Helping Macomb County small businesses succeed

 

This week is National Small Business Week, and it is the perfect time for entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn about the many services the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has to offer.

The SBDC is funded by a host of partners, most notably the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. As the counseling arm of the SBA, the SBDC is able to provide entrepreneurs with a variety of tools to help grow a business including:

  • Providing the Guide to Starting and Operating a Business, a step-by-step 64-page resource.
  • Offering no-cost and low-cost training sessions that teach about running and growing your business.
  • Through personalized, one-on-one business counseling to help with planning and growth strategies.
  • Assisting with business plan development – your blueprint to business that helps you stay on track.
  • Aiding in financial management, including cash flow analysis and steps to raising capital.
  • Suggesting ways to grow your business with strategic planning, financial analysis and exporting strategies.
  • Delivering marketing assistance, including market research and search engine optimization for your website.
  • Helping tech companies bring new products to market with technology commercialization.

Some of the ways we have helped Macomb County companies:

  • Provided demographics and other market research to a new restaurant so they know who their potential customers will be.
  • Helped an owner prepare a compelling loan application to fund business expansion.
  • Brainstormed different marketing strategies for a construction company to enter into new markets.
  • Worked with a landscape firm to help understand their financial statements so they can make better management decisions.
  • Assisted a technology company to better describe their product and its benefits.
  • Connected a food company to local resources.
  • Supported an entrepreneur as they grew from a home-based business into a thriving retail brick and mortar.

These services are at no-cost (or low-cost for some of the business workshops). They are not free, but pre-funded through your tax dollars. You have paid for them, you might as well use them! Visit us today at www.SBDCMichigan.org/Macomb  or 586-254-3551.

P.S. For your friends and neighbors in other counties, we are here to help them too. There is a SBDC program in every state.

Wendy Richardson is a business consultant with the Macomb County branch of the Michigan Small Business Development Center.

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Macomb’s food producers make my stomach smile

Grasshopper outsideI work for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development as a senior economic development specialist, and I love my job not only because I get to help businesses grow, but also because my stomach loves my amazing food business clients. I recently met with one new bakery in Roseville called Grasshoppers Bread Company.

A family-run small business, Grasshoppers Bread Company is owned by Michael and Barbara Byrd and their daughter Samantha. While watching Michael work his culinary magic making some delicious products with a roller, dough and some flour, he told me how their business began.

Grasshopper pastriesGrowing up, Michael spent time with his great-grandparents up north, and they showed him how to make bread. When he lost his automotive job during the Great Recession, he went to a local Michigan Works! office and was offered an opportunity to go back to school. Through the culinary arts program at Macomb Community College, he learned the skills needed to become a professional baker.

Michael was baking from his home under Michigan’s Cottage Food Law, and when a building became available, he jumped right on it. He said the Grasshoppers business name was from an old cartoon character that family and friends used to call him, and he thought it would be a great name for the business. They opened a week before Christmas and sell 10 different types of breads. They also sell pretzels, buns, cheesecake, brownies, almond croissants, and are working on new items all the time. They even have what is called a Turtle Pocket made out of caramel, chocolate and pecans. Another great product is similar to an Almond Joy with almond paste chocolate and coconuts. Yes, you read that right, and I’m sorry if you are drooling now.

Grasshopper pastriesOne of the products that I had a chance to taste was a triple apple cider cake with a frosting made from Barbara’s grandmother’s recipe. I kept saying how amazing it was, and that put a huge smile on their faces because they care that you will be happy with your purchase.

Grasshoppers Bread Company plans to bring in a professional cake artist who will be doing different styles and 3D designs on wedding, birthday and other event cakes.

They also sell wholesale and supply bread to neighboring Motorcity Meatball Kitchen – another local business I love. It always makes me happy to see businesses combine their powers to create a super product. It would be like combining Batman and Superman if Batman and Superman were culinary artists.

Getting back to reality now, Grasshoppers Bread Company makes Italian white bread six days a week and one other bread each day. Monday is Italian herb, Tuesday asiago/cheddar or what I call a slice of happiness, Wednesday is Boston (white), Thursday they make a honey wheat, Friday is rye, and Saturday you can get yourself some challah/cinnamon raisin.

I would be doing the business an injustice if I did not say that they make this bread old school. From start to finish, it takes three days to make each loaf. This might seem like a lifetime to wait for food. Luckily for you, you need only to walk through their doors, take a big whiff of all the fresh products being made, and make that delicious purchase. You will thank me, and you are so welcome.

