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Crowdfunding underway for downtown soccer field

Crowds will be gathering on a new public soccer field in downtown Lansing if a crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal.
 
The campaign to fund development of a new field launched Friday, April 24, at the opening game of the Lansing United Soccer Team. The $60,000 fundraising campaign through the crowdfunding site Patronicity had been previously announced in mid-April by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and business and community leaders.
 
The $200,000 Beacon Field is envisioned for the southeast corner of Ferris Park. Plans call for a 60- by 120-foot synthetic turf field enclosed by a kick-board, as well as solar lighting for extended play into the evening.
 
The Capital Area Soccer League says about 5,000 kids in the Lansing area currently play youth soccer. No reservations will be required to use the neighborhood field that will be available to anyone regardless of their connection to an organized team or league.
 
Beacon Field organizers also plan to apply for a Public Spaces Community Grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The grant provides 1:1 matching funds if organizers can meet the $60,000 goal within one month. The city of Lansing would then contribute $80,000 toward the project to complete the funding.
 
The vision for Beacon Field rose from a public-private team that includes the city of Lansing, Wieland Davco, the Capital Area Soccer League, Traction and Truscott Rossman. Emergent Biosolutions donated $10,000 and Jackson National Life $20,000 in financial sponsorship.
 
Beacon  Field is modeled after mini soccer fields built in South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The fields were created as safe gathering places for youth in urban neighborhoods.
 
"Soccer is a global sport that bridges communities," said Bernero in a statement. "With the community's support, this field, located in the heart of downtown Lansing, will be a place where people from all backgrounds can come play a sport they love."
 
Supporters of Beacon Field can contribute via credit card toward the $60,000 goal by visiting www.patronicity.com. Contributions via check can be mailed to the Capital Area Soccer League at 1427 W. Saginaw, Suite 175, East Lansing, MI 48823.
 
Sources: Josh Hovey, Vice President, Truscott Rossman
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Volunteerism powers dental service for the underinsured

An organization in Greater Lansing that helps bring smiles to people without dental coverage and to community groups at the same time is looking to expand in the next few months.
 
Pay It Forward Dental works with volunteer dentists to provide dental work to people who are 250 percent below the poverty line and lack dental coverage. In return, participants receiving dental work agree to volunteer for a certain number of hours in a community organization of their choice. The program launched in January 2014 and is a grant-funded partnership between the Central District Dental Society and Carefree Dental.
 
"We fill a gap for those people who can barely afford medical care and cannot afford dental coverage," says Patient Coordinator Christina Arriaga. "We find we help a lot of seniors who need more than just basic care."
 
While administrative services are provided through an office at 5135 S. Pennsylvania Ave., patients receive care at the offices of one of the eight participating volunteer dentists. And while the number of dentists remains steady, the number of people needing care continues to grow.
 
Because the program has been so well received, Pay It Forward organizers are seeking the help of at least five more dentists to accommodate up to 50 more patients. To date, the program has served 45 patients who have exchanged 1,500 community service hours for their dental care.
 
"The whole program is about giving back to your local community—both by our patients and by our dentists," says Arriaga. "If we can get more dentists to come on board, we can help more people, who in turn, can volunteer in the community. It's great to see how much the program helps all the way around."
 
Dentists interested in volunteering in the Pay It Forward Dental program can find more information here.
 
Sources: Christina Arriaga, Patient Coordinator, Pay It Forward Dental
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Capital City Comic Con to debut at Haslett High School

Dennis Louney drove to Grand Rapids with his son and came back with an idea for Lansing.
 
It was a dream, he says, he'd had for some time. And after seeing the thousands of people spilling out the doors at a comic convention, he knew the timing was right to bring a similar event back home.
 
Now, after eight months of planning, Louney and a group of like-minded professionals will unleash what promises to be a super-powered extravaganza. The first Capital City Comic Con—affectionately known as C4—will take place May 2-3 at Haslett High School. The convention will sprawl from the north end of the school, throughout two gymnasiums, a 700-seat performing arts center, dressing rooms, expansive hallways and cafeteria space.
 
