Register now for All about Food: From Farm to Fork conference

All about Food: From Farm to Fork is an annual event that is hosted at the beautiful Macomb Community College University Center and put together by the Macomb Food Collaborative. People from across the food system gather here to learn, grow and share about food. It is a great place to meet other food lovers, small business owners, agencies that regulate food safety and economic developers who work with food businesses.

Macomb Food Program pic 2There will be breakout sessions with experts discussing a variety of topics including the future of farming, dairy farm trends, conserving agricultural land, organic urban farming and the viewpoint of running a small farm in Michigan.

Your ticket gets you into all aspects of the event from the wonderful presentations, to the pop-up market, to a great lunch that satisfies many types of nutritional needs.

One of the very fun parts about the event is the pop-up market that has small business food vendors offering samples of a diverse line of products. There are also businesses offering information about many different food and health programs in the area, along with nutritional and essential oil businesses. This was a huge hit last year when the businesses were added to the event for the first time.

Macomb Food Program picThe event this year will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 at the University Center, 44575 Garfield Road, UC-1, Clinton Township, 48043. Signage will be at the road and main entrance.

Tickets are $30, and the deadline to register is May 30. Tickets are $35 at the door as long as there is capacity, which is not guaranteed. You can register online at www.macombfood.org (online registration fees apply) or fill out this registration form and make checks payable to the Macomb Food Collaborative. Send to Macomb Food Collaborative/MSUE, 21885 Dunham Road, suite 12, Clinton Township, 48043.

Click here to view the workshop schedule.

Macomb Food Program logo

Johns, Jack IMG_0030Jack Johns is a project coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in working with food, agriculture, energy, robotics, autonomous vehicle and retail businesses. If you are a business owner and would like to contact him, email jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293.

Newly revived business association seeks to unite and empower businesses in Center Line

Center Line picture.pngThe Center Line Business Association (CLBA) is a group of dedicated local business leaders whose primary purpose is to build a better community through local small business networking. At the heart of this effort is the ideology that by coordinating a group effort in the community, an attraction to commerce is relative to all. After all, smart business owners know that good business requires a healthy economy, and a healthy economy requires a healthy community.

Center Line picture 3Center Line is fortunate to have many loyal businesses that contribute time and money to make it such a great place to live and work. These individual efforts have gone a long way in a short period of time. The improved look and feel of the city is gaining momentum with a promising future on the rise. The results can be seen in the facades, the K-9 unit patrolling the areas and the increased number in daytime traffic. This is what the CLBA is all about. Our city is a gem in the heart of metropolitan Detroit, and we are surrounded by the most densely populated areas in the state.

Please consider becoming a part of this effort to gain new opportunities and growth for current and future businesses in the city. The CLBA offers local business owners the opportunity to meet once a month to discuss issues pertinent to their businesses and the continued growth of the CLBA.

CHRYSLER GROUP LLC HOME OF MOPARThe CLBA is currently polling businesses in the community about their vision for the future of the city. To participate, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CLBA_Survey.

To learn more about getting involved with the CLBA, call the city at (586) 757-6800.

John Motyka is the president of the Center Line Business Association and owner of Elite Ink Tattoo Company in Center Line.

Macomb food entrepreneur lays groundwork for growth

Daves-Sweet-ToothMarch is Food and Ag Month in Michigan. Agriculture, food processors and related businesses employ 22 percent of the state’s workforce, and the state has 2,166 licensed food processors generating nearly $25 billion in economic activity. Macomb County is no exception to this growing trend. With 502 farms spanning 67,960 acres and 1,409 food manufacturing jobs, Macomb County boasts a healthy food and agricultural industry. Here is a close-up look at the path one Harrison Township food processor is taking to build a successful food business in Macomb County.

You may have heard about Dave’s Sweet Tooth when CEO Andrew Chmielewski made the Crain’s Detroit Business “20 in their 20s” list or landed on the Forbes “30 under 30” food and drink list, or you may have even seen the company featured on Good Morning America last year. Their toffee is carried in stores across the state and country, including Kroger, Marshalls, Whole Foods Market and Nino Salvaggio, as well as sold online. They will even be featured once again on Good Morning America as the Deal of the Day tomorrow, March 30. In business for only five years, this company is expanding at an incredible rate.