Grasshoppers Bread Company
15680 13 Mile Road, Roseville, MI 48066
586-218-8770.

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.

 

Macomb then and now

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with facts and figures about how the economy is doing: the jobs report, quarterly GDP, auto sales, stock indexes. Those with an agenda may have an overly bleak or optimistic viewpoint, while others seem far too concerned with the price of tea in China when all you want to know is how things are going in Macomb.

Macomb County’s economy is strong. But just how strong depends largely on perspective. The county has undergone significant economic growth since the turn of the new decade, but still hasn’t fully recovered from highs reached back around the new millennium.

In 2010, Macomb County had an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent. Nearly 60,000 individuals of the county’s approximately 425,000 labor force were drawing unemployment. In 2015, that number dwindled to 6.1 percent (roughly 25,000).

The economy in Macomb County has steadily improved since bottoming out in 2009, where Michigan was hit especially hard during the Great Recession.

To go back to when things were best, you have to look back to 1999 when Macomb County hit its maximum – 427,668 people in the county had jobs and unemployment was only 3.3 percent. Today, 390,572 are employed, up from a low of 350,776 in 2009.

chart1

Where are the jobs coming from?

Manufacturing in Macomb County declined for nine straight years from 2000-2009, but has since rebounded six straight years. Health care and accommodation and foodservices industries have seen growth, while retail and construction have both declined.

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Looking at these industries over the past 15 years highlights two key points. The first is that manufacturing was and continues to be Macomb County’s driving economic force. The second is that it has also been the industry most sensitive to change. From 2000 – 2009, manufacturing in Macomb lost 54,095 jobs (51.82 percent – more than half!), then from 2009 – 2015 gained 19,755 of them back. The change in the number of manufacturing jobs outnumbers the entire number of jobs in many of Macomb’s major industries.

While manufacturing is the single biggest industry within the county, it is worthwhile to point out a few other trends. Construction has also been impacted by the recession and has seen a downturn (and subsequent rebound). Health care and social assistance industries meanwhile have showed continuous healthy growth across the entire time period.

Earning a living wage

Jobs are only part of the story. What those jobs are paying is equally as important.

Since the turn of the millennium, private sector wages within the county have steadily risen, even during the recession.

chart3

Looking specifically at the county’s dominant industry, manufacturing, and using 2000 as a base year, there are 32.9 percent fewer manufacturing jobs in Macomb County, yet during the same time period, wages grew 29.7 percent. Manufacturing in Macomb and as an industry is becoming more automated, where the value per hour worked has increased, yet the manpower needed to accomplish tasks has decreased.

chart4

Those who have jobs in manufacturing are finding them to be lucrative opportunities. The average weekly wage in manufacturing in Macomb is now $1,430 per week. This is 49.2 percent higher than the average for all private sector jobs in the county of $958 per week.

What does it all mean?

While there are certainly no guarantees, the data seem to make a case for the following: Manufacturing will continue to be the bedrock of Macomb County’s economy, and wages within that industry are likely to continue to rise. Job growth may slow, but the days of double digit unemployment from 2009 – 2011 are clearly a thing of the past and not likely to return in the short or medium turn.

Economists with Economic Modeling Specialists Intl (EMSI) predict the employment within the county to grow to 360,658 by 2025. Over the next 10 years, their models show Macomb growing payroll by 4.6 percent while the state of Michigan sees a 6.0 percent growth.

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is a Senior Planner for Macomb County, often providing content for the Macomb Business & Make Macomb Your Home websites and associated social media accounts. If you have something you’d like to feature, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org

Soup with a cause

Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns recently went on a retention visit with Utica-based Motown Soup and shared their incredible story with me.

beef barleyMotown Soup is a nonprofit company that assembles dried soup ingredients and packages them as convenient, ready-to-make mixes. Some of their most popular soup mixes are chicken noodle, white chicken chili and chicken pot pie. Most soup mixes make two quarts, cost $8 and are ready to serve in around 20 minutes. They have expanded their product line to also include mixes for dips, cookies and corn bread as well as sampler packages that come in beautiful, Michigan-themed boxes.

This businesses operates out of the state-licensed kitchen in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church on Van Dyke in Utica. Food companies headquartered in church kitchens is not a new concept, but it is perhaps not well known. Yumbitz, a growing Macomb County cookie company, bakes in the commercial kitchen at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, and Ethel’s Edibles also started making gluten-free baked goods in a church kitchen until they purchased a commercial retail and bakehouse space in St. Clair Shores.

