is hard to believe she struggled with her weight in the past, but she did.  She wanted to feel healthy and fell in love with Jazzercise. It worked for her and she is now very passionate about encouraging others to follow that same exercise path – while making friends along the way.

Over her seven years in business, Lisa has grown her Jazzercise facility from one instructor offering three classes per week to four customers, to nine instructors offering 28 classes per week for hundreds of customers.  Notably, there are membership options to meet everyone’s needs.  I’ve listed several of those here for folks ready to get into shape:

  • Ages 16-21 – FREE to exercise. That’s right. Absolutely free with unlimited classes.
  • Ages 22-25 – Half off any class pass
  • Ages 25 and up – $20 drop in fee and unlimited monthly memberships starting at $59/mo
  • Childcare is available M-Sat at 9:30 a.m. and M-Th at 4:30 p.m. for only $2 per child per day

There are also two great promotions going on right now:

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With 28 one-hour classes rotating throughout the morning, evening and weekends, there’s something for every schedule. And in my experience, this isn’t the Jazzercise we know from the 1980s. There are classes like Dance Mixx, Interval, Fusion, Core, Strike, Strength, etc. Truly, this is Jazzercise for the 21st century.

If you’re unsure about trying this out, I’d like to note that you do not need to be a dancer to participate. The certified instructors cue the moves and explain the steps. All you have to do is be ready to get fit while having fun strength training, doing yoga and Pilates moves, dancing and at times using hand-held weights, exercise bands and balls.

jazzercisefinal40The last thing I’ll point out is the strong sense of community I’ve experienced at Mount Clemens Jazzercise, something you won’t normally experience at a gym. There are supportive teachers and everyone is very friendly; they even host several fun parties and events outside of class throughout the year! Because of this, I highly recommend stopping by Jazzercise and trying it out. You won’t regret it.

For more information on Mount Clemens Jazzercise, visit its website at https://www.jazzercise.com/ or check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Jack Johns is a project coordinator within the economic development services group. He works with businesses across all industries in Macomb County with the goal of helping them grow.

The hottest cars from NAIAS and where to find them in Macomb County

If you live in the Metro Detroit region, it’s pretty hard to miss the North American International Auto Show. So you’ve likely read the news articles, heard the buzz and seen the pics detailing all of the hot new cars coming off the line. One vehicle in particular, the Ram 1500, is garnering a lot of attention – and it’s made right here in Macomb County.

truck.jpgOn Monday, January 14, the 1500 was named North American Truck of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards of the show. The truck is built at the Sterling Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights and it’s loaded with style, comfort and technology features like a 48-volt motor-generator and a lithium-ion battery hidden in the rear wall of its spacious cab. Price range is between $31,795 and $56,895 and according to FCA, the vehicle saw a 40 percent increase in sales in December – a clear sign that the Ram 1500 resonates with consumers.

Of course, there were more cars than just the Ram truck at NAIAS and several received extensive media coverage. They include:

  • The Hyundai Genesis G70, which took home the North American Car of the Year. The luxury vehicle is priced between $34,900 and $50,250 and according to reports, it packs a value while costing far less than its German competitors.
  • dsc_6461The Hyundai Kona, which won the North American Sport Utility of the Year. The Kona bested the Acura RDX and Jaguar I-Pace to receive this accolade, and with the cost somewhere between $19,990 and $34,650, this subcompact makes for a solid investment. Currently, the Kona is available in two versions – gasoline powered or electric. The gasoline version comes with standard touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, forward collision alert, braking assist, lane-keeping assist and drowsy-driver alert. The electric has an EPA-rated range of 258 miles and a charging time of 9 hours, 24 minutes at 240 volts.

A number of other vehicles drew attention and praise during the last week and we’re certain many of you have taken down notes of what you’d like to test out and/or buy. To help you in this effort, MCPED has compiled an easy-to-use map of 50 local dealerships here in Macomb County.  Whether you’re in the northern, eastern, southern or western parts of the region, we’ve got dealers for all locales. Click here to access the resource and let us know in the comments what you plan to go see. And if you’re interested in checking vehicles out at NAIAS, click here to find info on tickets. Happy driving!

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Q/A with Gail Alpert, president of FIRST in Michigan

It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. Many of these new roles will be related to STEM, so it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is a program that does just that. Its mission is to inspire young people to become science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs and competitions. These events challenge students to raise funds, design a brand, hone teamwork skills and build and program industrial-size robots that play difficult field games against like-minded program_gail_alpert.jpgcompetitors. According to FIRST, this is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.

