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Innovation & Job News

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Supported Intelligence to help with business decisions, creates six jobs

Have a big decision on your mind? Should you open a second office? Should you hire additional employees? If you’re like many business owners facing risky decisions, you may have found that no matter what you plug into a spreadsheet, the darn thing just can’t give you enough information to really make a decision. 
East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group is launching a new company with a tool designed to do just that. Supported Intelligence has been built around a new software that incorporates what’s called Rapid RecursiveTM methodology for valuing investments and strategic options. That is, it helps businesses make better decisions. It all came about when AEG Principal and CEO Patrick Anderson began to realize that there had to be a better way to address risky choices than a spreadsheet. 
“When I looked at how people handled risky decisions in their real lives,” says Anderson, “I realized they handled them better than what was descried in the MBA books. I’ve been developing techniques that would match, mathematically, what people do themselves.” 
The result was six years of developing Supported Intelligence. The company is currently located in AEG’s East Lansing office and expects to launch their first product using the Rapid RecursiveTM methodology in September 2012. Anderson says the software will benefit a variety of businesses within an array of industries. Eventually he hopes to develop future software to even help individuals make life decisions, such as when to buy a house. 
Supported Intelligence currently employs six workers, and Anderson expects that number to double over the next year. 

New clean energy trade council to advocate for industry, create three jobs

As demand for renewable sources of energy continues to grow, a new trade organization in Lansing is ready to help Michigan play a significant role in the new energy economy. According to the new Energy Innovation Business Council, Michigan’s new energy manufacturing sector supports more than 20,700 jobs a year and has an economic impact of $4.9 billion a year.
“Michigan has a significant advanced energy and cleantech industry and is emerging as a global leader in the sector, yet it lacked a state wide organization that could bring its member businesses together,” says Lauren Bigelow, interim president of the EIBC. “The EIBC was created so at there was an industry association for these companies to network, share best practices, coalesce the collective vision and bring an industry voice for investors and the public as well as state and federal policy makers.” 
The EIBC launched this year as a voluntary membership organization. A search is currently underway for a permanent president, and Bigelow expects the organization to employ two additional employees, one in administration and another in policy. Though an exact location will not be selected until after a president is in place, Bigelow says it will likely be in downtown

“The EIBC aims to diversify and accelerate the growth of Michigan’s energy sector and create partnerships to expand business opportunities,” Bigelow says. “By securing access to capital, engaging the public and policymakers, advocating for policy, and advancing energy innovation, EIBC can help generate jobs and develop Michigan’s clean energy economy.”

TechSmith adds 11 new positions, soon to hire 15 more

When Olympic athletes and internationally recognized education innovators such as the Khan Academy are using your products, something very right is happening. That’s the state of affairs at Okemos-based TechSmith. The screen capture and recording software company has been growing since 1995, though they’re experiencing a notable growth spurt as of late.
“There has been a ton of momentum behind cloud and mobile products,” says TechSmith’s Natalie Ebig Scott. “We’ve shifted employees around to work on cloud-based infrastructure. That’s required some new skillsets and talents as well as new training of existing staff.” 
TechSmith currently employs 232 full time employees and approximately 30 interns. Eleven of those positions have been added since January, and another 15 are currently in the process of being filled. 
“Between continuing our momentum behind our desktop product and the fact that we have about 10 million users worldwide,” says Scott, “you mix all that up and, there is so much going on here. There are lots of opportunities for people to move up here.”
Some of those users are Olympic athletes utilizing the Coach’s Eye application. One such athlete’s use of the software was covered by the technology media site Mashable. According to Scott, future plans for TechSmith include developing a method to close the feedback loop with customers, so they are better able to communicate with each other about the content they create with the products. 

East Lansing couple creates Green Kitchenware store

Amy Bibbings was just looking for a way to dispose of her old, non-stick cookware in an environmentally friendly way. Not only was she unble to find a good resource for disposal, she couldn’t find a good source for information on how to replace it with a more sustainable kind of cookware. So she and her husband made one. 
“Right now it’s a place where you can buy new stuff. We’re trying to find responsible vendors who have some commitment to the environment,” says Jason Bibbings of the couple’s new online store, Green Kitchenware. “One of our expansion plans is to create a program where, if they purchase from us, we’ll handle the disposal of their current cookware.”
Green Kitchenware launched last week and currently employs Amy and Jason Bibbings. Their future plans include expanding into new area in environmental sustainability and create their own line of green cookware. 
“We’re trying to keep Michigan beautiful by eliminating some of the waste and garbage,” says Bibbings. “We have to preserve our environment because nobody is going to do it for us.” 

