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Automation Alley's Tom Kelly prepares Michigan for the next industrial revolution

Tom Kelly is preparing for the revolution. And he wants Michigan to be prepared, too.

Technology is rapidly changing the way things are manufactured, and Kelly wants to make sure that Michigan's manufacturing companies are at the forefront of what some are calling the world's fourth industrial revolution—or Industry 4.0, as it's been coined.

As executive director of Automation Alley, Kelly has made it his job to convince the manufacturing industry to invest in Industry 4.0. The phrase was originally coined in Germany, where leaders of an economy similar to Michigan's had seen the writing on the wall and decided that they were going to have to embrace the disruptive technological changes poised to affect manufacturing. Big data, cloud technology, cyber security, 3D printing, autonomous robots, sensors and the Internet.  Each of these is coming, all at the same time.

"The only way we'll be successful is if we understand and move very quickly to protect what we do very well," he says. 
Kelly says Michigan needs to let the world know that it's not just a center of automotive and manufacturing technology, but of technology itself. And to do that, he says, the state needs to continue drawing the best minds in technology from all over the world.
A native of Syracuse, New York, Kelly was recruited to work at a Metro Detroit startup after college. After an MBA from the University of Michigan and a successful run up the corporate ladder, Kelly switched tracks and began to work for the state's Small Biz Tech Development Center of Michigan. Over the course of seven years, Kelly would advise roughly 300 startups, putting his combination of engineering and business acumen to use.

Kelly was then recruited to join Automation Alley. The advocacy agency was first thought up and launched in 1999 by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who wanted an organization to shine a light on how important technology was to the economy and how far advanced our region was in it. The organization has since gathered over 1,000 members and, though their focus has shifted to stay ahead of the times, it continues to advocate for Michigan technology and industry.

"We think that Industry 4.0 will be more impactful to job creation in Southeast Michigan than even autonomous vehicles," says Kelly. "Now we must win that, too, but factory automation is actually what is going to help us regain our footing in the world."

Kelly has spearheaded Automation Alley's focus on Industry 4.0 since he was named the executive director of the organization earlier this year. There's a significant shift in manufacturing, he says, and not just in automobiles, but also in everything from the defense industry to the produce industry. 
Production is moving closer to the consumer, says Kelly, and that means there are jobs to be had. But even though manufacturing may get much more localized, it won't be in the manner of yesteryear. Those days are over and not worth grousing over, says Kelly. 
In pointing to Industry 4.0, Kelly points to the future. And with Automation Alley, Kelly hopes to convince the area's manufacturers that it's a future worth investing in.

"We are positioned well to win the next battle. Stop fighting the battle from yesterday. That's over. But now, with the digitization of everything, we can win. So let's run like crazy down that path," says Kelly. "We're in great shape to do that."

Name and title: Tom Kelly, Executive Director

What is one interesting job you had before running Automation Alley:  I worked for the Michigan Small Business Development Center as a Technology Business Consultant helping tech startups from conception through rapid growth. I advised over 300 companies in seven years, but what I learned from each of them in the process was priceless. 

What's the most exciting thing about the technology industry today:  I believe manufacturing will change more in the next five years than the last 50. Industry 4.0 will change everything, and future winners and losers are being determined today.  

What's your favorite car of all time:  '78 Pontiac Grand Prix with a Landau Top. It was the first car I ever had, and I remember that car and those days fondly.

Royal Oak made-from-scratch bakery to open second location in Birmingham

A favorite bakery is expanding with the opening of a second location in Oakland County. Love & Buttercream, the Royal Oak bakery that opened in 2012, will be opening in Birmingham as Love & Buttercream Too.

At 6,300 square feet, the new Love & Buttercream is more than five times the size of the Royal Oak location. Like the original location, Love & Buttercream Too will feature handcrafted treats made on-site and always from scratch.

There will be some differences, as the abundance of space allows owner Brooke Wilson Vitale the opportunity to try new things. The Birmingham location will have a retail and seating area, including breakfast options, coffee service, and WiFi. A private events space will allow for wedding cake tastings, event planning meetings, children birthday parties, girls' night outs, bridal showers, corporate events, and baking and decorating classes.

