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EcoMotors acquires Katech, plans to add personnel

EcoMotors has acquired engine-manufacturer Katech, a move that will help the Allen Park-based startup accelerate development of its green-engine technology.

Katech, which calls Clinton Township home, has made a name for itself over its 35 years for pushing the envelope when it comes to developing the latest in engine and powertrain technology.

“The company has a great reputation,” says Tony Mannarino, the new CEO of Katech. “There are some really skilled people here.”

EcoMotors launched in 2008 with the idea of reinventing the internal combustible engine to be more energy efficient and cleaner. It's developing an opposed-piston, opposed-cylinder engine that is smaller and lighter than conventional engines. It also has about half of the components of traditional engines. EcoMotors is a venture-backed startup with investment from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and Braemar Energy Ventures.

The acquisition of Katech will allow for EcoMotors to research, test and build its engine technology. Katech will also keep doing business with its existing clients and flesh out its operations. Katech employs 18 people and is looking to add interns. It expects to hire another five people this year.

“We expect to add another shift to operate at capacity,” Mannarino says.

Source: Tony Mannarino, CEO of Katech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Trent Design grows staff thanks to manufacturing website work

There is no denying that Trent Design is a new economy company. The marketing firm specializes in design, specifically website design. So it’s a little amusing that the biggest driver of its recent growth is an old economy sector, manufacturing.

Trent Design has handled the website designs/redesigns of a number of big-name manufacturers over the last year, including Brasco International. Trent Design is currently working on new websites for Pennsylvania Steel and Jac Products. The trend started when Eaton Steel first reached out to Trent Design to redesign its website a couple of years ago. That led to a number of Eaton Steel's sister firms and manufacturers it works with following suit.

"We have done several manufacturing sites, which has helped us get even more manufacturing website work," says Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Design. "I feel manufacturing can use our help."

That has allowed the Rochester-based company to hire a new brand strategist over the last year. It now employs five full-time employees, three part-timers and the occasional intern. Many of these employees have stayed with the firm for many years after they hired in. "When I hire them, they stay with me," Trent says.

Trent Design also opened an office in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood a couple of years ago. Trent thinks she could add another person or two to her staff in the next year but still wants to keep her company small.

"I want to keep a boutique-size agency that does great work and provides great customer service," Trent says.

Source: Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Loc Performance Products grows through diversification

The more industries it looks to enter into, Loc Performance Products is finding more work.

The Plymouth-based firm has built up its business with defense contracts since its start in 1971, manufacturing large CNC machined components and assemblies for military and industrial applications. The cutbacks in defense spending in recent years have forced Loc Performance Products to find more business in new places.

"We're building up our business with more commercial projects," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products. "We have a lot of new business in the mining and rail industries. We also have new business with hybrid municipal bus systems."

The work in those industries has allowed Loc Performance Products to maintain its size, hiring five people over the last year. It now has a staff of 185 employees and the occasional intern.

Dula points out it took a lot of work to branch out. In 2009, military contracts made up 90 percent of Loc Performance Products' bottom line. This year it’s 50 percent. Next year it is expected to be 40 percent, but the company would like to keep military work a major part of its core business while continuing to grow its commercial prospects.

"We would like to double our revenue over the next six years," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Amtech Electrocircuits launches Vapor Phase Reflow technology

Amtech Electrocircuits, a high-tech manufacturing services firm, is launching a new product earlier this year called Vapor Phase Reflow that it expects to help drive its sales for the rest of this year and next.

The Troy-based company is reintroducing reflow technology originally developed in the 1980s. Negative environmental impact shelved its commercialization until Amtech Electrocircuits tweaked its chemistry to make it more environmentally friendly.

Amtech Electrocircuits describes the basic concept behind its Vapor Phase Reflow like this: "A liquid is boiled. The vapor is heavier than air so it sits in a bath. The assemblies are brought into the bath and the vapor condenses onto the assembly, transferring heat to cooler parts. The transfer of heat stops when the part comes to temperature so lower mass parts do not overheat." The company also produced a short video describing the technology which can be seen here.

