Macomb County native returns to roots, commits to Mount Clemens’ comeback

The city of Mount Clemens has a rich and storied history. Founded 200 years ago, it was once a place with acclaimed bath houses and renowned rose gardens, while its prime location on the banks of the Clinton River made it a desirable spot for businesses and development. The city was even named the seat of Macomb County and became home to several government buildings and landmarks. All told, it was a destination for visitors from far and wide. But like many places in Michigan, Mount Clemens was hit hard by the Great Recession and it had to deal with a years-long recovery. Today the city is on theKAPOWHEADSHOTS.COM -7 rebound, with many new businesses popping up and putting down roots. One of those is QStride, Inc., a tech company founded by Macomb County native Shane Gianino.

QStride serves as a national information technology solutions provider, helping mid-market and Fortune Global 500 companies like Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and L Brands meet diverse IT needs and solve tough technology challenges. Shane started the business in Troy out of a Panera Bread in April 2012.  By 2013, the company had more than doubled its revenues to $1.5 million – growth that allowed him to open a sales office in downtown Detroit at the Chrysler House and hire 10 employees.

Together, the team hit several milestones:

  • In February 2016, QStride moved its headquarters to the prestigious One Woodward Avenue Building.
  • In May 2016, QStride united Detroit’s tech community with a ‘Running with the Resurgence Panel,’ inspiring Mayor Mike Duggan to proclaim a ‘Running with the Resurgence Day’ and declare QStride an ‘Emerging Growth Technology Company.’
  • In May 2017, QStride launched the QuickStride Developmental Summer Internship Program, positioning college students for career success.
  • That same month, QStride was recognized as a ‘Top100 Rising Startup’ by Techweek, a tech conference named as one of the ‘Top 30 Conferences for Entrepreneurs’ by Inc.com.
  • In March 2019, QStride opened a Princeton, New Jersey office and hired six employees.

qstride logo

But in early 2018, Shane began thinking about his roots in Macomb County. He imagined opening an office in downtown Mount Clemens and being a part of the city’s resurgence. So that summer, he did just that. The Clem office now serves as a sales and recruiting hub for QStride, an expansion that reflects Shane’s entrepreneurial spirit. At the same time, the Mount Clemens space also allows Shane to dig in to the community and give back in ways he has always envisioned.

You see, Shane was diagnosed with cancer during his senior year at Mount Clemens High School. With the support of his family and the community as a whole, he was able to beat the disease, return to high school and graduate with his class. This example of the Mount Clemens community being there for him in his time of need was something that always stuck with him. So once he moved back into the city, he immediately started to advance several local charitable causes, including:

  • In August 2018, he helped plan and execute a first annual ‘Swing for a Cure’ celebrity charity golf outing at Cherry Creek Golf Club, raising $6,500 for Macomb County families facing Cancer Related Financial Toxicity (CRFT) and benefiting New Day Foundation for Families. This year’s goal is to raise $10,000.
  • In September 2018, he planned and executed a local concert with billboard-charted rock, folk and soul Christian recording artist Jordan Feliz, raising $12,000 for those in need in Macomb County – specifically MCREST, Family Youth Interventions and Turning Point.
  • Throughout the fall and winter of 2018, he planned and executed multiple local Cornhole fundraisers and networking events benefiting the Goodfellows, MCREST, Family Youth Interventions, a local foster adoption home and Turning Point. All told, these events raised close to $5,000.

Alongside those causes, Shane also invested in efforts that help revitalize Mount Clemens’ downtown core. For instance, this past September he helped attract and facilitate the Rivals Professional Football League draft experience in the city. The event, which is similar to the NFL draft, was the biggest sporting event Mount Clemens has witnessed since Super Bowl XL – with more than 1,300 people attending from across the United States and from countries as far away as Sweden.

It’s work like this that will help Mount Clemens in its resurgence. And with dedicated people like Shane Gianino leading the charge, the city is certainly on its way to becoming a destination once again. What’s next for Shane?  He’s focused on taking QStride to $10 million in revenues by 2021, continuing to help his local community, starting his own nonprofit and in his spare time, writing a book.

**QStride is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. To learn how our services can help your business grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285.

