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Harley Ellis Devereaux hires 10 as it expands architecture work

In 2014, national architecture firm Harley Ellis Devereaux experienced solid growth in Michigan.

The Southfield office of the company has grown its revenue by 10 percent over the last year, allowing it to hire 10 people. Its staff now stands at 120 employees and three interns. The new jobs include architects, engineers, and technical staff. Harley Ellis Devereaux is also looking to hire a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer.

The company's leadership expects to grow at that pace again in 2015 by focusing on its core competencies. "We continue to be focused on the areas where we can best leverage our expertise," says Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux.

The 106-year-old firm and offers a wide variety of services, including planning, architecture, and engineering. It services clients in a number of different industries, from healthcare to advanced manufacturing to higher education.

"Those markets have been doing well here," Cooper says. "As a result our opportunities for new work have also been doing well."

Source: Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Brownrigg Companies grows by bringing clarity to insurance policies

Brownrigg Companies is an insurance agency that prides itself on knowing what it's selling, as well as letting its customers know what they are buying.

Ever read the first page of insurance policy and feel lost? Ever look at the stack of pages that come after it and feel even worse about your chances or ever really understanding what you just bought? Brownrigg Companies is making sure its customers don't ever feel that way.

"We really study the policies," says Nancy Brownrigg, CEO of Brownrigg Companies. "We want to make sure customers understand what they are buying. We don't pay our sales team on a commission. They are educators."

The Troy-based company sells commercial insurance policies, including products for industries that require unique and large insurance programs such manufacturers of plastics, chemicals, and automotive components.

The 26-year-old business has grown about 10 percent annually over the last five years. That has allowed it to hire three people in underwriting and customer service. It currently employs 15 people and is looking to hire one more.

Brownrigg Companies has also been recently recognized as among the top 10 percent of all agencies representing Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company. The award is based on a number of factors including production, outstanding customer service, and business retention.

"It lets us know we are meeting their goals and objections," Brownrigg says. "And that we are making products companies want to purchase."

Source: Nancy Brownrigg, CEO of Brownrigg Companies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio hires as it adds wheelchair dance classes

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills is adding to its staff by offering classes tailored to disabled dancers.

The Bloomfield Hills-based business recently hired a new dance instructor to lead an effort to start a wheelchair dance workshop. The dance-instruction business has made a name for itself over the last decade teaching traditional ballroom dancing, and the new wheelchair dance workshop is expected to help bring the joy of dancing to a whole new group of people. Wheelchair dancers use special wheelchairs with slanted wheels that allow for more agile mobility.

"They can experience something they thought they might never do," says Evan Mountain, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills.

Clinton Township resident Cheryl Angelelli is one of the first people to take advantage of the wheelchair dance workshop at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills. Angelelli broke her neck in a swimming accident at 14. She is working with dance instructor Sergio Sanchez thanks to a grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation that is subsidizing the workshop set to begin on May 2.

Wheelchair dancing was pioneered in Sweden in 1968 and has grown in popularity with participants in 29 countries. It became a Paralympic sport in 1998. Today, the IPC Wheelchair Dance World Championships are held every two years.

"In Europe, it's a very big sport," Mountain says.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills employs a staff of 10 and is looking for interns. It has hired five people over the last year, including two newly created jobs. It has grown its business over the last few years as the economy has rebounded, but also as it does more community outreach efforts, such as the wheelchair dancing workshop.

"It's part of our business model," Mountain says. "If we can use the skills we have to help the community or someone in it, we do it."

Source: Evan Mountain, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Eagle Thread Verifer aims to diversify client base

The five-person team behind the Eagle Thread Verifer has some big plans to diversify what has primarily been an automotive industry company.

The Sterling Heights-based firm's principal product is a patented automatic thread gauge that catches 99 percent of all thread problems in any manufacturing process, such as removing weld spatter in projected welded nuts. It is designed to operate in the rigorous production environment of automotive industry plants, preventing improperly tapped parts from reaching final assembly.

But the company wants to market its product to customers beyond the automotive industry.

"It can apply to all industries that drill or use tap holes," says Gordon Taylor, president of Eagle Thread Verifer.

Eagle Thread Verifier got its start in 1990 when the father-son team of Alphonso and Thomas Peplinski started tinkering with the idea of an automatic thread gauge verification system in their engineering design shop, Eagle Design. It came to the market just before Alphonso Peplinski's death in 2004 when it was installed at American Axle & Manufacturing.

