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Phenometics to expand, receives start-up award, adds seven jobs

Phenometrics CEO Mimi C. Hall was surprised when she learned that her company had been named the Michigan Business Incubator Association's Incubator Client of the Year last month. Considering all that Phenometrics has accomplished since moving into the Technology Innovation Center six months ago, perhaps she shouldn’t have been. 
“We’ve gone from nothing – just a business plan - to shipping product,” says Hall.
And not just any old product, but a pretty amazing one. The Phenometrics Photo Bioreactor allows researchers who are working to develop biofuels from algae to bring that work into a controlled setting.
“It’s a great technology and we’ve grown very quickly in the beginning,” Hall says. “The staff at TIC and having the opportunity to be here has played a pivotal role in our development and growth. We’re taking the next step right now.” 
That next step will officially begin in June when Phenometrics moves out of the TIC and into a 2,300 square foot facility in East Lansing’s Alliance Building. The extra space will allow Phenometrics to manufacture certain parts of their product and assemble it on site. Since opening last fall, Hall has added seven staff members to the company. 
Hall’s future plans for Phenometrics are to begin developing new product lines, as well as expanding within the company’s current market. 

Huntington Bank to add more than 60 jobs in new Lansing area Meijer locations

Meijer has been changing the way Michigan customers shop since the 1960s. Now, Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank is partnering with the grocery giant to change the way clients do their banking. Beginning with the new Bath Township location on May 17, Huntington Bank will open more than 20 branches inside Meijer stores that will be open seven days a week with extended weekday hours. 

“Customers really want banking to be convenient,” says Huntington Senior Executive Vice President and Retail & Business Banking Director Mary Navarro. “We decided we might as well put the banks where the customers already are rather than having them go somewhere else.”

The new Meijer branches will be full-service locations where customers can do anything from walk up to a teller with their grocery cart to sit down with a Huntington representative to talk about loans, investments, insurance and more. The branches will operate from 8:00am through 8:00pm on weekdays, Saturdays 8:00am to 5:00pm and Sundays 10:00am to 4:00pm.

The branches will vary from 400 to 1,250 square feet in size and will employ approximately seven employees per location. A total of nine locations will open in the Lansing area over the next year, bringing about 63 new jobs to the area. According to Navarro, Huntington has long-term plans to add a number of free standing locations in the Lansing area as well. 

“In general, we like Michigan,” she says. “It’s a state that has gotten their economic development efforts together, and we want to be a part of it.”

MSU researchers invent protein purifier to aid drug development

Developing pharmaceutical drugs is a lengthy and expensive process. Thanks to the work of two Michigan State University researchers, however, pharmaceutical companies could save time and money with a newly invented protein purifier.

For 15 years, MSU chemists Merlin Bruening and Greg Baker have been working on ways to improve the process of isolating a single, desired protein from other proteins. Separating these pure proteins is a necessary step to increase drug effectiveness and safety, and Bruening and Baker hope that making the process more efficient will help manufacturers deliver new drugs to consumers more quickly as well as reduce costs. 

The goal was a lofty one, but after so many years of working, a little bit of luck helped the researchers make a breakthrough. 

“Sometimes you get lucky or have a bit of serendipity,” says Baker. “We changed some of the conditions we used to make membrane and suddenly things got really nice."

The details of the invention appeared in a recent issue of the journal Langmuir and they demonstrate that high-performance membranes are highly suitable for protein purification. Though the invention has the potential to have a great impact on the industry, several steps remain before it makes its commercial debut.

“A provisional patent has been filed,” says Baker. “The next step is that we’d like to make it cheap enough so you can throw the membrane away at the end. If we can make it a little bit cheaper yet it can be even better.”

CEOs for Cities national meeting to take place in Cincinnati

Imagine Lansing as a startup at CEOs for Cities national meeting May 17-18
In a January opinion piece in TechCrunch, entrepreneur Jon Bischke suggested the most successful urban leaders are those who view cities like startups. CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders dedicated to creating next generation cities, will examine that premise at its 2012 Spring National Meeting: The City As a Startup -- Creating Demand, Attracting Talent, Taking Risks and Going to Scale.
The meeting is set for May 17-18 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and is made possible with support from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case will deliver the morning keynote and also sit on a panel conservation about Startup America. 
CEOs for Cities will also release its latest City Vitals report, a framework for measuring the success of cities. Other panels include considering Songdo, South Korea as the planet's smartest city and using the collective impact approach to catalyze social change. There will also be opportunities to tour Cincinnati attractions and examples of success.
Register here. View a draft agenda here