"We knew we could build this," says Louney. "The most important thing now is to get people to come."
 
Louney and other members of the "Phantom Five" have planned an event based on people's love of comics, games, movies and television. Between 2,000-3,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event that will feature a variety of multi-media exhibitors and vendors of comic books, card and board games, action figures, merchandise, videos, apparel and more. Attendees can also participate in or observe costume and cosplay competitions, performance art, improvisational and interactive cosplay, panel discussions, and gaming tournaments.
 
"Our goal is to open things up to a wider audience," says Louney. "We've worked to make it family friendly and fun."
 
The convention will feature special guests, graphic artists and writers—both from the national and local arenas. Among the scheduled guests are Michigan novelist and screenwriter Rick Chambers, and actor Mark Boyd from Twelve Monkeys. 
 
"This is just a great way to bring people together," says Louney. "Lots of people follow sci-fi, read graphic novels or play online or board games. With all the high-tech coming to Lansing, it promises to be an event that will appeal to a lot of people."
 
Organizers of the inaugural Capital City Comic Con include Phantom Five members Christina DeJong, James Curtis, Malinda Barr, Randy Chapel and Dennis Louney. For a schedule of events and a list of participating vendors, artists and organizations, visit the website here or follow on Facebook.
 
Sources: Dennis Louney, Co-Founder, Capital City Comic Con
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Stadium renovation features options for the multi-faceted fan

When the lights shone on the $13.5 million renovation to Cooley Law School Stadium on opening day, spectators saw there was more on deck than simply baseball.
 
With an updated concourse, picnic and play areas, and new top-of-the-line food venues, take-me-out-to-the-ballgame has grown to be more than a sporting experience restricted to the stands. And come mid-season, a special events venue will be available at the home of the Lansing Lugnuts for organizers of everything from corporate meetings to wedding receptions.
 
"We're very excited to present all these options for people who live here," says Linda Frederickson, assistant general manager of marketing and special events for the Lugnuts. "The stadium is a great place."
 
Among the newest concourse options energizing America's favorite pastime are the expanded Tailgate Terrace picnic area in right field. Groups, too, can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet for $30 through the new Pepsi Porch. Originally the Bullpen Bar and Grill near the third-base line, the venue was expanded from 40 to 150 seats. Any open seats not taken by a group will go on sale to individuals one week before the game.
 
Then, come June, the stadium will unveil The View—a spacious alternative to typical meeting and event spaces. Overlooking centerfield, The View features luxurious indoor seating for 150 guests, with additional room provided on an outdoor patio.
 
The View will be open year-round for meetings and special events, and available for private groups on game days. Meeting planning packages are available, with food options that include catering and the standard menu. The gourmet burger bistro Good Hops also relocated from the main concourse to offer patrons at The View additional choices.
 
Room set up, conferencing systems and other meeting amenities are available based on customer needs. And while a unique setting for corporate meetings, The View can also be set up for birthday parties, anniversaries and family-related events. 
 
"It's one of the most distinctive meeting space in the region," says Frederickson. "It provides a beautiful view for any kind of event—hence the name."
 
While renovation is nearly complete for the main stadium, construction recently began on The Outfield, one of the country's first upscale residential units at a professional minor league ball field. The new development by the Gillespie Group will rise above right center field, and will feature more than 80 residential units. The public-private development is slated for completion in spring 2016.

Sources: Linda Frederickson, Assistant General Manager of Marketing and Special Events, Lansing Lugnuts
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Downtown maker studio in East Lansing to stay open through mid-summer

East Lansing's second maker space will remain open beyond its original closing date thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.
 
Originally slated to close in February, the ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio will continue to operate in East Lansing's Marriott at University Place through July 31, 2015. The 700-square foot space in a former hair salon compliments the maker studio in the East Lansing Public Library and supports the creative spirit of individuals, families and entrepreneurs in Greater Lansing. Recently-hired 3D printing specialist Joe Carr will also be onsite at both studios to advise on 3D printing, modeling and design.
 
