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.

MBA_NewLogo (1)

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.”

DSC_0380

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.

Annual breakfast honors students and highlights importance of Career Technical Education

The world of work is changing; industries are adapting to new economies, new jobs are appearing, old jobs are disappearing and required skills are evolving. What does this mean for young people? To put it simply, they need to be better prepared for work than any previous generation. This shift is pushing educators to try new concepts and pursue different teaching strategies that prioritize experiential learning. One strategy in particular has been extremely effective in getting students ready to join the workforce, and that’s Career Technical Education (CTE).

startup-photos

By definition, CTE is an educational option that provides learners with the knowledge and skills they need to be prepared for college, careers and lifelong learning. It gives purpose to learning by emphasizing real-world skills and practical knowledge within a selected career focus.

Here in Macomb County, CTE has had a tremendous impact on the school district, one that was highlighted on Friday, February 1 at the 29th annual Macomb Career Technical Education Administrators Association Awards. The event saw leaders from the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD), business and government gather to celebrate the success of local CTE programs and the students that excel in them. In all, 42 students were recognized for their involvement in a variety of CTE programs, including culinary arts, marketing, business, health, education, design, engineering and machining.

Businesses that volunteer their time supporting the students and providing real-world experiences were honored as well (a full list of these businesses and students can be found at the end of this article). For instance, Tom and Krista Barr, co-owners of TK Mold and Engineering, were recognized for working with Romeo High School and Macomb Community College to find and train young talent; a strategy that has paid off for the organization. In fact, half of TK Mold’s 20 employees are 19 to 25 years old – a remarkable statistic in an industry largely comprised of retirement age workers.

Shannon Williams, CTE regional administrator for the MISD, spoke about this and several other compelling facts proving the benefits of CTE during the breakfast:

CTE works for students

  • Taking one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of high school. (National Research Center)
  • The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent. (U.S. Department of Education)
  • Ninety-one percent of high school graduates who earned two to three CTE credits enrolled in college. (U.S. Department of Education)

CTE works for business

  • CTE addresses the needs of industries and helps close the skills gap. We know this because:
    • Half of all STEM jobs call for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree. (Rothwell, The Hidden STEM Economy)
    • Health care occupations are projected to grow 18 percent by 2026, adding more than 2 million new jobs. (U.S. Department of Labor)
    • Three million workers will be needed for the nation’s infrastructure in the next decade, including designing, building and operating transportation, housing, utilities and telecommunications. (Brookings Institute)
    • More than 80 percent of manufacturers report that talent shortages will impact their ability to meet customer demand. (Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute)

This all makes CTE a popular and important option in Macomb and it’s why there are 237 state-approved CTE programs, 34 program areas and 34 operating buildings in the county. It’s also why more than 14,000 students are enrolled, which makes Macomb the county with the highest CTE population in the state of Michigan. These numbers indicate a positive future for the region and its economy. And it certainly makes the case for why CTE matters and why we must celebrate it.

To learn more about CTE programming in Macomb County, visit http://misd.net/careerteched/index.html. And to view photos from the breakfast, click here.

Students and businesses recognized at the CTE breakfast:

New Haven Public Schools         
Emily Brohl, Taylor Gauthier
Sara Gibbons, Director of Engineering-Quikly; Vicki Dorazio, Cyber Security Consultant: TEALS, Microsoft Philanthropies

South Lake Schools
Nolan Girven; Virginia Goodrich
Nancy Lockhart, Axalta Coating Systems

Richmond Community Schools 
Erik Haack; Drew Reindel
Jeff White, Chief of EMS; Sara Glanville, Training Officer: Richmond Lenox EMS

Chippewa Valley Schools
Jessica Hetzel; Alexandra Pannemann
Joe Nieddu, Emerald Coast Building Company

Clintondale Public Schools
Tyron James, Jr.; Courtney Martin
Michael Salvatore, J’s Silkscreens

Lakeview Public Schools
Passion Lewis; Jacob Shue
Gary Nieman and Adam Specht, PLM World

Van Dyke Public Schools
Theresa Kraft; Ryan Weidner
Dan Meehan, Performance Machinery, LLC

Warren Consolidated Schools  
Noah DeWalt; Breeanna Robinson
Jason Klinesteker, South Park Welding

Warren Woods Public Schools 
Andre Vance; Gwendolyn Yang
Amaty Calhoun, Ceratizit Group

Fraser Public Schools    
Vincent Castillo; Michael Lemanski
Andrew Spiece, Tom Darga & John McPhee – Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS

Lake Shore Public Schools
Ali Abdul-Malik; Kyle Dreyer
Mark Denning, Denning & Associates

Romeo Community Schools
Kailee Billock; Michela Hein
Paul D’Angelo, WBRW TV

Armada Area Schools    
Tayor Chambers; Justin Herbert
Doug Schroeder, Masonry Solutions

Roseville Community Schools  
Carlos Fullerwood; Gabrielle Waderlow
Frank Devos, Frank Devos National Heating and Cooling

Eastpointe Public Schools
Jeffrey Rudolph; Carcia Young
Cardi DeMonaco, Michigan Court of Appeals

Macomb Community College   
Connor Clifford; Michael Pawlusiak
Tom & Krista Barr, TK Mold & Engineering, Inc.