The Birmingham location's daily offerings include five to eight varieties of cupcakes, French macarons, cake pops, sugar cookies, cakes, mini pies, whoopie pies, scones, mini doughnuts, and more.

"We set ourselves apart by using fresh, high-quality ingredients, and try to source organically and locally whenever possible," Wilson Vitale says. "No shortenings, preservatives, oils, or any of the fake stuff here."

Wilson Vitale has been baking for much longer than 2012, when her shop opened. She grew up baking with her grandmother, eventually working out of her parents' basement. By 2010, she was taking cake orders and baking from home.

The Royal Oak Love & Buttercream location remains open. It's located at 3202 Crooks Rd.

Love & Buttercream Too celebrates its grand opening Wednesday, Nov. 9 and will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It's located at 746 E Maple Rd., in Birmingham.

Logicdrop expands, set to launch new product

Earlier this year, technology startup LogicDrop was crammed in a tiny space in Berkley, its founders finding every which way to fit up to 15 employees and computers and work desks. 
Things are a little roomier now that Logicdrop has moved into a spacious second-floor space on the same block as popular nightspots Sneakers, the Loving Touch, and Woodward Avenue Brewers in Ferndale. And that's been a boon to the organization.

“We have a very close-knit team. We spend a lot of time working on the culture of our company," says Logicdrop co-founder KimJohn Quin. "We try to bring that startup mentality to our team."

Logicdrop co-founders KimJohn Quinn, John Shuell, and Jared Grabill met each other 10 to 12 years ago, each coming from a long history of working at startups. They've been working on some form of their flagship technology product, Logicdrop Studio, for almost two decades now.

The technology has finally caught up to the vision they first shared nearly twenty years ago. It's a business rules platform that allows users to customize data analysis. They say their platform cuts weeks of computing time down to mere minutes.

Logicdrop is gearing up for the release of Logicdrop Studio and the bigger space is a reflection of how the company feels about its future. They've opened up their signature intelligence platform to a round of beta tests and expect to release a final version in the second quarter of 2017. The cofounders say that no matter their future growth, they want to maintain their startup mentality. 

The workplace culture is decidedly loose. There's no dress code, and there are no titles. Employees don't have to punch in and out, don't have to put in for vacation days; all that Logicdrop expects of its employees is that they complete the tasks they've been assigned.

Startups are trial-and-error enterprises, Shuell says, but they've worked it out to where Logicdrop is now growing. The team has discovered that while the Logicdrop Studio product is their goal, maintaining a service-based model to complement the development process of Studio allows them to keep the lights on. 
And it's their reputation that has carried them through; each of their clients have come to them, and not the other way around, says Shuell. Clients have included automotive companies, hospitals, law firms, banks, and Fortune 500 company Nestle.

Another way Logicdrop has kept the lights on is to hire college students. The company believes strongly in this practice; it allows them to keep costs down without having to outsource offshore talent. While it's not an official internship program, the company contends that the students it hires are better prepared for the workforce—should they decide to leave the company after graduation, which is not often the case.

"We expect everyone to understand why they do something, not to go online and say, I found the solution, place in your code and say I'm done," Quinn says. "We want our developers to understand why they did that. And that's been a huge feather in our cap."

Though they first may be leery of the age of some of the developers, clients recommend and return to Logicdrop because of the team's successes, according to Quinn. With the pending official release of Studio and expected growth, Logicdrop is currently hiring.

Dessert Oasis' Nathan Hamood pioneers coffee and pomade in Rochester and Detroit

Nathan Hamood isn't very good at sitting still. That's not to say he's an angsty or fidgety sort of person. He just doesn't stop working.

Hamood spends 13 to 14 hours a day between his family's two Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters locations, one in downtown Rochester and one in downtown Detroit's Capitol Park. And when the shops shut down for the night, he somehow finds the time to develop his own hair pomade company, Ace High.

Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters is a family business. Hamood's parents opened up the shop in 2009, and he his sister Stephanie soon became partners. Today, each Hamood remains involved. Dad Jamal is a business law attorney who handles business administration duties for Dessert Oasis. Mom Charlene can often be found helping out around either shop. Sister Stephanie, a talented musician working in the music industry in Nashville, books the music acts. She's turned the two locations into destinations for live music, especially for fans of Americana and roots music.

