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Innovation & Job News

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Jackson announces 34 percent revenue increase, adds 60 jobs

Jackson National Life Insurance Company recently announced a record IFRS1 net income of $683 million during 2011. This reflects a 34 percent increase from 2010. The Lansing-based company has generated more than a half-billion dollars in IFRS net income in seven out of the past eight years.
“Jackson has had a very consistent approach to its management philosophy,” says Director of Public Relations for Jackson, Andrew Silver. “It’s long-term, smart growth. In times of economic turmoil, that really serves the business really well.”
Silver also attributes Jackson’s continued success to high-quality customer service. 
“When you’re operating a financial service business through tumultuous times,” he says, “customer service really plays a big role.”
That philosophy has contributed to growth in more than just dollars for Jackson. The Lansing headquarters of the company added 60 new positions last year. Silver expects that job growth to continue in the upcoming year on an as-needed basis. Lansing is one of 14 Jackson locations throughout the nation.
Jackson’s growth is also good news for the local non-profit community. Jackson announces grant awards for local non-profits four times each year. The most recent announcement was $84,375 given to 20 organizations, including Alzheimer’s Association: Michigan Great Lakes Chapter, Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Inc., Black Child and Family Institute and Capital Area Humane Society.
The submission deadline for the next round of Jackson grants is May 3. Applications may be found at Jackson.com/ourcommunity.

MSU School of Education creates innovative doctoral program for community-minded administrators

Education is changing in the United States, and now Michigan State University is offering a chance for future administrators to change for the better as well. A new MSU educational doctorate program, called the Doctor of Educational Leadership, will prepare future superintendents and other top education leaders to work with policymakers, parents and other groups to affect change in their schools and communities.

“A lot of people will come [to the program] from various policy organizations and practice organizations and this will be very exciting for them,” says Professor Susan Printy, who coordinates the K-12 Educational Administration programs at MSU. “We had a need to create something that would meet state requirements, but we didn’t want to have a program that only met those standards.”
The Ed.D. program differs from a traditional Ph.D. program, in that instead of focusing on research, participants will engage in a group Capstone project that will directly impact communities. 

“Most programs ask students to write a dissertation,” says Printy. “Most dissertations sit on a shelf in a library. Why not take that energy, the smartness that people invest in that work and put it instead into making a difference for kids and communities in schools?”
According to Printy, MSU staff has been working for two years to develop the program, which will begin this fall. Twelve to 15 students are expected the first year, and 20 in following years.
“One of the biggest challenges schools have is being connected to their communities,” says Pirnty. “We want them to feel that responsibility to the community.”

MSU supply chain expert invited to White House

In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order to green up the supply chain of government goods. When it came down to figuring out exactly how to do that, the White House turned to one of Michigan State University’s supply chain experts for advice. 

David Closs, chairperson of the Department of Supply Chain Management, was invited to the White House last week to participate in a dialogue with about 50 experts from the government, business, nonprofit and academic sectors to discuss how to make the government supply chain more sustainable.

“One of the areas I've been researching,” says Closs, “is what companies do to enhance sustainability. I’ve been talking to the private sector, understanding what initiatives they’ve put in place.”

It should be no surprise for MSU to be a part of the discussion on this topic. MSU’s supply chain program is ranked number one for undergraduates and number two for graduates by U.S. News & World Report. 

“What differentiates MSU is that we have the most integrated view of the supply chain,” says Closs. “Our definition of the supply chain are all the activities from farm to fork, or as the case me be, from the sand to iPod.”

Closs received the invitation to the White House via email. The meetings took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, located next to the West Wing. 

“I think for MSU it's a great privilege to get this kind of visibility for the program,” Closs says. 

Granger partners with M3 Group on new brand

Granger has played a visible role in the Lansing area for a long time, but that role has changed over the years. Originally a construction company, the family-owned business is now in its third generation and is most known for its waste and energy services. 
“We’ve been in business nearly 50 years, but realized the ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ was not clear,” says Granger CEO Keith Granger. “Our story had not tracked with our growth.”
Granger partnered with Motion, Marketing & Media to determine how to address the issue. After conducting a brand audit, the Lansing-based firm helped Granger develop a new brand, logo and brand communication plan. The new logo can be seen as a leaf, a flame, or a G, when tilted to the side, and the new tagline is, “We collect tomorrow’s energy.”
“Our new brand symbolizes our strength, excellence in service, environmental approach to waste-removal and forward thinking, innovative solutions for landfill gas-to-energy programs,” says Granger.
The new brand is now visible on the company’s website, bills and six trucks. It will gradually be extended to all carts, trucks and containers as replacements are needed.
Today, Granger has more than 80 trucks on the road each day and operates two landfills, the largest recycling processing facility in the Lansing area, a compost facility and 14 landfill gas-to-energy projects, creating renewable energy in six states.

