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M3 Group adds six jobs, restructures for continued growth

To say it’s been a busy year for the Downtown Lansing-based agency Motion, Marketing & Media, or M3, would be an understatement. After rolling out their new “Special PRops team” and undertaking a statewide social media road trip under the hashtag #MeetMichigan, the firm has continued to grow, adding six new positions and undergoing an internal restructuring – all in time to celebrate M3’s 10-year anniversary in August. 
The startling growth, says The Bugler of M3, Anna Daugherty, was all a part of the plan.
“In 2011, one of Chief Conversation Starter and President Tiffany Dowling's goals was to work on expanding into new markets, not only in Michigan, but nationally,” Daugherty says. “She made it a mission for the company to take on bigger clients in new regions, and in order to accomplish this goal, she hired several new employees to grow our sales team and two creative teams.”
Those new positions follow the M3 tradition of highly descriptive, whimsical names: cruise director, video virtuoso, Account Executive, Funstructor, Social Media Coordinator and The Big (Web) Kahuna.
In order to accommodate such growth, M3’s internal restructuring included promotions and a new entertainment marketing department, which includes film, television and radio show development, product placement and special events.
“Growth and creative team development are key to achieving our strategic goals this year,” says Daugherty. “Another main goal is to beef up our sales department. We are also working on landing more state and federal contracts.”

LE&A PR group expands Lansing staff and office

The Lansing office of Lambert, Edwards and Associates (LE&A)has undergone a lot of change in the last nine years, with the most current change being staff growth and an upcoming expansion. 
The public relations office began as an office of John Bailey and Associates in 2003. When LE&A purchased the company in 2009, it changed names and became part of a statewide company with offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit. With the addition of two new staff members in the last year and another position soon to be filled, all of those changes have led to growth. 
“It’s been a good year,” says Emily Gerkin Palsrok, managing director of the public affairs practice of LE&A in Lansing. “I think the economy in Michigan has bounced back, and through that, clients are reengaging.”
The office itself, which is located above Edmund’s Pastime in Downtown Lansing, is experiencing growth as well. An additional 500 square feet will soon be added on to the office’s existing space, and the office design will be reconfigured to accommodate the company’s growth. 
Palsrok attributes the growth of LE&A in Lansing to the strength of the business company-wide.
“We have three strong, bi-partisan offices statewide,” she says. “We’re also very diversified as a company. Public affairs is just one area we focus on.”
Four to five additional new positions will soon be added to LE&A offices statewide. Should a Lansing-area candidate be a good fit for a position open in another city, they could be added to the Lansing office. 

Blended Learning Academies to bring new curriculum, 12 jobs to DeWitt

Dr. Tim Brannan teaches education at Central Michigan University, so it’s no surprise that when he and his company Brandino Properties purchased the vacant Gunnisonville Elementary Building in DeWitt, he had a vision to use the property to bring innovative new learning opportunities to students. In addition to building an assisted living facility on the site and leasing space to Little Scholars Preparatory School, the 26,000 square foot building will soon become Blended Learning Academies, a 256-student public school for sixth through eighth graders.
“We’re going t be a one-to-one school,” says Brannan. “Every student and teacher will have a learning device, that will either be an iPad or a netbook.”
The school’s digital curriculum is known as STEAM, focusing on science, technology, pre-engineering and mathematics with an added emphasis on arts and athletics.
“We’re moving toward taking [education] where the individual learning needs of each student are,” Brannan says. “We’re also extending the school year to go through the summer. There will be summer camp-like activities, so as the kids need to catch up, they can do that, and if we have some advanced kids, they can participate in some extra programs like studying alternative energy.”
Brannan intends for the Blended Learning Academies to be open for school this fall and is now taking applicants. The school will employ a staff of up to 12. Brannan also cites interaction with the on-site assisted living center as added value for students’ education. 
“We are hoping that unique blend of seniors and students will be an avenue for cross-learning and activities that will allow them to help each other,” says Brannan.

MSU researchers contribute to first microbe census

For as much as medical science has advanced, the amount of information researchers are still learning about the human body is astounding. For example, we know that antibiotics fight bad microbes in the body and probiotics can encourage the good ones to work better, but until recently, no one had a complete picture of all of the microbes – good and bad – at work in the human body.

But they do now. Thanks to the National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project Consortium, including Michigan State University Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Tom Schmidt, has created the first census for microbes living within healthy adults. Their research found the human body’s collection of microbes includes 100 trillion good bacteria, creating their own unique microbiome. The project estimates between 81 to 99 percent of all microbial species in the human body have been identified.