"It's a place where people can do all the things they want to do that's communal and has supplies they never knew existed," says Lauren Douglass, head of Technology Services, East Lansing Public Library. "And it's just fun."
 
Since opening in October 2014, the second maker studio has provided space, materials and guidance to more than 1,500 people. Visitors to the studio have attended crafting and electronics workshops, received one-on-one instruction in 3D printing and scanning, and completed solo and group projects.
 
Douglass says the studios attract a variety of makers from teens to seniors with a range of abilities. Visitors include families with children, tinkerers, small business people, and local artists, as well as those who identify as makers but haven't joined any particular maker space.
 
"There are so many people in East Lansing who want to use the technology and supplies," says Douglass. "It's a great town for sharing ideas and learning from one another."
 
The ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio features 3D printing, sewing and fabric design, bike repair facilities, a LEGO hackspace, an Arduino lab and space for other projects, meetups, workshops and more.
 
The ELPL Maker Studio in the East Lansing Public Library also has one 3D printer, two 27-inch iMacs featuring the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro X, Camtasia Studio and several 3D design programs. The studio offers a flatbed scanner, a graphics tablet, and music recording/production equipment including a MIDI keyboard, studio monitors, mics and more.
 
Sources: Lauren Douglass, Head of Technology Services, East Lansing Public Library
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

ASK continues growth curve, solidifies focus on IT services

Mike Maddox's story of entrepreneurship started when he assumed leadership of a 10-year-old IT company in 2004. Since then, he has overseen the transformation of ASK, leading the Lansing-based company toward a path of growth and expansion that coincides with the rebirth of the Capitol City.
 
In 2013, ASK marked its 20th anniversary by adding 1,700-square feet onto their Lansing office on Sovereign Drive. Today, 27 people work in the 6,000-square foot facility, with six being new hires as of 2014.
 
In the past 11 years, ASK has evolved from a reseller of large mainframe systems to a provider of managed IT services. Sales revenue has increased 340 percent, while the number of staff has grown by 300 percent. Those numbers reflect the company's broadened focus beyond Mid-Michigan to one that serves customers statewide. And since many ASK customers have national and international operations, ASK's reach stretches overseas, providing service and expertise on several continents.
 
"Today's business looks completely different," says Maddox, ASK president and CEO.  "Our business is based on services and consulting, with very little based on hardware."
 
In the last year or two, ASK has strengthened its focus on managing, remediating and keeping IT infrastructures running for clients. ASK also boasts a fully-staffed engineering department dedicated to cyber security solutions and to reducing and managing risk.
 
Maddox attributes his company's success to letting the client's best interests guide every decision. That approach, he says, has led to a client retention rate of more than 95 percent, something he says is nearly unheard of in the IT business.
 
"Culturally, our people want to be part of building something that will last forever," says Maddox. "That motivates them more than anything, and makes ASK a really fun place to work."
 
Mike Maddox recently received an entrepreneurial award from the Greater Lansing Business Monthly for his ability to build camaraderie, take innovative risks, and foster growth in a Lansing-based business.   
 
Sources: Mike Maddox, President and CEO, ASK
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue readies new home in Dimondale

Sarah Vicary has helped thousands of cats, but each one is more than a number.
 
As the director of the Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue, Vicary personally commits to each and every kitty in her care. And sometimes, that can be up to 300 cats fostered on-site and in the homes of volunteers.
 
"We believe that all cats should be valued as individuals," says Vicary. "We make a lifetime commitment to always love them no matter what happens."
 
Established in 2003, the volunteer-run Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue has placed more than 6,000 cats with adoptive families. Now, Vicary says, it's time for the rescue itself to find a new home.
 
In early 2015, Vicary and her husband purchased a farm with 20 acres and a 2,000-square foot house in Dimondale. Her hopes are to build as many as 11 new buildings at the site on Michigan Road, and to offer on-site adoptions, vaccine clinics, and special and group events with other animal welcome organizations. Eventually, she would like to add a veterinary clinic, facilities for hospice and special needs care, a retail store and training center.
 