Hamood's role has increased substantially. He began to study coffee in earnest and by 2010 was experimenting with coffee roasting techniques in a small rotisserie oven. A year or two later, the Hamoods purchased a full-size coffee roaster.

"People started to seek out our coffee more and more," Hamood says. "I was beginning to become really proud of the coffee we were putting out, because what we do next year will always be better than what we do this year."

Dessert Oasis first opened on the edge of downtown Rochester in 2009. After a couple of years in that location, the family began to develop a new business model emphasizing craft coffee and moved to a central location within downtown Rochester. The first day they reopened, sales doubled. A few months later they tripled. 

While Dessert Oasis remains a family affair, Hamood is the face of the business. He says he does as much as he can, including buying coffee, roasting coffee, training employees, quality control, and day-to-day administrative work. 
He also regularly works behind the coffee bar. Being hands-on is important to him. While sitting down for this story, Hamood left the interview for 10 minutes, joining an employee to help make lattes behind the counter.

"There isn't a job here we ask our staff to do that isn't something I'd do," he says.

The success of Dessert Oasis in Rochester led to the Hamoods opening a second location in Detroit's Capitol Park in late 2015. While the brand remains consistent between the two, each has its own vibe. The Rochester location feels warm and living room-like, while the Detroit shop has a more stark, contemporary style.

The Hamoods are excited about Detroit and their place in it. With several residential projects undergoing construction around Capitol Park, Hamood certainly got in at the right time.

Hamood plans on continued growth for Dessert Oasis. He'd like to increase wholesale coffee sales to other shops as well as online. This past spring, Hamood took his beans to America's Best Espresso Competition in Dallas, where he placed second in the contest, qualifying Dessert Oasis for the final round in Nashville later this year.

There might even be more locations in the family's future, though Hamood says he won't do it at the sacrifice of identity and quality.

And then there's Ace High hair pomade, which Hamood developed with a Dessert Oasis employee. The pomade, which is sold at both Dessert Oasis locations, is named after old cowboy slang for someone being first-class and well-respected. It fits the country and Western theme present in both shops, something he picked up from his musician sister in Nashville.

"Over time, me and one of our guys started playing around with making our own pomade," Hamood says. "We thought we could come up with something kind of cool and brand it cool. We've just been chipping away at it whenever we had spare time. After hours, late at night if I couldn't sleep, I'd just work on the pomade."

While coffee and pomade may seem a surprising combination, it's that craftsmanship, that attention to detail, that keeps Hamood's imagination. Even when he's trying to sleep.

Quick Facts on Nathan Hamood

Title: President, Director of Coffee Roasting Operations at Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters

Date of opening: July 2009 (Rochester), December 2015 (Detroit)

First job: "The business in a way was actually my first job. Before that I played drums, though I never did so all that professionally."

Favorite musician: "It's hard to name one favorite musician. I listen to all sorts of stuff, anyone from the Clash to Ray Price, but I'd maybe have to say Hank Williams overall."

Favorite Western: "It's a toss-up between 'Stagecoach' and 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'"

New workforce development opportunities available, thanks to regional partnerships

Metro Detroiters looking to pursue careers in fields as varied as nursing, machining, IT work, and more are being offered a new path to job training and workforce development, thanks to a recent partnership between Focus: HOPE and a handful of local educational and business organizations. Two Oakland County institutions, Oakland University and Oakland Community College, are among the organizations offering training for Focus: HOPE participants.

The Steps for Success Program, a partnership between OCC, Focus: HOPE, and the Detroit Regional Chamber Fund, offers students continued academic and social support throughout their schooling. Students attend the first semester of school at the Focus: HOPE campus and transition to OCC for their remaining courses. A Focus: HOPE Student Success Coach/Case Manager will follow the student throughout their studies, offering tutoring services, workshops, and additional support.

Steps for Success is available to current and newly enrolled students at OCC as well as students already involved with Focus: HOPE.