Gravity Works nearly quadruples staff in two years

Old Town’s Gravity Works Design & Development has been growing at a rate that defies, well, gravity. The website and mobile application firm added  three new team members this month, and has grown from three to 11 employees in the span of two years. 
“We're really focused on making the client happy,” says Lauren Colton of Gravity Works. “Our culture is all about learning to build better web and mobile products, but the whole Gravity Worksteam is passionate about personalizing solutions to individual client needs and their target audience. That has led to a lot of returning clients, and a lot of referrals from past clients.”
Some of the clients keeping Gravity Works so busy include the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Lansing Housing Commission, Mr. Handyman and the National Association of Career Women. The growing staff has resulted in the firm expanding into a second office space next to their original location, which was previously used for the Gravity Works’ Second Gear Coworking facility. The newest positions added to the company include senior creative designer, operations manager and mobile applications developer.

Even with a substantially larger team, Colton says Gravity Works future plans include sticking to the firm’s tradition of community outreach.

“Our whole team is really involved in the community, and we plan to help Mid-Michigan nonprofit organizations at Lansing GiveCamp, August 18,” says Colton. “Our next programming contest is also in the works, where Gravity Works invites community members to work in teams solving a puzzle, and the best solution wins a prize.”

Inspired Green adds more than 100 jobs, looks to grow even more

If anyone were to wonder how the green energy industry is going in Michigan, one would only have to look at Grand Ledge’s Inspired Green to see an example of the sector’s growth.
“In April [of 2011] we probably had about 45 to 50 employees,” says Inspired Green Vice President Jay Messner. “We ended the year at about 170. We are back in a push now, and we we need to add about 50 more positions in the next two months.”
That is some growth. Though Inspired Green has operations throughout the state, Messner says about 75 percent of their current jobs are in the Lansing area. The growth, he says, has to do with both demand and quality.
“We continue to be probably the leader in the county in delivering both utility energy efficiency program goals and in-home performance retrofits,” Messner says. “We are in high demand in the utility program front. Because of the relationships we build to help our customers, we’re very proficient at having those customers refer others to us.”
Inspired Green currently serves the markets of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Monroe, Coldwater, Allegan and Flint, and have opened offices in Chicago and Cincinnati.
“Our growth is based on our radical commitment to our mission and core principles,” says Messner, “which are driven by the golden rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Everything we offer legitimately benefits customers.” 

MacIntyre and Cowen REMAX adds nine jobs

Peter MacIntyre built large, commercial buildings for more than 30 years before he began selling residential ones in the Lansing area. The experience as a bricklayer must have helped. His growing team at MacIntyre and Cowen REMAX Real Estate Professionals has been named the Number One Sales Team by the Greater Lansing Board of REALTORS in 2009, 2010 and 2011. 
“I started doing short sales in 2006 when everyone else refused to do them because they were looking at the money,” says MacIntyre. “All those hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve helped over the years have come back to me in referrals.” 
Hundreds is no exaggeration. Last year, MacIntyre’s team sold 212 homes and MacIntyre plans to sell more than 300 in 2012. With all of those sales, the team has had to grow. According to MacIntyre, nine new positions have been created at the agency in the last year or so.
The agent says his success came in part because of his willingness to learn from others who have been successful. 
“I was smart enough to go out and get some real estate coaching with some of the best real estate agents,” says MacIntyre. 
While he doesn’t want to grow his team too much larger, MacIntyre plans to continue to strive to be the best real estate agency in the area.

MSU researcher uses Nintendo Wii to help cancer patients recover from surgery

Who said recovering from lung cancer surgery can’t be a little fun? Michigan State University College of Nursing researcher Amy Hoffman has found a promising new way to help lung cancer patients reduce fatigue and get more exercise during their transition back home: Nintendo Wii. 

“I always said I wouldn’t have video games in my house,” Hoffman says, “but when my son fell and broke his arm and had orthopedic surgery, my doctor said, ‘Get him a video game.’” 

Not only did Hoffman witness the Nintendo Wii help her son’s recovery, but she also experienced the fun first hand when a group of colleagues got together to play a bowling game on the system. 

“We know that exercise is the most effective way to treat fatigue,” Hoffman says, “After playing I thought, ‘You know, this might work.’”

Hoffman was able to find out with a $379,741 grant from the National Cancer Institute. Hoffman organized a pilot study that incorporated the use of the Nintendo Wii-Fit Plus to promote light-intensity, self-paced walking and balance exercise to address cancer-related fatigue. The gaming system allowed patients exercise at home without the barriers of travel or weather.

