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Boys & Girls Club of Lansing GET City Program Wins $10,000 National Award

Offering 200 hours of programming for Lansing area youth from low-income and under-represented backgrounds, GET City students experience year-round science and engineering of energy sustainability at a hands-on level, using advanced information technology to make an impact in their community.
The result of collaboration between Michigan State University’s colleges of education and engineering and the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing, Green Energy Technology (GET) in the City began in 2007, with the help of a National Science Foundation grant. Since, GET City youth have been challenged with various energy projects, understanding how they can change their carbon footprint in their communities, and how they can get others to help create change.
“Some of our past participants provided our Boys & Girls Club facility with an energy audit, and staff has actually implemented their plan,” offers Boys & Girls Club President, Carmen Turner. “These children walk with their heads held high; they feel they have a voice, that they’re actually listened to.”
The Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation honored GET City in mid-October with a 2012 Afterschool Innovator Award for youth development in science, technology, engineering, math, and information technologies. One of only five afterschool programs in the country to receive the recognition, a check for $10,000 was awarded to help expand GET City’s work.
“I love being able to open children’s eyes to all the different aspects of engineering, to open up a whole new world of possibilities and to watch as kids investigate their interests; this award helps to ensure we can continue to provide that experience,” says Turner. 

IDV Solutions continues to grow, increases hiring

When we last visited IDV Solutions, they had just announced a major partnership with Microsoft. The Lansing-based data visualization company continues to appeal to industry top dogs, recently signing with Yahoo!, Launching new versions of their flagship data visualization software, Visual Fusion, and updating their signature Visual Command Center product, - all this no doubt, helping to spur growth.
Director of Marketing, George Siegle says, “From a business perspective, we’ll be working hard to ensure that we continue to grow profitably. More and more organizations are embracing the data they already have. And Visual Fusion can help them analyze, understand, and take action on all their big data challenges. We’ll be evolving Visual Fusion to deliver on our customer’s expectations for the product – as a market leader for data visualization.”
In response to the growth, IDV is looking to fill several software development and internship positions. Newly hired Executive Vice President of Global Sales, Scott Sieracki, will lead the company to more growth, which includes growth in partnerships and sales team. While they don’t have a set goal of new hires, Siegle explains that IDV will definitely try to land candidates they like on the team.
About finding developers, Siegle says, “It’s turning out to be a bit challenging to find developers right now. Information Technology is definitely a bright spot for Lansing – between the web companies, other software development firms, and our insurance companies – Lansing has a big base of IT, but the flip side of that is that many of them are hiring too, and it’s very competitive to find developers.”

Hansons to add five new jobs with increase in home improvements

A tough housing market may have fewer people buying new homes, but home improvement company Hansons know that hasn’t stopped homeowners from investing in their current properties. 
“When people are not buying new homes, they understand they can’t move, but wan to make their home the best it can be,” says Hansons owner Brian Elias. “In Lansing, people really, really love their homes. When that happens, you have communities coming together you see a transformation of entire neighborhoods.”
The Lansing office of the Troy-based Hansons has been keeping up with that demand by hiring new staff to handle the increase in work. The office is currently hiring up to five new salespeople. They are also looking to hire a number of temporary marketing employees. 
“We hire field marketers, who go out to jobs sites, pass out flyers and talk to the neighbors,” says Elias. “We think that helps with unemployment.”
Elias expects the Dewitt office to continue its growth as Hansons explores additional product lines to offer their customers. 

Burcham Hills expands facility, grows staff by 20

An expansion is leading to further growth at Burcham Hills retirement community in East Lansing. After a renovation to their rehab area, which added 20 private suites, an increase in occupancy has the nonprofit hiring several new staff members. 
“We’re very proud of our private rehab suites,” says Joan Holda, director of human resources for Burcham Hills. “People who come here for therapy will feel that they are in an environment temporary therapy, not long term care.” 
Approximately 20 jobs have been created by the facility’s growth, including nurses and certified nursing assistants, among others. According to Holda, the goal of the renovations to the rehab area was to offer more private suites, as opposed to rooms shared by multiple occupants. 
“We didn’t change the number of beds, but it really impacted our census,” says Holda. “Most people would really prefer a private suite, and their families can come in and stay with them if they would like to. We’ve done a lot of things that make it comfortable for them.”
Holda expects Burcham Hills will only continue to grow and change, as the industry itself is ever evolving. 
“We really want to continue to improve our culture, continue to strive toward having the highest standards,” Holda says. “In this industry, you can’t just sit still; you have to continue to improve and continue to meet the needs of the market.”