According to Schmidt, creating the census is a major step toward truly understanding the inner workings of the human body.
“The first step is just to determine who is there,” he says, “what microbes are present consistently in the body at different sites.”

The study also found that nearly all humans carry pathogens, or microbes that cause illnesses. In healthy people, they coexist peacefully. The next step for researchers is to determine why some pathogens turn deadly.

“We’ve just begun to answer the question of who is there,” says Schmidt, “now we have to understand what they’re doing. We have some general ideas, but when it comes to more specifics, we just don’t know.”

Hospitality Selling Solutions adds new non-profit division

After 30 years of managing sales operations for hotel conference centers and convention centers, when Shari Pash Berger decided to go into business for herself, it made perfect sense to continue to serve the industry she was a part of for so long. Now in it’s second year, her business, Hospitality Selling Solutions is turning out to have an even broader appeal than she anticipated.
“I’ve been involved with nonprofit associations though my work, and I felt the need to help them to grow,” Berger says. “Once I started my own business, I had some of my contacts in those nonprofits contact me to ask if I could work with them. I’ve been on the outside looking in, but now I'm working with them.”
Specifically, Berger works with nonprofit associations such as chambers of commerce and professional associations – often the type of nonprofits that interact with the hospitality industry for conferences and events. In order to serve these new clients, Berger has launched a new division of Hospitality Selling Solutions to serve the needs of nonprofit associations.
“Nonprofit associations serve an important role, and their budgets have taken a hit over the last couple of years,” Berger says. “There is a real need for them to be stronger, and the best way for them to be stronger is to strengthen their memberships.”
The new nonprofit association division of Hospitality Selling Solutions offers organizations hands-on assistance with membership recruitment and retention, staff coaching, operations improvement and association accountability. 

Four MSU grads create their own jobs, interactive learning experiences with Adventure Club Games

A year ago, Adventure Club Games set up shop in East Lansing’s Technology Innovation Center and started working on small projects for Michigan State University staff and departments to which the four founders and MSU grads had connections. This spring, the startup has launched the first known interactive museum exhibit utilizing the Microsoft Kinect platform for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum located in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“It’s pretty exciting,” says ACG co-founder Mike Rossi. “It’s a unique exhibit because when they first approached us, they said they’d heard of Microsoft Kinect and would love to utilize it in their museum.”
The ACG team had in fact already discussed their interest in creating games on the Kinect platform, and had never heard of it used in a museum exhibit. To their knowledge, the transcontinental railway game now in use at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is the first. It allows players to experience what it was to build the First American Transcontinental Railroad by performing such tasks as carrying ties and driving spikes. 
“We wanted to make it easily accessible,” says Rossi, “but the thing we’ve seen people do is things like lower their hands all the way down to the floor, even though they don’t have to. People are really getting into to it, and learning how it was done.”
AGS has already expanded their workspace in the TIC from a small cubicle into a larger area, and foresee continued growth in the future with new projects already underway. 

Loomis Law grows by five new staff members

Over the past few years, new drilling techniques in the oil and gas industry have created a boom in the need for attorneys well versed in the field. Loomis Law Firm, which has served the community since 1953, was ready for that demand having specialized in utility work, including oil and gas, for the last 30 years. 
“Much of the work that the firm does is around title searching to find out who won the rights to the land,” explains Steve Leiby of Loomis Law.
The firm’s experience attracted so much business in the oil and gas industry, in fact, that Loomis Law has been growing. In the last two years the firm has hired two new associates and two new "Of Counsel" attorneys. The growth will soon continue with the hiring of another new associate in the next month and a half. 
The improving economy is also helping Loomis’ affordable housing practice, helping developers bring projects to completion.
“The Loomis Firm is a business oriented firm,” says Leiby. “We also have a substantial family law practice. Most people in the business world have families and need that service, so we provide it for them.”

ASK adds four new positions with plans to double staff

Lansing’s ASK is growing. The provider IT hardware, software, and service solutions that got its start almost 20 years ago has grown its staff by approximately 25 percent over the last two years, including four recent new hires in the positions of office administrator, account manager, technical assistant and technical consultant.
“Our small and medium business solutions have driven our growth for the past four years,” says President of ASK Mike Maddox. “These companies rely as much on their technology, as do the large multi-national companies. The difference is that they do not have the budget, or staff to adequately manage the latest technology. That is where ASK solutions comes in.”
Maddox attributes ASK’s growth to the company’s focus on customer service.
“Our values have remained constant, and they are based on doing the right thing for the client, every time,” he says. “Our ability to provide world class IT solutions, at a price that small businesses can afford, has been the engine for our growth.”
ASK plans for that growth to continue. Now at a staff of 17, Maddox expects the firm to double its number of employees over the next five years. 

