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Artistic Bike Ramps bring art and engagement to downtown East Lansing

Today, downtown East Lansing gets a little brighter with the addition of six artistic bike ramps designed by local artists. At 11:00 am the racks will de dedicated and the public will have the opportunity to meet the artists and view them together before they are distributed across town. The racks will include designs such as “Bicycle Yoga,” “Peace Tree,” “Circle Back,” and more. 

Thanks to a $10,000 LEAP Public Art for Communities grant (and collaboration from the East Lansing Art Commission and the DDA), these racks will, according to Ami Van Antwerp, Communications Coordinator with the City of East Lansing “Make the downtown a more fun and attractive place to be and visit.” 

The racks came from a need for more bike racks downtown and the opportunity to add more art. Other cities have done it and been successful. “It’s functional art,” says Van Antwerp. They are the first of their kind to be installed in the area but hopefully not the last. If it’s successful there will be additional, similar installations. “It’s things like this that get people excited about the community,” says Van Antwerp. This, combined with everything else happening downtown, makes it an area that attracts people and businesses. And, eventually, they would like to spread out from the downtown area. 

Source: Ami Van Antwerp, City of East Lansing
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

"Launch Your City" initiative builds brand awareness and presence for local businesses

The “Launch You City” initiative, a partnership between the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) and Google, is designed to help local businesses expand their Google listing. 

The free initiative offers kits and services that will allow businesses to make sure they are getting the most out of a Google listing. All the business has to do is go to GYBO.com/Business and click “Find Your Business.” They will then be able to see their Google ranking, add their business if it’s not there, or update their information. Many businesses forget to update their Google listing and that can result in lost business. Google can help your business get discovered locally and globally. “The Google platform is functional and dynamic,” says Michelle Rahl, Director of Marketing & Events at the LRCC, “But you have to be on it to be found.” 

“Businesses who are online, grow at a much faster rate than others,” adds Rahl. The initiative gives them the opportunity for brand awareness and growth and gives them the chance to get their name out there. 

The “Launch Your City” kits, that include posters, email templates, social media copy and more, will be distributed to partners in; Lansing, East Lansing, DeWitt, Grand Ledge, Charlotte, Williamston, Mason, Eaton Rapids, St. Johns and Delta, Delhi and Meridian Townships. 

Source: Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commcerce
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Mason Today expands from online to print

While most publications are making the shift from print to online, those behind Mason TodayWilliamston Today and Okemos Today are going the other direction. Originally online publications, they have seen so much success that, Josh Curtis, one of the founders, says they wanted to give the community a free, printed news source. You can now pick up a copy of Mason Today or have it delivered.

Mason Today was launched when Curtis and his wife Katy, and his mother Kathy Morse, noticed Mason was missing a news source meant to focus on in depth coverage of the local community. There was an extremely positive response and in the last quarter Mason Today and Williamston Today boasted 251,000 page views. 

Curtis says both the community and advertisers have shown an interest in the print edition, so much so they decided to print monthly instead of quarterly. “The newspaper isn’t really dying,” says Curtis, “many just have gaps where there should be local content.” The paper will fill that gap by providing information on city council meetings, school news, local history and even a student of the month (sponsored by a local Verizon store). 

Between the sites and the printed version, they have around 6 writers and two full-time employees helping make the publications possible. 

Source: Josh Curtis, Mason Today
?Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Simple Recycling adds new features to existing recycling programs

Many cities, including Lansing and East Lansing, have recycling programs in place. But, despite the ease with which residents can recycle, there is still a huge amount of material getting thrown in the trash. Traditional curb side recycling programs don’t take materials such as clothing, housewares, tools, kitchenware, etc. Simple Recycling does. 

Because these materials can’t be recycled and because it’s often time consuming to take them to Goodwill, they often end up getting thrown away. Simple Recycling is introducing a new, free, program that will take care of these materials. “Most people just want this stuff out of their house,” says Adam Winfield, President of Simple Recycling, “and 85 percent of it ends up in the trash.” 