CASE continues to grow staff, receive state and national awards

It’s been a busy year for CASE Credit Union. And to talk to CASE President/CEO Jeffrey Benson, it doesn’t sound like things will be slowing down anytime soon. 
“It’s kind of strange,” say Benson, “because we keep growing and it doesn’t seem to stop.”
CASE has added 28 new positions over the past two years, five of which have been added this year. Benson expects another five to six positions will be added over the next year. 
Benson attributes the credit union’s growth to improved company morale, as well as their focus on electronic services for customers. Among other services now available, Benson says CASE was the first local institution in the Lansing area to offer mobile banking. 
“Each employee is mandated to memorize [our mission statement so they have it in their heart to do what’s best for the members,” Benson says. “We’ve taken down some of the barriers to join or to get a loan. Every time a member touches us – online or in person – we want it to be a positive, warm experience.”
Additionally, CASE has also been busy in the community service arena. Their CASE Cares Miracle Field opened this May at Valley Farms Park. The field is a place for children and young adults with special needs play to baseball, and won CASE first place in Michigan’s Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Program and second place in the national program. 
Benson himself also received the “Credit Union Professional of the Year” award from the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates and the Michigan Credit Union Foundation. 

Stateside Deli to add bar service, 10 jobs to East Lansing location

Since the Stateside Deli opened in Downtown East Lansing two years ago, owner Spencer Soka felt there was something missing.
“I felt like, because of the demographics of the area, we wanted to incorporate alcoholic beverages with our food,” says Soka. “So we’re changing the place around a little bit.”
The deli will soon expand into a bar and sit-down restaurant. Rather than their traditional counter service, Stateside will offer table service and a new bar area. 
“We want to focus on the microbrew drafts, bottle service, whatever the customers want,” Soka says. “It will be a nice atmosphere, where you can come dressed up, dressed down, and get a great appetizer and meal.”
The increase in service will require Soka to add about ten new positions to his staff. He hopes to get his renovations underway in December and finish the $40,000-$50,000 project by January. 

Old Town firms merge to create Spoke 8 Marketing, create three jobs

Two familiar names in the Old Town creative services scene have joined forces. Lisa Smith of Donovan & Smith Marketing and Media and Ann Siegle of Tria Marketing and Design have merged their companies to create Spoke 8 Marketing
“We have both been on each other’s radar for a long time,” says Siegle. After the women began partnering on projects early in 2012, working together more permanently just made sense. 
“We both kind of looked out there and said, ‘this is a good thing,’” Siegle says. “We have very complementary skill sets.”
The focus of the new company is on what Siegle calls “open source marketing,” that is, applying the concept of open source software to their work to allow their clients to be as involved as they’d like. 
“The marketing industry is very protective of their products,” says Siegle. “We want the clients to own this from the beginning.”
The merger took place in July. Spoke 8 now employs a staff of eight. One new employee has been added since the two companies joined, and Siegle expects another two jobs to be added soon. 