"We have been landing a lot of customers," says Dev Patel, vice president of Amtech Electrocircuits. "We have been making a big marketing push."

That has allowed the 18-year-old company to expand its staff with three new hires. It now employs 25 people. Patel expects that number to grow over the next year as the firm continues to gain traction with its Vapor Phase Reflow and other 3-D optimal inspection products.

Source: Dev Patel, vice president of Amtech Electrocircuits
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Frog AGV Systems opens manufacturing facility

Frog AGV Systems has moved its offices from Auburn Hills to a new facility in Macomb Township that should allow it diversify its service offerings and set the stage for future growth.

"We can not only do sales and services but manufacturing of automated guided vehicles," says David Noble, vice president of business development for Frog AGV Systems.

The 30-year-old company describes itself as a "global material handling company that develops, implements and markets Automated Guided Vehicle Systems (AGVs), navigation hardware, and software" used in manufacturing and warehousing industries. In short, it specializes in self-driving forklift technology, similar to Google’s self-driving car.

It previously specialized in sales and service at its former location. The move to Macomb Township in April provided the company with a manufacturing facility that it hopes to attract more customers over the next year.

"If we can do the engineering and manufacturing ourselves we don’t have to outsource it," Noble says. "It allows us more flexibility in what we can do."

Frog AGV Systems has hired three people over the last year, including a project engineer, a software engineer and an executive. The company now employs 80 people globally with a dozen of those employees being based in Detroit. Noble expects its Metro Detroit staff to grow over the next year as the new manufacturing facility opens up more opportunities to do more business.

"The move will allow us to secure more projects," Noble says.

Source: David Noble, vice president of business development for Frog AGV Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Tech firm Godlan continues growth streak in Clinton Township

Getting through the recession was a tall order for a number of manufacturers and the companies that service them. But many of those that survived have enjoyed significant growth since 2009.

Godlan is one of those companies.

"The companies that survived and emerged figured out they had to do more with less," says Ed Lanko, president & owner of Godlan.

The Clinton Township-based tech firm sells Infor's Product Configuration Management software, which helps manufacturers streamline the production and sales of their products. It also provides consulting services to manage that software. Its client roster consists of about 250 manufacturers from a variety of industries, such as aerospace, metal fabrication and automotive, among others.

Godlan has enjoyed double-digit gains each year since the end of the recession while responding to the demands of its industry. That has allowed Godlan to increase its staff to 35 people after making seven hires over the last year. It's a growth streak Lanko expects to continue well into next year.

"We are forecasting 20-percent growth year over year in our core business," Lanko says. "That translates roughly to personnel as well."

Source: Ed Lanko, president & owner of Godlan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PRISM Plastics continues growth streak with 6 new staff

The recession hit PRISM Plastics hard, just like it did the rest of the manufacturers in the automotive supplier world.

That was 2008. The next year the Chesterfield Township-based company notched $5 million in revenue. It hit $8 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. Revenues spiked to $18 million last year and the company is on track to reach $24 million in 2013, and $30 million next year.

"We have been on an attractive growth spurt since the 2009 recovery," says Gerry Phillips, vice president of PRISM Plastics.

The 14-year-old company makes seat belts, air bags and brake parts. It has operations in Chesterfield, Texas and Port Huron. The firm has a workforce of 62 employees and one intern. It has hired six people over the last year and has another six positions open now for engineers and technicians.

"Everything we do is automated," Phillips says. "All of our manufacturing positions are higher-level technician positions."

Source: Gerry Phillips, vice president of PRISM Plastics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dearborn's ticglobal switches gears to keep growing

Metro Detroit's automakers have been a big part of ticglobal's bottom line since the graphic and visualization firm's inception in 1987.