Simple Recycling’s program will follow the already existing programs in Lansing and East Lansing and they will provide residents with Green bags to store the items. Then, all they have to do is set the bag by the curb to be picked up. “It’s a new concept applied to an old category,” says Winfield. And he also adds that it will not cost the city or the residents a dime. 

The program will launch in November and they will need to hire at least five drivers and office and support staff. “We are the only company in this area offering this service.” 

Source: Adam Winfield, President, Simple Recycling
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MSU's STEM Success helps STEM students prepare for successful career

Thanks to a grant from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, a program called STEM Success will help students who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers but may not have gotten the education necessary in High School. 

According to Sekhar Chivukula of the College of Natural Science, students coming in to the STEM majors that have to back track to the courses they didn't take in High School are much less likely to graduate with a STEM degree. When this grant came about, Chivukula says they realized, “It was the perfect opportunity to develop a program that would give them the skills they needed to succeed (in these careers).” 

The program will offer online summer programming that will refresh and review the student’s math skills, it will start integrating them into the community before they reach campus and help them improve their study skills. They are also hiring back peer mentors that completed the STEM programs successfully to offer mentoring. 

Students that graduate with a STEM degree have very low unemployment rates. Depending on the degree, over 90 percent of students are hired, or enter graduate school, within a year after graduation. Besides the technical skills, Chivukula says “It’s important we teach them how to persist, and persevere.” 

Source: Sekhar Chivukula, College of Natural Science
?Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Innovative agreement to build bio-economy

Two bio-economy visionaries with a shared vision signed an innovative, binational agreement on September 26 in Lansing. Lansing’s MBI and Ontario’s Bioindustrial Innovation Canada will work together to build the bio-economy and work to alleviate our dependence on petroleum. The agreement allows them to share their bio-based research and agendas. 

J.D. Snyder of the Center for Community and Economic Development at MSU says, “What we are trying to do is facilitate a collaborative flow of innovation and ideas.” That collaborative flow will ideally create the means to open new, bio-based facilities, create jobs and invite investment to the state. “We are looking at a bio-economy that can only continue to grow,” says Snyder, “We are looking forward, not back.” 

Another goal of the collaboration is to gain the attention of the policy makers and those in private sectors, allowing them to see that investment in these types of technologies will be a positive, economic development. Snyder says everything that uses plastic can be produced using bio-based material, “There are very real opportunities for change.” It’s important that they see, Snyder adds, that “the opportunities are endless and that as opportunities arise, more jobs will be created.” 

Source: J.D. Snyder, Center for Community and Economic Development at MSU
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Startup Weekend encourages manufacturing, business creation

Lansing’s first ever Maker Week will wrap up on Friday, October 10th but for some, the fun will be beginning. Maker Week was actually born as simply Startup Weekend, but so many organizations brought so much to the table that they extended what was meant to be a weekend to a week long event. 

When Maker Week ends, Startup Weekend begins. Teams will be instructed to come up with a brand new idea, they will pitch that idea, and the chosen teams will have 54 hours to take a project from the idea phase to a product. 

At the end of the weekend, one winner will be picked and that team will be given the resources, sponsorships and guidance needed to take their product to market. “By the end of this,” says Sarah Parkinson of LEAP (one of the sponsors), “we expect to see actual prototypes and products.” Judging by the success of past participants in previous events like this, including one that turned into an international service, Sara says, “It’s not outrageous to think these ideas will turn into full-fledged companies.”

Through a partnership with LCC, teams will have access to the tools the trade students get to use, giving them the chance to manufacture their products. 

Source: Sara Parkinson, LEAP
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation New Editor

Food Processing and Innovation Center Minimizes Production Risk for Food Companies

Michigan State University will use a grant and funding from multiple sources to open the Food Processing and Innovation Center.

The center will be a facility where established food companies with limited resources can produce their product at a low cost, with minimal risk. It will allow them to view the product, assess components that may be missing and make improvements. According to Dr. H. Christopher Peterson of the MSU Product Center, “It’s absolutely an asset for companies looking to go to market.” But, it’s an asset that has been missing. 

Small to mid-size companies will be able to rent the facility for 3-10 days, build what they need, send it to market, then come back again if they need to. Taking a product to market is often a risk companies can’t afford to take, this facility minimizes that risk and gets the product out there. 