Dave’s Sweet Tooth manufactures delicious handmade toffee made from Chmielewski’s father’s homemade recipe. While touring the 5,000-square-foot facility, I was able to watch workers take the cooled toffee from baking sheets and break it into pieces by hand. In another room, employees were stuffing the toffee pieces into packages. Seems simple enough. Yet, a lot of hard work went into establishing the business, and more lies ahead to ensure the company’s growth is sustainable. And that’s where the experts come in.

daves-sweet-tooth-toffee-pouch-collection_1024x1024Chmielewski is tapping into all of the resources and services available to entrepreneurs. He is currently enrolled in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s economic gardening program. The Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center is also helping the company prepare for their Safe Quality Food (SQF) inspection as well as prepare the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is offering the company support through providing information about export programs which could help the company tap into markets in Canada, China or anywhere in the world. MDARD offers trade missions and participates in international trade shows where companies can become familiar with foreign markets and even meet one-on-one with buyers to discuss their products. The state also offers the Branding Program which reimburses companies up to 50 percent for translation services, airfare, hotel costs and vendor table space for international trips and toward expenses such as creating bilingual labels and websites geared toward a foreign market.

Jack Johns, program coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, also met with Chmielewski to discuss any needs the growing company has. Johns informed him that when Dave’s Sweet Tooth finds itself at capacity in its current space, Macomb County can help the company locate a new facility and take advantage of all the cost-saving incentives available to food processing businesses, which may include a tax abatement.

If you are a food or agricultural business in Macomb County, reach out to Johns at jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293 to see what kinds of programs, incentives and partners are out there to help your business succeed.

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

Shop Small windows spread holiday cheer

celticsistersIs there anything more charming than the window of your favorite #ShopSmall destination decorated for the holidays? We want to see them! Snap a pic, post it here and let us share it with others. What’s in it for me, you ask? How about a chance to win this basket full of #MadeInMacomb goodies?

We visited Celtic Sisters in downtown New Baltimore and gathered up some items. So far, we have:

  • Berry Medley Jam from Jam’n Sisters of Roseville
  • Dark chocolate hot fudge from Sanders
  • Vanilla Cupcake lip balm from Bizzy Fizz of Utica
  • A luscious bar of soap from J.L. May of Macomb Township
  • Gourmet dog treats from Biscuit Bob’s of Shelby Township

Also in the basket is shop owner Colleen’s newest venture, Chickie’s Chocolate & Fudge, and their yummy mix of sweet-and-salty Fish Fly Crunch.

And, we’ll keep adding to the basket as the number of photos grows. Post your photo here and be randomly entered for a chance to win (while helping us build a really festive photo album!).

Zardis, Maria IMG_0089Maria Zardis is the program manager of the Business Outreach and Communications Group for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Macomb County encourages you to shop small this Saturday

shop-small-carousel-980x410

It seems as though all of the shopping focus for the month of November centers on Black Friday, that one time of the year when stores extend their hours and provide deep discounts to shoppers. But often, lost in the shuffle of all the shopping madness, is the importance of small businesses. Black Friday deals mostly center on the big chain stores. While there’s nothing wrong with shopping at those places, supporting small, local businesses is very important as well. Small businesses are more likely to contribute to their respective local communities.

In 2010, American Express launched the first-ever Small Business Saturday. Each year, the initiative has made positive strides. For example, in 2014, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small businesses in the one day. In 2015, it is estimated 95 million people went out to shop at small businesses.

Macomb County wants to be right where the action is. This year, as a way to encourage residents and visitors to shop the county’s independent retailers, Macomb County is making it easier than ever to support local businesses. The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development has created an online interactive resource for shoppers to find and connect with the more than 1,600 independently-owned retail stores located within the county.

This new resource is a mobile-friendly interactive map that displays local shops by 16 different categories, highlights the location of the retailers within a specific area and has a pop-up with additional information on individual shops. This new resource is available to shoppers on the award-winning Make Macomb Your Home website at www.MakeMacombYourHome.com/Shop.