That started to change earlier this year when one of the major automakers pulled its work from the Dearborn-based firm. It was a pretty big wakeup call for the company and its staff of 32 people, which is now hustling to diversify its client base with customers in aerospace or defense.

"We're looking at other transportation industries, such as boats or motorcycles," says Peter Kapas, president of ticglobal. He adds that his company is on its way to replacing half of the lost revenue by the end of the year and all of it by early 2014.

To do this, the company is leveraging the region's business-building resources, such as Automation Alley. The expectation is to find other small-to-medium-size businesses that are looking for quality graphic design and visualization work.

"It's just getting our message out," Kapas says. "We want to help companies get a clear message out to any company that manufactures a product and is interested in quality and how that translates to their bottom line."

Source: Peter Kapas, president of ticglobal and Anthony Kapas, vice president of ticglobal
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Seco Tools hires 35, aims to add another 20-plus jobs

Seco Tools survived the Great Recession when a lot of its manufacturing peers didn't, and now the Troy-based metal-cutting firm is reaping the rewards.

The 81-year-old firm is now opening a new manufacturing facility for its custom tools division, a move that the company expects will grow its workforce by 20 percent. Seco Tools currently has a staff of 120 employees and two interns in Troy after hiring 35 people over the last year.

"We have been continually hiring since the end of the recession in 2009," says Bob Goulding, technical engineering manager for Seco Tools.

The company is currently looking to fill several high-tech manufacturing positions, including seven in Troy. More information on those job openings can be found here.

The new 30,000-square-foot facility will focus on design, engineering and manufacturing, allowing Seco Tools to continue to grow with the rebounding automotive industry and to continue to sink its roots in its hometown.

"We really want to stay in Michigan and Metro Detroit because we have deep connections here," Goulding says.

Source: Bob Goulding, technical engineering manager for Seco Tools
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Nano Synthetics brings nano tech to metal cutting

Jim English saw the potential of introducing nanotechnology to the marketplace when he helped get mainstream America to buy Rain-X. Today he is trying to duplicate that success with his own company, Nano Synthetics.

The Troy-based start-up is incorporating nanotechnology into manufacturing, specifically the metal cutting process, with its Tool-X product. Tool-X is a nano fluid that is added to both water- and oil-base machine coolants to improve their ability to cut metals, increasing speeds and lengthening tool life.

"We're seeing tool-life increases of 200 percent to 300 percent," says English, president of Nano Synthetics.

The seven-person start-up has had Tool-X on the market for a little more than a year and its sales have increased every month. English expects sales to take off over the next year as more and more manufacturers start to accept its potential.

"We see it doubling or tripling in size," English says. "People are starting to understand that high-tech technology can be used in their industry."

Source: Jim English, president of Nano Synthetics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PGF Technology Group hires 8 in Rochester Hills

PGF Technology Group got its start in 1970 making wire harnesses and cables for the automotive industry. It grew and started thinking ahead of its competitors. The Rochester Hills-based firm acquired another firm in the early 2000s that allowed it to diversify its workload.

That decision before the automotive industry cratering proved essential not only to its survival but its continued growth. The company now has businesses in the automotive, electronics, medical devices and military sectors.
 
"It allows us a little more balance and flexibility when the market becomes volatile," says Andrew Haack, sales engineer of PGF Technology Group.

PGF Technology Group has recently invested about $1 million in new plant equipment as it works to expand. It has also hired eight people, expanding its workforce to 35 employees. Its sales have remained steady this year because the company is consolidating big gains it made the year before.

"Last year was the best year for sales in the company's history," Haack says.

Source: Andrew Haack, sales engineer of PGF Technology Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

OU INC-grad Advenovation adds 7 jobs

Advenovation is working to not only give vision to manufacturing robots, which is already a reality, but to make that vision more intuitive and similar to how humans see and interact with things.

Although the technology has taken off,  says Adil Shafi, president of Advenovation,  and "a lot of problems have been solved, there are a lot of problems with it that are left to solve." 

