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Husband-and-wife team launches urban design firm, City Form Detroit

About a year ago, James Fidler left his job at a downtown Detroit-based architecture firm to launch his own urban design company, City Form Detroit. This summer, his wife is joining the growing business.

"It was time for us to have new challenges and pursue some projects we are interested in," says Virginia Stanard, co-principal of City Form Detroit. "The timing was just right."

Stanard worked as the director of urban design at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center until this month. Now she is leaving that post to join Fidler, her husband, as co-principal of City Form Detroit. The downtown Detroit-based company specializes in providing urban design services, such as strategic planning and design guidelines, among others.

City Form Detroit's early projects include design and implementation work on Grand Circus Park. Stanard, Fidler, and their one employee are working on other similar projects in both downtown and out in the Detroit’s neighborhoods.

"We want to continue to contribute to the growth of greater downtown and the neighborhoods," Stanard says. "We want to make the city a better place to live and play."

Source: Virginia Stanard, co-principal of City Form Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

SA+A Architects takes on more design work, expands client base

SA+A Architects, which is short for Stephen Auger + Associates Architects, worked its way through the lean times of the Great Recession and is now starting to reap the benefits of the recovery.

The Lake Orion-based architecture firm has hired two people over the last few weeks, including a project architect and an industrial designer. The 19-year-old company has a staff of a dozen employees and two summer interns handling a growing amount of work.

"We landed some big projects," says Steve Auger, president of SA+A Architects. "We struggled through the downturn like everyone else. We had some nice projects on the bench, and a couple of those came alive."

A lot of the new work is coming from faith-based organizations, specifically churches. SA+A Architects projects include an expansion of the Clarkston United Methodist Church and the building of a new mega church in Cincinnati called Rivers Crossing Community Church.

"That's converting a movie theater to a 1,500-seat church," Auger says.

SA+A Architects also got the green light from Oakland County to serve as one of its preferred contractors for architecture work. The approval puts the firm on the short list for architecture firms to do work on designing schools and other government buildings.

"We just won a blanket contract with Oakland County," Auger says. "We want to do some more government work. We want to be more diversified."

Source: Steve Auger, president of SA+A Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dalton & Tomich creates new home in downtown Detroit

In recent years, lots of companies have scored easy headlines when they announce that they are moving to downtown Detroit. Dalton & Tomich is one of companies that made the move first and worried about making headlines later, if at all.

The 4-year-old practice, which specializes in business law, moved from Bloomfield Hills to downtown Detroit a year ago. The fledgling firm moved its five employees, four of which are attorneys, into the Chrysler House to be closer to its clientele.

"We were spending part of every day in downtown Detroit (before making the move)," says Daniel Dalton, founding member of Dalton & Tomich.

The firm hasn't looked back. It has hired one replacement worker since making the move and grown its workload. The firm has also established itself as an authority in RLUIPA law, which protects religious entities from discrimination in land use.

"We're at that point where we are really busy here," Dalton says.

That is part of the reason Dalton & Tomich made the move. One of the firm's other motivations to move downtown was to play a role in the city’s rebirth.

"It's just a great city," Dalton says. "There are a lot of opportunities, and it's a fun place to be. You can tell from the lack of parking and how it can be hard to find a place to get lunch."

Source: Daniel Dalton, founding member of Dalton & Tomich
Writer: Jon Zemke

DFCU Financial breaks ground on Plymouth branch

DFCU Financial, Michigan's largest credit union, is opening a new branch in Plymouth.

Ground was broken in late August on a 4,583-square-foot facility that will open in the first quarter of 2015 at Ann Arbor Road and Main Street.

The branch will be the 25th for the credit union that formed in 1950, started by seven Ford Motor Co. engineering employees. President and CEO Mark Shobe says the Plymouth location will serve more than 4,000 families.

The branch, which will sit on about one acre of land, will have two drive-through teller lanes, a drive up ATM and full services inside.

DFCU currently has branches in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

Source: Peggy Richard, spokesperson, DFCU Financial
Writer: Kim North Shine


HookLogic looking to hire 25 in downtown Ann Arbor

Walk into the Ann Arbor office of HookLogic and chances are you'll see a lot of people. Walk in there a short time later and chances are you will see even more people.

The tech firm has been steadily hiring since it moved into the old Leopold Brothers Brewery on South Main Street two years ago. The company currently has 55 of its 125 employees in Ann Arbor. It also hosted another 10 summer interns earlier this year. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next year.

"We're in the middle of hiring," says Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic. "We're adding about 35 people worldwide."

Most of those new hires are destined for Ann Arbor. The company has hired 10 people (mostly software professionals) over the last year and it looking to hire another 25 in Ann Arbor right now. When those positions are full the company will have filled out a majority of its space in the Ann Arbor office, but still have a significant amount of room to grow into.

"Ann Arbor continues to be our primary technology product office," Opdyke says. "It has just grown since we opened it."
 
HookLogic specializes in paid product listings on commerce sites. It partners with large retailers, online travel agencies, and automotive companies to give marketers direct access to bottom-of-funnel shoppers, as well as a clear view into resulting sales attribution. It works with a number of big companies, including Expedia and Target, along with a number of automotive companies. Opdyke sums up his company’s goal for future growth in one word.

"Bigger," Opdyke says. "We're doing a lot to grow our relationships. We work with a lot of auto manufacturers like Chrysler. We want to grow those relationships."

Source: Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic
Writer Jon Zemke

Craft beer store featuring taps to open in Cass Corridor

A specialty beer store is opening in Detroit's former Chinatown area. 8° Plato Beer Company Detroit will be the second location for the craft and import beer store. Co-owners Tim Costello and Brigid Beaubien are leasing the storefront at 3409 Cass Ave., the former site of Showcase Collectibles, an antique and curio shop.

Costello began to learn about craft beer during the 25 years he spent touring the country as a full-time stand-up comic, sampling the many small breweries throughout the United States. After spending some time working for Comcast, 8° Plato was set in motion after Costello was 'liberated,' as he puts it, from his job at the cable company. Vowing to never go back to the corporate world, Costello and wife and business partner Beaubien opened their first store in Ferndale in 2011.

Costello says that the focus of the Detroit store will be the same as their Ferndale location. Rather than having the biggest stock in town, the point is to have a well-curated selection that doesn't linger on the shelves. It's a quality over quantity approach that emphasizes freshness. Local cheeses, meats, and chocolates will also be available.

"The coolest part is the building's historical significance," says Costello. "We're not going to make radical changes. We'll take out the drywall to expose the brick but maintain the terrazzo tile floor and tin ceilings."

New for the company will be the addition of beer taps. Growlers, tap takeovers, and beer classes will be available. The taps also allow customers to enjoy a freshly poured beer while shopping for more beer. Costello's not looking to have a bar vibe, though, and he says they'll have similar hours to the Ferndale location, which closes by 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night.

8° Plato Beer Company Detroit hopes for a late Noevember 2014 opening.

Source: Tim Costello, co-owner of 8° Plato Beer Company Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

EXO Dynamics gears up to test back-brace prototypes

EXO Dynamics is in the process of finishing the first commercially viable prototypes of its mechatronic back brace and begin testing on its first subjects this fall.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, it calls the Venture Accelerator in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex, received a $50,000 state grant to create four commercially viably prototypes. EXO Dynamics is at the end of that process.

"We will have that finished by next month," says Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics. "We will do the final assembly here to put some finishing touches on it."

EXO Dynamics and its team of four employees and one summer intern is developing an electro-mechanical back brace for medical professionals. The brace will be able to be worn by physicians under their lead vests in operating rooms.

"We will field test them with physicians in the fall," Khwaja says.

EXO Dynamics has received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, which means the startup expects to receive its patent for the back brace later this fall. The company also recently took second in the New Business Idea category of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest business plan competition.

Khwaja plans to begin fundraising a seed capital round for EXO Dynamics later this year while field testing is going on. The company hopes to raise about $1 million in seed capital to commercialize its technology.

Source: Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics
Writer Jon Zemke

Pinkerton picks Ann Arbor as its HQ

Now you can apply to Pinkerton man in Ann Arbor. That's right, the security company that once protected Abraham Lincoln (but not on that fateful night) and chased Jesse James has come to town.

Excerpt:

"Pinkerton men tracked down Butch Cassidy and the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang and pursued Jesse James. Pinkerton agents were also a part of the historic Battle of the Overpass at the Ford River Rouge Plant in 1937.

Now, the 164-year-old security and risk management company is moving its global headquarters from New Jersey to Ann Arbor, Michigan."

Read / Listen the rest here.

Pinkerton announcement here.
 

FutureNet Group hires 80 as revenues grow by double digits

FutureNet Group once relied on a trifecta of industries for triple-digit revenue growth. Now that the 20-year-old company is maturing, its growth remains robust, though not quite as numerically impressive.

The Detroit-based firm (it makes its home on the city's far west side) clocked triple-digit revenue gains for several years as it grew its market share in the construction, IT/technology, and energy/environmental industries. Now it's aiming for double-digit growth as it continues to grow.

"We are expecting at least 20-30 percent growth," says Jay Mehta, senior vice president of FutureNet Group.

That growth has allowed FutureNet Growth to hire 80 people over the last year, expanding its staff to more than 300 people. The new jobs are in a variety of positions across the entire company.

Helping continue the company's growth is its new expansion in the security field. FutureNet Group acquired the perimeter security division from Smith & Wesson in 2012 and has since transformed that unit's losses into profits.

"We have been able to grow it quite a bit," Mehta says.

FutureNet Group’s perimeter security solutions include new technology to keep people and vehicles out of a facility by stoping them at the perimeter (Think access control gates). FutureNet Group’s access gate solutions have matured to the point where they focus on stopping an intruder while minimizing harm to that person.

"The whole intent is to catch the person alive," Mehta says. "No matter what's their intent."

Source: Jay Mehta, senior vice president of FutureNet Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Real Ryder Revolution relocates cycling studio, expands number of classes

Just five years old, Real Ryder Revolution indoor cycling studio has already grown to four locations in Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Chicago and Ann Arbor. After first operating on N. Main for three years, the Ann Arbor location will soon be even closer to its core clientele with a new studio on E. University. 

"We wanted to be as close to campus as possible," says Leslee Blatnikoff, owner of Real Ryder Revolution. "We just want to feature it more toward the students." 

The approximately 1,500 square foot E. University location will open next week. The new location will offer an expanded number of classes for the 18-bike studio. The business is now running a pre-grand opening special on classes. The goals of Real Ryder Revolution, says Blatnikoff, will remain the same in their new space.

"We just want to make sure it's busy and we can give the students the workouts they want, and continue to be good, healthy influence in the fitness arena," she says. 

Real Ryder Revolution operates with eight to ten instructors. Updates on the business and new studio can be found on the business's Ann Arbor Facebook page.

Source: Leslee Blatnikoff, Real Ryder Revolution
Writer: Natalie Burg

Kraemer Design Group creates 10 jobs as Detroit work grows

Kraemer Design Group is returning to its core business over the last year by taking on more renovation design work in downtown Detroit.

"We have half a dozen projects in Capitol Park alone that we are working on," says Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group.

Among those projects are the rehabs of the Detroit Savings & Bank Building and the Farwell Building.

The 17-year-old architecture firm has made it mark doing design work for a number of high-profile renovations in downtown Detroit, such as the Broderick Tower and The Lofts at Merchant Row. The downtown Detroit-based firm took a hit during the recession and construction practically ground to a halt, forcing it to take on more out-of-state work in the hospitality industry, including designing hotels.

Kraemer Design Group has rebounded with the economy and taken on an increasing share of work in the Motor City’s center. Among its more recent projects are the David Whitney Building overlooking Grand Circus Park and The Auburn in Midtown.

"We definitely see ourselves incredibly busy for the next couple of years," Kraemer says.

The increase in conctracts has allowed Kraemer Design Group to grow its staff. The firm has hired six people over the last year, expanding its staff to 28 employees and two summer interns. It is also looking to hire four more design professionals right now.

Source: Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

State Champs Sports Network adds 12 new hires

State Champs Sports Network has come a long way in its first 10 years.

The Southfield-based company got its start when Lou Bitonti was working at Chrysler managing the Jeep brand. Shortly after he left he started the high-school sports-centric broadcast company as a way to highlight Michigan’s emerging highlights.

"I wanted a show that focuses on all of the sports," Bitonti says. "The kid that runs cross country or does swimming does as much as the kids that play football or basketball."

State Champs Sports Network broadcasts local sports and feature TV shows, series, programming, and radio shows. Among its offerings are the State Champs! High School Sports Show, a weekly, half-hour TV program providing a comprehensive look at the athletic events, lives and accomplishments of Michigan’s high school athletes.

Starting last month, State Champs Sports Network launched a radio program, called High School Football Report, that airs weekly on CBS Detroit’s WXYT-AM 1270 from 9 to 11 a.m. each Saturday. The company also expanded its audience when its four-time Emmy-award-winning High School Sports Show! began airing on FOX Sports Detroit each Sunday from 9 to 9:30 a.m. It is also debuting a new television program called Extra Point Football Show! on WXYZ-TV Channel 7. It will air weekly each Sunday during the area’s high school football season for 10 weeks.

"We just started growing and we have a lot of shows," Bitonti says.

All of this new programing has prompted a hiring spree at State Champs Sports Network. The company has hired a dozen people over the last year. It now has 14 full-time employees and another 15-20 independent contractors.

"We're spreading the word out there," Bitonti says. "We're trying to keep this on a positive note. There are a lot of positive things happening in Michigan."

Source: Lou Bitonti, founder of State Champs Sports Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

A pair of best friend tailors open 1701 Bespoke in downtown Detroit

Max Schmidt and Tom Daguanno have been close for about as long as the two of them can remember, so it’s not that surprising the pair of friends since the 3rd grade are launching a business, 1701 Bespoke.

"We grew up together and always hung out," Schmidt says. "We have been best friends for a long time."

Last summer, Schmidt stood up as best man during Daguanno's wedding. The friends wanted to wear custom tailored suits to the festivities, but were unable to find any options they liked. So they decided to make their own and 1701 Bespoke was born.

"We started getting orders after the wedding just from word-of-mouth references," Schmidt says.

1701 Bespoke had its own pop-up store in the First National Building in downtown Detroit late last year. Schmidt and Daguanno wanted to use it as a way to get the word out about their company to the business class.

"I remember saying if we got four customers in those six days, I’ll be happy," Schmidt says. "We got two weeks of appointments in those six days. We really overbooked ourselves."

1701 Bespoke, which made it to the semi-finalist stage of this year's Hatch Detroit competition, currently has a temporary space in the Chrysler House, where it makes custom suits, coats, and other fine clothes. The partners hope to open a permanent home in downtown before the end of the year. In the meantime, Schmidt and Daguanno are servicing business executives, attorneys, doctors and athletes.

"We fit those types of guys, but also college kids like medical students looking for a really good suit," Schmidt says.

Source: Max Schmidt, co-founder of 1701 Bespoke
Writer: Jon Zemke

Atomic Object doubles staff at downtown Ann Arbor office

A year ago, Atomic Object set up shop in downtown Ann Arbor with plans for some significant growth after acquiring a staple of the local software scene -  SRT Solutions. Today, the Grand Rapids-based software firm has followed through on those ambitions.

"We have doubled in size," says Darrell Hawley, co-managing partner-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object. "All of our designers and developers are really business. We're to the point now that we have to turn work down."

When Atomic Object acquired SRT Solutions it kept its staff based in downtown Ann Arbor. Since then Atomic Object has hired five people (one designer and four software developers), expanding its Ann Arbor staff to nine employees and one summer intern. It is also looking to hire one design and one software developer right now.

Atomic Object has found it easy to grow in Ann Arbor because of the concentration of software work in the area and the firm’s efforts to market its services.

"There is just an awful lot of software development going on in Ann Arbor right now," says Ann Marsan, co-managing partner-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object.

Source: Ann Marsan and Darrell Hawley, co-managing partners-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object
Writer Jon Zemke

401K GPS brings retirement planning services online

401K GPS, an online retirement planning service, received its first outside investment this summer when it landed five figures' worth of seed capital from the state of Michigan.

The Brighton-based tech startup landed $27,000 from the state's Business Accelerator Fund with the help of the Macomb-OU INCubator. That cash will go toward the company’s marketing efforts, building a new website, and licensing its technology.

"It was a pretty big deal for us," says John Eaton, general manager of 401K GPS. "It was the first time we got any external money. We were entirely self-funded before then."

401K GPS sells a software platform that helps take the guesswork out of managing retirement plan investments. It got its start as a service so consumers could manage their own 401Ks.

"It is a technology solution to an advisory problem," Eaton says.

401K GPS and its team of two employees and two interns changed up its business model earlier this year. It went from a consumer-facing platform to one that could be leveraged by financial advisors. The move allowed the startup to double its revenue.

"That was a significant change in the business model," Eaton says. "We went where there was no  competition."

Source: John Eaton, general manager of 401K GPS
Writer: Jon Zemke
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