For students wanting to get into the nursing field, Focus: HOPE has partnered with Oakland University for a workforce training program. Focus: HOPE's program, the Machinist Training Institute, is also currently forming new classes. That program has graduated hundreds of students into the manufacturing and automotive sectors.

To qualify for any of the programs, students must pass both math and English assessments administered by Focus: HOPE.

More information is available through Focus: HOPE by website, email, or (313) 494-4300.

Motor City Match completes first year of programming, 11 more businesses awarded grants

Detroit continues to grow its base of entrepreneurs through its Motor City Match program, awarding 11 more grants ranging from $15,000 to $75,000 to area businesses. The awards complete the fourth round of Motor City Match, marking one full year for the quarterly program.

That pipeline of entrepreneurs, as Detroit Economic Growth Corporation CEO Rodrick Miller calls it, consists largely of Detroiters. According to figures released by Motor City Match, 64 percent of MCM winning businesses are owned by Detroiters, 72 percent are minority-owned, and 68 percent are woman-owned.

In the program's first year, Motor City Match has awarded $2 million in grants to 40 small businesses, leveraging over $13 million in total investment in the city.

This round of grant winners include:
  • Twisted Roots, a beauty supply retailer in Eastern Market
  • Block Party, a building on Livernois that will house two restaurants and the Live6 Alliance
  • Detroit Vegan Soul, a West Village restaurant opening a second location on Grand River
  • Norma G's, a Caribbean cuisine food truck opening a brick-and-mortar location on East Jefferson
  • Live Cycle Delight, a cycling studio opening in West Village
  • Amaze-Enjoyment, an early childhood center at 20067 John R Street
  • Guadalajara #2, a butcher shop expanding into a full-service facility in Southwest
  • Lil Brilliant Mindz, an east side daycare and Head Start facility
  • Beau Bien Fine Foods, an artisanal jam, fruit preserve, chutney, and mustard maker expanding in Eastern Market
  • Meta Physical Wellness Center, an affordable holistic spa opening in Corktown
  • Third Wave Music, a music instrument retailer opening in the Forest Arms building in Midtown
"These are the kinds of businesses that help to create complete neighborhoods where people want to live," says Mayor Mike Duggan. "Motor City Match is helping dozens of Detroit entrepreneurs live their dream owning their own business while being a real part of our city’s neighborhood comeback."

In addition to the 11 businesses awarded grants, seven others will receive free design and architectural services, 26 have been connected with landlords, and 50 more will receive free business planning support.

The next round of the Motor City Match application process begins Sep. 1 and closes Oct. 1.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

365 Retail Markets surpasses 6,300 installations

A growing demand for high quality, automated food choices in office buildings is pushing Troy-based 365 Retail Markets into stratospheric sales. In the last year the company expanded into three global markets, added 15 employees, and hopes to enroll a private equity firm to grow even larger.
"The market is pulling us forward," says President Joe Hessling, whose firm ranks among the fastest growing in Southeast Michigan, offering tasty alternatives to Lunchables scarfed down at the desk. "As people spend more time in the work environment, they look for more amenities from their daily lives. Food service technology is how companies can compete with Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We're a benefit for employees."
Hessling, who skipped college and went straight into the food service business, started 365 Retail Markets in 2008. The company reached $23.5 million in revenue in 2015, up from $17 million in 2014; Hessling anticipates a 30 percent increase in 2016. For three years the company has enjoyed a funding boost from Plymouth Ventures. Their main product is its MicroMarkets technology, a turn-key, unmanned market, an updated Automat for the coffee shop/convenience store clientele. While other companies fulfill the merchandise, 365 Retail Markets provides the kiosks, coolers, freezers, shelving, and payment options from credit cards to thumb prints that allow 24/7 access and remote inventory management.

Hessling says his company recently surpassed its 6,300th installation and now services accounts in Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. In 2005, Inc. Magazine called 365 Retail Markets the global leader in MicroMarkets technology and ranked it No. 321 in the 5,000 fastest growing private companies.