Frandor store expands with new home brew supplies shop

For all the popularity home brewing beer has garnered in the Lansing area over the last several years, many might be surprised to learn that there weren’t many local places to buy home brewing supplies.
“Other than the Red Salamander in Grand Ledge, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of resources in the area,” says Brian Devries of the new home brewing shop in Frandor, That’s How We Brew. “We thought we could fill that vacuum.”
The shop itself was not brand new. Also known as That’s How We Roll, the store used to specialize in cigarette rolling supplies. When new regulations prevented the sale of their most popular item, Devries says they decided to expand the scope of their venture. 
“We thought it would be nice to hve a brew shop closer to town. There was a brew hopin . Some of use were brewers and we decided it would be nice to have something more local.
The move has been a good one since the store-within-a-store opened in early August. That’s How We Brew has added a new publicity employee and is working with a few professional local brewers as consultants. Devries says they hope to add an additional employee with brewing experience in the future. 
“One thing that we’re about to start is our brew club,” says Devries, “which will offer brewing customers some exclusive deals. We’ll also be having classes with some very knowledgeable people. We’re still coming up with ideas for other things that will benefit our customers.” 
Devries says their inventory is continuing to grow and change based on the needs and requests of their new customers. 

Coastal-1 Communications to add six Lansing jobs

Michigan-based Coastal-1 Communications is growing its Lansing office with six new employees. 
“We are constantly looking for new talent to market our products as Sales Representatives and Residential Sales Consultants, says Coastal-1 Communication’s Holly Ekwejunor-Etchie.
According to Ekwejunor-Etchie, Coastal-1 Communications currently employs a staff of 20 with offices in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Novi. The company also owns six AT&T retail locations throughout the state. 
“Coastal-1 is a marketing company in Michigan that is focused on acquiring subscribers and expanding adoption rates for our clients,” Ekwejunor-Etchie says. 
The recent growth of the company is due Coastal-1 Communications’ expansion into residential sales. 

DBI continues growth with three new positions

According to DBI, they key to steady growth in a down economy is building relationships. And they should know. Since 2008, the office supply and furniture design firm has added 10 new positions, three of which were created just this year. 
“Doing so much business with people in Mid-Michigan and our neighbors in Downtown Lansing has really helped us to grow,” says Cindy Kangas, Director of Marking. “DBI is a smaller company, but we’re committed to doing business in Michigan. Also, the Governor has made this push for small business, and that has really given us a little boost.”
DBI has been in business since 1984 and currently employs about 75 workers. That number includes small offices in Jackson, Alma and the company’s warehouse workers.
“Most people who know about DBI, know about the office supplies,” says Kangas, “but we also have these wonderful furniture resources. We’ll do all the layout and design work, and a lot of people don’t know that we do that.”
Kangas says DBI’s plans to continue their slow and steady growth, continuing to provide customers with something different than the big box stores, including great customer service. 

ITEC grows programs, community partnerships and staff

It’s been a busy year for ITEC, Lansing’s Information Technology Empowerment Center. Since the non-profit moved into their headquarters at the Foster Community Center a year ago, the organization has added one part-time and two full-time employees, not to mention a host of new programs and partnerships.
“We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds,” says ITEC Executive Director Kirk Riley. “All of ITEC’s programs are done by contract individuals. One any given day, the number is about ten contractors that are doing programs here at the Foster Community center and out in the community.”
In addition to their afterschool programs and Everyday Digital classes, which teach novice computer users basic computer skills, ITEC has partnered with a number of local organizations to expand their programming, including the YMCA of Lansing, Lansing Community College and the City of Lansing. 
A recent partnership with the Lansing School District will soon bring a new afterschool math program, iMath, to fourth and sixth grade students. 
“It’s a major undertaking by ITEC,” says Riley, “a new direction and new program.” 
In addition, ITEC has partnered with the City of Lansing’s Office of Community Media, working with Michigan Creative to provide the educational component of Lansing Public Media Center's efforts. ITEC has also started a small operation in Flint in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, Flint Community Schools and the Northeast Village Neighborhood.
“We rely on and benefit from our partnerships,” says Riley. “We are all about being stronger by working together. Without other organizations’ contributions, ITEC would not able to do what we do.” 