To learn more about this innovative program, the Macomb Business blog sat down with Gail Alpert, president of FIRST in Michigan, for a Q and A.

Q1: Business and government leaders here in Michigan are very much invested in workforce development and building the next generation of talent. FIRST Robotics and FIRST programming can be an important part of that process. Why is that the case?

A: FIRST is designed to entice high schools students to choose a career in engineering, technology and the skilled trades through the building of a robot with the help of industry mentors from sponsoring companies. Students have the chance to see the tremendous capabilities of their mentors and follow in their footsteps, while the mentors can hand pick the students that best fit their companies for internships and jobs early on, long before the students are recruited by other companies.

Q2: In addition to STEM skills, many FIRST Robotics students develop confidence and communication abilities. How does FIRST programming help young people in this capacity and why should that matter to businesses?

A: There is no better tool in the student’s tool box than learning how to communicate in an effective, concise way. You can have the best product in the world, but if you cannot articulate why it’s the best, or why it’s needed, it means nothing. FIRST students not only compete with their robots, but are interviewed by a group of Judges about their robot and their team as part of the competition.  They are extremely well spoken and confident after participating in FIRST.

Q3: With these sentiments in mind, why should businesses get involved with FIRST Robotics and how can they do so? And to clarify, can businesses without a STEM-focus help as well?

A: All types of companies are and can be involved in FIRST, because all companies can play a vital role on a FIRST team even if they don’t have a STEM focus. Each team functions like a small business taking a product from inception to market.  Aside from designing, building and fabricating the robot, the teams have to do marketing, fundraising, budgeting and outreach.  All companies have some type of expertise that teams can use. Additionally, companies use FIRST to identify leaders and develop leadership skills among their current workforce.

Getting involved is easy. Simply contact me at Gail.Alpert@gmail.com. The busy season for high school teams is January through April. The season ends with the World Competition at Cobo Center on April 25-27 with about 40,000 people in attendance.

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Q4: Can you share any anecdotes from businesses that got involved with FIRST Robotics? Did they have positive experiences?

A: FIRST is always a win-win for companies that get involved. Two great examples come to mind. The first was a student that was hired as an intern at a tier one automotive supplier in his junior year. The very first day on the job, the student was given a software program that was relatively new to the company.  His mentor told him to play around it with it.  After lunch, the mentor returned and asked him how he was coming. The FIRST student replied: “Take a look. I created a game out of it.” The mentor was stunned.

The second story is about a student that planned to go into business rather than engineering.  He interned during his freshman year of college at the company that sponsored his high school robotics team.  About 20 of us were there for a meeting. The intern was running the meeting and was absolutely phenomenal.

Q5: What’s next for FIRST in Michigan? Are there any new initiatives, partnerships or expansions in the pipeline?

A: We always have new initiatives on the horizon. This year, the state money available through the Marshall Plan is creating fantastic opportunities for collaboration between FIRST teams and companies as communities come up with inventive ways to grow the STEM workforce. At least two of the proposals that were chosen for Plan funding included partnerships with FIRST.

FIRST is also focused on expanding our programs all the way down to kindergarten. In fact, 78 school districts across Michigan currently run all 4 of our programs (high school, middle school, upper and lower elementary school.) This season we are piloting a Pre-K program as well. It’s never too early to foster interest in STEM!

Detroit has been a huge focus for several years as we work to give every student in the city the opportunity to participate. Nearly every high school in Detroit has a FIRST team already, so we created a partnership with the Detroit Police Athletic League and Quicken Loans to start new teams at the middle school and elementary level. Ford, the FCA Foundation, the GM Foundation and Google are helping too. We are working with the Detroit Public Schools Community District to put FIRST in all third grade classrooms.

Finally, the state grant for FIRST, created about 5 years ago, enabled us to expand FIRST to the smallest of school districts in the most remote areas of the state. We are working to make sure the new legislature understands just how critical this funding is to all of our teams and to the continued development of the STEM workforce.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Plans for a Macomb County Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center underway

Almost every industry around the world is benefiting from advancements in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence technologies, including defense, health care, logistics, finance and consumer goods. But these technologies can only go so far. Companies still need a talented workforce alongside their machines.