And, in case you didn’t know, in Macomb County, the retail industry employs more than 42,500 workers and has a $2.29 billion annual economic impact. Wow. That’s something worth shopping for!

People are jazzed up about exercising in The Clem

 

Jazzercise Mount Clemens is a growing Macomb County business that has made it over the first big hill of surviving a year in a new location. They are celebrating their one-year anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 13 with an open house and free classes.

jazz 3Jazzercise Mount Clemens owner Lisa Michalik started with one instructor (herself) and three classes per week, renting space and holding classes inside the Mount Clemens Ice Arena for 3 1/2 years. But they were growing and needed to move into their own space. Through my role as senior economic development specialist for Macomb County, I helped Michalik locate her current building, a facility that had been left vacant for a number of years due to economic downturn. Michalik moved in and invested in renovations. The current center is conveniently located right across the street from the ice arena.

jazz 2I attended the official grand opening celebration held on Aug. 15, 2015 with Mount Clemens Mayor Barb Dempsey and Pat Marshall from the Macomb County Chamber also in attendance. Over the past year, I have worked to help this business succeed in Macomb County. This has included presenting ideas on how to grow the business, providing referrals for printed materials and window advertising and offering suggestions for problem solving.

Since opening, they have gone from offering five different class formats with six certified Jazzercise instructors teaching 19 classes per week to offering 10 class formats and 10 instructors teaching 32 classes per week! With this being a primarily female-oriented business (although men are welcome), having childcare available so moms with little ones can get one hour of “Me Time” is of utmost importance. Jazzercise Mount Clemens originally had three classes per week with babysitting and now has seven class times with babysitting available.

jazz 1Michalik said she teaches Jazzercise to a diverse group representing all ages and body types. She is a life-long resident of Macomb County and says she opened a franchise because she never was able to commit to fitness until finding Jazzercise. She wanted to bring this fun fitness program to the community so residents could reap the benefits.

So what is Jazzercise? It is a dance-based fitness program. Although it was founded in 1969 by professional dancer Judi Sheppard Missett, no dance experience is needed to successfully complete the classes. Jazzercise has evolved over the years and withstood the test of time as a quality fitness program for students of all ages and fitness levels.

Class formats include:  Dance Mixx, Core, Interval Fusion, Interval Dance Mixx, Flip Fusion, Strike, Strength 60, Strength 45, Express and Lo.

The certified instructors at Jazzercise Mount Clemens face the students and cue the moves during routines that are set to popular music heard on the radio. Modifications are provided to meet all fitness levels.

You can find the Jazzercise Mount Clemens team at events in the community throughout the year such as Bikes, Burgers & Brews, the Mount Clemens Trunk or Treat, Relay for Life, the Mount Clemens Cruise and Let’s Move Festival of Races. They also participate in fundraising for community organizations such as the Macomb County Food Bank, Turning Point Women’s Shelter, Relay for Life, Shoes for Soles and Abigayle Ministries.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary (or “Jazzerversary” as they call it), an open house will be held Aug. 13 with all classes FREE. Join Jazzercise Mount Clemens from 8 a.m. until noon and try out three of the class formats: Strength 60 at 8:20 a.m., Dance Mixx at 9:30 a.m. and Lo at 10:40 a.m. (attend as many as you’d like at no charge). Refreshments will be served and prizes will be given away.

New customers (or those who have not been a member in the past 6 months) can join for $0 with a 6- or 12-month registration (first auto payment Oct. 1). Arrive 15 minutes before the first class you plan to attend, and bring handheld weights if you have them. For the complete class schedule, visit:  http://bit.ly/1SkPmAZ.

While working with this business, I have had a chance to meet some of Michalik’s customers and hear why they love Jazzercise Mount Clemens so much. The one thing you notice right away is how the members enjoy socializing with each other and what a happy environment has been created – it is a gym that is like no other I have been in. Participants laugh while they exercise, forgetting about their tough day. Many friendships have formed in these classes, and members even enjoy spending time together outside of class.

Jazzercise Mount Clemens is a happy place to meet with old friends or meet new ones while achieving your fitness goals. Prize incentives are offered throughout the year to help keep customers motivated and on track. Let’s face it, some days it’s tough to squeeze your workout in, even when it’s as fun as Jazzercise. Hence, the attendance games held throughout the year.