When the center launches in 2016, a full-time staff of four will be needed to keep it running but, Dr. Petersen says, “The real job impact will come from the jobs that will be generated from the expansion of these companies.” Three hundreds jobs a year is an estimate of the growth the facility will provide. 

Source:  Dr. H. Christopher Peterson of the MSU Product Center
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Zipcar comes to East Lansing, offers affordable transportation alternatives

After seeing success on Michigan State’s campus, Zipcar’s car sharing service is now available in East Lansing as an alternative mode of transportation. Zipcar offers simple, affordable transportation options by providing two vehicles, a Ford Focus hatchback and a Ford Focus sedan, for use by the hour or the day. These are in addition to seven cars previously available on campus. 

The cars have designated parking spots that make them easily accessible to anyone in East Lansing, including students over 18. The cars can be reserved online or through a mobile app. “It’s a convenient and flexible alternative to owning a car,” says Katelyn Lopresti, General Manager of Zipcar for University, “you can use them where you live, work, or travel.” 

They are especially great alternatives for students who don’t want to bring cars to campus, where traffic and parking can be a major problem. It gives the university the option to expand the buildings rather than the parking structures and reduces the carbon footprint and air quality. 

Zipcar also offers discounted rates to local business owners in order to help them expand their businesses and meet environmental standards. 

Parking and congestion can be serious issues for a campus town, and Lopresti says their solution is, “fun and practical.”

Source: Katelyn Lopresti, General Manager of Zipcar for University
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Williamston Theatre receives National Theatre Company Grant

The Williamston Theatre has received one of the National Theatre Company grants from the American Theatre Wing.

This kind of national recognition, according to Emily Sutton-Smith, gives the theatre the leverage it needs to apply for other grants. It compares them to theaters across the country and shows, “They think we are furthering the art form.”

While the theatre is a non-profit, it does pay all its employees, and the number of employees can sometimes be up to 75 in one season. These jobs, while not permanent, allow the actors, directors, designers, etc, to stay in the state. “We are creating an environment that supports a lifestyle…” says Sutton-Smith, “it allows them to cobble together a living and stay in the area.” The theatre relies on fundraising, and grants like this, to help them cover the expenses that keep the theatre up and running. 

The founders of the theatre, of which Sutton-Smith is one, have made huge sacrifices and receiving this grant validates those sacrifices. The theatre is continually contributing to the community by creating jobs and bringing in people and businesses. “80 percent of the people that come to the the theatre don’t live in Williamston,” says Sutton-Smith. 

The Williamston Theatre is only one of twelve theaters across the country to receive the grant. 

Source: Emily Sutton-Smith, Williamston Theatre
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Art For Charlie Foundation to hold first bereavement conference

The Art for Charlie Foundation is holding a Conference on Pediatric Hospice and Bereavement Support on Nov. 1. The goal of the conference, according to Richard Graham-Yooll, is to bring attention to the gap in hospice and hospital care for children and begin to move toward a solution. 

The gap was brought to the attention of Yooll’s family with the diagnosis and death of Charlie (who was diagnosed at 2 and died three years later). The family learned the importance of coordinated palliative and hospice care for children in Michigan and this conference is a step toward providing that care. 

The conference will bring together professionals, catalog the resources in the area and bring others up to speed on the state of care in the area. “It’s important that hospitals everywhere have the details of centralized pediatric care around them,” says Richard. Even if they can’t provide it, it’s important they know where to send their patients. 

There will be discussions, panels and Yooll is hoping all the attendees will participate and exchange ideas. “This is not a money making conference. We want to see people who are interested. We want results.” 

Yooll also recognizes the advantage of doing something like this in Lansing and being so close to the government. 

Source: Richard Graham-Yooll, Art for Charlie Foundation
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Mid-Michigan Talent Connection educates, assists job seekers and employers

This year’s Mid-Michigan Talent Connection was held on Sept. 11, and while it is in its 5th year, it’s the first since its rebranding. The networking event used to be called “Pinkslip” but due to the negative connotation it was changed. “We wanted to give it a name that said what it is,” says Amanda Dumond, Director of Talent Initiatives at Prima Civitas.