Anchor Bay Schools       
Ken Barker; Angelica Bailey
Shannon McIntosh, Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union

Utica Community Schools
Anthony Salazar; Angel Sanders
John Ferrozzo, New Line Diamond and Granite

Fitzgerald Public Schools
Caylinn Higgins; Jacob Reiss
Jeffrey “JP” Skop, Athletico

L’Anse Creuse Public Schools    
Delano Williams; Griffyn Woodson
Tom Nahas, MadHabit Creative

Center Line Public Schools
Syeda Jamal; Laura McBride
Allison Biliti, Medstar Ambulance

 

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

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.

20190111_174017 (1)

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:

fullsizer1

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.

‘Tis the season for Shop Local Macomb! Here’s how your business can get involved.

pexels-photo-929245Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! And if you own a small business, you likely agree. The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity for attracting new customers and boosting sales margins. Which is why the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development (MCPED) is partnering with First State Bank and the Sterling Heights Regional and Macomb County chambers to bring back the Shop Local Macomb campaign. We want to help our more than 1,600 independently owned and operated retailers by encouraging local holiday shopping.

“Shopping local is one of the easiest things we can do to support our independently owned businesses,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “These retailers help us build vibrant cities and towns by attracting visitors and new residents. Which means that spending money at these businesses during the holiday season has an impact far beyond sales figures.”

Shop Local Macomb and its corresponding social media competition will officially launch on November 23. Like last year, this contest will ask individuals to upload photos of their local holiday shopping with the #ShopLocalMacomb hashtag for a chance to win one of five $500 gift cards (donated by First State Bank).

ShopLocal-Web-image (1)

In the interim, campaign organizers are asking independently owned and operated retail businesses in Macomb County to submit their Shop Local Saturday (November 24) deals and other holiday discounts to a digital portal here: http://bit.ly/ShopLocalMacomb. There is no charge to submit and all information collected will be promoted on MakeMacombYourHome.com and a variety of other mediums, like our interactive holiday shopping map.

Anecdotally, businesses that participated in this manner last year saw an increase in foot traffic on that Saturday.

“We heard from many businesses after the Shop Local Saturday event last year, and those that had the extra promotion through our outlets experienced a greater number of shoppers than they had in years prior,” said Melanie Davis, president of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce. “So submitting your deals and discounts is an easy and free way to spread the word about your business and get new customers.”

Businesses interested in sharing their holiday deals through the free online portal are asked to do so by Friday, November 16. And those that would like to help us promote the Shop Local Macomb campaign can download a flyer here and use the #ShopLocalMacomb campaign hashtag on social media. All told, this extra support can help us make this holiday shopping season in Macomb County the best one yet.

For more information on the Shop Local Macomb campaign, visit http://www.makemacombyourhome.com/shoplocal.

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.

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.

SMT Automation provides a solution for workforce shortages

Finding a talented workforce is top of mind for every organization. But sometimes there are barriers to getting the right people in the right positions. Especially for industries that require specialized employees, like manufacturing.

pexels-photo-1216589One of the main issues for employers in that field is a massive shortage of skilled workers. This is a problem across the country, but here in Michigan, where manufacturing makes up 87 percent of the state’s GDP, it’s become very serious. According to recent reports, there are 80,000 jobs that cannot be filled because of the scarcity of trained workers. The effects of this shortage can be very negative for profits, and if not addressed, it could lead to businesses shuttering their facilities and moving elsewhere.

That’s where Macomb County-based SMT Automation comes in.  They offer specialized staffing solutions to meet the needs of manufacturers. These teams of contracted individuals will then provide on site design and engineering services, hardware selection, implementation of control systems, support for starting machinery and commissioning and advice in control systems – services that are certainly resonating with Michigan businesses.

Behind the business
The leaders behind this successful venture are husband and wife team Marco Santana and Elena Morales. They started SMT in 2017, several years after moving from Mexico for Elena’s job. Marco, a controls and automation engineer, heard over and over from Michigan manufacturers about their workforce shortages. Given his advanced degrees, experience and connections, he felt he could find a solution to the problem and after many discussions with Elena, they established their business.

