Ethnic chambers share business tips at Macomb County event

Understanding how different cultures do business can help you land an important deal or forge a successful new business partnership. To foster this understanding in Macomb County, OneMacomb and the Macomb County Chamber hosted Connecting Diverse Business Cultures Dec. 1 at Andiamo in Warren.

15283992_1501159566579344_8138609662135182478_nWe heard from a panel consisting of Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce (CACC) President Martin Manna, Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) Executive Director Van Nguyen and Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MHCC) CEO Gloria Lara. It was moderated by WXYZ Channel 7 News anchor Nima Shaffe and opening remarks were given by Deputy County Executive Pam Lavers and Macomb County Chamber CEO Grace Shore. Here is a summary of the highlights.

What challenges do your businesses face?

CACC: There is a need for understanding and overcoming challenges like refugee phobia. Newcomers need particular assistance understanding licensing issues and navigating the local municipalities.

15192572_1501159263246041_2294503640819852238_nAPACC: When working with companies abroad, you need empathy and an understanding of how they do business. For example, someone from Michigan may be methodical and take their time making decisions. A Chinese businessperson is used to making rapid decisions and last-minute changes to business deals. If there is a disconnect, no deal may be made. But if there is patience, understanding and respect for how the other does business, they can work together successfully.

MHCC: Hispanic-owned businesses often do not reach out for resources available to them. They are hard workers, but tend to stay in the background. Therefore, they need more welcoming and encouragement.

How do you encourage productive networking?

CACC: We recommend joining other local chambers and networking with other groups to get experience interacting with different types of people.

APACC: Step out of your comfort zone and network with people who don’t look like you. Learn what other businesses do so you can find collaborative opportunities that will benefit both.

MHCC: It is important to listen to other people’s stories in order to start relationships. Find commonalities. We share more than we don’t.

How can Macomb County attract businesses from abroad?

CACC: Immigrants are already investing in Macomb County businesses. Chaldean populations are growing significantly in Warren, Sterling Heights, Macomb Township and Utica.

APACC: You can attract business through economic incentives, such as tax breaks, and also through offering a welcoming cultural landscape. This could include immersion schools and grocery stores that cater to diverse dietary needs. This will not only attract businesses, but make them stay.

MHCC: Companies are drawn by cost, quality, deliverability and reliability.

How can Macomb County officials make doing business here more appealing?

CACC: Macomb County is a model for the nation. It is open, receptive, supporting and welcoming. Officials should work on building relationships and providing guidance to help entrepreneurs understand all the legal requirements and how to access resources.

15267574_1501159569912677_4877632248532457832_nAPACC: Officials should attend chamber events and translate informational materials into the native tongue of their largest minorities. Also, officials striving to be inclusive should recognize major ethnic holidays, such as Diwali (observed by Asian Indians and also known as the festival of lights), through acknowledging them on their website or holding special events.

MHCC: Macomb County’s infrastructure and transportation are assets. Officials should emphasize that there are opportunities for businesses to start small and later expand in Macomb County.

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

 

 

 

 

Connected technologies take root in Macomb

H3-160609887On Wednesday at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder introduced the state’s new Planet M initiative, which focuses on branding Michigan’s mobility assets, especially autonomous and connected vehicle technology. The importance of connected technologies continues to grow in today’s economy. Macomb County is already taking steps to promote economic development in this cyber arena as is seen in the development of key assets such as MADCAT (Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Assurance Team) and the Velocity Hub of the Michigan Cyber Range.

When the Velocity Hub in Sterling Heights celebrated its grand opening in March, it joined the ranks of other cyber ranges in the county including at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and General Dynamics Land Systems’ MC2. However, the unclassified Velocity Hub is different because it is the only one open to the public, providing resources for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

FrontCyberRangeFor a fee, companies looking to test the security of their connected products can undergo a full day of penetration testing at the Velocity Hub. This will test the product against a checklist of best practices and result in a comprehensive final report detailing potential security vulnerabilities. The Velocity Hub also leases space for companies to utilize a virtual sandbox. Equipped with hardware and software, this enables startups and emerging companies to test the products they’re developing in a secure environment.

Also available are cybersecurity certification courses. These courses are perfect for an employer looking to fortify his or her staff with advanced cybersecurity knowledge as well as for the individual looking to build his or her resume. Various certification courses will be offered through Mile2 starting at the end of this month. Each course is five days long with a certification exam on the last day. The price ranges from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the course.

Another unique facet of the Velocity Hub is that it is managed by the Macomb-OU INCubator and is housed in the same facility at the Velocity Collaboration Center. As such, startups have the option to lease office space at the incubator, giving them access to support services, classes and a network of other promising entrepreneurs.

It is no wonder MADCAT often chooses the Velocity Collaboration Center as the location for their quarterly meetings. Close proximity to the Velocity Hub, flexible seating options and a large projection screen available for presentations make it the perfect meeting space for this cybersecurity-focused organization.

As Michigan strives to gain dominance in the race to create autonomous vehicles, collaborative partnerships are happening in Macomb County to offer resources, tools and guidance to enable the mobility industry to grow.

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

 

Cybersecurity in Macomb County: MADCAT

You know it’s time for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference when Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel’s bright smile shines down on you from a billboard.

