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.

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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.

Bolstered by loyal workforce, Möllertech celebrates 20 year anniversary in Shelby Township

Automotive suppliers from around the world choose to put down roots in the Motor City region because of our collective history, talented workforce and depth of knowledge and insights in manufacturing. Möllertech is no different. The German injection molding moeller_logo_Moeller_Techcompany was attracted to the area for those exact reasons and opened its Shelby Township facility in 1998, bringing more than 250 years of experience with it. A family-owned organization, Möllertech has plants all over the world and three in the United States that specialize in vehicle interiors. At the 110,000-square-foot Michigan facility, parts are made for General Motors and BMW by 75 individuals – an employee count that will likely increase due to new projects on the horizon. But this month, the focus at Möllertech has been the celebration of its 20 year anniversary here in Macomb County; a milestone recently recognized with an open house and BBQ.

I visited Möllertech during their anniversary festivities and was greeted with a jovial atmosphere generated by employees and their families enjoying food trucks, games and activities. There was even a dunk tank for those feeling adventurous. After indulging in a few slices of wood-fired pizza, I was led on an informative tour by a Möllertech supply chain manager, Chuck Gietzen.

The first thing I noticed while walking the floor was the plant’s impeccable organization and cleanliness, which of course, is intentional. Möllertech adheres to Kaizen, a Japanese management concept focused on continuous improvement through visual order and standardization. For management, following Kaizen also means building a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing efficiencies. By doing this, the company ensures a creative atmosphere that prioritizes problem solving and producing the best product possible. A new Cadillac parked just outside the plant demonstrated the outputs of this work. With all four doors open, my tour guide could point out the various parts that the company produced for the car. Back panels, A pillars, B pillars, console side covers – anything plastic is something they likely touched.

MTD_Prozesskompetenz_Bild3

Seeing the product in person and the machines that made it certainly drove home the scale of this supplier. But perhaps the most impressive part of my tour was passing by the Möllertech seniority wall, a display near the entrance to the plant that features the photos and names of workers who have been with the company for years – sometimes 10, sometimes 15. I discussed this trend at length with Gietzen, a 19.5 year veteran of the organization. He was its second employee. And he’s not alone in employment longevity. That seniority wall has a number of names installed. So clearly there’s something about the company that resonates with these individuals, making it easy to stay in the job for a long period of time. From my tour and in learning about Möllertech, I presume that it’s because of two reasons.

First, there’s a culture of respect. According to Gietzen, the management treats employees like family. Which requires more than just hosting employee events and parties – Möllertech listens to its workers and consistently invests in on-the-job training. Management is also very engaged with the day-to-day activities, visiting the plant, walking the floor and monitoring operations. Steve Jordan, Möllertech’s North American president and CEO, is at the Shelby facility at least every six weeks. This type of involvement shows a deep commitment to the employees and to the work they do.

Second, the innovative techniques employed by Möllertech allows them to attract new clients and jobs. For instance, on the factory tour, I saw an outlined space that will soon hold machinery and staff assigned to work on parts for the Maybach, a popular luxury vehicle. Projects like this one are exciting for employees because they allow them to develop new skills and talents. With new work coming in regularly, the choice to stay on at Möllertech would be easy.

MTD_Prozesskompetenz_Bild2

At the conclusion of my tour, I shook hands with Gietzen and thanked him for his time. I then made a pit stop at the edible cookie dough food truck before heading back to the office, reflecting on a great day at a great company.

If this type of work environment is something you’re interested in, stay tuned to the Möllertech website. That aforementioned Maybach work means that the company will need close to 50 new employees at the Shelby facility. And if you’re able to get a foot in the door now, perhaps you’ll be up on that seniority wall for the plant’s next big anniversary.

**Möllertech 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.

The remarkable power of Macomb County’s economic growth

Spanning across terms of presidents, governors and a transition to an executive form of government, Macomb County’s economy continues to shine, adding new jobs and higher wages for nine straight years.

Macomb County’s population is currently 871,375. For perspective, this is bigger than 5 U.S. states and larger than major U.S. cities like Seattle, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Boston and Miami. What some may describe as “just a suburb of Detroit” is actually an economic powerhouse.