Cravings Popcorn invests in larger-than-life sign and area non-profits

Things are popping over at Cravings Gourmet Popcorn. The Old Town snackerie has recently unveiled two new significant investments – one in the business itself, and another in the community. 
“I’ve always said I had the worst sign in Old Town,” says Cravings owner Chad Jordan. “I had a specific idea in mind. I wanted to have a sign that people would stand in front and have their picture taken.”
Jordan’s vision was fulfilled by a six-foot-tall, four-foot-wide, popcorn-box-shaped sign that made its debut during Be a Tourist in Your Own Town day in June. Jordan worked with Lansing’s Young Sign & Awning on the sign and invested about $4,000 into the project. And just as he’d hoped, passersby have been stopping to take their photo with the larger-than-life sign. 
Less visible from the outside, but with perhaps an even greater impact, Cravings has recently launched its Community Popcorn Project. The program gives local non-profits the chance to apply for free popcorn for events that raise money or awareness for a community cause.
“I think it’s important that all businesses complete the cycle,” says Jordan. Customers buy from them, and they should be appreciative of how the community has helped their business to grow. They should give back to the community in a way that is possible for them.”
The Community Popcorn Project allows recipients one jumbo-sized bag (80 cups of popped popcorn) of the Three Way Mix or Theater Style flavors. Applications must be completed two weeks prior to the event.

Sparrow announces partnership with famed Mayo Clinic

It’s a big year for partnerships at Sparrow Health System. Just weeks after launching The Center for Innovation with Michigan State University, Sparrow has now announced it will be the first health system in Michigan and one of the first five organizations nationwide to become a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
“What this network is really about is connecting physicians to physicians,” says Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations John Berg. “[Sparrow doctors] will have a set of tools that will allow them to reach out and compare treatment plans and pathways that have been developed at the Mayo Clinic.”

The formal relationship between Sparrow the Mayo Clinic will bring the famed Rochester, Minnesota-based medical research group’s expertise and clinical care resources to Lansing. Another benefit, Berg adds, is that should a medical case require advanced, specialty care beyond the Sparrow Health System, Mayo Clinic physicians will already be well-versed the patient’s case and able to provide a continuum of care.

Sparrow’s inclusion in the Mayo Clinic Care Network came after rigorous review and evaluation, but began less formally, when a group of Sparrow Physicians visited the Mayo Clinic a year ago to study the center’s best practices.
“They began getting a good understanding of who we are when we reached out to them,” says Berg. “They are looking for organizations that are focused on quality.”

In addition, says Berg, Sparrow was chosen for the program after having received a number of awards and recognitions including being named a top health system in the United States by Thomson Reuters and earning the Nurse Magnet Distinction from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

MSU researcher co-leads international project to combat deadly flu virus

Michigan State University researchers are a part of an international research team that has manufactured a protein to combat deadly flu epidemics. 

We started working on this project in the middle of 2009 after two exciting reports detailing an Achilles heel for the virus were published,” says Tim Whitehead, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science for MSU. 

Then working at the University of Washington, Whitehead collaborated with Ian Wilson of the Scripps Institute who had authored of one of the exciting reports to develop design strategies and test ideas.

The resulting paper, was featured recently on the cover Nature Biotechnology, and demonstrates ways to use manufactured genes as antivirals to disable key functions of the flu virus.

“Pandemic Influenza outbreaks occur generationally and are capable of tens of millions of deaths worldwide. There exist therapeutics - most notable, Tamiflu - but new treatments are urgently needed,” says Whitehead. “The protein could be used as a treatment for pandemic Influenza outbreaks. There is a long road from this report to actually being able to inject the protein, however.”
Whitehead says the next step is to verify the ability of the protein to inhibit viral strains other than the H1N1 virus tested in the study, and to test its efficacy on live animal models.
Whitehead worked closely with Aaron Chevalier of the University of Washington who co-lead the study, as well as the Scripps Research Institute, Naval Health Research Center and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Their research was funded by Defense Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