Measuring in lineWhile some businesses can make food out of their home under the Cottage Food Law, they can only conduct direct sales to customers. In order for a food company to sell their products in retail stores, restaurants or over the Internet, the food must be prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen that adheres to strict codes, undergoes regular inspections and often contains expensive equipment.

“It can be difficult for a startup business to find an affordable commercial kitchen to work in,” said Johns. “Churches give entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their business and get their products out there, even before they have the money to buy their own commercial kitchen. Many companies in Macomb County have started this way.”

As a result of their meeting, Johns was able to provide Motown Soup with a list of distribution companies that may potentially lead to savings on supplies. Additionally, he put them in touch with another Macomb County small business about the possibility of including locally-made noodles. Motown Soup is also interested in starting to sell at farmers markets, so Johns connected them with the Mount Clemens Farmers Market director to submit an application.

While delicious sounding, this narrative isn’t quite the incredible story I promised in the introduction. That part comes now. Motown Soup is completely staffed by volunteers – and there are more than 100 of them. Why are so many people willing to give up hours each week to make soup? Because Motown Soup donates nearly all of their profit to other area nonprofit organizations.

Michigan sampler boxIn 2014, Motown Soup donated a whopping $100,000 to soup kitchens, free clinics, homeless shelters and food pantries. Locally, that includes Roseville-based Lighthouse Outreach Center and MCREST, Fraser-based Hope Center and Samaritan House in Washington Township. Since 2005, they have donated nearly half a million dollars and are certain to beat that by the end of this year.

Motown Soup’s products can be found at Art-Is-In Market at The Mall at Partridge Creek and can also be ordered online through their website. These mixes are great to have on hand at home for an easy meal and also make a thoughtful gift. And when you support this local business, you’re also helping many other great organizations that are fighting hunger and poverty in metro Detroit.

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

 

 

Velocity Hub grand opening highlights new cybersecurity asset

Stone.jpgFriday, March 18 marked the grand opening of the Velocity Hub. This is the first secure cyber range in Michigan available to companies to test their technologies on early-stage connected products. It is an extension of the Michigan Cyber Range that is powered by Merit Network and managed by the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator (Mac-OU INC). The highly-anticipated grand opening was filled to capacity with 225 registered guests representing government, business and academia.

The event was emceed by Sean Carlson, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan Defense Center. His first introduction was Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor who presented a video explaining the importance of cybersecurity to large and small businesses and how the Velocity Hub came to fruition.

The next speaker was Sen. Gary Peters who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Peters recently introduced a bill, the State and Local Cyber Protection Act, intended to provide state and local governments access to training against cyberthreats. He stated that cybersecurity is critical to keeping the automotive and defense industries in Michigan, especially when the state faces competition from Google and Apple headquartered in California.

“This center will make sure Macomb County and Michigan are the center of new technologies that will change the world forever,” said Peters.

Brig. Gen. Michael Stone, assistant adjutant general for installations with the Michigan Army National Guard, spoke next. He is working with the federal government to establish a nationwide network of cyber ranges to train tomorrow’s workforce.

“We planted the seeds, now it’s time for Macomb County to take off with it,” said Stone.

He called the Velocity Hub a unique asset for the entire country, praising the public/private partnership that enables it to be self-sustaining.

FrontCyberRangeSteve Arwood, MEDC CEO, spoke about the strong relationship Macomb County has with the Michigan Defense Center, thanks in part to the effort of individuals such as Stephen Cassin, former Macomb County Planning & Economic Development director. He stated Michigan has what is needed to retain and attract talent and warned against complacency during this time of vast technological change.

With experience as the former Macomb County sheriff, Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel stressed the importance of having someone to turn to when Internet crime happens. He stated there is a need to cultivate subject matter experts who can tackle issues, such as cyberattacks, that affect the public. He cited Planning & Economic Development Deputy Director Vicky Rad as being an expert in the Macomb County cybersecurity initiative.

Dr. Betty Youngblood, vice president for strategic planning and Macomb outreach at Oakland University, thanked the Mac-OU INC staff for their hard work readying the hub, which included numerous meetings, events and grant research.

“Today begins the next chapter in services offered here,” she said.