Having an economy as large as Macomb’s and growing it consistently and strongly over a long period of time requires careful planning from the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Our region’s success is due in part to our team’s ability to help existing companies grow, attract companies from outside our region and create an environment that is favorable for starting a business.

How we measure progress

When we say that Macomb County’s economy is strong and that there has been nine straight years of growth, what does that actually mean? Well, there are several key barometers that can measure economic health. One indicator – if you weren’t working before and are now, that is progress. Another – if you were working before, but make more money now, that is also progress. There are other signs too – for instance, how easy is it to find a job?

To talk about the growth in the county requires starting from the lowest point in the recession. By the numbers, the county’s economy officially bottomed out in June of 2009, when our unemployment was a staggering 18.3 percent. Nearly one out of five people could not find a job and there were 78,498 people unemployed. To put that another way, the county had a labor force that was 429,356 strong, but only 350,858 people were employed. For those who had jobs, wages were falling and the inflation rate was negative. The two largest employers in the largest industry in the county were in bankruptcy (General Motors & Chrysler), and a national financial crisis was wreaking havoc across all of the other industries. The future was bleak.

Looking at today’s numbers: unemployment in Macomb County for May of 2018 is at 3.5 percent. There are 424,851 people working and only 15,272 people are unemployed. These numbers represent a growth of 73,993 new jobs. For scale, that amounts to a new job for every single person at a sold out Comerica Park, Little Ceasars Arena, Jimmy John’s Field and Freedom Hill. Combined. In only nine years.

Wages in the county are rising as well. In 2009, the average weekly take-home wage across all private sector professions was $853. In 2017 (2018 data is not out yet!) average wages have grown a very robust 22 percent to $1,045 per week.

Since the peak of the recession in 2009, the county has experienced nine straight years of job growth. Nearly 75,000 more people are working, and while that number looks great on paper, it also means 75,000 more families and households can sleep better at night worrying less about making mortgage payments and putting food on the table.

This growth in wages and in the number of new jobs is having an extremely profound impact on the spending power in the county. Total countywide wages in 2009 were $10,325,458,011 ($10.3 billion!).  In 2017, that number grew more than 50 percent to a total of $15,915,245,824 ($15.9 billion!). This is fantastic news for those of us looking to spend money and for those of us in the business of selling goods and services.

While 2009 may seem like a distant past – the fact that we emerged is an accomplishment to be celebrated.

A deeper dive into key industries

Economic development may be a voodoo pseudo-science to some, but in Macomb County data drives the decision making. Looking at the economy through the data already mentioned and through deeper metrics like location quotients, we can identify nine targeted industries as the driving industries in the county.

These industries are selected on their power to not only spur growth in their sectors, but to also drive growth across industry borders. They represent some of the highest wages and earnings potential in the county. They also represent the future for our workforce. For instance:

  • The number of jobs in the IT and Cybersecurity fields within the county has more than doubled since 2010.
  • Since 2009, Macomb County has nearly doubled its number of Professional Services workers, growing from 12,000 to 23,000. This is triple the state average and more than six times the nation’s rate of growth!
  • Manufacturing jobs continue to be the foundation of the county’s economy and are some of the most lucrative career opportunities available.
  • Because of our manufacturing superiority and strategic location near a major international border in the Midwest, logistics and warehousing – the industry of storing and moving goods – is also a major economic sector within the county.

map 1

Right now, there are more than 20,000 unique jobs available in the county. Anyone looking for work can connect with these jobs by going to the Michigan Talent Bank. They may also seek career counseling or assistance by reaching out to a local Michigan Works! office.

map 2

For the full details, check out the reports on each of these industries on the county’s website.