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This annual conference is a time for Michigan lawmakers and businesses to commingle and discuss the region’s most pressing issues. This year, as the billboard located along I-75 near Mackinaw City displays, Hackel will promote the importance of cybersecurity and how Macomb County is blazing the trail in this industry with the help of MADCAT (Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Assurance Team).

Spearheaded by the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, MADCAT is an organization comprised of representatives from government, business and academia who all have the same concern – how to guard against cyberthreats. Through this collaborative partnership, MADCAT aims to advance cybersecurity technology as well as to stimulate related economic development in southeast Michigan.

Another objective of MADCAT is to work with local colleges, universities and the Macomb Intermediate School District to cultivate talent in this growing industry. This means reaching out to students and educators to introduce them to careers in the field. According to Emsi, specialists in economic data research, in just four years, the number of well-paying software development jobs in Macomb County is projected to grow by 50 percent.

As the importance of connected technologies continues to grow in many industries, so does the need to protect confidential information from cyberattacks. If you are interested in partnering with MADCAT, visit their website at MADCAT.org.

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.

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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.

Natural product line gives Choices Natur Kosmetik edge

As an amateur soap maker, I was really excited when Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns and Project Coordinator Camille Silda invited me on a retention visit to Choices Natur Kosmetik. Not only did I learn about the company’s philosophy and incredible growth, but I also got to smell some really delightful aromas in the process.

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As is the case with many entrepreneurs, Choices started out in the creator’s basement. This past June, Helga Soave opened a 2,000-square-foot storefront in Shelby Township. Her primary focus was on selling wholesale, but since her boutique has opened, retail sales have doubled her wholesale revenue. Soave credits the uptick to Macomb County consumers’ desire for healthy and natural products.

According to Soave, while the cosmetic industry suffered during the Great Recession, organic body care saw an upward trend, and the market for organic products continues to increase. Choices’ revenue is up an impressive 200 percent from last February. The company is looking to hire more staff and intends to open several other retail locations and a manufacturing site.

Mickie Wolf, the company’s cosmetic chemist, handles product development. Soave found Wolf through Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! and is working with them to add another employee. Soave has also been working with the Small Business Development Center to explore franchising opportunities. Our staff at Macomb County Planning & Economic Development has been collaborating with the company for several years, providing site analysis reports when they began their search for a commercial building.

In an effort to create a healthy lifestyle for her family, Soave found that she couldn’t find the type of chemical-free products she was looking for, so she began to make them herself. She uses natural and organic ingredients and essential oils. She adheres to the European Union Cosmetics Regulation, which is more restrictive than the United States’ regulations.

Soave credits her current success to the Beaumont Hospital farmers markets, which gave her the opportunity to interact with customers, gauge her prices and evaluate her packaging. Today Beaumont is one of Soave’s wholesale clients.

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Choices is the only bath care company in the United States that enables customers to create their own custom blends. Soave, who previously worked as a chemist and an esthetician, saw that people with many different skin issues were being treated with the same products. This gave her the idea to let customers choose their own essential oils to build a combination that best suits their needs.

“We use exactly what you need, so it fits,” said Soave.

Each customer’s scent combination is stored on file, making it easy to reorder next time. The store also strives to be environmentally friendly. Many of their products come in reusable glass jars. When you run out of product, instead of buying another container that may end up in a landfill, you buy a pouch to take home and refill your jar.

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Choices is a very welcoming environment. There are sinks in the middle of the building so customers can try soap scrubs to find which ones they like best. The essential oils are available for smelling and trying new combinations. Soave encourages customers to read the back of each essential oil to learn more about it. The staff is also willing to answer questions and provide guidance.

The natural product line, customized merchandise and environmentally-responsible focus set Choices apart from other bath and body product manufacturers and retailers. This is definitely a Macomb County business to watch.

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

Retaining Macomb County businesses one cup of coffee at a time

I recently tagged along on a retention meeting Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns scheduled with Minha’s Coffee Haus, a new business in Mount Clemens. It is called a retention meeting because one of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development’s objectives is to retain existing businesses in the county by connecting them with services and resources that will help them grow and succeed.

Johns, known as the food czar to some due to his extensive work with agricultural and food-processing companies, wanted to check in with Minha’s Coffee Haus to see how he may be able to assist with any needs they may have. Of course, he also wanted to get his hot chocolate fix for the day.

We met with Sora Childress and learned about the business. They are renting a 1,200-square-foot space in the heart of Mount Clemens at 58 Cherry Street. They serve coffee, caramel macchiato, Mexican hot chocolate, espresso, cappuccino, chai lattes, water and pop as well as a rotation of baked items. They had a soft opening on Monday, Dec. 28 and have already met with officials from the city of Mount Clemens, the Downtown Development Authority and other small businesses nearby.

After learning more about Minha’s Coffee Haus, Johns was able to determine a list of needs. They are considering expanding their baked goods selection, so Johns was able to connect her with other Macomb County small businesses that make and package baked goods. He also offered marketing ideas ranging from signage to business cards.

Johns was also able to provide her with information about where to acquire affordable commercial machinery, a list of local packaging suppliers, information about free internship programs and a food-safe cleaning supplies contact.

At the end of the meeting, Johns promised to follow up with additional information and check back in. He also offered his assistance for any future issues that may occur.

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.

Click here to read more about Minha’s Coffee Haus on the Make Macomb Your Home Blog.

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