Dumond says there are a lot of employers, small and large that are struggling with filling positions, and a lot of people looking for jobs. The problem arises when many job seekers can’t get past the electronic systems many companies use for employment. To solve that, Dumond says, “We wanted to have a face to face format that didn’t rely on electronic systems.” 

The event offered more than simple networking opportunities. Job seekers learned how to craft a resume, present themselves, follow up after an interview, change their job search strategy and more. The most powerful event, according to Dumond, was the Ask a Recruiter Panel. “There was a lot of back and forth dialogue.”

Another unique aspect was the fact that the event was organized by interns working with the MEDC’s Michigan Shifting Gears program. At the end of the day, many employers were interested in gathering their information. 

The event brought in talent from across the state. 

Source: Amanda Dumond, Director, Talent Initiatives, Prima Civitas
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Sparrow Medical Group VOA Practice treats area homeless

Since the Sparrow Medical Group VOA practice launched six months ago, serving the area’s homeless, they have averaged over 100 visits per week. 

“The way we provide care is very innovative,” says Patrick Patterson, the physician on staff, “But we are really just touching the tip of the iceberg.” It takes a lot, he added, to set a route to good health in the homeless community. 

They look to help in four areas; medical and mental health, stability, and a place to live/source of income. To help in these areas, the clinic brings together 14 different programs that help with a variety of different conditions. Mental health, addiction, and many disabling conditions are often problems that many homeless can’t get treated for. When they can’t get treatment, they are are unable to work. 

“The most rapid place for innovation is the healthcare system,” says Patterson. By cutting down the number of ER visits and ambulance calls, costs can be lowered all across the community. When someone is kept out of the hospital, the bill isn’t generated and the cost to the taxpayer is lower. When people have decent healthcare, says Patterson, “it’s not always a calamity.” 

The program has also created eight jobs and Patterson says they are just getting started. 

Source: Patrick Patterson, Volunteers of America
?Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio to open and encourage community creativity

While many thought libraries were on their way out with the invention of the internet, and then again with the appearance of e-books, they are simply, according to the director of the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) Kristin Shelley, finding ways to reinvent themselves. One of those reinventions will premiere on October 1st with the grand opening of the ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio. 

Only the second of its kind in the area, Detroit being the closest, the Studio will offer a space that provides the public somewhere to create and share ideas. There will be a 3D printer, recording equipment, design supplies, sewing machines, bike repair facilities, and much more.The public can cut an album, design a brochure, or produce a podcast.  

This reinvention of the library, says Shelley, “gives people the opportunity to create the information. Instead of people just consuming our materials, they can create it themselves.” It’s taking the library beyond books and story time and Shelley is excited that the public will be able to choose the direction they want the space to go. 

There will also be a community loom that will represent the community weaving together. 

The space is possible due to the fundraising efforts of the library and also because of an anonymous donor. 

Source: Kristin Shelley, Director ELPL
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Mahabir Spa introduces new skin care line, offers "whole approach"

Gita Mahabir has always loved making others feel good about themselves. Cosmetology didn’t take her passion far enough so she got her Masters in counseling and focused on combining her desire to treat outside as well as inside beauty. 

She has taken that concept and opened the Mahabir Spa in Lansing, and introduced a new skin care line. The spa focuses on a “whole approach.”  It opened on September 10th and takes a unique approach on beauty. “Even if you look fabulous,” says Mahabir, “If you’re not feeling fabulous, I didn’t do my job.” Those that come to the spa of course get typical spa treatments but she also asks how she can make customers feel better about themselves. 

Mahabir will be offering a webinar on how taking care of yourself and your skin can help your self-esteem overall. “It’s a step by step process, but I would eventually like to be seen as an educator.” 

Her brand new, unique skin care line, sold in the spa and online, is medical grade and different because of it’s small molecules that are able to sink to a second layer of skin. It also has peptides that put collagen back into the skin. The unique, feathery   cream, complete with Amino Acids, protects and repairs the skin at a cellular level.

Source: Gita Mahabir, Mahabir Spa
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
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