Dr. Joe Adams, vice president of research and cybersecurity at Merit Network, presented Larry Herriman, interim executive director at Mac-OU INC, and Jennifer Tisdale, cyber programs manager for defense and automotive offices at MEDC, with coins. He credited the two individuals for making the hub happen. He said the hub will not only create a more cyber-aware workforce able to protect their organizations, but it will also serve as an economic development magnet.

The last speaker at the event was Nathan Dragun, director of cyber range development for the Michigan Cyber Range at Merit Network. He addressed the audience from a hacker’s perspective, stating the focus should not be on controlling the Internet, but embracing and working with it, reminding everyone the tools used to attack are the same used to defend. The hub is valuable because it will enable users to keep up with technology and to gain a true understanding of how to use it through hands-on training, testing and collaboration.

Source.jpgPamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative, had the honor of cutting the ribbon. An open house followed where attendees networked and explored the Velocity Hub. Decked out with a new front desk, computer stations, white boards and mounted projection screens, guests were able to view a live Alphaville exercise where Oakland University students were participating in a virtual match of capture the flag.

The Velocity Hub is the result of the collaboration of the Merit Network, the Michigan Defense Center of the MEDC, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, the city of Sterling Heights and Oakland University. It offers training space, hosts live hacking exercises and assists in software testing for local companies. Small businesses in the defense, homeland security and advanced manufacturing industries may benefit the most from these services as hackers may view them as vulnerable and a way to hack into larger companies for whom they are suppliers. Mac-OU INC will also offer certification classes in more than 20 different cybersecurity disciplines.

For more information about certification courses or how you can utilize the Velocity Hub, contact Larry Herriman at (586) 884-9332 or email him at herriman@oakland.edu.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woman-owned businesses find success in Macomb County

Working for the Department of Planning & Economic Development has introduced me to a diverse array of interesting businesses. It just so happens, many of them are owned or co-owned by women. Since March is Women’s History Month (we all knew that, right?), I’ll share my insight into just some of the many woman-owned businesses that contribute to Macomb County’s economy. Click on the links to learn more about the mothers, sisters and daughters running these amazing businesses.

safieNot long after I first started working here, I began dabbling with writing press releases, which is how I became aware of Safie Specialty Foods Company Inc. in Chesterfield Township. They pickle and package locally-grown vegetables like asparagus, beets and, of course, pickles. I have always advocated shopping small and buying local, but it hadn’t occurred to me that Macomb County products were being carried by major retailers. I quickly sought out the brand at Meijer, and if a jar of pickles can be considered luxurious, then these certainly are – with sliced green pickles contrasted by a colorful blend of whole spices and arranged by hand in elegant glass jars.

Through work, I also began to write blogs for Make Macomb Your Home and Macomb Business. This has allowed me to interview hard-working entrepreneurs, learn how they got started and share my love of their products and services with Macomb County readers. Plaza Mexico in Eastpointe is a tiny little restaurant serving the best Mexican food in the area. Pilar’s Tamales in Warren offers must-try Salvadoran fare made with all-natural, free-range and organic ingredients from local farms. The father of the Detroit square pizza, Gus Guerra, passed the family business down to his children who are still serving up outstanding pizza and cold beer at Cloverleaf in Eastpointe.

New to Macomb County is Minha’s Coffee Haus in Mount Clemens, serving fair trade, organic, kosher coffee in compostable cups. The Twisted Pretzel makes dangerously delicious bark, caramel clusters and gourmet pretzels available at Viviano Flower Shop branches in Chesterfield Township, Shelby Township and St. Clair Shores. Champagne Chocolates in Mount Clemens is a well-established confectionary producing a wide variety of delicious, freshly-made chocolates and toffee.

Choices Natur Kosmetik in Shelby Township hand-makes natural, customizable bath care products like lotion, soap and scrubs. Mount Clemens-based Paperback Writer Books sells a wide selection of gently-used books, and you can listen to some good tunes while you peruse. Iron Ivy in Eastpointe is packed with vintage items and artwork made by local artists.

More recently, I learned about several woman-owned businesses when I wrote the company descriptions for the 2016 Macomb Business Awards program and attended the event. Nominees included Roseville-based Gotta Have Products which manufactures and internationally distributes promotional products such as vinyl decals and hat clips that hold writing implements. Also based in Roseville, I.F. Metalworks is a growing company that supplies both industrial tools and ornamental metalwork. Clinton Township-based JEM Tech Group helps businesses evaluate energy usage and proposes energy-saving solutions. Recently relocated to Mount Clemens, Relevar Home Care helps families to make informed decisions about long-term care options and to find solutions. Ruma Organics in Macomb Township is a natural personal care business that began with a mom making organic deodorant cream for her family.

