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

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

MSU researcher develops biofuel process that dramatically improves energy recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

$2.1M grant to create Next Step program at Peckham, adding four jobs

Peckham Inc. has announced it will receive a $2.1 million grant from the US Department of Labor to provide training, education and support services to young adults transitioning out of the juvenile justice system. This will create a new program called Next Step, which will provide targeted, individualized services to a total of 96 eligible young adults in Ingham County.
“We came across this funding opportunity and felt that it was a natural extension of the services we currently provide to youth involved with the juvenile justice system,” says Peckham’s Public Relations Administrator Bonnie Zimmerman. “Our current youth programs provide a range of services to youth only until they turn 18. This program will allow us to provide an additional set of services to these young adults 18-21 as they transition into adulthood.”
Next Step participants can attain a high school diploma or GED, participate in career exploration and assessment, experience a service-learning opportunity tied to an identified career interest and achieve placement in community employment or education designed to lead to employment.
“They are full of potential, but have little or no support in how to successfully transition from youth into adulthood,” says Zimmerman. “The Next Step program will allow us to bridge the gap and continue services to help young adults stay out of the justice system and successfully integrate into the community. “ 
The program will create four new staff positions at Peckham and serve nearly 100 adults over the next two years. It is expected to begin in the Fall 2012.

Okemos environmental firm adds two jobs, expands office

Lots of changes have been happening at the Okemos Cardno Entrix office on Okemos Road. The environmental consulting company is affiliated with a growing number of offices nationwide, and growth to the entire network has created new positions and an expansion for the local office. 
“The office in East Lansing is working on a number of different things,” says John E. Phillips, 
of Cardno Entrix. “One is a support group for the BP oil spill. We also provide scientific support in Marshall, Michigan for the spill that occurred there. What they mainly do is evaluation of environmental impact and quality assurance.”
Two positions have been added at Cadno Entrix this year. The office now employs 11 workers, including Ph.D. and Masters level scientists. The team also works with other large clients, such as Cliffs Mining in the Upper Peninsula.
“The office is growing because of some of that work for larger firms,” says Phillips. “We are always looking for resources that will benefit our work.”
As the team has grown, so has the office. In January the Cardno Entix office underwent a renovation project that added an additional 970 square feet to the office, expanding it to a total of nearly 5,000 square feet. 

New social media content management venture, Thearit, joins the TIC

Though the mobile and web application company Venturit is not brand new, its revolutionary new product is. Not only the social content management tool, Thearit, an exciting new web application, but it’s on track to become its own business. That’s why Prabode Weebadde, Venturit founder and CEO and Thearit co-founder Brian Collins decided East Lansing’s Technology Innovation Center was just the right place to get the new product ready to develop into its own entity. 
“Brian and I were thinking up ways to do some learning applications that were social media based, because his background is learning technology,” says Weebadde. “We developed the application to leverage social content online, and give a unique interface for your audience to interact with your social media campaign.”
Thearit allows organizations to curate online content from such sites as YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, as well as uploading other content. Users are then able to monitor and measure campaigns. The application is already being used by The Michigan State University Alumni Association, the Lansing-based non-profit Rock Star Warriors, University of Sydney, the Scottish Agricultural College, Fukuoka University, the Mother Sri Lanka and political candidates.
“The next level is to make it it’s own company,” says Weebadde. “When we looked around for a building that was available, we found the space that we needed and the coaching that we needed at the TIC. We found it was a good fit.”

AJ Boggs adds two new jobs, plans for more growth

A commitment to high quality work has resulted in new contracts and staff growth for East Lansing-based A.J. Boggs & Company. The local information technology solutions and services firm has added two new positions this year and plans to hire at least two more new jobs before the end of the year. 
“We’ve gotten several new contracts, some in the electronic health systems markets,” says Clarke Anderson of A.J. Boggs. “That’s been good work for us. We’re seeing more interest in mobile applications, so we have some mobile things coming up.” 
The A.J. Boggs now employs 17 workers. Anderson expects the firm’s next wave of growth to occur this fall when they expand their work in search engine applications for federal clients.
“The work that we’ve done really speaks for itself,” says Anderson. “Our strategy is to do great work and let it grow from there, and to take care of our customers. With the economy being the way it’s been, there has been a lot of pent up demand.”
A.J. Boggs also recently launched a new website with expanded information on the firm’s services. 

MSU, Detroit partner to feed the world of the future

Here’s a startling statistic: By the year 2050, global food production will need to double – using less energy and water than is used today. 
“If we use the same amount of energy that we use to produce food now,” says Rick Foster, of Michigan State University’s MetroFoodPlus, “we would tip the rate of global warming to beyond where it should be. We’ll run out of water; we’ll run out of petroleum.” 
MSU researchers believe they have found an ideal environment to figure out just how to address this future problem, while addressing a more current one. 
“If we can think of Detroit as one of those learning laboratories,” says Foster, “we can use it as a place where we can improve upon the local condition, improve the quality of life, create jobs, and actually position Detroit to be a thought leader around these conditions.”
The MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit is a new research partnership between the City of Detroit and MSU. Mayor Dave Bing and MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon recently signed a memorandum of understanding that will lay the groundwork for involving community stakeholders and prospective partners in the project. 
“We want to work with the community to think about how we go about both research and innovation,” Foster says. “And how can MSU help people utilize new technologies to grow enough food for not only Detroit but also enough to be transported elsewhere.”
The Innovation Cluster @ Detroit officially began this week with community stakeholder meetings at MSU’s Tollgate Center. According to Foster, the initial goals of the program will be to test local soils for contamination, and will grow into developing vertical indoor growing facilities. 