New dialysis center to bring 15 jobs, new treatment options to Delta Twp

It was a pretty good indication that the new Fresenius Medical Care facility in Delta Township would do well when the new Mall Drive East location had a waiting list before it opened on March 6. This is the dialysis company’s fifth center in the Lansing-area .
“I actually still have a waiting list now,” says Kim Lieberman, Clinical Manager for the new Fresenius location. “We have a lot of people coming from other facilities because this location is closer to their homes. They come here three times a week, so the closer location, frees them up to do more things they want to do with their time.”
The new facility has 16 chairs and state-of-the-art dialysis equipment and employs five workers. Lieberman expects the clinic to eventually employ up to 15. Next door, the company will soon open a vascular access center, which will pair a necessary procedure for dialysis patients with the same location as their regular treatment office. Six to seven employees will staff the vascular access center. 
Fresenius Medical Care will also offer training for dialysis patients who wish to complete their procedures at home.
“We will provide the training here and the follow-up at home,” Lieberman says. “We teach them how to do it, we provide the machine and everything.”
According to Lieberman, the company would like to continue to expand in the Lansing area. 

Communities in Schools awarded $37,000, to open and staff local State Office

The nationwide organization Communities in Schools (CIS) has been working to improve graduation rates in several Michigan cities for years through local affiliate programs. Those local affiliates, as well as other Michigan school districts that could benefit from a CIS program will soon gain the benefit of a CIS Michigan State Office near Downtown Lansing
“We’re really excited to be working in Michigan,” says Director of Field Operations for CIS, Louis Moser. “I think we’re going to have a lot of success, and a lot of supporters. We are hoping that the momentum will just keep it growing in Michigan.”
CIS is now in the process of hiring a state director and locating an office near Downtown Lansing. Moser expects at least one full- and one part-time employee will be added to the new staff. He hopes the office will be open by the end of April. 
The new CIS Michigan office will be tasked with an array of duties, including supporting and training existing local affiliates, identifying communities with a need for a CIS program and acting as an advocate for schools at the Capitol. 
“They’ll also be building statewide partnerships and resource development, finding other businesses and non-profits interested in increasing graduation rates,” says Moser. 
Even before opening its doors, the CIS Michigan office is receiving community support. It has been awarded two donations from State Farm totaling $37,500.
CIS is an organization that surrounds students with a community of support with the goal of empowering them to stay in school. CIS works in nearly 3,000 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Okemos Sip n' Snack reopens under new ownership

The Okemos community, as well as the friends and family of Val Korrey were saddened when the Sip N’ Snack closed its doors when owner Korrey passed away earlier this year. It was therefore an exciting day last week when the restaurant, an Okemos staple for 57 years, reopened. Perhaps no one was as excited as the owner herself, Josie Bordayo.
“I’m here to serve the community,” says Bordayo. “I’m very pleased and happy, because this is my dream.”
Bordayo worked as a cook at Michigan State University for years, as well as took culinary classes there to complement the cooking skills she developed growing up cooking for 15 siblings. Once she gets the Sip N’ Snack back up and running, she will pass ownership on to her son, Nick Turrubiates, and his wife Olivia.
Under the new ownership, Sip N’ Snack will feature new menu items such as chef salads and her family recipes for enchiladas and fajitas. Eventually, she says, the family may change the name of the restaurant. 
Sip N’ Snack now employs three workers in addition to Bordayo and her family members who help out. Throughout the renovation, Bordayo says several members of the community stopped by frequently to find out when the restaurant would reopen. When it did on Monday of last week, a large crowd came to welcome them.
“It was wonderful,” Bordayo says. “Everyone was waiting patiently for the doors to the open. Some had breakfast, and came back for lunch and then dinner.”

Sparrow Breast Clinic creates Breast Nurse Navigator program, receives national designation

For breast cancer patients, the process of going through treatment can be a frightening and confusing one, from biopsy to recovery. Now, patients of the Sparrow Breast Clinic have a new way to feel supported and guided from beginning to end. The new Breast Nurse Navigator program creates a point person to help patients through the diagnosis and treatment process
“It’s a very high stress time for women when they find something on their mammogram that requires follow-up,” says Joy Szilagyi, Sparrow’s Director of Radiology and Diagnostic Services. “She is truly an advocate for the patients.” 
The Sparrow Breast Clinic hired their first Breast Nurse Navigator in early January, and have been receiving positive feedback from patients and physicians alike. In the future, says Szilagyi, Sparrow may consider nurse navigators for other cancer departments. 