State of Fitness grows staff, renovates workout space

State of Fitness brought a new kind of workout to East Lansing when they opened their doors more than two years ago. The training-focused facility has been growing ever since, and has recently completed a major renovation. 
“When we first moved into the facility it was beautiful, and it was already built out really well for a gym,” says State of Fitness Trainer Justin Grinnell. “But the way we train our folks is different than your traditional gym.”
A 2,000 square foot space in State of Fitness has been transformed into a field turf area, where a variety of training and exercise can take place. Grinnell also swapped out some of the facility’s more traditional cardio equipment for newer, more cutting edge machines. The renovations represent an approximately $40,000 investment. 
“It’s been great,” says Grinnell. “People like that they have more space to workout in. We have a lot of fun. It’s like an adult playground here.” 

Gone Wired becomes The Avenue Cafe, to add up to seven staff

A favorite local hangout on Lansing’s Eastside has received a makeover and new identity. After eight years as the Gone Wired Café, the business has added a bar, alcohol sales, an entertainment stage and a new name: The Avenue Café. 
“Eight years ago, most bars and most restaurants didn’t have wifi,” says Alex Rabe, bar manager at The Avenue Café, “but now that name is kind of stale; it kind of promotes something that everyone has.” 
With the new amenities and services, The Avenue Café is seeking to instead promote several things that make the venue unique, such as a selection of Michigan beers on tap, using local produce in their updated menu and retaining their reputation as a great place for groups to meet for studying, meetings or fun. 
“We’re thinking about doing beer dinners soon,” says Rabe. “We’re working with the breweries to have a line up of beer to build a menu around.” 
The Avenue Café’s staff is changing as well. The café traditionally maintained a staff size of five to six employees, but are now increasing those numbers to 12 to 15. The Avenue Café also features new entertainment, such as live bands, open mic nights and film screenings. 

Michigan Economic Center at the Prima Civitas Foundation to support "green" and "blue" economies

Michigan’s  “green” and “blue" economies will soon be getting a boost from a new advocate, The Michigan Economic Center (MEC). The MEC will operate through the Prima Civitas Foundation (PCF), organizing citizens and leadership around strategies for economic growth.
Heading the new initiative is John Austin, President of the Michigan State Board of Education and a non-resident Brookings Institution Senior Fellow. Austin will join PCF in making MEC an independent policy and action organization. 
“We started talking and thought it would be natural for me to focus on these issues about a year ago,” says Austin. “And we decided, ‘Hey, let’s do it together.”
The MEC will begin by diving into such projects as building support for emerging sectors and technologies through education, research and development; helping to implement an urban innovation strategy as proposed by the Brookings Institution and Public Sector Consultants for Business Leaders for Michigan and capitalizing on Michigan's “blue economy.” 
“One of our greatest economic assets is our water, in multiple ways,” says Austin. “We can make and export water efficiency projects. We can be the center of clean water research. We have an incredible piece of real estate in our waterfronts. People around Michigan are starting to see that water is a magical resource that we have.” 
The MEC has also received a $225,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement an initiative called "Michigan Dream Restored," which will develop policy proposals to help Michigan better support investments in economy-growing public assets. 

MSU to receive $45M to support African scholars

Engagement in Africa is nothing new to Michigan State University, having more than 50 years of history working with students and organizations there. Now, MSU has announced it will deepen its ties with the continent as a partner with The MasterCard Foundation on its $500 million education initiative, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.
“The MasterCard Foundation did a preliminary scan for universities that were actively involved in Africa,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “They wanted to make sure the students could go back home and tap into existing networks. Because of MSU’s fifty-year history in Africa, we were selected to submit a proposal.” 
The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program’s goals are to provide talented, financially disadvantaged youth with access to high-quality education. MSU is the only institution in the Midwest to be a part of the program. The school will receive $45 million to support 185 scholars throughout the nine-year program, including 100 undergraduates and 85 master’s degree students. Six African students – four graduate and two undergraduates – have already begun their work.
President Simon says MSU’s participation in the program is not only beneficial to Africa, but also to the Greater Lansing region. 
“We already have about 200 students form Africa,” says President Simon. “It’s also important to think about the connections we’ve made over the years to Africa and their emerging economies. There will be a number of business opportunities that can evolve through this network.” 
MSU will host the more students than any other of the six U.S. partner institutions. The university will also organize an annual conference for scholars.
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