Technically, the 3-year-old start-up specializes in the design, integration and implementation of vision-guided robotic solutions. It recently graduated from the OU INC in Rochester Hills. It is now moving into a 5,000-square-foot facility in Rochester Hills so it can continue developing its technology.

While going through the OU INC, Advenovation expanded its customer base six-fold. GM Powertrain requested that the company write its global standards for the implementation of machine vision in 2011. It is also working on the Orion Spaceship's heat shield.

That has allowed Advenovation to grow its staff to 15 employees and three interns after hiring seven people in the last year. Shafi expects those staff numbers to continue to grow thanks to a projection of sales doubling or even tripling this year as the company's technology progresses.

"We continue to pioneer and innovate solutions," Shafi says.

Source: Adil Shafi, president of Advenovation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lee Industrial Contracting hires 80 people in last 2 years

Lee Industrial Contracting has one of those business models that defies the region's cyclical economy.

The Pontiac-based business specializes in providing turn-key solutions for industrial projects, such as moving machines or installing alternative energy systems. The firm's systems work to minimize downtime and miscommunication to streamline the process of completing the project.

So when a downsizing manufacturer needs to turn three facilities into one, Lee Industrial Contracting can make that happen. And when those same manufacturers need to expand and turn one facility into three, Lee Industrial Contracting makes that happen, too. That has meant big growth for the company over the last two years. Its revenue was up double digits two years ago and single digits last year while the company executed its "planned management growth strategy."

"We want to to continue to put processes in place that would allow us to operate the company in an efficient manner," says Ken LaBruyere, COO of Lee Industrial Contracting.

The 25-year-old business has hired 80 people over the last two years, including 25 in the last year. Of those new hires, 20 work in the field and the other five in administration for the company. It now employs 250 people and has a few interns in its IT department. The company regularly promotes its interns into full-time employees.

Source: Ken LaBruyere, COO of Lee Industrial Contracting
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dimensional Control Systems expands software portfolio

Dimensional Control Systems released its latest version of software last year and is in the process of expanding the next version.

The Troy-based business provides quality software solutions for engineering tasks, like analysis, and quality management systems, mostly for manufacturers. It also offers consulting services. Dimensional Control Systems' principal products are 3DCS (an analysis tool) and QDM (a quality management system). The two tools can be interconnected to close the loop on an organization's ability to carry quality initiatives from design all the way through execution.

"We're looking for sales to pick up later this year," says Ben Reese, marketing specialist with Dimensional Control Systems.

The 19-year-old business is currently working on the sixth version of 3DCS (3DCS V6) and is Beta testing it. It hopes to release the new version later this year while it also works to further develop its QDM.

Dimensional Control Systems has hired seven people over the last year, upping its staff to 110 employees and two interns. "We're very excited to see this (software system sales) picking up," Reese says. "We are looking forward to this becoming a much bigger enterprise."

Source: Ben Reese, marketing specialist with Dimensional Control Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AppliedProgress focuses on brand building in Troy

Daniel Reilly isn't a stranger to running a business that implements Enterprise Resource Planning platforms, commonly known as ERP software.

The Metro Detroit serial entrepreneur sold his old ERP software company, Reilly & Associates, a few years ago and is making another foray into the business with his new company, AppliedProgress. This time, he is focusing more on branding to build his company.

The Troy-based company works with automotive suppliers and manufacturers to implement new ERP software systems. Reilly sees the key to building a successful business as not only doing a good job executing implementation of its product but making sure the customer has a comprehensive understanding of what's going on.

"There is a lot of education," Reilly says. "Companies only do this once every couple of decades. They don't know where to go to."

AppliedProgress currently employs three people. That small team has been focusing on building out its core product and creating a marketing plan for it. Reilly expects to launch that marketing plan later this year.

Source: Daniel Reilly, CEO of Applied Progress
Writer: Jon Zemke

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