The Breast Nurse Navigator is only the latest in a series of good news from the Sparrow Breast Clinic. The clinic is now celebrating their designation as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.

“We just continually raise the bar for achieving top-notch quality for our patients,” Szilagyi says. “We’ve been very motivated to be sure we’re providing the highest quality services to women in the community.”
Contributing to their designation is the clinic’s new stereotactic breast biopsy machine that was purchased last year with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Sparrow Foundation’s Women Working Wonders program. The technology allows for biopsies to be a less invasive, outpatient process.

MSU MBA students compete in new business plan competition

Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business is making sure their students are armed with the power to be entrepreneurs upon graduation. The new Broad MBA Business Plan Competition challenges students to come up with an original business idea, submit a plan and then provides support and training to help the best of the plans come to life. 
“The goal of the competition is to induce the students to come up with original business ideas and learn how to prepare business plans that can raise venture capital financing,” says Zsuzsanna Fluck, MSU finance professor and director of the Center for Venture Capital, Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance. “The ultimate goal of the competition is to create and fund successful new companies.”
The final competition was held on March 24 by a panel of MSU alumni entrepreneurs and venture capital investors from around the nation after finalists were announced on March 18. In its first round, 74 MSU students in 19 teams entered the competition. The winning team will receive $3,000 and travel support to next-level competition on a state, regional or national level.

“The race was very tight,” Fluck says of the first round of the competition. “We intended to choose six finalists but we ended up selecting seven.”
Many of the ideas developed by the teams of students were highly innovative. Finalists included MeTrak, a social media company focused on giving control to individuals over their data on the internet; Spartan Green Technologies, a concept around a new green adhesive bonding technology; and Zoom Cash, a concept to introduce a new electronic payment technology to rural India. 

Lansing Art Gallery nears $100,000 in scholarships awarded to young artists

For 28 years, the Lansing Art Gallery’s Art Scholarship Alert program has been helping young art students pursue their dream one scholarship award at a time. All of that aid has been adding up, and now, as the program approaches its third decade, it’s also approaching another milestone: $100,000 awarded to area art students. 
“Art Scholarship Alert gives recognition and financial assistance to outstanding art students, encourages artistic growth and provides an opportunity to participate as an artist in a professional setting,” says Catherine Babcock, Executive Director of the Lansing Art Gallery. “Young artists learn commitment to a goal and gain self-confidence as they aspire to artistic excellence.”  
The program began in 1985, when a group of art teachers from the Lansing area determined there was a need to recognize student artwork in a community exhibition. The Art Scholarship Alert is open to students in grades nine through 12.
Including 2012 applicants, 28,705 students have entered the Art Scholarship Alert. The Lansing Art Gallery gives away an average of $3,600 in scholarships each year, which are supported by area businesses, organizations and individuals. According to Babcock, though receiving a scholarship is central to the program, every student who has participates benefits.
“Lansing Art Gallery Board and Staff understand that arts education has measurable impact on youth,” Babcock says. Participation in the arts can increase the overall academic performance while also deterring delinquent behavior, truancy and drop-outs.”
Art Scholarship Alert is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, Ingham County, and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.

MSHDA partners with Bingham Elementary on first community art contest

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is serious about community building. A new pilot program demonstrates this commitment with a fun way to bring the concept of communities into elementary school classrooms. MSHDA has announced a new student art contest focusing on the vision of a modern community. The authority has partnered with Bingham Elementary to kick off their pilot program, the MSHDA Community Art Contest.
“[Bingham] was a great fit to focus on community,” says Jeff Dutka, community affairs manager for MSHDA. “We are both members of the same community on the Michigan Avenue Corridor. What better way to get some fun submissions from students, and also allow them to work what it means to be a part of a community into their curriculums?”

The MSHDA Community Art Contest will ask children to illustrate the variety of buildings that make up their neighborhoods, and teach them to recognize the importance of community. Though the initial year will be a partnership with only Bingham Elementary, MSHDA has its eyes set on a much larger goal. 

“We’re still working out some of the bugs on how we’ll launch it at a statewide level,” says Dutka. “We have to keep in mind that it’s quite a big leap, but that is our big, audacious goal.”

Three age groups from kindergarten through fifth grade will participate in the program, and three winners will be selected from each group. The winning artwork will be used in a collage of the Michigan Avenue corridor to be displayed first at the Building Michigan Communities Conference in April and then at the MSHDA building.