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

How the Macomb Business Awards helped land a local start up on the NBC Nightly News

There are many reasons to nominate your organization for a Macomb Business Award. Whether you are looking to celebrate an achievement with the community, hoping to network with other local businesses or wanting to exhibit your company’s expertise, the event can help your business achieve several promotional goals. There’s even a chance to be featured on local media outlets, and if you’re lucky, national ones as well. Bakes and Kropp, a 2016 Macomb Business Award winner, can attest to that.

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Bakes and Kropp is a custom cabinetry company that designs and manufactures luxury kitchens, vanities, libraries and closets. Their high-end cabinetry is built in a 30,000-square-foot production facility in Mount Clemens and sold at three showrooms in the New York area as well as through a dealer in Plymouth, Michigan.

According to co-founder Paul Kropp, a benefit of being located in Macomb County is the area’s talented workforce and solid work ethic. Traditionally an area dominated by automotive manufacturing, Kropp sees the excitement employees have when they get to work on something different. The presence of the auto industry also means that there is no shortage of experienced metalworkers for the company’s chrome plating or metal fabrication needs, allowing them to create truly unique wooden and metallic products.

At the end of 2015, Bakes and Kropp was nominated for the Macomb Business Awards in the ‘Startup Business to Watch’ category. As an organization that that had been operating for less than four years with more than two full-time employees, they fit the qualifications for the award, but they weren’t sure they’d win. Kropp said at the time that this uncertainty was driven by the other competing businesses, but when their company name was announced as the recipient, he was thrilled.

“I enjoyed the whole process,” he said. “The ceremony was well done, and it was a huge morale booster for the company.”

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Upon receiving the award, Bakes and Kropp was mentioned in several local newspaper articles and listed on MacombBusiness.com. This sparked the interest of an NBC Nightly News producer who was covering the 2016 presidential campaign in the Midwest. After researching Bakes and Kropp, the producer reached out and asked about hosting a televised roundtable at its Mount Clemens facility. Company leadership agreed to the opportunity and soon Lester Holt and the NBC news team descended on the Macomb County business. The crew got to experience the business first-hand while filming the special, which was eventually broadcast across the country. According to Kropp, it was exciting to meet a celebrity and receive exposure on a national level.

While there is no guarantee your company will be mentioned in national news, if you nominate your organization for the Macomb Business Awards you can count on a delicious breakfast, an inspirational guest speaker and the chance to take home one of six prestigious honors, including:

  • Trailblazer of Future Talent – creating partnerships that provide opportunities for the next generation of our workforce to explore career possibilities and experience work-based learning.
  • Corporate Citizen – providing meaningful support to our community through service and/or philanthropy.
  • Champion of Work / Life Integration – offering innovative benefits that enable employees to balance work responsibilities with personal passions (Sponsored by MetroParent magazine).
  • Model of OneMacomb – cultivating an environment where diversity is valued as evidenced by inclusive practices.
  • Hidden Gem – uncovering a unique Made-in-Macomb product or place that more people should know about.
  • Manufacturer of the Year – in recognition of a manufacturer of any size that is achieving success through its efforts to diversify its customer base, retain employees and/or implement new technologies or efficiencies.

March 15 is the deadline for nominations. Simply fill out our easy application and you’ll be in the running!

For more information on the April 23 event, visit www.MacombBusiness.com/bizawards.

*Parts of this story originally appeared in a Macomb Business blog from 2017.

American Society of Employers to offer HR and leadership-focused classes in Macomb County

Continuing education is an important aspect of personal and professional growth; something that both employers and employees must invest in. This sentiment is especially relevant in the human resources field – as there are frequent changes in regulations and constant questions around new personnel issues. All told, HR professionals must be well-informed and trained to deal with the ever-evolving workplace and yearly courses offered by the American Society of Employers (ASE) can help them achieve this standing.

ase_logoASE, a not-for-profit employer association that serves as a source for information and support on all matters affecting employment, recently announced that it would expand the courses it offers into Macomb County. In partnership with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, ASE will hold the below classes in Mount Clemens for HR professionals and business leaders.