Why this matters

The perks of becoming employed after a period of unemployment, or getting a raise, are obvious. However, even if your job or salary have not changed, you are benefiting from this stronger Macomb County economy. The community benefits gained by a healthy economy are massive. Tangible effects include:

  • Reduction in poverty. With fewer people unemployed and wages rising, there are fewer people living in poverty. Less people in poverty is obviously a good thing. Whether you’re feeling the direct impact (as a person formerly of poverty that no longer lives in poverty) or enjoying the social impacts of lower poverty – lower crime, less blight, fewer foreclosures – the benefits to the community are very real.
  • Improved public services. As more of us earn wages, and as our collective average wages grow, state and local governments are seeing their bottom lines improve. For instance, Macomb County’s economic growth is leading to higher tax revenues. This allows the government to provide better services that lead to a higher quality of life – such as improving parks and offering more services in the community. It also helps the government invest in our economy – with funding for schools and roads. (BONUS perk: As government fiscal health continues to rebound, issuing bonds to pay for these services becomes even cheaper, allowing for even more to get done!)

Looking Ahead

Macomb County is on solid ground. Looking ahead to the future, regardless of where you shop for groceries (a term coined by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Director John Paul Rea on finding sources of economic data) the future is bright. Macomb County can, at least for the foreseeable future, expect continued job and wage growth.

The county is also undertaking a massive effort to make sure that it is ready for jobs of the future. Current estimates say that that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. And of course, these jobs will need candidates with advanced skill sets. Macomb County is prepping hard for this. With facilities such as Macomb Community College and its M-TEC program, Wayne State’s Advanced Technology Education Center and Romeo’s Ford Next Generation Learning facility, and with groups like MADCAT preparing folks for cyber careers, and with events such as Manufacturing Day  – the future in the county is extremely bright.

How this can benefit you

Are you a company in Macomb County? Now is a great time to reach out to our department. We have a team of experts that can offer free and confidential services to connect your company with the resources you need to grow. Our team can help incentivize growth in your physical space, connect you with hiring resources and access to workforce development and provide business development solutions. Our toolbox is sharp and honed by the dozens of service partners we work closely with to make sure your business has what it needs.

Are you someone looking for a job or to advance in your career? Companies in Macomb County right now are competing hard to find you. We can pair you with the job opportunities that are on the market right now or help connect you with the training to take your career to the next level. If you have been on the fence about taking the next step – now is absolutely the right time to do so.

Nick Posavetz is an economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development and is focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, reach out to the department at info@macombbusiness.com or 586-469-5285.

Macomb Community College’s entrepreneurship courses offer business owners a path to success

There are many resources available for entrepreneurs here in Macomb County. From consultants to courses, business owners have access to a wide variety of assistance that will help them succeed. Recently, Macomb Community College announced several non-credit classes and workshops aimed at this demographic. Seven continuing education courses, which are sponsored in cooperation with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Macomb Community College, were created for the new entrepreneur and those who want to stay in business. They contain the skill development critical to the success of any business and provide information on topics ranging from marketing to financing.

We sat down with Don Morandini, former director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, to discuss several of the classes that he will be teaching.  He shared some background on who should enroll in these courses and why they are relevant.

Q: Who should attend this course and what will they learn? 

A: Current business owners and new business owners.  Students will learn about:

  • Your industry and customers
  • Where your customers are
  • What could make a business successful

Q: What do you find is the number one issue most entrepreneurs encounter while starting up a business? 

A: The number one issue is understanding who customers are and what they want.  Entrepreneurs need to think like their customer.

Q: How does this course work to address that? 

A: Students put a plan together and do the research in constructing that plan by:

  • Knowing the customer and who their potential customers are
  • Considering the customer by how much they might pay and location
  • Considering how customers want to buy, either online or in-store

Q: Why are continuing education courses (like this one) important for business owners? 

A: The entrepreneurship continuing education courses offer value for the dollar and continuous growth because learning about entrepreneurship helps you understand your competition and stay relevant.

Q: Do you have any anecdotes that you could share from previous courses you have taught? Any success stories that demonstrate why entrepreneurs should attend?

A: An existing entrepreneur doing residential cleaning expanded their business by offering commercial cleaning.  Also, a retiree opened up a clothing retail business, which has been up and running for over 5 years now.

Individuals interested in these courses can sign up over both fall and winter semesters. The program is not offered in the spring/summer. For information or to enroll, contact the program coordinator at 586-498-4121 or continuinged@macomb.edu.


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