If you can’t make it to the one-year anniversary celebration, you can take advantage of the $0 to join with a 6- or 12-month registration through Sept. 15. Keep in mind, the sooner you get started at Jazzercise Mount Clemens, the more you’ll get for your money, and it will be that much sooner that you make a commitment to your overall well-being by incorporating Jazzercise fitness classes into your life.

Jazzercise Mount Clemens Fitness Center

273 N. Groesbeck

Mount Clemens, MI 48043

(586) 307-5299

Email: jazzercisemtclemens@gmail.com

Class schedule and more info: http://bit.ly/253ngxB

Follow on Facebook: http://bit.ly/1XCCis7

Johns, Jack IMG_0030Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in working with food, agriculture, energy, robotics, autonomous vehicle and retail businesses. If you are a business owner and would like to contact him, email jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293.    

Customer service done the “Harder” way

Harder 2When I recently pulled into the Harder Auto Parts store on Groesbeck in Clinton Township, I was reminiscing back to when my father would take me there in his 1970 aqua blue F250, which I could barely see over the dash. I’m going back to the days when the gas tank for the truck was behind your seat, and you had just a lap belt restraint.

Richard Harder owns and runs the store with his son Ryan, and it is the type of place where they greet you as soon as you walk in. They ask you what you need and walk you right to it. They know where every single item is in the store because they put it there. It is a friendly family store where they know what type of oil you prefer and the color of the vehicle you drive. It is the Cheers bar of auto parts, for those who remember that show, where everybody knows your name. What I was not aware of is just how far back the history goes of his family owning local businesses. I had a chance to talk to Richard one day between him helping customers to really get a feel for how important this business is to him and his family.

Harder 1Russell Harder, Richard’s father, back in 1940 owned and operated the Sinclair gas station on Jones and North Avenue in Mount Clemens. I mentioned that little fun fact to my mother, and she responded without hesitation, “They sure did, and they have always been the nicest people.” Nineteen years later, Russell opened up the Harder Oil Company right across the street from today’s Harder Auto Parts on Groesbeck just south of Hall Road (M-59). He ran that store until 1987 and then helped with his son’s store until he was into his 90s.

Richard always wanted a business and knew he was going to own one from age 10 working for his father. His mom wanted him to go to college, so he ended up going to Western Michigan University and took some automotive classes for a year. He liked it so much that he continued on to graduate with an automotive engineering degree. While in college, he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and was in the reserves for a total of eight years. He opened up the business in 1977 with financial help from his father.

“Personal service is what has kept us around,” said Richard.

Harder 3When they first opened, there was not a lot of competition in the area, and now they are dealing with the big box stores and many other auto parts stores in the area. They used to order all the parts from a book over the phone, and then through the years, they had to learn how to use the computer, which took a little time. He told me there were more than 30 distributors out of Detroit buying from local manufacturers, and many of the parts at that time were made in the USA. Now with the global economy, the distributors have dwindled down to just a couple that buy the parts from other countries, so they had to change with the times.

Richard says that if they don’t have it in the store, they can get pretty much any auto part for foreign or domestic vehicles. They also have a great rapport with Hanks Auto Service next door that works on vehicles, and they will send customers to each other.

Harder Auto Parts is also a FFL dealer of firearms and carries a few products in the store. The son, Ryan, picks up extra business during the warmer Michigan months doing auto detailing in the back of the shop. I asked Richard if he is going to retire, and his response was he will hand the business over to his son one day, and he will be like his father before him, helping around the shop.

Richard says they have known customers their entire lives, and now their kids are having kids. They have a solid group of customers that come in year after year. In my case, like my father before me doing business with Russell and Richard Harder, now I see Richard and his son Ryan when I go there. Maybe someday I will see another Harder family member stepping in to help Ryan. Then hopefully for small business’ sake and good customer service, that lifecycle of proud business ownership will continue on this little slice of land in Macomb County under the Harder name.

Harder Auto Parts
44000 Groesbeck Hwy.
Clinton Township, MI 48036
(586) 468-1511

Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist with the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in assisting food and agriculture, automotive, energy and retail companies.