And to note: As an introductory offer, they are offering member rates and an additional 10 percent discount now through March 15. To take advantage of this offer, enter discount code ‘TD10’ when registering.

  • Thursday, January 24, 2019 – 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
    Title: Contribution—Increasing Your Leadership Value
    Purpose:   To assist leaders in growth and development by clarifying areas they can control and influence, exploring career stages, and identifying personal strengths/opportunities.
    Objectives: The purpose of this training is to increase career progression, business results, and value to the organization by identifying and leveraging contribution value. Participants will complete a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) assessment on seven competencies including leadership, communication, and decision-making prior to class date.
    Who should attend: Managers, team leads, supervisors, and individual contributors

Register for Contribution-Increasing Value for Greatest Impact

  • Thursday, February 28, 2019 – 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
    Title: Generations at Work: Bridging the Generation Gap
    Purpose: The purpose of this training is to help participants bridge the generation gap and create a respectful workplace to increase productivity, morale, and motivation.
    Objectives: This course will provide a better understanding of the generational differences in the workplace.  Participants will learn how to maximize relationships and build on strengths across generations to optimize effectiveness and productivity.
    Who should attend: Managers, team leads, supervisors, and individual contributors

Register for Generations at Work:  Bridging the Generation Gap

  • Thursday, March 28, 2019 – 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
    Title: Supervisory Survival Skills
    Purpose: The purpose of this training is to help participants understand the role of a supervisor and identify skills needed to be successful.
    Objectives: This course will define the role and responsibilities of a supervisor.  Participants will practice techniques to develop relationships, deliver feedback, delegate, make decisions and conduct effective meetings.
    Who should attend: Individuals who are new to the field of supervision

Register for Supervisory Survival Skills

  • Thursday, May 2, 2019 – 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
    Title: Succession Planning for Leadership Positions
    Purpose: The purpose of this training is to discuss how to create an organized program for identifying and developing future leaders to fill senior and executive positions within an organization.
    Objectives: Participants will learn the important steps and receive tools that can be adapted to their workplace to create a documented approach for creating the leaders of tomorrow.
    Who should attend: HR managers

Register for Succession Planning for Leadership Positions

In addition to clicking the above links, interested individuals may also register by email at asetraining@aseonline.org or by calling 248-223-8041. Additional classes and events can be found on the ASE website.

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

Popular workshop returns to help startup businesses

Small businesses and startup organizations are an essential part of Michigan’s economy. They keep our cities and towns vibrant by investing in communities and giving work to a significant number of people – over 1.8 million individuals to be exact. That’s more than 49 percent of the state’s private workforce and a reason why there are countless resources available to provide support for the sector.

One resource in particular is back by popular demand. “Starting Up,” a free workshop hosted by the Macomb-OU Incubator at the Velocity Center, is returning for a new session on Tuesday, December 18 from 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. The course is open to the public, including:

  • Individuals who have a high-tech startup
  • Individuals who have an early-stage, growth-based business
  • Individuals who have an innovative idea that they’d like to bring to market

During the workshop, attendees will explore Michigan’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” which is designed to help innovators start and/or grow tech-based businesses. They will also hear from John Eaton, the Macomb-OU Incubator client strategist. He will review the wide range of resources the state of Michigan offers – including business incubators, university technology acceleration and commercialization, SmartZones and various support services and funding programs. The end goal of the course – to identify what’s right for every individual’s business.

Those interested in attending can register here: https://hgioxpcxda.formstack.com/forms/starting_up_121818. Make sure to reserve a spot soon. These classes tend to fill up quickly.

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

Risks and opportunities of USMCA (NAFTA 2.0) to be highlighted at symposium

After more than a year of negotiation, the United States, Mexico and Canada reached a trade deal on September 30, 2018. So – what will the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – USMCA – (NAFTA 2.0) mean for U.S. companies already doing business on the ground with Mexico and Canada?

Butzel Long law firm and the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development will try to answer that question during a free symposium on Thursday, October 25 from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Velocity Collaboration Center – Macomb/ OU Incubator (6633 Eighteen Mile Road, Sterling Heights). The co-sponsored event will feature speakers discussing the risks of, opportunities around and responses to the new trade deal.