Taylor, a long time sales engineer for the company, succeeded Alphonso Peplinski. Taylor and his team are looking to begin selling this tool’s services more thoroughly to Tier 1 auto suppliers and into more industries, such as oil-and-gas and wind energy.

"There is no end to the use of this tool," Taylor says. "It used to be just about autos."

Source: Gordon Taylor, president of Eagle Thread Verifer
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

G2 Consulting Group hires 10, looks to hire 10 more

When the Great Recession hit, G2 Consulting Group adapted by integrating more technology into its business model. It was a successful strategy and the firm grew significantly in the years that followed. Today it’s using that same philosophy to keep growing.

The Troy-based construction firm specializes in environmental and geotechnical engineering services. (Think of it as doing the construction work that takes place below the ground, such as soil testing.) The addition of technology, such as remote monitoring of solar panels or sensors at the I-94/I-69 interchange that track vibration, has become an integral part of the company's work.

"We're just using more technology to get the data," says Noel Hargrave-Thomas, principal of G2 Consulting Group.

The firm opened a satellite office in Ann Arbor last year and now has a staff of 46 employees and five interns. It has hired 10 people over the last year.

"We're looking to hire 10 more," Hargrave-Thomas says.

The driving force behind those new hires is revenue growth. G2 Consulting Group's revenue spiked 43 percent in 2014, which is up from 31 percent growth in 2013 and 20 percent growth the year before.

"We're on pace to continue that growth," Hargrave-Thomas says.

Source: Noel Hargrave-Thomas, principal of G2 Consulting Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

PeachWorks scores $4M in VC, opens Southfield HQ

Software startup PeachWorks has landed a few million dollars seed capital and is opening its first headquarters in Southfield this spring.

The 8-year-old company, formerly known as WhenToManage, provides cloud-based software for the restaurant management industry. Its $4 million Series A was led by Indiana-based Allos Ventures. Other early stage venture capital firms participating in the round are Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures, Florida-based Arsenal Venture Partners, and downtown Detroit-based Invest Detroit.

"We're rolling out a new general product and platform," says Mark Symonds, CEO of PeachWorks. "We're also building out staff and marketing."

PeachWorks principal product is a subscription-based software platform for restaurants. The platform handles recipe and inventory management, point-of-sale analytics, and staff scheduling. It can be used by restaurants, hospitality businesses, speciality retailers, and food service markets.

"Our sweet spot is fast casual, casual, and fine dinning," Symonds says.

Symonds recently joined PeachWorks as CEO after serving as the CEO of Plex Systems, a software firm that specializes in cloud ERP for manufacturers. He says PeachWorks had been more virtually based before this year with staff spread across the U.S. Metro Detroit contained the highest concentration of those staff. The company currently employs 35 people after hiring eight over the last year. It is currently looking to add another six people.

"Southfield is centrally located," Symonds says. "We also have an office in downtown Ann Arbor."

Source: Mark Symonds, CEO of PeachWorks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

ITC passes $1B revenue mark, adds 38 people in Novi

ITC, a Novi-based firm, is the nation’s largest independent electric transmission company. It is posting some big numbers these days, passing the $1 billion mark in revenue and hiring another 38 people in metro Detroit.

It also reorganized its leadership structure, appointing about a dozen people to new executive positions. The moves are meant to set the stage for more growth by adding flexibility to take advantage of more development opportunities.

"The purpose of the reorganization is to drive up operational performance and drum up the value for the customers," says Linda Blair, executive vice president for ITC.

ITC has experienced significant revenue gains since its launch a dozen years ago. In 2003 it recorded $102 million in revenue. A decade later it hit $914 million. Last year its revenues crossed the $1 billion mark.

That has enabled ITC to hire a number of people, growing its staff from 429 people in Michigan by the end of 2013 to 462 by the end of last year. Today it stands at 467. ITC has a total staff of 585 people across the U.S.

The company's leadership expects the current growth curve to continue in 2015 as the firm continues to attract more transmission line work
.
"This country has seen no meaningful investment in transmission line infrastructure for 30-40 years," Blair says.

Source: Linda Blair, executive vice president for ITC
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Stratacomm adds staff as it diversifies client base

Companies in Metro Detroit usually talk about the virtues of client diversification when tough economic times hit. Stratacomm is walking that walk when the local economy is on the upswing.

The independently-owned strategic communications firm recently landed Livonia-based Market Strategies International as a client. Market Strategies is a market research firm specializing in consumer and retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, technology, and telecommunications industries.