International Catering adds marketing staff with eye on growth

As Edmond Chammas approaches the tenth anniversary of his business, International Catering Services, he’s investing in ways to make his second decade even stronger. The corporate catering company that specializes in Mexican, Italian, Lebanese and American cuisines will soon have a new way of telling the world about their services. 
Chammas is now adding a marketing specialist to his staff – something International Catering has never had before. The move is meant to tap into new markets, something Chammas intends to result in hiring at least two more additional staff to help manage. 
“I thought now was the right time for it,” Chammas says. “A year ago the pharmaceutical industry was the majority of our account. The pharmaceutical industry has changed quite a bit and my business has changed a lot it with it.”
Chammas caters exclusively to corporate clients and hopes to broaden his clientele list with his new marketing staff to include more large local institutions and organizations. International Catering Services currently employs two full time and two part time workers. 
“Our business is locally owned and operated by myself and my wife,” Chammas says. “And we’re dedicated to catering to the Lansing and East Lansing communities.” 

iCab to add high tech taxi options, adding15 jobs to the Lansing area

Getting around the Lansing area is about to change. Beginning in July, iCab will bring the power of hailing a cab into the hands of anyone with a smartphone and someplace to go. 
“I was talking with my father,” says Valentino Hernandez, whose father John Hernandez has owned Grand Limousine in Lansing for 25 years. “I said, ‘I think this city needs something more unique for taxi services. Not in the vehicle sense, but so customers can interact with drivers through smartphones or texting. I started doing some research and started working on app development.”
Instead of calling a taxi service and waiting for an hour or more for a car to arrive with little to no information, as taxi users often do now, iCab will allow customers to be connected to a taxi via GPS as soon as they hail it. They can pick the cab that is closest or with their favorite driver, and watch as the cab moves toward them. 
“It’s a virtual hail,” Hernandez says. “The driver will know exactly where that phone is. If the client doesn’t know the address of where they’re at, or if they go from one location to the next, it will keep them live. If it’s raining and want to run inside and grab a coffee at Biggby, they can just go.”
The iCab Grand Opening will take place a Reno’s East this Friday and Saturday. Hernandez will launch iCab with four cabs and 15 employees. His goal is to grow the fleet to 10 vehicles in 18 months. 

Yoor Mom Skateboards teaches kids entrepreneurship in Grand Ledge

If you think Yoor Mom Skateboards is an unusual name for a business, that’s because there is nothing usual about the new Grand Ledge shop. While overseen by adults, the store is actually a collection of skateboarding related businesses operated by kids. 
“We’re calling it an ‘incuskater,’” says Jerry Norris, owner of Jadian Enterprises and father of Yoor Mom Skateboards founder Rain Norris. “It’s an incubator for skateboarding companies. My son, who is 11-years-old, came up with the brand and the name.”
Now 20 students ranging from 11 to 19 years old and representing nine businesses are testing out their skateboarding related business ideas in the 600 square foot Grand Ledge shop. They are not only learning about entrepreneurship, but  they are also tracking their local economic impact and raising money for the Grand Ledge Skate Club. 
“We’re calling this the Summer of Skatenomics,” Norris says. “We’re keeping track of all the money we’re spending, and we’ve spent over $3,000 in the local economy. We’re also teaching kids business things and having business training sessions. Now we’re seeing them starting to train each other.”
Norris and the Yoor Mom Skateboards team have high hopes for the growth of their project. They have created a Made in Grand Ledge brand, and are working to connect with manufacturers in Dubai and California to produce their goods. Meanwhile, students are learning welding, screenprinting and carpentry in the shop. Eventually, they’d like to create a manufacturing facility in Grand Ledge and start a microloan program.  

Telethon raises $756,000 for Sparrow Children's Center

The votes are in and it’s official: in Lansing, kids matter. The Sparrow Children’s Center has recently announced it was able to raise $756,000 during the Sparrow Children’s Center Telethon, a number that is notable not only for its size, but for where the money came from.

“There are different sources of the money, and the money that came in from the phones from people in the community was much bigger than we’ve seen before,” says Joy Wiseman, who coordinated the event for the Sparrow Foundation. “The reason I’m most excited it is because of the community support. We’re still in some hard times in the community, and it’s just amazing to see what people will still do to support children.” 

The telethon funds will be used to furnish needed equipment, programs and investments that are unique to the Children’s Center. Wiseman explains that unlike medical equipment that can be used on any adult of any size, children’s medical equipment is specialized. One such forthcoming investment is an $80,000 pediatric transport unit to help premature babies be safely transported to Sparrow’s neonatal facilities. 

In addition to raising more funds directly from the community than ever before, the Sparrow Children’s Center Telethon marked its 24th year. 
“We’re already getting ready to celebrate our 25th year next year,” Wiseman says.

South Lansing Business Association rebrands, looks toward a vibrant future

Things are looking pretty exciting in South Lansing these days. The South Lansing Business Association recently rebranded and launched a new website geared toward helping residents and visitors find everything they need, as well as connect south side businesses with information that can help them thrive.
“We’ve taken a strong content development approach,” says Ann Siegle, president of Tria Marketing and Design and SLBA board member. “We are creating unique and informative content around information that is important for business.”
One example of that is forthcoming information about disaster planning, as well as information on marketing, business planning and events, such as an upcoming meeting with the Anderson Economic Development Group to discuss revitalization plans for the area. 
“We would like to create an actionable plan,” says Siegle. “It’s hard for a community organization to do so, but businesses, who are really invested in the community, can really help that happen.”
The new website and bright, modern logo were developed by Tria Marketing and Design under the guidance of the SLBA. 

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. 
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