“Since the beginning of 2018, we’ve seen an unprecedented flood of new tariffs either threatened or enacted – tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, steel and aluminum tariffs, tariffs on Chinese imports, tariffs on automobiles and automotive components,” said Jim Townsend, attorney and chair of Butzel’s Macomb County Development Team. “We will address how local companies can seize opportunities and minimize threats to their businesses along with key strategies to protect from shifting trade rules.”

Featured presenters include John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. Additionally, Butzel Long attorneys who have expertise in international trade law will offer key updates, including:

  • Les Glick, a co-chair of Butzel Long’s International Trade and Customs Specialty Team. He has extensive experience in the areas of international trade and customs law.
  • Catherine Karol, who concentrates her Butzel Long practice in transactional negotiations, litigation, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures and bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Raul Rangel, a corporate attorney licensed to practice law in New York and in Mexico. Mr. Rangel works closely with other Butzel attorneys to represent organizations doing business in Mexico and the United States in a broad range of industries.
  • Mitch Zajac, who concentrates his Butzel Long practice in the areas of automotive, intellectual property, regulatory and emissions compliance and sports and entertainment law.

If you’re interested in diving into this complex and timely topic, you can RSVP by contacting Nairi Bagdasarian at bagdasarian@butzel.com or 313-225-7012. Please note that reservations are required and seating is limited.

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

Sterling Heights-based business sparking global exercise and wellness revolution

If you drove up to the normal-looking Sterling Heights business park that ActivMotion calls home, you likely wouldn’t think that a world-class fitness tool used by celebrities and sports stars alike was designed and manufactured within. But it is. Just beyond a am logomain office and studio, you’ll find two men producing hundreds of ActivMotion Bars, a simple yet brilliant exercise solution that is sparking a revolution in the health and wellness community around the world. So what exactly is this innovative tool? From the outside, the patented ActivMotion Bar looks like a standard weighted bar. But hidden within are rolling steel weights that create active resistance by moving from one side of the bar to the other. Caps on the ends hold everything in place and allow the user to perform a variety of muscle strengthening exercises.

While this may sound like any other fitness tool, ActivMotion Bar focuses on improving balance and stability, two areas that are sometimes overlooked in a normal exercise routine. Think about it. When you work out, you likely run, lift weights and stretch. Those are all great activities, but they don’t always help your balance. And according to experts, good balance is essential for having a healthy and fulfilling life. It gives us the ability to walk and climb stairs and can also help prevent falls. So as you can see, performing exercises that focus on building core strength and balance are important. Which is where the ActivMotion Bar comes in. Holding the bar, you can feel the movement of the rolling weights. It takes focus and control to grip it in manner where they remain centered, forcing weaker muscles to work harder to stabilize themselves. Combine this with other exercise and users of the bar become stronger in ways not previously achieved.

am bar fitness

The individual behind this fitness innovation is Derek Mikulski, a trainer with a degree in exercise science and public health. While employed at a local gym, Derek began thinking about different ways he could work with his clients to better match the natural movements of everyday life. You see, in the gym, we move in isolation, but outside of that setting, we move in more 3-dimensional ways. Knowing this, Derek imagined a handheld tool filled with ball bearings that would make exercise more dynamic and functional. He then went to a hardware store and built a prototype ActivMotion Bar out of PVC pipe. Clients that used that first bar were immediately on board with the idea, helping Derek raise the funding to pursue the mass production of the tool.

After two years of prototyping and testing, the ActivMotion Bar organization was up and running and the tool was on the market. Today, the bar is made in a variety of weights and people around the world are responding with enthusiasm. Close to 2,000 are sold every month, with distribution to 30 different countries – figures that allowed Derek to open his Sterling Heights headquarters. The facility houses his business office, production facility and a fitness studio where exercise videos and tutorials are filmed.