Grand Rapids venture fund launches MSU spin-off, nanoRETE

In most cases, an entrepreneur with a great idea will approach a venture capital fund and ask for an investment to help get their plan off the ground. In the case of the Michigan Accelerator Fund I (MAF-I) and nanoRETE in East Lansing, the process went in reverse. The new Grand Rapids-based fund, which was awarded $6 million by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, actually launched nanoRETE themselves, at the request of one of their investors, the MSU Foundation.
“They said to us, ‘would you please help identify some of the assets that are being developed at the university so that we can commercialize them?” says Dale Grogan, Managing Director of the MAF-I and chairman of nanoRETE. “There is a ton of intellectual capital that comes out of [MSU research].”

Working with MSU Technologies, MAF-1 identified the work of Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja as the right fit for the fund. Dr. Alocilja develops nanoparticle-based biosensors for rapid, point-of-care identification and diagnosis of infectious agents, that is, she has created tests that identify agents such as salmonella and E. coli far more quickly than available tests.
“The novelty and the market opportunity of what she is doing is unparalleled,” says Grogan. “She has a method that shaves three days off of food testing. The market for this is enormous.”
NanoRETE just set up in a 1,100 square foot office in MSU’s MBI Complex and currently employs five workers. MAF-I has invested under $500,000 in the company since it began in 2011. 

Williamston Fire Department awarded $750,000 FEMA grant

There’s no way to put a price on public safety, but with an aging fire truck in its arsenal, the Williamston Fire Department was concerned about how to afford a much-needed replacement. After years of grant writing and re-writing, the volunteer department is now celebrating at $750,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) that will pay for 95 percent of a new truck.
“You can’t ask for a small community like ours to pay for a new truck” says Williamston Fire Chief, Bill Siegel. “When you get a grant for quarter of a million, it’s really nice. Without the grant, we couldn’t afford this.”
The Northeast Ingham Emergency Service Authority Williamston Fire had applied for a FEMA AFG grant once and was denied. But the hard-working volunteers didn’t give up. They met with FEMA representatives to help redraft the grant and reapplied. The winning grant was written by Rick and Reggie Shuck, local residents and volunteers with the Williamston Fire Department.
“And lo and behold, we got it,” says Siegel.
Specifications for the new truck are now being researched, and Siegel believes it will be another years before the bid process is complete, the truck is built and then delivered. The new truck will have a 100-foot ladder and will replace a 1991 truck with a 63 foot ladder.

Junior League of Lansing dedicates three years and $30,000 to Capital Area Literacy Coalition

Every three years, a new local cause gets a big boost. The Junior League of Lansing (JLL) chooses an organization that improves the lives of women and children in the greater Lansing area and partners with them for three years to provide both financial and volunteer support. As it’s ending one cycle with Care Free Dental, JLL has announced the Capital Area Literacy Coalition (CALC) will be the group’s next Signature Project.
“We have a three year process to determine Signature Project,” says Kate Powers, current President of Junior League of Lansing. “CALC went through the entire project and our membership worked really hard, asking questions and getting answers as to what would best fit for the needs of the community.”
By being chosen as the JLL’s Signature Project, CALC will receive $10,000 a year over the next 3 years to expand their Growing Readers Program. This program addresses birth to 5-year-old literacy by working with parents to improve their literacy skills. As an organization dedicated to supporting women and children, this program particularly appealed to the JLL.
“We’ll be working not just with children, but with their parents,” says Powers. “That is probably the piece that stood out the most to me. If you can’t read or you can’t read well, you can’t get a job … and safety is also a concern.” 
In addition to the funding, JLL members will also have volunteer opportunities with CALC, including tutoring parents and children, assembling guides for reading packets and providing administrative assistance.

LCC engages community in "Learn Forward" planning forums

Lansing Community College is planning for the future, and they are looking to the entire Lansing area to help them do it. The college is now embarking on a year-long strategic planning process, beginning with a series of community forums to garner feedback and direction from students, residents, local business owners and more. 
LCC’s last strategic plan covered years 2006 through 2011, and according to LCC Provost Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt, now is the perfect time to take another look at the school’s plan for the future.
“The rapid changes occurring in business and the workforce require us to become more flexible and responsive,” says Shanblatt. “In fact, the nation is counting on community colleges to help meet the need for significantly more college graduates so we can stay competitive in the world economy. This focus is occurring at the same time our funding sources have declined, so planning our future is a complex undertaking.”
The planning process will begin with a series of “Learn Forward” public forums taking place throughout the Lansing area during March. Attendees will be asked what they need from LCC, what kinds of education and training they think LCC should provide, how they think LCC should serve the community and what they believe to be the challenges facing higher education. 
“We want our students to prepare for high skill, high demand, high-wage jobs,” says Shanblatt. “At the same time, we want to contribute to strengthening the economic vitality of the region.”
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