Pruess Pets celebrates 30 years, grows staff by 10 percent

The Preuss family has been in the pet business since the 1960s when Rick Preuss’ mother opened a small fish store in the family’s home. Half a century later, Old Town’s Preuss Pets is celebrating its 30-year anniversary as the premier pet store in the region. 
The 25,000 square foot location on Grand River began in 1982 as a 2,000 square foot shop in Haslett. 
“For the first year and a half it was pretty much a family-run store,” says Preuss. “I thought it was the greatest profession ever. Soon enough, we started growing, from our understanding of what it is that people really need, to what it takes to run a successful family business.”
Preuss Pets now has 70 employees and is continuing to grow. The staff has increased by 10 percent over the last two years, and two to three new part-time staffers will be hired when construction on the store’s new pond, water garden and waterfall area is completed in May. 
Preuss credits his business’ continued growth to his family’s commitment to not only their customers, but also their pets. 
“It’s helping pets help people,” he says. “The pets are the stars of the show. Our job is to understand what the animals needs and to understand how to relate that to people so they can see those needs.”
Preuss Pets celebrated their anniversary with special events and activities in April. 
“Celebrating the anniversary will go throughout the year,” Preuss says. “I hope we can continue to have this gift to share with the community for another 30 years.”

Zeppelin's Music Hall brings new music options to Michigan Ave

Lansing native Michael Malott has had a full and successful music career already, but now he’s bringing his time and talents back to his hometown with his new venue, Zeppelin’s Music Hall.
The intimate space with a 60-person capacity is located on East Michigan Avenue in Lansing, across from The Green Door and next door to Emil’s Restaurant. Currently featuring live music Thursday through Sundays, Malott feels his music hall concept fills a need in the Lansing music scene.
“I spent a lot of time in New York City, and I like the warmth of the smaller clubs,” he says. “I didn’t see anything like that here. There are a lot of young, emerging artist out there who are under the age of 21 or 18 are excluded from playing a lot of places.”
Zeppelin’s does not serve alcohol and is therefore an all ages club. Marlott explains that this is important not only to give young musicians a place to play, but also to give young music enthusiasts a place to hang out.
“I would rather have them sitting in my club listening the music and not drinking and driving around, doing stupid stuff.”
Zeppelin’s will feature a wide range of music, including acoustic nights on Sundays, jazz nights, and even a taping of a variety show similar to The Gong Show that will air on public television.
“We have a reggae artist coming in from Kingston, we have a rock band from New York coming next month,” says Marlott. “It’s rock, industrial, punk, reggae, jazz and bluegrass. It’s everything.”

Straight2YourDoor to offer new delivery options to area diners

Lansing area residents who often find themselves too busy to cook or dine-in at a restaurant, but are tired of pizza and Chinese take-out are about to have an array of new food options at their fingertips. Straight2YourDoor, a multi-restaurant delivery service will open their second Michigan location in East Lansing in the next month. 
The innovative business model began in Bloomington, Indiana in 2006 when Jason Moldoff and his business partner decided there weren’t enough food delivery options in the area of Indiana University. They teamed up with area restaurants and started handling the ordering, pick-up and delivery for customers. Today, Straight2YourDoor serves customers in six cities across the United States, and East Lansing is about to become the seventh. 
“College markets are a huge concentration for us,” says Moldoff . “We have our eyes and ears in that direction. With Michigan State being such a large campus, East Lansing made sense.”
The approximately 300-square foot office located in the Northwind Office Park on Northwind Drive will be operated by franchisee Jasem Yousuf, who also manages the Ann Arbor branch of the company. 
“[Yousuf] came into the company when we acquired M-Delivers in Ann Arbor,” says Moldoff. “He did a phenomenal job turning around the business. This is the kind of guy we want to grow with.”
Straight2YourDoor will likely open for business between May 15 and June 1. The company will continually expand their restaurant options, but has already partnered with eight to 10 local restaurants. Calls are handled through the business’ call center in Austin, Texas and they partner with staffing company Delivery Drivers for their deliveries. Moldoff estimates up to 15 local drivers will eventually be delivering for Straight2YourDoor.

$5M MSU digester to transform food waste into renewable energy

As of today, about 21,000 tons of manure and 1,500 tons of food waste are generated every year at Michigan State University. Those numbers are likely to stay the same in the future, but what happens to all that waste is about to change. MSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering is about to begin work on a $5 million anaerobic digester, which will not only help re-use waste, but will also create energy for on-campus buildings.

“This really addresses the three main missions of the university: teaching, research and outreach,” says Manager of MSU’s ADREC, Dana M Kirk, Ph.D. “This system will provide us the opportunity to have a commercial-scale classroom for our students.”
Kirk hopes to have the digester up and running sometime in 2013. MSU expects the digester to generate enough energy and revenue to pay for itself in less than 15 years – all the while preventing organic waste from going to landfills.

The anaerobic digester will be a sealed tank that is deprived of oxygen. Organic waste inside will be degraded at a temperature that will allow the waste material to decompose quickly, producing methane that can be used as fuel. Digesters are widely used in Europe, but aren’t as common in the US. Kirk hopes MSU’s will help to change that.