Getting started was not always easy and it required round-the-clock commitment to the job. But the couple, who have been together for 15 years, persevered and manufacturers came calling. SMT now counts several industry leaders as clients. They love the services SMT provides, which are somewhat similar to those offered by a traditional staffing agency. But it’s also completely different. Marco and Elena run an international firm that identifies engineering and automation talent around the world. They then recruit, train and manage the process for getting these individuals to the United States. Once here in Michigan, SMT employs the foreign workers and contracts out their services. But rather than just place a temporary worker, SMT places an entire team on site at the client’s facility. This team is trained in localized processes and procedures to ensure expert handling of projects in a timely manner. At the end of a job, the SMT workers are transferred to whichever client is next on the list for services.

pexels-photo-544965So how might this work in a real world situation? Say that you are a local manufacturer that is installing a new machine in one of your facilities. You have limited capacity to get that piece of equipment up and running, so you contract with SMT to bring in a knowledgeable and trained team to handle the job. This team then works on site for a determined period of time to get the assigned project done. They manage all troubleshooting, programming, design and engineering – allowing you to continue to focus on your day-to-day activities. When the job is complete, the SMT team moves on. However, if their support is needed long-term, they can stay on board.

Why do all this? Well, as previously stated, there is a trained worker shortage in Michigan and manufacturers cannot wait for the local talent pipeline to recover. So they have to turn to different labor pools and looking internationally has become an important option. This makes contracting with SMT appealing as it reduces the risk for companies that want to employ foreign workers but are wary or unsure of the process. And all told, clients of SMT are thrilled with the results of their partnerships. Some clients even want to poach SMT talent.

Recruiting a talented workforce
With SMT talent in demand, it is imperative that Marco and Elena continue their efforts to find educated and trained individuals for their workforce. Currently, they are looking to double their employee count, which will require a change in their international business model. The couple now plan to shift from hiring foreign talent to hiring right here in Metro Detroit. They want to find people with the right degrees and the right experience. But they also want employees with a positive attitude. And for Marco and Elena, this might be the most important skill of them all. They need people who will go in and get the job done. People who are up for a challenge. People who will deliver on promises made to clients. This is what sets SMT apart and makes them a vital resource for manufacturers.

pexels-photo-1108101

On top of finding these skilled and good-natured workers, SMT also plans to grow its footprint in Macomb County. Current operations for the business are housed in Clinton Township, but Elena and Marco are looking to expand into a larger office in the near future. With this new space, the couple can work towards their ultimate goal – giving back to their community by giving young people more employment opportunities. They wholeheartedly believe in helping the next generation of manufacturing talent get that first foot in the door, because when that demographic finds meaningful work, they contribute to the well-being of our economy. This idea is certainly part of the solution to fixing the overall workforce shortage in manufacturing. Young people need to be given the chance at these skilled careers and they should be supported in their efforts in the industry.

SMT is not alone in this mission. Macomb County leaders are making big strides in this area as well by collaborating with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose the next generation to science and technology-related education and careers. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

These efforts, combined with businesses like SMT, can perhaps put us on a pathway to solving the talent crisis in manufacturing. And furthermore, a mindset like Marco and Elena’s that prioritizes giving young people their first career opportunity, will hopefully ensure a positive economic future for the entire state.

For more information on SMT, visit their website here.

**SMT Automation 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.

Macomb County woman becomes publishing powerhouse

Rebecca J. Ensign Photo 1How does a book get to the number one spot on Amazon’s best sellers list? Some might say its luck, but local publisher, Rebecca Ensign, knows better. In 1999, she helped James Talmadge Stevens clinch that top position with “Making the Best of Basics.” Through careful planning and strategic promotions, they achieved something not many individuals do. Now she’s willing to share the secret to that success through her new venture, a Warren-based content strategy and marketing services provider called Ensignia. The company, which Ensign started in 2014, focuses on the creation, development, preparation, formatting, packaging and dissemination of various types of content for all mediums and purposes. For instance, Ensign will write copy for new websites or craft scripts for corporate videos. Essentially, she’ll give businesses the boost they need by applying her expert communications skills. A craft she’s honed through her many years in the field.

A natural talent

When Ensign graduated college with a degree in political science and philosophy, her father questioned what she would do to make money. But Ensign knew her passion was writing and she pursued that as a freelancer. At 21, she got her first paid job writing for Michael Moore at The Flint Voice, an underground, alternative newspaper. She drafted press releases and announcements, cutting her teeth in the profession with an individual who would one day become a major voice in national media.