From this base, Derek and five other employees are working to take the ActivMotion business to the next level. The first step is getting the bar into the hands of exercise and fitness influencers, something already underway. Currently, the ActivMotion Bar is used by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (whose clients include Kim Kardashian and Hugh Jackman), trainers for various sports teams (including the White Sox, Lions, Tigers, UofM and FSU) and physical therapists at some of the country’s top medical facilities (including the Mayo Clinic).  These credentials alone show the bar’s effectiveness, but Derek and his team have taken it one step further. In 2015, they partnered with the University of Michigan’s Human Performance Innovation Lab on a study aimed at providing insights into muscle activation differences when using a variety of weighted exercise equipment. Results of the study showed the ActivMotion Bar performing significantly better than a standard bar or medicine ball – with seven of the nine muscles analyzed showing greater activation while using the tool.

Studies like UofM’s add further credibility for ActivMotion Bar and help push it forward towards greater success and market reach. So what’s next for Derek and his growing fitness company? Well, the first item on the agenda is innovating and expanding the ActivMotion product line – something that can now be explored due to a recent Kickstarter campaign that raised $40,000 in 36 days. He’ll also work on expanding his team of nationwide trainers that are experts in the ActivMotion Bar and offer classes using the tool. Perhaps there’s even future studies and collaborations in the works too, but above all else, Derek is focused on getting the bar into the hands of new users around the world. Which could be just about anyone. Gymnasts, dancers, football players, baseball players, older adults and physical therapists. The ActivMotion Bar can help just about every demographic. It even has the potential to change the very nature of how we train our bodies, with the end result being a stronger and healthier world. And while that may sound like an exaggeration, it’s certainly a positive goal. One that got its start in a Sterling Heights business park.

If you’re interested in pursuing a new type of exercise routine, check out the ActivMotion Bar on its website here. You can also view the tool on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

**ActivMotion is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED).  The business development group assists companies in many facets of expanding and growing a company including:

  • Support with accessing state and local incentives and financing options
  • Assistance with workforce recruitment, training and retention programs
  • Identifying available sites for expanding or relocating a business
  • Access to business counseling services
  • Market research and marketing
  • Workshops and networking opportunities

The economic development specialists for MCPED are focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, visit macombbusiness.com or email info@macombbusiness.com.


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

Free webinar this Friday for system that assists small to mid-size businesses with federal contracting

Nearly 4,000 Michigan businesses are currently serving the defense industry, but according to the Michigan Defense Center, there is room for more. To open up access, the center recently launched the Bid Targeting System (BTS), a web-based tool application that supports companies with government contracting experience and companies which have not done business with the government in the past. Through business intelligence and predictive analytics, the BTS helps organizations quickly identify and prioritize federal contract opportunities and save time and money in the pursuit of that work. The resource also scores companies the way a federal contracting officer would, giving small and medium-sized contractors the same advantages that large primes derive from their in-house experts.

On Tuesday, September 25, the Michigan Defense Center, the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce and the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development hosted the first public training for the Bid Targeting System at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

The session was led by Dustin Frigy, a leader at the Defense Center. He helped attendees gain a thorough understanding of the system and showcased its features and benefits, which include:

Features:

  • Prioritize bid opportunities with custom search filters and criteria weights
  • Automatically match your firm with top bidding opportunities
  • Receive daily email notifications of new bid opportunities
  • Save and manage your favorite bid opportunities with total user control
  • Custom and standard reports, including company specific “Firm Report”
  • Multiple search features: NAICS, Region, SBA Program, Bid Due Date
  • Extracts & integrates business intelligence from various sources
  • Grant funding available to hire professional bid writers

Benefits:

  • Personally manage your bid opportunity search profile
  • Save time and money pursuing federal bids
  • Develop a practical roadmap to becoming a successful federal contractor by leveraging information from multiple sources
  • Understand your firm’s strengths and weaknesses, the same that federal buyers are seeing
  • Customize strategies to improve score and grow your business faster
  • More informed business decision-making on pursuing federal bids

The in-person training proved to be extremely popular so a free online training has been announced for this Friday, September 28. The 60 minute webinar and Q&A session will be hosted by the Michigan Defense Center at 10:30 a.m. If you’re interested in participating in the webinar, please RSVP by responding to frigy@michigandefensecenter.org. And if you know of another individual or company that might want to join, please feel free to share this article.

Lauri Cowhy is a senior communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.