"We purchased the property for the cats," says Vicary of the property zoned commercial. "We believe in providing a colony setting and do not feel leaving cats in cages long-term is healthy for their mental and physical state."
 
Vicary is readying to move from her main base of operations and cat foster home on Tulip Street in Grand Ledge. She says volunteers have already packed up and moved some things, and that donations are helping to fund some of the minor repairs and renovations. She hopes to have everything up and running at the new Dimondale location by early- to mid-summer.
 
As a non-profit, the Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue is funded solely by donations and is run by Vicary and about 200 volunteers. The rescue maintains a "no-kill" policy, and fosters cats for life. All cats and kittens receive basic veterinary care such as neuter, shots and medications. Other services include hospice and specialty care related to particular feline diseases or conditions.
 
The rescue partners with Petco and PetSmart for once-a-month adoption events, and adopts out between 500 and 600 cats a year. The organization maintains a feral colony of more than 80 cats and practices trap, neuter and release when possible.
 
Source: Sarah Vicary, Founder, Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Rough Draft Solutions provides strategic writing and editing for small businesses

Amanda Washburn understands what a blank screen is all about. She's a writer.
 
Armed with that core knowledge, Washburn decided she would help others fill the void and fine-tune what they had started. So in January 2014, she filled her virtual red pens and sharpened her cyber pencils and set in motion a business that provides strategic writing, editing and marketing solutions for small businesses.
 
Rough Draft Solutions works with clients to identify objectives, create content strategies and take customer relationships to the next level. Washburn says she can jump in to craft messaging, tweak and organize concepts, and get points across through the most cost-effective and efficient communication channel. Whatever stage a company is at with a project—be it a blank slate or communications in process—she's there to help.
 
"I realized that many small or local businesses don't have anyone doing marketing for them," says Washburn. "So while they may be doing great things and making great products, no one really know about the value of what they're providing."
 
Rough Draft Solutions has worked with about 25 clients including engineering firms, insurance agents, financial advisers, web and graphic designers, health care organizations and city administrators. In each instance, Washburn sits down to tailor solutions through a content-marketing toolbox that includes blog and web posts, newsletters, press releases, social media, and internal communications.
 
Washburn breaks her services into three key phases: strategizing, creating and polishing. She says she firmly believes that there is no one-size-fits-all marketing tactic or plan, and adds that she can jump in at any point of the process.
 
"We're specialists in helping businesses communicate in authentic and engaging ways," says Washburn. "Anything that has to do with writing, we'll do it."
 
While currently a one-person shop, Washburn plans to take Rough Draft Solutions to the next level. She's currently looking to hire interns over the summer and to build a for-credit internship program.
 
Sources: Amanda Washburn, Rough Draft Solutions
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Urban farmers create community supported kitchen at The Avenue Cafe

Some say it's all in a name. That's certainly the case for a new venture between an herbal tea start-up and a popular entertainment venue on Lansing's East Side.
 
Beginning in late May, HerBlends of Plenty will begin running the kitchen at the Avenue Café at 2021 E. Michigan Ave. Branded Abundance at the Avenue Café, the new culinary operation will offer farm-to-table dining through a community-supported kitchen. Co-founders Kirk Green and Patti Akley also plan to expand The Avenue's hours to accommodate a teahouse with a breakfast and lunch menu.
 
"We love this location and are invested in the East Side through our urban farms," says Green who cultivates herbs in the Urbandale neighborhood. "There's lots of potential to support farm-to-table fare, and there's a need for a tea house in Greater Lansing, too."
 
Green says The Avenue will continue to offer craft beers and host shows in the evening. The only difference will be the availability of food prepared by HerBlends of Plenty Executive Chef Jason Jones from locally-source ingredients.
 
Green and Akley are working to partner with local producers fresh produce, eggs and humanely-raised meats. The two plan to meet with farmers in advance of their growing and production seasons to establish baselines for supplying goods.
 