“The Wii has many different options on it, so it provides for some diversity,” Hoffman says. “Some people like snowboarding and some like soccer, but it’s all very light activity, and something they feel good about doing.”
With positive results from the pilot study, Hoffman will now conduct a larger study. She hopes the new treatment will not only help the patients recover, but also begin a pattern of exercise that will continue their entire lives. 

Local boxer moves youth boxing nonprofit to South Cedar facility

When Kolmarge Harris got into some trouble as a kid, he found his way back on track through boxing and the community around the sport who took him under their wing. Now that he has been a professional boxer for 10 years, he wants to give back to the community who supported him. That’s why he started Lansing Spartans Youth Organization
“When I got older I started boxing and learning the techniques and turned my whole life around,” says Harris. “Now that I have the power in my hands to reach out to my community, I wanted to do something for the youth.”
Harris began LSYO in 2010, but recently moved the nonprofit into the Capitol City Boxing and MMA on South Cedar. Though Harris is currently charging a fee for kids to participate, he hopes to support the organization through grants in the future, so participation can be free. 
Harris has had offers to begin a chapter of LSYO in Las Vegas, but he is committed to getting his local operations going first. 
“I want to start here, in my community,” Harris says. “I want to be here until my sons are old enough to take over.”

MSU Bikes merges with MSU Surplus/Recycling to improve repair and resale services

Michigan State University estimates that around 20,000 bicycles call their campus home, and thanks to a reorganization of MSU Bikes and MSU Surplus/Recycling, the way some of those used bikes are recycled and resold on campus is about to become a lot more streamlined. 

The bicycle shop MSU Bikes is now part of MSU Surplus/Recycling.

“Going back to the beginnings of the MSU Bikes Service Center,” says MSU Bikes Service Center manager Tim Potter, “Surplus was considered as a possible home, but it was decided that it would go under the Physical Plant/Transportation Services. Over the years it’s become apparent that it doesn’t make a whole lot so sense to sell bikes out of two different places.”

Prior to the move, impounded and donated bikes were sold at both locations, but MSU Bikes repaired and refurbished the bikes and surplus/recycling sold them as is. Eventually a second bike shop will be opened at the Surplus Store/Recycling Center on the south side of campus, which will make purchases and repairs easier, not only for university students and facility, but also for the general public. 

“Surplus has had pretty limited hours to the public,” says Potter. “But there is good parking down there, so the general public can get here easily. So we’re working on a few things there.”
Potter hopes students, faculty and the general public find that the reorganization gives them access to more bikes at better quality, and with fewer headaches.

Joe & Shirley's Place receives $12K grant from 100 Women Who Care

It takes a pretty special person to dedicate their life to serving others, especially when that dedication runs as deeply as David and Leeann Beatty’s. The couple began Joe and Shirley’s Place in 2004 to help men and women with addictions to drugs and alcohol. The organization recently received a much needed, $12,000 grant from the Lansing Chapter of 100 Women Who Care.
“I just love addicts and alcoholics,” says David Beatty. “I’m a recovering person myself, and somebody helped me a long time ago to get on my feet. I’m kind of paying it forward.”
The Beatty’s received a donation of three houses when they first started the organization and filled them immediately with homeless individuals and those recently released from prison or treatment centers. 
“A lot of people come with nothing,” says Beatty. “We help them the get IDs, social security cards, personal hygiene products – whatever they need. Where a person is when we meet them, if they’re ready to receive help, or if they’re just passing through.”
Beatty quit his job to work fulltime for Joe and Shirley’s Place. The nonprofit is run entirely by himself and his wife, along with their board. Beatty says the 100 Women Who Care Grant will be used to pay taxes and utility bills and keep the organization running. 
“We’re not getting rich,” he says, “But we’re helping people. We’ll go anywhere day or night who is using and take them where they need to go to get treatment or whatever they need. We get lots of people reaching out and not knowing what to do.”

Municipal Supply celebrates 50 years with website launch

Home businesses weren’t as common in 1961 as they are today, but that didn’t stop Howard and Verna Wohlscheid from starting Municipal Supply Company that way, and the company is now celebrating its 50th year in business with the launch of a new website. 
Municipal Supply moved to its current location on Industrial Drive in 1977. The company sells water and sewer materials to cities and contractors with an emphasis on excellent customer service.

“In starting our new website, we feel we are getting our name out there to more and more people,” says Brian Wohlscheid, President of Municipal Supply Co. “We feel that in launching this website, we are staying on top of the technology available to us.”