CARQUEST to celebrate 50 years growing in Lansing

CARQUEST The Parts Place had its humble beginnings nearly 50 years ago as Holt Auto Supply Inc. in Holt. It all started when co-owner Dick Seehase’s father and grandfather decided they wanted to be in the auto repair business without having the mess with being on call 24-hours a day for towing and repairs.
“They met a man by the name of Sam Rogers who had an auto parts store. Sam got him set up in the business,” says Seehase. “They opened their doors on November 15 of 1963. November 15 in Michigan! He took in 33 dollars.”
Fortunately for the Seehase family, not every day was as quiet as the first day of hunting season for Holt Auto Supply. In the five decades to follow, the company would take on the name CARQUEST The Parts Place and grow into eight locations in Holt, East Lansing, west Lansing, Mason, Charlotte, Williamston, Stockbridge and Eaton Rapids. CARQUEST now employs 65 workers.
“The whole idea was to be wholesale-oriented,” says Seehase, explaining CARQUEST’s success over the years. “Seventy percent of our business is commercial business. Now that automobiles have become more technologically advanced and therefore more difficult to work on for do-it-yourself people, that has been good for us.”
According to Seehase, the family is looking forward to another 50 years of serving the Lansing area, which has been their home for generations. CARQUEST The Parts Place will begin their official 50-year celebration this November and continue through 2013. 

Truscott Rossman expands staff, adds Grand Rapids office in first year

It’s been a year of change and growth for Truscott Rossman, the public relations firm that was the result of a merger between The Rossman Group and the John Truscott Group in January of 2011. Since that time, the new firm has created four new positions and has opened a new office in Grand Rapids.
According to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO and principal of Truscott Rossman, the successful year can be attributed to the complementary strengths of the two firms now working in tandem.
“I think the bipartisan combination,” she says, “and the opportunity to really provide a depth and breath of service to our clients is unparalleled to anyone anywhere in the state.”

The more recent addition to the Truscott Rossman staff includes a new associate account executive and a senior writer and account executive. Rossman-McKinney expects the firm’s notable growth to continue.

“It’s possible we’ll add someone in the next six months,” she says. “We’re very deliberate about growth. We don’t add a position until everybody is maxed-out to their own time and ability. But it’s looking to be a great year, and we’re loving every minute of it.” 

Two Men and a Truck expands by 33 percent, adds 25 local jobs

Lansing’s own Two Men and a Truck are moving on up. The company has grown 33 percent over the past two years and is currently operating 224 locations in 34 states. This year alone, Two Men and a Truck have signed three new franchise agreements, opened four new satellite offices and transferred five stores to new ownership. 

“Our growth is tied directly to our goal of being the number one moving company in the world,” says Kelly Rogers, franchise development director for Two Men and a Truck. “Our system understands that every move we complete must deliver on our mission statement -to continuously strive to exceed our customer’s expectations in value and high standard of satisfaction. During the recession we never lost focus of this.”
That national growth has also meant growth here in Lansing. The company headquarters now has a staff of 76, after adding more than 25 positions over the last two years. According to Rogers, new positions will continue to be added at the company headquarters as Two Men and a Truck expect to see another 20 percent growth in 2012. 
“Double digit growth and efficiencies in the system that drive customer satisfaction are definitely areas of focus as we set goals,” says Rogers. “In addition, we are looking at expansion on the East and West coasts as well as several creative initiatives we expect to accelerate our growth in coming years.”

Summit Community Bank adds two jobs, to add two more soon

Summit Community Bank and Providence Mortgage Company combined services in 2009, a move that allowed the bank to remain stable through some tumultuous economic times. The company, now under the name Summit Community Bank and operating in three locations in East Lansing, Okemos and Lansing, was able to retain all of their staff throughout the recession, and are now in a position to grow. 
“Despite the economy over the last few years, we’ve been able to stay level,” says Todd Sambaer, human resources manager for Summit. “We’ve been able to maintain and move a bit forward. Our portfolio is just getting larger.”
Summit Community Bank has recently added two new residential mortgage assistants and has expanded a part-time customer service position into fulltime. Soon, the bank will add another two positions with an additional loan processor and a credit administration manager. 
“We’re very customer oriented and customer driven,” says Sambaer. “The customer is number one and always has been. A lot of our business is referral based. If you can prove yourself worthy and be a trusted resource, people are likely to come back to you and tell others about you.”
Sambaer says another cornerstone of Summit’s success has been their commitment to the community and local causes, including The United Way and the East Lansing and Okemos Education Foundations. 
Summit currently owns property on Lansing’s Westside, and eventually plans to add another branch there, though no immediate plan is in place. 
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