Eventually, Ensign needed a change of scenery and she tapped into Ann Arbor. It was here that she met a publishing headhunter who identified her “natural talent” for his industry. He changed her professional trajectory and got her job offers from some of the east coast’s most prominent publishing houses. Ensign was most intrigued by a Boston-based startup that specialized in college textbooks and after accepting a position there, she found herself immersed in the world of manuscripts and writers. A few weeks in, she discovered an innate ability to see what books would work and what wouldn’t. She was also adept at forming strong relationships with her authors, a key component for ensuring a positive publishing experience. These characteristics helped Ensign rise through the ranks at her company and she became its east coast manager at age 27. But after several years with this title, she started thinking about pursuing something on her own.

A leap of faith

Ensign made that life-changing decision after reading two proposed textbooks by two university professors. She had a gut-feeling that the books would do well outside of traditional collegiate circulation, so she convinced the authors to publish their work with GLP logo for Home page July 2018a new, independent firm that she was going to start. With just $200 dollars in her pocket, she left her impressive job and steady paycheck to open Gold Leaf Press back home in a downtown Mount Clemens basement office. It was a leap of faith with some uncertainty involved, but Ensign had been entrusted with getting her clients’ books off the ground so she had to get right to work finding a printing partner and developing a strategic cadence for production. Her plan – only print as many books as you need. Then, after you sell those, print more. It was a simple strategy, but it paid off. Both authors’ books found success with Ensign’s new company, with one even making its way to Pope John Paul II and the storied Vatican library.  Eventually word began to spread about “the girl in the basement” and in matter of months she had a sizable client list that included corporations and Detroit News columnist Pete Waldmeir. But no matter how many books were on her plate, she took the time to work closely with each individual writer, getting to know them on a personal level. Because for Ensign, chemistry with an author is an essential part of the publishing process.

Hitting the big time
Ensign got her big break five years later when one of her client’s books clinched the number one spot on the Amazon best sellers list. But as previously mentioned, there was a bit more to the story than just luck. According to Ensign, it’s all about market timing and she knew that if she found the right opportunity at the right moment, she could hit it big. In 1997, that came in the form of a congressional hearing broadcast on CSPAN. The Y2K phenomenon was approaching and government leaders were planning for a massive disaster brought on by the potential malfunction of computers around the world. These types of discussions certainly irked the public and many began stockpiling supplies for what was called the end of the world. Ensign saw through the panic and sensed an opportunity. She found an expert in family preparedness and secured the rights to collaboratively publish his book “Making the Best of Basics.” In January 1999, at the height of millennium madness, the book hit number one on Amazon. So as you can see, this was no coincidence. It was all by Ensign’s design.

Sterlingfest 2018 RE-AJIn the years following this success, Ensign kept busy publishing more than 150 books. Business was good, however, the industry was starting to become chaotic. A break was in order, so in 2014, she stepped back from Gold Leaf Press. During this period, she dove into studying new trends and technology in communications. And when she was ready, she hit the reset button and formed her current content strategy and marketing venture, Ensignia. The company houses Gold Leaf Press, so Ensign is still publishing. But now she’s offering clients additional services, with content creation at the core. Also key to her business – working closely with every individual that becomes a client. She wants them to have a great experience publishing a book, crafting a blog or editing a manuscript. Of course, this all makes sense. Building these types of relationships was the cornerstone of Ensign’s career in Boston and at Gold Leaf Press. By continuing these efforts, she will no doubt experience a similar level of success.

A special opportunity
Those moved by Ensign’s story and interested in her secret to success will be thrilled to learn of a special opportunity hosted by the communications expert. On Friday, October 5, Ensign will hold a free seminar called “The Secrets & Strategies of the Best-Sellers and Top Google Search Rankers.” Alongside co-host Russ Cuthrell of Spyder Byte Media, she will teach attendees how to get the most out of websites, social media, digital marketing, advertising and PR efforts. Notably, for aspiring and published authors, the seminar includes two very interesting bonus features:

  • Bonus Feature #1: The 5 Critical Elements every #1 Amazon Best-seller Must Have
  • Bonus Feature #2: From Idea to Manuscript and Manuscript to Published Book

Space for the seminar is limited, so Ensign is asking for advanced registration here. My recommendation – don’t wait to reserve a seat at the event. There aren’t many publishers and communications experts out there willing to share their secrets for free. So sign up now and perhaps one day, you can be an Amazon best seller too.

For more information on Rebecca Ensign, Ensignia and Gold Leaf Press, visit https://www.goldleafpress.com/.

**Ensignia 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 to grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285. You can also reach Jack Johns at jack.johns@macombgov.org.

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