Municipal Supply worked with the Center for Business Innovation and Spring Arbor University on the new site. The university used the site as a teaching opportunity for students. 

“It was a positive experience for all of us,” says Wohlscheid. “We appreciated all of the input and hard work that each of the students did.”

The goal of the new website is to enhance communication with customers through announcing product promotions and news in the municipality industry.  

“We especially wanted to have a place to share our story and for customers to learn more about who we are as an organization,” Wohlscheid. 

Municipal  Supply Company has grown to six full time employees. According to Wohlscheid, the company’s goal is to continue with their practice of great customer service connecting directly with customers. 

Gigabit Ready initiative launches with new partnerships, website and accreditation program

Just months after the announcement that a coalition of local economic development organizations and Michigan State University would pursue an initiative to prepare the Lansing area for ultra high-speed broadband, the group has announced several benchmarks have already been made in achieving that goal. The benchmarks include partnerships with the private sector, the creation of the "Gigabit Ready," initiative, the launch of the Beta version of GigabitReady.com and the unveiling of the “Gigabit Certified” Building Program. 
The Greater Lansing Gig.U coalition, comprised of the Prima Civitas Foundation (PCF), the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Connect Michigan, MSU and many regional partners are now working with local property owner and management company DTN Management and Spartan Net to begin outfitting all of their residential complexes, totaling more than 8,500 customers, with gigabit level broadband networks and services.
“What DTN is doing is top tier in terms of similar type businesses across the county,” says Tremaine Phillips of PCF. “There are not very many developers who are doing this across the county.”
The Gigabit Certified program will offer buildings like those DTN and Spartan Net will soon equip with gigabit technology the opportunity to market themselves as certified as a place residents have easy access to the ultra high-speed broadband. This is the first building accreditation program of its kind.
“This is just one of the examples of what we’re trying to do,” says Phillips. “Encourage the public and private sectors that this is the route our region needs to take to attract world-class talent and jobs.” 
To learn more, visit the Beta version of the Gigabit Ready website. 

MSU researcher develops biofuel process that dramatically improves energy recovery

Small, rural energy producers could benefit from a new biofuel production process created by Michigan State University researchers that produces 20 times more energy than existing methods. Their work demonstrates how microbes can be used to produce biofuel and hydrogen, all while consuming agricultural wastes.

It opens the possibility of using lignocellulose wastes for ethanol, rather than using corn,” says Gemma Reguera, the MSU microbiologist who has developed bioelectrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs. “At the same time, we are recycling waste and providing a technology that can decentralize biomass waste processing at small to medium scales. We are also recovering much of the energy stored in the waste and converting it into readily usable and storable fuels such as ethanol and hydrogen gas. As we scale up the technology, we can envision more applications such as their integration into ethanol biorefineries.” 
Reguera’s work is unique because it utilizes a second bacterium that removes all the waste fermentation byproducts or nonethanol materials while generating electricity. Though similar microbial fuel cells have been investigated, Reguera’s platform averages 35 to 40 percent energy recovery just from the fermentation process, rather than the 3.5 percent that has been achieved in the past. 

“I am always concerned about how many rural areas of the country have been left out of the bioenergy portfolio,” says Reguera. “When we think about bioethanol, we think big (biorefineries) and forget about the small producers. I think sustainability and bioenergy needs to reach all.”

Reguera co-authored the paper with MSU graduate student Allison Spears.

The Allen Street Hub renovation moves forward with $27,000 in grants

The Allen Neighborhood Center’s Allen Street Food Hub project continues to move forward with the recent announcement of a $7,000 grant by the Capital Region Community Foundation and a $20,000 grant from the R.E. Olds Foundation.  The Hub is being developed in a functionally obsolete warehouse behind ANC. It will house a commercial incubator kitchen, food storage bins and the Allen Street Farmers' Market during the colder six months of the year. 
“This builds on the work we’ve been doing for a decade with food,” says Joan Nelson, director of ANC. “Since 2004, we’ve grown every year. We started with four farmers and now we’re a huge market with 16 farmers and several prepared food vendors. But we didn’t want to stop there. Real food security requires that we grow food.”
Once completed, the $400,000 project will seek LEED certification. It will be the first functionally obsolete property in Lansing to achieve such an accreditation. Thus far, the organization has raised about half of the necessary funds to complete the project. A grand opening is currently planned for January of 2013. 
“We’ve been amazed,” says Nelson. “People see this as a community investment opportunity. We are developing a sustainable community project and we are confident in what its impact will be.”
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