"It's part of the community supported kitchen model that we haven't seen a lot in this area," says Green. "Our goal is to keep costs low and provide meals at a more affordable rate."
 
The community kitchen allows customers to buy shares at the beginning of the summer and receive a set number of seasonal meals per week. Members can opt for dine-in or takeout. Non-members can purchase meals, too, but at a slightly higher rate. A mini-farmers market outside The Avenue is also being planned.
 
HerBlends of Plenty recently launched a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo that will run through April 29.  The goal is to facilitate pre-orders and to raise fund to help the transition to The Avenue.
 
Abundance at The Avenue Café will occupy about 1,000 square feet of the 7,000-square foot facility, and will be run by six staff from HerBlends of Plenty. 
 
"We may redesign things a little up front to make things more restaurant friendly," says Akley. "Our hope is to make for a more mixed clientele while retaining the space as amazing venue for musicians."
 
Sources: Kirk Green and Patti Akley, Co-founders, HerBlends of Plenty and Abundance at the Avenue Cafe
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Prima Civitas and MEDC join forces to boost Michigan's economy

Prima Civitas and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have formalized their longstanding working relationship through a cooperative agreement aimed at promoting economic development throughout Michigan.
 
Signed earlier this spring, the agreement sets the stage for broader collaboration on ongoing projects or those in the works.
 
"We felt it was important to formalize our relationship and work to continue to improve Michigan's economy," says Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and board chair of Prima Civitas. "The more formal relationship will allow us to expand our services across the state and work with more partners involved in the same type of work."
 
The two organizations will continue to collaborate on worker recruitment and training, as well as projects that support businesses in creating and retaining jobs. Other key efforts will encourage the export of Michigan products and services, and foster private sector involvement and support for the state's economic development.
 
Prima Civitas and MEDC are currently coordinating the Michigan Supply Chain Innovation Summit slated for this August. The conference provides a forum for thought leaders to explore innovative business solutions within the supply chain, and to showcase Michigan's logistical assets and resources.
 
Other ongoing collaborations include rebuilding the cut and sew industry; assisting, retraining, and securing employment for displaced professionals; and building and maintaining a statewide internship initiative.
 
Prima Civitas is a nonprofit community and economic development organization supported by Michigan State University, the C.S. Mott Foundation, and other partners. The organization promotes collaborative relationships across government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector to promote the state's economic growth.
 
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, talent and jobs, tourism, film and digital media incentives, arts and cultural grants, and overall economic growth. The MEDC offers a number of business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration, entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, talent enhancement, and urban and community development.
 
Sources: Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and Board Chair, Prima Civitas
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Move In Move Out saves left-behind items from the landfill

That sofa, chair or other furnishing left behind when clearing out from a college apartment or dorm doesn't have to be destined for the dumpster thanks to an innovative moving and charitable giving service founded by students.
 
Move In Move Out provides free pickup services for unwanted furnishings and household items that are still useable and in good repair. Donated items are then cleaned and stored in an area warehouse, and resold to incoming students or residents in the fall. All proceeds go to support local charities, or to provide basic operational support for the company.
 
"We're not out to make a profit," says Rachel McCloskey, president of MIMO. "Our goal is to make our community a better place by reducing waste."
 
Founded two years ago by students at Northwestern University, MIMO opened an East Lansing branch in May 2014. Kevin Ye, an entrepreneur working through the Hatch, became acquainted with Northwestern MIMO founder Steven To through a mutual friend, and set things in motion to bring the concept to the MSU campus.
 
McCloskey says the company grew from two to six staff in 12 months, with dozens of volunteers who assist during the moving and sales period that runs from May through August. About 1,200 tons of potential waste was hauled or transformed into reusable goods during the first year.
 
"We welcome anyone who wants to donate or buy anything," says President Rachel McCloskey. "If you donate, we provide the pickup. If you purchase items in our warehouse, you provide the hauling or we can arrange to have it hauled for you for a small delivery charge."
 
Move In Move Out services can be requested online. Items for sale can be viewed and purchased at warehouse and storage facilities on Abbot Road near Chandler Crossings. Most items for sale are between $15 to $20 with prices topping out at $50. In the first year at MSU, MIMO sold about 200 items with about 100 remaining household items donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
 
Sources: Rachel McCloskey, President, Move In Move Out
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Sparrow, Volunteers of America applaud first year of practice, add dental care

The Sparrow Medical Group Volunteers of America practice recently marked its first anniversary of providing care to the area's homeless.
 
Since March 2014, the innovative practice has logged more than 3,100 patient visits and helped individuals regain control of their health. Many of the patients are physically disabled, suffer from mental illness, and unable to access government health benefits to which they are entitled.
 
Located onsite at the VOAMI, 430 N. Larch St., the clinic is believed to be the first practice in Michigan based in a homeless service center.
 
"This is a common sense and compassionate option that makes our community better," says Darin Estep, director of community engagement for the VOA. "When people are feeling better and are healthier, they are better equipped to work on other things in their lives."
 
Estep says that fragile health is the main reason many people end up homeless. Before the clinic, the majority of homeless would tolerate a medical condition until it became an emergency. An ambulance or 911 was often their only option.
 
The clinic operates five days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and consists of six exam rooms, a lab and a room for doing simple procedures like stitches. Financial assistants are also onsite to assist with applications to health insurance and Sparrow's financial aid program.
 
"It looks like any other Sparrow medical practice and is beautifully appointed," says Estep. "It's a measure of respect that our clients can sit on a nice exam table and be treated like you or I would if we went to see a doctor."
 
Plans are underway to build and open a four-chair dental clinic next door to the practice in partnership with Delta Dental. Sparrow is among the groups helping to plan the clinic.
 
"Dental care is a huge part of health care and is sorely lacking among the homeless," says Estep. "The clinic is all part of our interdisciplinary approach."
 
The VOA also opened a legal clinic in December that advocates for the homeless and walks them through the disability process when appropriate. Part of that process, Estep says, involves securing medical confirmation of their disability, often through the in-house clinic.
 
"With the addition of a dental and law clinic, we have a full spectrum of options," says Estep "Our interdisciplinary team can now look at the most urgent homeless cases in the community and determine what may be keeping them from recovery."
 
Sources: Darin Estep, Director of Community Engagement, Volunteers of America Michigan
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Moonsail North charts course to Okemos MARC

Two seasoned storytellers with a mindset toward community have set sail to help businesses and organizations build effective and budget-conscious communications.
 
In November, Rose Tantraphol and Scott Swanson marshaled their combined experiences as journalists and public relations professionals to launch Moonsail North: a community-minded communications consulting company.
 
After landing their operations in the Meridian Asset Resource Center (also known as The MARC) this spring, the two-member company will continue to assist clientele in educational, business and nonprofit circles, steadily building their presence as multi-disciplinary storytellers on a state and national level.
 
"Storytelling is at the heart of everything we've ever done," says Tantraphol. "Both neuroscientists and poets agrees that our brains crave stories. So whether it's through social media, earned media or otherwise, we're excited to work with people to share stories and connect us all to one another."
 
Specializing as writers, strategic communicators, and social media and digital specialists, the husband-wife team approaches every communication campaign from the point-of-view of discovering the best way to tell a client's story.
 
"We wanted a name that spoke to our inspirations and influences," says Tantraphol. "We both have a love for the arts and sciences, and we're big Radiohead fans. So we took our name from their beautiful song 'Sail to the Moon,' and combined it with the idea of a compass direction. It's all about viewing our work as a journey with our clients and helping them achieve what seems impossible."
 
Moonsail North's clientele includes the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, U.S. Green Building Council, and the International Business Center Global Business Club at Michigan State University. The company donates a portion of their proceeds to local charities, and plans to hire an intern come summer.
 