“It’s something that farms or smaller communities in the state could look at and say, ‘we could do this too,’” says Kirk.  “This is an opportunity to really take a step forward and be a national and international leader in anaerobic research and education.”
Kirk estimates one full- and one part-time employee will be required to operate the digester when it is up and running. 

Injured MSU wrestler launches LynX Action Sports Apparel while in recovery

It’s impressive enough that Michigan State University student Collin Dozier, who attends the school on a wresting scholarship can already look back on herniating a disc in his neck so badly that it broke in 2011 and say, “Everything happens for a reason.”
More impressive still is that Dozier has good reason to believe it. After being in a neck brace and unable to attend class for months following the injury, he was able to keep up in school, rehabilitate himself back to 100 percent, and is now launching his own line of clothing with LynX Shreds, also called LynX Action Sports Apparel
“If I didn’t hurt myself I would have been wakeboarding in last summer,” says Dozier. “It’s almost been a blessing in disguise.”
Instead, the MSU student was busy building a business. He began with a concept developed by himself and some of his friends from his hometown of Virginia Beach who nicknamed their favorite wakeboarding area The Lynx. They made shirts, hats and stickers with a Lynx logo and sold them locally.
“Everybody wanted to know who we were,” says Dozier. “The name just stuck. When I came to MSU, I was still wearing my Lynx stuff and people liked it.”
Dozier has now designed and developed an entire line of sports apparel, including t-shirts, hats, dryfit workout shirts, as well as MMA gloves and shorts available online. Developing the business over the past year has given him the opportunity to partner with his father, a long-time businessman himself. 
Dozier has also received promotional help from his fellow student athletes, such as Draymond Green, Greg Jones, Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol who help to promote the clothing line. 

Jackson reaches green delivery goal, donates $100,000 to plant trees

Earth Day was especially for Jackson National Life this year as the Lansing-based insurance company celebrates the fulfillment of a $100,000 donation to American Forests and its commitment to plant 100,000 trees across the country. Jackson partnered with American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program after reaching its goal of a 30 percent consent rate for policyholders and representatives to receive their company correspondence from Jackson electronically.
According to Jackson’s Courtney Sipperley, American Forests was not only a good partner for Jackson because of their environmental mission, but because the insurance company was assured every bit of their donation would be making a difference. 
“We were impressed with their metrics,” Sipperley says. “We knew that for every dollar we gave to them, one tree would be planted. They are a well-rounded and consistent organization.”
Jackson’s commitment to making a positive environmental impact goes back several years, beginning with several internal programs to help reduce waste. 
“We started a pretty robust recycling program in Lansing,” says Sipperley. “Also, we started giving employees a discount for using reusable utensils in the dining room. It kind of started as something we should do because, why not? Internally, it ended up saving us a lot of resources and a lot of money.”
Since 2009, Jackson’s Green Delivery efforts have saved the company millions of dollars and decreased its paper and postage consumption. American Forests will use Jackson’s donation to plan 100,000 trees across the United States with a focus on both areas of need and the cities where Jackson offices are located, like Lansing. 

Incu-BaKe launches Nourish Network to feed the community, support local causes

There’s no doubt about it: Marcy Bishop Kates loves to feed people. In fact, it was during a casual conversation with her friend and fellow foodie Randy Bell about how much they love preparing breakfast when the two cooked up a plan to use food to for a good cause. The Nourish Network is a new program organized by Bell and Kates, the owner of the new Holt kitchen incubator, Incu-BaKe, that seeks to raise funds for area nonprofits by offering donations-only community breakfasts.  
“He had mentioned the Selma Café in Ann Arbor,” says Kates of Bell. “He said, ‘we need to copy this.’ We have a social entrepreneur mindset here at Incu-BaKe, so I’ve always wanted to do stuff like this for the community.”
The first Nourish Network breakfast took place at Incu-BaKe in April. Area farms and food suppliers donated the ingredients, and about ten volunteers helped to prepare, set up and serve the food. Kates estimates between 30 and 40 attendees came to enjoy the breakfast casseroles and homemade cinnamon rolls, $461 was raised for local food banks. 
“It was the best day,” says Kates. “My feet didn’t touch the floor for the entire day.”
Kates was also able to donate the leftover food to Food Gatherers, maximizing the impact of every donation and volunteer effort. Kates and Bell intend to host the Nourish Network breakfasts quarterly at the beginning, but hope to grow it into a monthly event. 