People in the state of Michigan understand that relationship. For more than a century, this workforce has built, crafted and created everything from cars to pharmaceuticals with the help of machines. And while the recession had a negative impact on the state’s manufacturing sector, it has since rebounded with a dramatic increase in new jobs that incorporate automated and intelligent systems. For instance, in the auto industry, new jobs are being created around self-driving and connected vehicle development programs. However, these roles require new skills and different training than positions in the past. Therefore, if Michigan wants to compete with other global centers of innovation, the state needs to encourage and help the next generation of workers embrace and become experts at new technologies.

To tackle this issue, Macomb County plans to create a nonprofit Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center aimed particularly at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment.

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Why a Robotics Center?
Macomb County is home to a large community that has experience in manufacturing, mass production, supply chain industries and technology and product development. The region is positioned to expand further in this area given:

  • Southeast Michigan’s technology and manufacturing executives being optimistic about growth in revenues, spending and hiring talent.
  • Southeast Michigan being more competitively positioned for technology professionals to build their careers than Silicon Valley because of the lower cost of living, networking opportunities and leading academic institutions.
  • Southeast Michigan being ripe for technology companies to do business due to the region’s ability to retain talent, achieve a greater return on investment and lower the cost of capital.

These factors all help make the case for a center focused on robotics and innovation. Our region is ready, we just need to offer the tools to further train our workforce and build opportunities for the next generation of talent. A robotics center will help us do just that.

What will it do? Who will it serve?
The new facility will launch later this year at the Velocity Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights. Once open, its mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.

“Ultimately, we hope to bring existing engineering talent from major employers across Southeast Michigan into an environment where new ideas and technologies can be created,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “The possible benefits are endless.”

1901 - gathering 1.14.19MCPED, in partnership with the city of Sterling Heights, the Macomb Intermediate School District and Macomb Community College, hopes the center can partner with and serve the following audiences:

  • High school FIRST teams
  • Workforce development agencies
  • Four-year education institutions and community colleges
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative groups (K-12)
  • Regional economic development organizations and chambers of commerce
  • Regional school districts
  • Multiple think tank/research institutions
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Highly active network of venture capitalists and philanthropists
  • Green-mobility cluster initiative
  • Business accelerators
  • Industry

Its success will be evaluated through the following metrics:

  • Measurable impacts
  • Community support
  • Participant progress
  • Education attainment
  • Activities

Ultimately, if positive outcomes are reported and a wide-range of audiences are served, the Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center will become an asset for the community for many years to come. Stay tuned for more details on its launch and to learn how you can get involved.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Accelerating towards next generation mobility in Macomb County

The North American International Auto Show is renowned for its fleet of future-focused vehicles. From concept cars to CAD drawings, the ideas for mobility seem endless – as is the discussion around what’s next for drivers. But topics that are sometimes missing from the conversation are our roadways and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). And those are important issues to explore, because smart cars won’t be very smart without smart roads and infrastructure.

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Here in Macomb County, that’s not an issue. In fact, we’re leading the nation as one of the only counties developing next generation mobility strategies and roadways.

  • We have more than 300 Roadside Units (RSU) on business corridors throughout the county.
  • There are over 630 traffic signals connected to COMTEC, the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center.
  • 260 cameras help that facility monitor traffic on roads and 19 communication backhaul poles have created a robust ITS network.

Why does this all matter? The first answer is safety. Ultimately, Macomb County would like to increase driver welfare on area roads and decrease the number of car accidents. By combining current traffic safety programs with vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, this goal is within reach. For instance, between 2016 and 2017, the county experienced a 33 percent reduction in traffic crash related fatalities. This is a direct result of actions taken by the Macomb Department of Roads backed up by data and technology.

The second answer is connected vehicle testing, an essential tool for the Big Three as they look to prototype and build more smart cars. To do that, they need infrastructure where they can assess their new vehicles in real-world settings. The 300 RSUs on Macomb’s business corridor give them this ability. These boxes gather and broadcast information at intersections and link with the connected vehicles to alert them to changing lights or other hazards. Eventually, the RSUs will be able to give speed guidance or construction alerts. And in the future, RSUs and connected vehicles could even communicate with other modes of transportation, like buses, pedestrians and bicycles, all using the same technology. But today, this system helps companies like GM, Ford and FCA experiment with their vehicles. And because Macomb prioritizes smart infrastructure, they can determine what will work and what won’t for drivers around the world. That’s certainly impressive; but of course it makes sense that our region would be a trailblazer in this effort. We make the cars, therefore we lead the way in next generation mobility.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Macomb County focused on “Future Tech, Future Talent” during Auto Show