Source: Rose Tantraphol, Co-Founder, Moonsail North
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New academy for high schoolers peaks interest in insurance careers

High school students in Ingham County can prepare for careers in the growing insurance industry and earn college credit through a new one-year program unveiled by the Ingham Intermediate School District, Lansing School District, Accident Fund Insurance of America, and the Insuring MI Future Coalition.
 
Available to high school juniors and seniors, the Insurance Leadership Academy provides students the chance to learn about the insurance industry by attending classes three days a week at the Capital Area Career Center or Lansing Eastern High School. Students will also spend two days a week at Accident Fund Insurance where they will job shadow, participate in presentations, and learn job skills.
 
"The insurance industry is facing a future crisis since nearly 40 percent of our workforce in Michigan is 55 or older," says Lori Conartan, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan. "We see a big need to attract young people to our industry."
 
One of the bigger challenges in building that future workforce, Conartan says, is changing the perception of insurance careers as boring or "last resort."
 
"But when they're able to look at it closer, they see the challenges and opportunities," says Conartan. "Jobs in insurance are rewarding because you're helping people. There are a wide variety of jobs, too, likes sales, accounting, IT and marketing."
 
Attorneys, fraud investigators and web masters also find employment within the industry. Mid-Michigan boasts about 6,800 jobs in insurance, as well as a 17 percent job growth in Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties from 2010 to 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7.4 percent growth for insurance-related jobs in Greater Lansing from 2010 to 2020, while Michigan Labor Market Information reports an average annual wage of $55,000 for the tri-country area.
 
Conartan says the new Insurance Leadership Academy is a win all the way around.
 
"It's a win for students who are exposed to a great career," she says. "It's a win for the industry since students at a younger age are getting to know about careers in insurance. And it's a win for parents since the program provides nine free credits toward college."
 
The program is modeled after an Eaton County collaboration between Eaton RESA and Farm Bureau insurance. The Insuring MI Future Coalition members are the Insurance Institute of Michigan, Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Life Insurance Association of Michigan, and Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
 
Sources: Lori Conarton, Communications Director, Insurance Institute of America
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

LEAP reconfigures, receives MEDC and city support

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership is springing forward with new directions that promise to take the region's entrepreneurial and business startup initiatives to a national level of prominence.
 
Tony Willis will serve as the director of the recently reconfigured New Economy Division, moving from his previous post as manager. Willis will run RING—the Lansing region's entrepreneurial system—while Quin Stinchfield will oversee the TIC and Runway as the new manager of business incubation. Stinchfield will also be responsible for continuing the expansion of incubators throughout the Lansing region.
 
The reconfiguration of the division enables LEAP to introduce an aggressive series of programs designed to increase the likelihood of startup businesses and entrepreneurial culture. Among those programs are FundLansing—a tri-county loan program with an entrepreneurial focus. Two others include the rebranding of 3D Lansing to Lansing Proto, and new curriculums for the TIC and Runway.
 
"The reorg will allow LEAP to better handle the needs of our entrepreneurial community," says Willis. "We have laid a great foundation over the past few years, but with this new structure and development of great programs, we can really begin to accelerate the growth of new companies."
 
In other restructuring news, Karl Dorshimer was promoted to director of business development. LEAP COO Steve Willobee will also assume more day-to-day management responsibilities for the New Economy Division in addition to providing leadership in the business development arena.
 
Continuing to garner strong support from MEDC, LEAP will use the $100,000 annual incubator grant to contract a high-tech startup specialist to run the Lansing Regional SmartZone and target the growth of high-tech, startup businesses. Additional MEDC grants include $65,000 to support The Runway as well as $70,000 for development of an "accelerator region" surrounding the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University.
 
"The funding and support from MEDC only continues to affirm our region is not only posed for success but is a leader in innovation for the state," says Willis.
 
The City of Lansing also proposed additional funding for LEAP that would be applied toward adding one staff person at LEAP to work on City of Lansing projects.
 
Sources: Tony Willis, Director, LEAP New Economy Division
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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