"Our automotive clients are fantastic, but we need to look outside," says Sharon Hegarty, managing director and partner of Stratacomm.

Stratacomm is headquartered in Washington, D.C. but has a large office in Southfield where it employs a staff of 10 employees and an intern. It has hired an account director over the last year and is looking to add another entry level account executive today.

Stratacomm specializes in serving four specific verticals: transportation, infrastructure, public health & safety, and energy & environment. Hegarty points out that her firm is focusing on expanding further into those industries as it looks to diversify.

"We'd rather be the best in those four core competencies than be everything to everyone," Hegarty says.

Source: Sharon Hegarty, managing director and partner of Stratacomm
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Plutonium Paint adds products, grows its color palette

Plutonium Paint has already made a name for itself as a high-end aerosol paint brand, but this year it's looking to expand its product line.

The Southfield-based startup's principal product is a high-end spray paint targeting contemporary creatives, such as street art artists, muralists, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and do-it-yourselfers. Now the 4-year-old company will grow its pallet of colors.

"We have a few new products coming out this year," says Barry Fleischer, president of Plutonium Paint.

Plutonium Paint plans to offer more colors and shades without forcing its retailers to carry each product. The paint will be available in dozens of colors, all flat.

"We are coming out with a clear coat that will protect the paint," Fleischer says. "It will be available in semi-gloss and in gloss."

Plutonium Paint, which has added a few people this year to a staff of six employees and six independent contractors, is also looking to beef up its sales this year. It has traditionally sold its products at hobby stores for DIYers. It is now expanding into hardware chains and traditional paint stores.

"We also received a vendor number from Ace Hardware this year," Fleischer says.

Source: Barry Fleischer, president of Plutonium Paint
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Grow Michigan fund hits $31M in investments in companies around the state

The Grow Michigan investment fund has deployed a little more than half of its $60 million after making a handful of new loans to close out last year.

"I think we will be fully invested by the end of 2015," says Russell Youngdahl, Jr. CEO of Grow Michigan. "We are not in a hurry to be fully invested. We are chasing quality with our loans."

The 2-year-old organization launched as a joint effort between the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund and a number of leading Michigan-based banks. It has invested in 19 Michigan-based companies for a total of $31.8 million since May of 2013, helping those companies leverage more than $200 million in financing. Those small businesses have hired a combined 380 new employees as a result of the loans and now employ nearly 2,000 people in Michigan.

"We are in the business of providing growth capital to lower-to-middle-market light manufacturers," Youngdahl says.

Grow Michigan made five loans totaling $11.1 million in the fourth quarter of last year. Three of those loans went to metro Detroit-based companies, such as Barracuda Industries (a Wixom-based specialty glass fabricator), Michigan Custom Machines (a Novi precision machine manufacturer), and PF Michigan Group (a Northville-based exclusive Michigan franchisee for health and fitness facilities).

The 19 loans Grow Michigan has made have touched eight different counties in Michigan. Of those loans, 11 were to metro Detroit-based companies, including six in Wayne County and five in Oakland County.

Source: Russell Youngdahl, Jr. CEO of Grow Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

TSP Enterprises aims to raise $350K to bring pickup truck storage system to market

TSP Enterprises thinks it has the next big thing in pickup truck storage systems, and the Farmington Hills-based startup aims to bring its technology to market later this year.

TSP Enterprises principal product is advertised as a better way to haul small amounts of stuff in the back of a pickup truck. The small-yet-sizeable truck bed insert is made of durable plastic that forms a box to keep small items, like bales of hay or golf clubs, contained near the truck's tailgate. The company has been calling its product The Pickup Tuck, though it might rebrand. Check out a video of how it works here.

"It keeps your truck bed contained, neatly organizes, and secure," says Carlton Powell, president & CEO of TSP Enterprises. "They are also easily accessible from the tailgate when parked."

TSP Enterprises is looking to raise $350,000 in seed capital to help perfect product development and create the molds for manufacturing. It has been pitching the product at local angel groups and business plan competitions like Great Lakes Angels.

The TSP Enterprises team hopes to close on the seed round later this spring. The plan is to start marketing and selling the product in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

"We're making this a cargo-management system for the light- to medium-duty pickup truck," Powell says.

Source: Carlton Powell, president & CEO of TSP Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Rose-A-Lee Technologies creates nightPLOW, a fast-charging, solar-powered light trailer

Rose-A-Lee Technologies recently partnered with Protobox, an Ohio-based company, to bring a solar-powered lighting trailer to market.

"We worked with them to offer a higher-level of manufacturing," says Patricia Lopez, president of Rose-A-Lee Technologies.

Rose-A-Lee Technologies, which calls Sterling Heights home, teamed up with Protobox to develop nightPLOW (Portable Light on Wheels), a trailer that comes equipped with work lights. The nightPLOW is powered exclusively by solar energy and is a self-contained unit. It is built upon a compact, lightweight aluminum trailer.

The trailer uses a Protobox proprietary algorithmic software to maximize power usage. The unit can be managed remotely via an android device and under normal usage can operate for four nights on a single charge. It recharges with less than 10 hours of sun light.

"They are very cost-effective," Lopez says. "The government is very interested."

Rose-A-Lee Technologies provides engineering services that help manufacturing companies increase their production by identifying time and cost efficiencies. The two-person team is looking to add more small-yet-emerging companies to its clientele this year. It's also looking to hire someone.

"I want us to be a place where companies can come in and we can help them develop their technology," Lopez says.

Source: Patricia Lopez, president of Rose-A-Lee Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Credit Union One merges with Good Shepherd Credit Union

Another consolidation among local credit unions is underway now that Credit Union One is absorbing Good Shepherd Credit Union.

The Ferndale-based credit union is taking over Good Shepherd as part of its plan to grow its membership and extend its reach across metro Detroit. Lincoln Park-based Good Shepherd has 8,300 members and branches in Lincoln Park and Woodhaven.

"Growing into downriver has always been a goal of ours from a geographic standpoint," says Gary Moody, president & CEO of Credit Union One. "Adding 8,000 members also made sense."

The merger, if approved, will be complete by the end of June. The addition of Good Shepherd Credit Union will add $93 million in assets to Credit Union One's existing $860 million in assets. Credit Union One has 120,000 members and 18 branches mainly spread across Oakland and Macomb counties. It also has branches in Grand Rapids and Traverse City.

Credit Union One has grown its assets and membership by 10 percent over the last year. It has also grown its deposits and loans by 20 percent to $765 million and $715 million respectively. The credit union employs a staff of 302 people and has one intern. It has hired 13 people over the last year and is looking to add to that number.

"We're always hiring branch staff," Moody says.

Source: Gary Moody, president & CEO of Credit Union One
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Morpace adds staff as it diversifies client base

Morpace, a Farmington Hills-based market research and consulting firm, is looking to continue growing its revenue, adding staff, and diversifying its clientele in 2015.

"We want to build on our current growth," says Duncan Lawrence, president & CEO of Morpace.

The firm helps its clients figure out and overcome marketing challenges through product development, customer experience, and brand strategy. It has grown its revenue by almost 10 percent over the last year. That has allowed it to hire 30 people, expanding its staff to 220 employees and a handful of interns. It also recently promoted Lawrence, who has been with the company since 1994, to CEO.

"I have hired six people so far this year," Lawrence says.

Morpace has been able to keep growing by diversifying its client base. It has traditionally focused on the automotive industry, but has expanded into a number of other sectors like financial services, retail, and healthcare.

"Healthcare is our fastest growing vertical," Lawrence says. "It has doubled over the last couple of years."

That doesn't mean the 40-year-old firm is ignoring its roots. It is aiming to grow its workload with existing clients and is looking to find more work in overlooked areas in automotive, such as commercial trucks, or power train.

"It's in an area where no one has any deep expertise," Lawrence says. "It's also going through deep change."

Source: Duncan Lawrence, president & CEO of Morpace
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Detroit Materials joins Automation Alley’s 7Cs program

Steel startup Detroit Materials is looking to leverage one of the regions new up-and-coming business support programs to help it commercialize its high-performance steel.

The Wixom-based firm has joined Automation Alley's new 7Cs program, which helps fledgling businesses leverage advanced manufacturing.

"You try to build your business as much as you can, but it's difficult," says Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials.

The advanced materials startup spun out of Wayne State University a little more than a year ago. Its technology is commercializing ultra-high performance structural cast steels. Its steel is both lighter and stronger and has applications in a broad range of industries, including defense, infrastructure, and automotive.

"Our basic technology is developed," Guillen says. "It's being validated right now."

The two-person team is currently working to raise a $500,000 seed round this year. It is also working to get its first orders under its belt later this year, which it hopes the 7Cs program will help make possible.

Source: Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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