MC Biz Awards.png

There are hundreds of woman-owned businesses in Macomb County, and the economic development specialists on our staff work with many of them on a regular basis, offering resources to help them thrive and see success in Macomb County – which is good news for consumers like you and me!

If you are a Macomb County business and would like to know more about the services our department offers, contact us at (586) 469-5285 or visit our website at MacombBusiness.com.

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

The Macomb-Oakland University INCubator launches a comprehensive cybersecurity initiative

As the state of Michigan strategically executes its Michigan Cyber Initiative, a new, unclassified hub of the Michigan Cyber Range (MCR), powered by Merit Network, has been developed at the Velocity Center, home of the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator (Mac-OU INC).

Mac-OU INC is managing this publicly-accessible MCR extension hub, the first of its kind connected to an incubator program targeted toward startup and emerging companies in the state of Michigan. This effort is in collaboration with the Merit Network, the Michigan Defense Center of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, the city of Sterling Heights and Oakland University.

Via Gov. Snyder’s Michigan Cyber Initiative, Mac-OU INC’s goal is to educate the public and raise awareness on the ever-increasing importance of cybersecurity. Over the years, technology has become deeply ingrained in everyday life, resulting in a world that is more interconnected than ever. This has dramatically increased the number of cyberattacks and system intrusions, which resulted in sensitive personal and business information being released, financial losses, and disruptions of business operations. These attacks and intrusions have created a twofold problem, in that organizations need a way to test the security on products and services before launching them, and a workforce is needed to help protect against cyberattacks and intrusions. A cyber range is a facility with a unique internet connection that can be used for this testing and training.

Are you interested in learning more about how this new Macomb County asset will provide a vital service to area businesses, help attract new business and fortify our workforce?  Plan to attend the official launch of the Velocity Hub on Friday, March 18 from 9 a.m. to noonClick here for more information and to register to attend.

PanoramicCyberRange

How Can You Utilize the Velocity Hub of the Michigan Cyber Range?

Education: We hold certification courses for over 20 different cybersecurity disciplines.

Mac-OU INC will host certificate education through the Merit Network. Each certification can be obtained through an approximate four- to five-day course including an exam. These programs will run through Oakland University’s Professional & Continuing Education and will earn participants continuing education units. As stated on the Merit website, “Each course prepares you for real-life situations and for the related certification test. When you successfully complete a course, you will be able to confidently take a certification exam on the final day of the course.”

Validation: We conduct security “best practice” checklist reviews and in-depth product validation penetration tests.

In this Velocity Hub, small and large businesses alike will have the opportunity to conduct assessments and exercises on early-stage connected products. Similar to a shooting range for gun use and training, this secure sandbox environment is stocked with tools and targets to complete safety, performance and efficiency tests.

Preparation: We lease virtual space within our secure sandbox environment stocked with hardware and software.

Companies of all sizes need access to this isolated sandbox environment, which mimics a real-world setting, in order to test products or hold demonstrations. Our business model allows companies to rent virtual space within our sandbox environment.

CyberRangeStation

About the Michigan Cyber Range
The state of Michigan chose the Merit Network to begin operating this cybersecurity range and program. The project is a public-private collaboration that includes government, the National Guard, universities, community colleges, K-12 schools and private industry.

The MCR is a program that leverages the physical range to develop world-class cybersecurity professionals. There is a full program of meetings and workshops as well as tools to develop and promulgate best practices in cybersecurity training and cybersecurity itself. The range is used for individual as well as collective training. The staff are experts in the best and most current practices of cybersecurity training and are focused on meeting the specific needs of the people and organizations that use the range.

The MCR provides students and IT professionals with a solid foundation in cybersecurity through challenging hands-on coursework, exercises and labs. Courses are aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The NICE framework organizes the skills that America’s cybersecurity workforce needs to meet the national preparedness goals of detecting, mitigating and defeating malicious actors.

Contact Us
The Macomb-OU INCubator is located in the Velocity Center of Sterling Heights at 6633 18 Mile Road. More information on the Velocity Hub can be found at macouinc.org/cyber or by contacting Larry Herriman at (586) 884-9332 or via email at herriman@oakland.edu.

Joan Carleton is the marketing and communications manager for the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator.