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Friendly Heating & Cooling adds two positions, focuses on marketing

Friendly Heating and Cooling is now in it’s eleventh year in Lansing and is entering a new phase. Owner Michael Sobczyk has escalated his social media presence and is now looking to hire a new technician and a sales person to help manage the new work. 
 
“We’re a pretty small company, but we’re looking to grow a little,” says Sobczyk. “We’ve had a website since 2001, but we’ve never done much with it. We’re trying to get our feet wet with marketing and social media.”
 
In addition to his recent social media effort, including his informative heating and cooling blog, Sobczyk believes his growth can be attributed to the quality of his work, which he backs up with a unique, three-year warranty.
 
“We’re the only company in Lansing that offers a three-year warranty on parts and labor,” Sobczyk says. “We’re confident in knowing we’re going to do the right job, and we want our customers to feel confident that they are getting the best repair.”
 
Sobczyk hopes the additional technician and salesperson will help him manage his growing clientele, as well as allow him to continue his new focus on marketing. 
 

Cameron Tool adds two new jobs, looks to further growth

Something new has happened at the Cameron Tool Corporation. The tool and die company that was founded in 1966 has a backlog of work that will take them into the New Year. 
 
“We’ve never had that,” says Carey Oberlin of Cameron Tool. “There are probably a couple of reasons. One is that in 2005 and 2004, there were a lot more die shops. Now there are not as many. Also, the car companies are putting out some new models.”
 
The increase in work has the company adding new positions. Cameron Tool has recently added two new positions and will look to add additional jobs as needed. 
 
“We’re looking to bring on a couple of people on the floor,” Oberlin says. “It’s very specialized, so the people we usually look for are experienced.” 
 
One way Cameron Tool is able to find experienced employees is by training them from within with their apprenticeship program.
 
“Manufacturing is a strong industry,” says Oberlin. “It’s a great way to earn a living. We offer apprenticeships to students so they can grow with the company.”
 
Cameron Tools’ apprenticeship program goes back to the beginning of the company’s history. In fact, the current owner of the company began his career there as an apprentice. 
 

Sparrow Children's Center begins music therapy with digital music

The idea started with a simple concept. 
 
“Everybody enjoys music,” says Erin Darnell, registered nurse at Sparrow Children’s Center in Lansing. That includes those who are sick and in pain. In fact, Darnell and her colleagues are working on proving the hypothesis that music can be therapeutic for pediatric patients.  Thanks to a donation from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, Sparrow is now offering young patient access to iPods, iTunes libraries and laptops. 
 
The music therapy program first started from a conversation between Darnell and a colleague who attended a conference last year on alternative ways to deal with discomfort. Massage and music therapy were a part of that discussion. A presentation to the Sparrow Foundation led to the MSUFCU grant that helped get the plan off the ground. 
 
“Currently we have 2 iPod Touches and a laptop,” says Darnell. “We use iTunes gift cards so if there is a kid who comes and says, ‘This my favorite song,’ we have the ability to get it for him.’”
 
Darnell and her colleagues are currently gathering data to demonstrate the impact of the music on patients. She hopes the program will continue to grow. 
 
“It’s already bigger than what we expected it to be when we had this little idea anyway,” she says. “The more that can come from it, the better.” 
 

MSUFCU to award $25,000 for winning startup idea

Area entrepreneurs could get a real boost from a new contest from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. The startUP Challenge will award up to $25,000 to an entrepreneur in the tri-county with a winning business plan. 
 
“A lot of our members are MSU students and they are the most entrepreneurial generation and we believe in supporting all our members to achieve financial security and their dreams,” says Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSUFCU, April Clobes. “This program is designed to help individuals looking to start their own business to have some assistance in achieving their dreams.”
 
In order to win, participants must complete an application, business plan and video pitch. The top five entries will have the opportunity to present their business ideas to the startUP Challenge committee, which will be comprised of local experts. According to Clobes, the committee will be open to business ideas from a wide array of industries.
 
“We wanted to be appealing to all the business startups from creative to scientific,” Clobes says. “The prize is substantial enough to attract individuals that could manufacture something, be a scientific patent for food or medications, or to create an art studio. The possibilities are endless and we are excited to see all the ideas.”
 
Individuals in need of assistance with their entry or business plan are encouraged to contact LEAP for help. MSUFCU is also introducing the startUP Loan Fund, which allows entrepreneurs to apply for loans up to $15,000.
 

Incu-BaKe expands presence into Lansing City Market

Incu-BaKe was started with the intention of helping young culinary businesses grow. As it’s been doing that, the incubator kitchen has been doing some growing of it own. This month, the business added to its operations a new space in Lansing City Market. 
 
One of the biggest joys in owning this business has been helping to spread the word about the delicious products that are made here,” says Marcy Bishop Kates. “I've talked with City Market personnel a few times over the past six months or so, and now just seems like the perfect time.”
 
The 100 square foot Incu-BaKe space can be found between the Waterfront and Uncle John's Winery and will feature products made by Incu-BaKe businesses. The location will be staffed by Kates and her assistant, as well as the occasional presence of the producers themselves. 
 
“I am particularly excited about those day when our producers are there. They will be our ‘Meet the Producer’ days, and we will have sampling and other specials,” Kates says. “I expect that our product line will be somewhat seasonal, and somewhat fluid, just by the nature of our being a kitchen incubator. Of course, I'm also very excited to be able to talk about the entrepreneurial services here at Incu-BaKe!”
 
The Incu-BaKe space debuted at the City Market last weekend and will celebrate it’s grand opening this week. Shoppers will find an array of products there, including "take and bake" casseroles, salsas and sauces, granola, spice mixes, snack items, jams, jellies and baked goods. 
 

Michigan Virtual University enrolls 24,000 students, looks to add up to 25 new jobs

Michigan is known nationwide as a leader in online learning for K-12 education. Since 2004, Michigan Virtual University (MVU) has been helping to build that reputation. Though the non-profit, which was created in 1998, shifted their attention to K-12 learning, President & CEO Jamey Fitzpatrick recalls pleading with principals and superintendents to help utilized 100 scholarships for online students. Last year, MVU enrolled 24,000 students from 500 Michigan schools.
 
 
MVU has been going along with K-12 online learning. The organization currently employs a staff of 50, and Fitzpatrick expect that number to grow to 70 to 75 by the end of this school year. 
 
“We’re a very fortunate situation in that online learning is really starting to take off,” Fitzpatrick says. “It really is exciting to be a part of this incredible transformation we’re starting to see.” 
 
Fitzpatrick explains the role of MVU as that of change agent, service provider and capacity builder for online learning throughout Michigan. As the prevalence of online learning continues to grow in the state, so too will MVU’s role.
 
“The one thing we’re embarking on right now is we’re constantly trying to update our online content, and part of our goal there is to make the online experience fun and enjoyable,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’re constantly looking for partners in the industry to assist us.”
 
MVU currently works with such organizations as the Michigan Opera Theatre and the Michigan Association of Public Accountants to make their curriculum more engaging and relevant. 
 

Maner Costerisan adds five new positions

With more than 100 years of practicing accounting under its belt, Lansing’s Maner Costerisan is still growing and evolving with the needs of its clients. Now offering both CPA and technology consulting services, the firm has recently added five employees.
 
“It kind of came naturally,” says Maner Costerisan Director and Principal, Bruce Dunn of the expansion of services. “More and more of our clients came to us for business advice, so we saw a need to help them out with technology.”
 
Maner Costerisan how employs a staff of about 80. Dunn expects additional employees will be added after fall and spring recruitment at Michigan State.
 
“I think we’ve got excellent people and commitment to excellent service,” Dunn says. “A lot of our customers have recognized this, and we’ve been able to grow our clientele through difficult times.”
 

Eagle Eye gym reopens as Conquest Health & Fitness, adds 17 jobs

The athletic club located at Eagle Eye Golf Course is getting revamped under the new ownership of someone who knows a bit about athletics himself. Former MSU basketball player and entrepreneur Andre Hutson celebrated the grand opening of Conquest Health & Fitness Center last week.
 
“I used to live out here in the neighborhood and was a member of the gym for awhile,” Hutson says. “I knew the club and got to know the owner. I liked that the membership base they had here is really nice as well.”
 
The facility has been renovated, and in addition to cardio and weight equipment, it now includes massage theraphy, a room for classes, such as Zumba, yoga, Pilates and more. Space is also being leased in the gym to On Target Living, a wellness and nutrition business that Hutson believes will be an added benefit for club members.
 
“The long term goal is to try to create a better place for the Lansing area to come and get fit,” Hutson says. “We have all the resources here to help people attain their goals. We want to give people a better life balance with more energy and vitality.” 
 
Between massage therapists, new class instructors and On Target Living, 17 new jobs have been created with the newly renovated facility. 
 

MSU's The Ave brings cultural exhibit to Michigan Avenue

The Ave project started with a conversation among community partners centered on an interesting fact. 
 
“The Mid-Michigan area has the same number of arts organizations per capita as Seattle,” says The Ave project leader and academic specialist for MSU’s Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Vincent Delgado. ”That’s something that is not well known.”
 
That notable statistic came from an economic development report, and the parties chatting over how to leverage the most economic benefit from the area’s rich cultural community included MSU, LEAP and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. What developed for the conversation was The Ave. 
 
The pilot project brings a collection of stories and placards along Michigan Avenue that include telephone numbers to call and QR codes that passersby can use to see and hear cultural stories about Lansing. These placards were made by MSU students who spent a semester seeking out local stories and finding a new way to tell them. Students in semesters to follow will add to the 8 current placards. 
 
According to Delgado, The Ave project is about sharing the stories of Lansing’s cultural community, but it’s also about connecting students to that side of the city. 
 
Nearly 100 partners and students are already involved in The Ave, and the project has been funded with support from the City of Lansing Arts and Cultural Grant Program, funded and administered through the Lansing Economic Development Corp., with assistance from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, as well as in-kind support from MSU. Future plans for the pilot program, should it continue, include expanding into other areas of the city.
 

Connection Graphics grows staff by 50 percent

Fifteen years ago, Connie Sweet found a way to combine her love of communications and her love of art by founding Connection Graphics. While the Potterville company began by offering graphic design, Sweet’s list of services has been growing. 
 
“We’ve been doing more and more brand marketing for our clients,” says Sweet. “When you practice good design, you have to incorporate marketing with that.” 
 
Sweet’s staff is now expanding as well with the addition of two new employees that will grow her total number of workers by 50 percent. 
 
Connection Graphic also produces MI Sports Page, a publication dedicated to covering local high school sports. The idea came from employee Thad Kraus who saw something missing in local news coverage. 
 
“He has a passion for high school sports,” says Sweet of Kraus. “We write about the athletes, and not just one key athletes, but sharing stories you might not hear anywhere else. We were losing a lot of the small community news.”
 
Sweet hopes to continue to expand the services of Connection Graphics, as well as the reach of MI Sports Page. 
 
“Our goals are really to focus on helping businesses to build their brand,” she says. “There is a lot of competition, but I think there is enough work out there, you just have to concentrate on your niche.” 
 

Franchino Mold and Engineering grows staff by 15, to add five more

At Franchino Mold and Engineering, they make things that make things. And it’s no easy job. 
 
“This is a skilled trade,” says Personnel Manager for Franchino, Brad Rusthoven. “We’re not a production shop where people are pushing buttons, and they are hard to come by. We’re kind of left to hiring inexperienced people and training them ourselves.”
 
The family owned business was founded in 1955 by Dick Franchino and is now operated by his son, Bob. The company produces molds and die cast dies that other companies use in manufacturing. Now, they’re making more and bigger products and are growing their staff to keep up. 
 
Fifteen new employees have been added to the Franchino staff in the last 18 months, and Rusthoven expects to add five more by the end of 2012. 
 
“The one niche that we’re really getting into is building medium to large mold and die cast dies,” Rusthoven says. “It’s hard to compete with overseas with the small stuff, but they can’t ship the big stuff very well. About a year ago, we produced what we believe is the largest production aluminum mold ever. It weighed in at over 300,000 pounds.”
 
Rusthoven says the bigger products could lead to a need for more space and larger facility for Franchino Mold and Engineering down the road.
 

Retia Medical raises $7M, adds two jobs

A Technology Innovation Center startup has reached a major funding goal of $7 million. Medical device company, Retia Medical, moved into the TIC last September. The company has developed a less-invasive cardiac output monitor than is currently on the market that is also able to maintain its accuracy for critically ill patients.
 
“I strongly believe in what is called the ‘double bottom line,’” says Marc Zemel, Chief executive officer of Retia Medical, “which means focusing on generating superior financial returns and superior returns to society. Medical equipment naturally falls into this category and the cardiovascular field impacts a large swath of society.” 
 