Lansing Schools to send middle school students to Otsu, Japan

In the late 1990s, middle school students from the Lansing School District (LSD) visited Lansing’s oldest sister city in Japan each year as a part of the Lansing-Otsu Middle School Exchange Program. Then it became every other year. No students have gone since 2008. 
That is about to change. With the Japanese language program recently reinstated for middle school students and fundraising underway, the LSD is preparing to re-start the Lansing-Otsu Middle School Exchange Program. 
“One of our goals in the Lansing School District is to create students of the world,” says Angela Barry, Foreign Language Assistance Program Specialist for the LSD. “The program promotes international friends and international mindedness. It helps them to not only understand and the world around them, but also themselves and their own perspective.”
Twelve students and three alternates have been selected to attend after a lengthy application process. Each student is responsible for raising $2,500 to attend the trip, though the LSD is working hard to help raise the funds. 
“They are getting exited,” says Barry. “I see a sense of community building as they are getting ready to start planning fundraisers.”
While in Otsu, students will live with host families, attend school with a Japanese student their age and do sightseeing with their family. 
“It helps them to learn the language and motivates them to continue their studies,” Barry says. “In the past, students have gone on to be Japanese language teachers or to work for Japanese companies in Michigan.”
The LSD and participating students are currently seeking out individual and business donors to help make the trip possible. They are accepting donations right from their website.

LAFCU increases scholarship awards, adds 5 jobs

In it’s fourth year of LAFCU’s “Write to Educate” Scholarship Contest, the credit union serving Greater Lansing wanted to make some changes to be sure they were meeting the needs of local students. Where else would they turn than their very own student interns for ideas?

“We always want to give our interns a project,” says Kelli A. Ellsworth-Etchison, LAFCU’s vice president of community and business development. “We asked them for some feedback on our scholarship. One talked about shared that she had received a scholarship in high school that had a community piece, which makes sense for us as a community credit union.”

The ideas resulted in an increase in the scholarships to $2,500 and a community component in which the scholarship winner may chose a local charity to receive $500.

“Most people know we are a strong community credit union,” says Ellsworth-Etchison. “We strongly believe in giving back, and we are encouraging all high school senior to apply. I want to have lots of essays to read.”

The increase in community giving is a reflection of LAFCU’s overall growth. In the past year the credit union has added 4,000 new members and created five new part-time teller positions as well as three marketing internship spots. According to Ellsworth-Etchison, LAFCU will likely be adding additional jobs over the next year.

“Things are just going well,” she says. “I attribute it to this community.”

LAFCU employees contribute to the credit union’s community giving culture by volunteering with dozens of local organizations and donating more than $70,000 annually.

MSU Foundation launches Spartan Innovations, to add seven jobs

Michigan State University has placed a strong emphasis on turning the school’s intellectual capacity into viable businesses with such programs as MSU Technologies, The Hatch and MSU Business-CONNECT. Now, the MSU Foundation will add a new component, Spartan Innovations, to make the process even stronger.

“What typically comes from a university is an invention or discovery,” says Charles Hasemann, executive director of the MSU Innovation Center, “and that becomes a patent, but a patent isn’t a company. You have to have to put together the business plan and the technology plan to move it far enough forward to succeed.

Spartan Innovations will help make that happen as a part of the MSU Innovation Center, together with MSU Technologies and and Business-CONNECT on the third floor of the Downtown East Lansing building where the Technology Innovation Center is located. The combination of entrepreneurial entities was assembled after a great deal of studying other such entities.

“I don’t know that we’ve invented anything here,” says Hasemann, “but we’ve assembled the best pieces from across the county and put them in the same place, like nowhere else I’ve seen.”

Spartan Innovations is now searching for it’s executive director, and will soon hire two other full time staffers and four to five part time business mentors. The MSU Foundation will fund the entity with a budget of $2 million per year. Additionally, when a private investor decides to invest in one of the Spartan Innovations businesses, the Foundation will match the investment.

SBAM launches MichiganJobsInsight.com, tracks small business job growth throughout state

The Small Business Association of Michigan knows where the jobs are in Michigan. The organization’s new Michigan’s Small Business Jobs Insight is a new program that tracks and report the jobs created by growing small business across the state. SBAM has partnered with Capital Gains’ parent company Issue Media Group to help tell the story of Michigan’s job growth one business at a time.
“There are hundreds of companies out there, creating one, two and three jobs at a time," says President & CEO of SBAM Rob Fowler. "And that's how it works."

The reporting tool of the project is MichiganJobsInsight.com, a website that includes jobs reported by small businesses in the current month, the percentage of jobs added in each Michigan region, total jobs reported year to-date, the top ten industries for small business job growth, and links to IMG stories covering regional small business job growth.

“Each one of these numbers has a story attached to it," says Fowler. "I find that small businesses are a little shy about telling their story."

Though the numbers reported on MichiganJobsInsight.com do not reflect a scientific count of every job created in Michigan, Fowler explains that is an understated count that shows progress being made by small businesses in Michigan.

SBAM’s Michigan’s Small Business Jobs Insight website isn’t the only way to keep up with the state’s latest jobs numbers. Michigan Jobs Insight can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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