In its most recent Future of Jobs Report (2018), the World Economic Forum forecasts dramatic changes for workplaces around the globe driven by automation and machines. wefBut this five year economic outlook is more positive than one would assume. From new job creation to retraining opportunities, the report features several interesting predictions, including:

  1. There is a net positive outlook for jobs – amid job disruption
    While current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms, 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time. Those roles are either related to technology (data analysts, software and applications developers and e-commerce and social media specialists) or emphasize human traits (customer service workers, sales and marketing professionals, training and development, people and culture, and organizational development specialists).
  2. New tasks at work are driving demand for new skills
    By 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly. Skills growing in importance include analytical thinking and active learning as well as technology design. “Human” skills will also increase in value, including: creativity, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation, attention to detail, resilience, flexibility, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence and service orientation.
  3. We will all need to become lifelong learners
    As workplaces change, so must workers. On average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022. This will require businesses to build a comprehensive strategy for workforce planning, training and education.

These points are driving a future-focused mindset here in Macomb County, where business, government and education leaders are collaborating on several new talent and technology initiatives. And while attending the North American International Auto Show, these leaders will take time to discuss a few of the efforts.

autonomous-1.1“We couldn’t think of a better time or place to highlight these initiatives than the North American International Auto Show,” said John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED). “This show is a testament to our region’s ingenuity and ability to grow and innovate. So we’re proud to showcase our county’s future-focused mindset here.”

The first major initiative they will highlight is a Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center, a new resource aimed at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment. The center was submitted by MCPED as a proposal to the Defense Industry Growth Area Grants program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in the summer of 2018. It was recently awarded funding and will launch at the Velocity Collaboration Center later this year. Once open, the center’s mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.

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“New technologies are having a massive effect on just about every aspect of our lives,” said County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “Whether it’s the economy, infrastructure or education, the world is changing and we need to be ready for that. This is why Macomb County is investing in new programs and initiatives aimed at tech and talent. We want to make sure that our communities and residents are prepared for the future in ways that will ensure our success.”

google-fueling talent pipeline-1.1Other major investments to discuss include Macomb County’s recently launched “Fueling the Talent Pipeline” effort – a service platform that will allow employers and educators to connect, share resources and help students become aware of future career opportunities – and its connected roadways strategy. The strategy, which involves the creation of a smart infrastructure network that can communicate with vehicles, bikes, buses and pedestrians, will position Macomb County as a leader in improving the overall mobility experience.

For more information on the above initiatives, visit www.macombbusiness.com.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Exclusive Auto Show Experiences Available Through Macomb County

The North American International Auto Show is right around the corner, as are premier opportunities to connect and share insights with professionals and companies from around the world.naiasEach year more than 2,200 companies in the automotive sector come together at NAIAS to showcase cutting-edge products, technologies and services. With nearly 40,000 global professionals and analysts at the event, it’s also a great place for networking, especially during Industry Preview Days on January 16 and 17.

dsc_5109Premium access to this portion of NAIAS is now available. For instance, the VIP Industry Preview Package provides businesses with an exclusive way to experience the show, entertain clients and network with industry professionals. Each ticket package includes:

  • A pass for the private Atwater Networking Lounge
  • Hospitality features including coat check, light lunch and refreshments
  • A commemorative NAIAS program
  • Complimentary entry to a designated work area
  • Early access to the show floor on January 16

The premier package is available for $110. Groups purchasing 20 or more tickets will receive additional benefits, including two bonus credentials for the Atwater Networking Lounge. To purchase exclusive tickets using our special promo code (TFG19), click here.

As an additional perk for current and prospective Macomb County clients, we will host a hospitality suite on Wednesday, January 16 from 2-5 p.m. in Room #338. Join us and take advantage of a comfortable place to sit, light refreshments and access to electrical outlets. Our business development staff will be on hand to talk about how the county is supporting the automotive sector with its wide variety of resources, including a skilled and talent workforce, optimal facility locations, connected roadways and industry investments.

NAIAS is an important event for Macomb County – the third most populated county in the state. We look forward to being a part of the annual expo and showcasing the “Future Tech, Future Talent” found just north of the Motor City.

Amy Lafnear is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.