According to Zemel, what makes Retia’s device so innovative is its ability to continue functioning when patients are unstable. 
 
“That is when accuracy is most critical,” Zemel explains. “Over 18 million high-risk surgical patients and ICU patients can benefit from this technology. Recently, the UK heath system estimated that they could save up to 1100 pounds per patient through implementation of this monitoring technology and the optimized treatment protocols that it enables. Not to mention the number of lives it can help save and improved quality of life that it can impact.”
 
Along with the funding, Retia is currently looking to expand its three-person staff with two additional biomedical signal processing engineers. Zemel says the company is focused on building and proving the product in the clinic making it available to as many people as possible.
 
“We are extremely grateful for the support of the TIC and the Michigan State community,” says Zemel. “So many people have contributed their time and efforts and we could not have gotten this far without them.”
 

Owosso-based MMI Business Services to add three Lansing jobs

Todd Meyer left the corporate world to start a new kind of company to serve the needs of businesses years ago. Since then, he’s kept to a consistent strategy for growth. 
 
“I started the company in 1989,” says Meyer, president and CEO of Owosso-based MMI Business Services Group. “From there it was a matter of finding quality people to join.”
 
Now, he’s looking for even more of those quality people. Though MMI’s corporate office is in Owosso, the firm has sales offices in Lansing and Flint, and Meyer is now looking to add three news positions to his Lansing location. 
 
“People are dealing with the recession differently,” says Meyer. “Our decision was to grow our way through it.”
 
MMI offers an array of business service to clients, including financial and insurance services, benefits services and general business consulting. 
 
“We’re really focused on working with the owners, mangers and employees of small and mid-sized companies,” Meyer says. “We do a host of different things all under one roof that you don’t typically see in any one company. You have an insurance agency, you consulting people and you have website people here.” 
 
Though the MMI Lansing office is currently downtown, Meyer hopes to eventually expand into two Lansing-area offices, with one on the east side of town, and another on the west. 
 

Annabelle's Pet Station expands pet play areas and training services, adds four jobs

It’s been a busy few years for Annabelle’s Pet Station since their opening in January of 2009. When Ann Andrews and Angela Brown first opened the doors of their doggie daycare, they averaged about three dogs per day. Today, they’re up to 30. 
 
To make more room to grow, Annabelle’s has undergone a year long renovation project that resulted in new play areas and expanded training opportunities. The business now has the capacity to host 50 dogs each day. 
 
“We now will have three play floors: one for large dogs, one for small and one for medium dogs,” says Andrews. “People are finding how handy it is. It saves their homes; it saves their sanity.”
 
With their growing clientele, Annabelle’s has also been taking on new employees. The 13-member staff is up four new positions since last year, and will soon bring on four more. In addition to its regular staff, Annabelle’s employs four trainers and a groomer. 
 
“It’s not just play all day,” Andrews says. “We work with the dog’s temperament. We do structured time with them too. There’s den time, a little bit of free play, structured play and some time outside.”
 
In the future, Andrews hopes to add overnight pet sitting services to Annabelle’s offerings, as well as an eventual overnight camp for canines and their families. 
 

Two local printing companies merge to become Keystone Millbrook, to add five jobs

Big changes have been underway in the local printing industry thanks to the merger of two of the area’s largest printing businesses, Keystone Printing and Millbrook Printing earlier this year.
 
“It was a long process, but it’s been an exciting one was well,” says Stephanie Murray-Killips, marketing director for the new Keystone Millbrook. “We were able to maintain the majority of our positions.”
 
According to Murray-Killips, the new company combined two shops with unique specialties that allowed most positions to remain unduplicated after the merger. Not only was Keystone Millbrook able to keep most of their employees, the firm of 50 workers is now hiring more.
 
“The two companies really had a long standing history of exceptional customer service,” Murray-Killips says. “It was a good fit in terms of company values.”
 
Five positions are currently posted, and Murray-Killips says demand will determine whether the company hires one or more employees for each new position. Between the merger and campaign season, that demand is currently looking strong. 
 
“We have just completed one of the greatest sales periods of our companies' history this past month,” says Murray-Killips. “I believe a lot of it has to do with our sales team being invigorated.”
 
The new Keystone Millbrook website is currently underway and will soon be unveiled to the public. 
 
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