Having the right technology at the right time is everything. Hessling says his goal is to achieve ultimate flexibility in what customers can order and how the equipment runs seamlessly. Nearly half the operating costs, according to Hessling, is software development, systems that can provide data analytics on what customers buy and how often. The company started with an honor system for payment, and now has developed theft deterrent and security packages for seamless operation 24/7.
"The amount of change one good software developer can make on the company trajectory is worth it," Hessling says. His firm has 30 developers among its 140 employees and 10 contractors with offices in Troy, Provo, Utah, and Santa Clara, California. The software and customer service team work with clients to prepare a launch site, get equipment installed, and work to keep the market running smoothly.
This month, 365 Retail Markets is launching Verii, a compact vending unit and a pay window for scanning and purchasing through smartphones. Hessling believes his firm could enlist up to 200,000 small offices with 25-100 employees who would be ripe for this service. Just say cha-ching!

Maureen McDonald is a Metro Detroit freelance reporter who writes for Issue Media Group, Detroit Neighborhood News Hub, Crain's Detroit Business, and many other publications, and taught journalism at colleges around Metro Detroit.


Bank of Ann Arbor expands to Oakland County with merger

The Bank of Ann Arbor is acquiring the Bank of Birmingham, a move that will serve as the growing local bank’s expansion into Oakland County.

Bank of Ann Arbor is paying approximately $33.3 million to Bank of Birmingham shareholders as part of the deal. The merged banks will continue under the Bank of Ann Arbor brand with $2.5 billion in assets at eight branches. employees. All of the 225 employees from both banks will be retained during the merger.

"We are working hand-in-hand together," says Tim Marshall, president and CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor.

Marshall expects the banks to spend the next 12-15 months working on assimilating the two workforces together. He adds that it helps that both banks have similar work cultures and that they use the same core processing system.

This represents the Bank of Ann Arbor's third acquisition in the last six years. Bank of Ann Arbor acquired the former New Liberty Bank in Plymouth in 2010 and UniFi Equipment Finance in Ann Arbor in 2013. The Bank of Birmingham, which only has a branch in Birmingham, will serve as Bank of Ann Arbor's introduction to the Oakland County market. Marshall doesn't expect Bank of Ann Arbor to make any other acquisitions in the near future.

"It's really too early to make that sort of decision," Marshall says. "We want to focus on closing this transaction flawlessly."

Bank of Ann Arbor has carved out a niche for itself as a local bank as demand for local banking surged after the financial crisis of 2008. Bank of Ann Arbor moved to fill that void by serving both people and businesses. It had grown its overall assets to $2.2 billion before the new merger with Bank of Birmingham, with 185 employees at seven branches in Washtenaw and western Wayne counties.

Marshall expects that sort of local-first philosophy to drive growth at the bank for the foreseeable future.

"We're just going to continue to emphasize that at every opportunity," Marshall says. "We have enjoyed a lot of success, and there is a lot more success on the horizon for us."

Automation Alley makes investments, adds firms to 7Cs program

Automation Alley added a handful of startups into its fold in the second quarter of this year through both investments and additions to its business-building programs.

The Troy-based technology business association invested $22,000 into QuipzOR, a Bloomfield Hills-based startup that enables pre-surgical collaboration between hospitals, physicians and surgical device company representatives. Its services includes a remote surgical device support platform and a surgery scheduling app that eliminates unnecessary foot traffic in operating rooms, reduces the risk of infections, liabilities and costs associated with onsite support.

This is Automation Alley's second investment in QuipzOR. It originally invested $25,000 in it last December when it joined Automation Alley's 7Cs program. This latest investment will help QuipzOR launch a pilot program at a local surgery center.

Automation Alley also admitted a couple more companies to its 7Cs program, which helps local entrepreneurs accelerate the commercialization of their products, services and technologies. The startups added include ShapeLog and Vanderplaats Research and Development. ShapeLog is based in Ann Arbor and helps bring data analytics to gyms, hospitals, trainers and athletes by offering cloud-connected gym equipment and supporting fitness software.

Vanderplaats Research and Development, which is based in Novi, creates software that enables engineers and scientists to efficiently analyze, design and improve structures and processes in the automotive, aerospace and energy industries.

"We develop optimization software for engineering design," says Juan Pablo Leiva, president and COO of Vanderplaats Research & Development. "We plan to grow the company by following Automation Alley's advice.”
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