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Sustainability : Innovation & Job News

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Kimberly LED Lighting set to move into bigger facility in Clarkston

The LED lighting industry has been on an upward trajectory for years now as it becomes the go-to brand for energy-efficient lighting in the 21st century. Kimberly LED Lighting is riding that wave, expanding its sales and moving to a bigger facility this summer.

The 8-year-old company is putting the finishing touches on a new facility in Clarkston. A move-in is set for August. The new facility will be exponentially larger than its current office in Auburn Hills.

"We're going from 5,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet," says Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting. "It's a pretty big jump."

Kimberly LED Lighting specializes in changing out traditional incandescent bulbs for LED lighting in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Often LED lighting is up to 70-80 percent more energy efficient than traditional options.

The switch to LEDs has allowed Kimberly LED Lighting to double its sales each year, and nearly triple them in the last year. The company has also hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen full-time employees handling everything from LED switches in houses to factories.

"The bread and butter of LEDs right now is in the commercial and industrial side," Jenkins says. "Businesses are getting payback on them within two years."

Source: Doug Jenkins, managing partner of Kimberly LED Lighting
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Information Systems Resources hires 6 in Dearborn

Information Systems Resouces has hired six people in the last year as the Dearborn-based firm grows its service offerings into every sector of the IT world.

The 25-year-old company now has a staff of 53 people, including new hires for executive assistants, business development director, and electronics recyclers. That employee base now handles services that range from hardware sales to IT support to electronics recycling.

"We try to be responsive to the industry and our customer base," says Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources.

Information Systems Resources helps large corporations conform to federal regulations, such as HIPPA requirements and Department of Defense standards. It has also deployed a mobile tracking system that helps track the status of IT services to the minute.

Electronics recycling is one of the biggest areas of expansion for Information Systems Resources. The recycling division specializes in remanufacturing of electronics like desktop computers, taking out the precious metals and recycling the rest. That way when a school upgrades its computer labs the old workstations don’t end up in a landfill.

"That has had significant growth to this point," Tabron says. "We have hired two additional people on that team."

Source: Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IMET technology cleans diesel exhaust, improves MPG

IMET is racking up more recognition and gearing up to start selling its clean-diesel technology next year.

The Northville-based startup's GreenPower Muffler system reduces diesel fuel emissions and helps improve MPG for heavy-duty trucks. It made the semifinals of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit last month and won a $750,000 matching grant from the Port of Los Angeles before that.

The startup's team of six people is leveraging that recognition and money to get its technology to market. It needs approval from the state of California to make that happen, and it expects to receive that early next year.

"Once we have that we can go into full production," says Nick Cherasaro, director of marketing for IMET.

IMET's technology was developed by Julius J Rim, an engineer who worked at the GM Tech Center for decades. He launched IMET after retiring and now serves as the company’s president.

"We have room to improve (diesel fuel technology)," Rim says. "That's why we're doing it."

The GreenPower Muffler System is different from traditional mufflers because it doesn’t use precious metals, like palladium and platinum, and instead uses water and carbon-silicon composite filters. It recovers muffler-waste heat to generate water vapor to be re-combusted in cylinder combustion chamber at low combustion temperature for nitrous oxide reduction without Urea-SCR.

This allows the technology to reduce particulate matter by 95 percent and cut nitrous oxide emissions by half. It is also half the cost of a regular muffler because it doesn’t use precious materials like traditional mufflers.

"It can pay for itself on an average truck within 18 months," Cherasaro says.

Source: Julius J Rim, founder & president of IMET and Nick Cherasaro, director of marketing for IMET
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Joshua Tree Investments focuses on ethical investing

Josh Keagle has had a number of different jobs over the years. He has served in Iraq, been a middle-school teacher and worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In that time he noticed a number of investment professionals push products they had little knowledge of and were arguably not in their clients' best interests. He also noticed that a lot of people were supporting things with their investments that wouldn’t fit in with their moral code.

Not long after that he started Joshua Tree Investments, an financial investment advisory firm that helps people make ethical investments that maximize return. That could mean funds that specialize in sustainability or other investment vehicles that are socially conscious.

"Our purchases shape the world," Keagle says. "It's possible to responsibly prepare for retirement and think about how your decisions impact the planet."

The Troy-based company got its start a year ago and is now working with a broad range of individual clients. Keagle describes them as young and old, liberal and conservative and from all walks of life. He believes they all want to make the best decisions for the long-term.

Source: Josh Keagle, investment advisor & founder of Joshua Tree Investments
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Acme Group leverages green products for growth

The Acme Group is finding its inner-green self with its latest two products to hit the market.

The Bloomfield Hills-based firm is launching its ComfortSpan seating technology, which should allow vehicle seats to become lighter and use less materials. It's also starting to sell its NueBond filtration system that helps facilitate the recycling of industrial waste. The company, which employs about 150 people, has hired three over the last year.

"We are heading toward our break-out year," says Stephen Couchman, director of marketing for The Acme Group. "We have two products that are really taking the industry by storm."

The NueBond technology takes things like paint sludge left over from manufacturing and filters it out to be used as plastic resin. It is currently working with Detroit Diesel to take this waste that would normally end up in a landfill and turn it into a viable commodity the company can sell.

"It's literally millions of pounds per year," Couchman says.

The ComfortSpan technology utilizes new suspension fabrics in vehicle seats. This technology eliminates the need for the springs, foam, clips and other bulky attachment mechanisms. That can save up to nine pounds per seat in extra material.

"It's super durable," Couchman says. "We have broken testing equipment on this."

Source: Stephen Couchman, director of marketing for The Acme Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Revolution Lighting acquires Oxford-based Relume Technologies

Revolution Lighting Technologies has acquired Relume Technologies and plans to keep the Oxford-based firm’s facilities in Oxford.

Relume Technologies makes LED lights and smart-grid control systems. Think LED streetlights and the control systems that help maximize electricity usage. LED lights are seen as the next generation in energy efficient lights, and use exponentially less electricity than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Relume Technologies is a portfolio company of Beringea, Michigan’s largest venture capital firm. Revolution Lighting Technologies, a Connecticut-based company listed on the NASDAQ, agreed to pay $15 million to acquire Relume Technologies with $5 million in cash and $10 million worth of its common stock.

“We thought there was a strong partnership with Revolution Lighting,” says Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea. He adds, “we thought it was a better path for growth than just keeping Relume as a stand-alone company.”

Relume Technologies’
acquisition is Beringea’s fourth exit in the last five months. It is also Beringea’s second exit of a Michigan-based company this year. Pioneer Surgical Technology, which is based in Marquette, was acquired in June.

Source: Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Spider9 adds to staff, scores big European contract

Spider9 just scored a significant contract to help provide an energy storage system for a large solar installation in Europe. It's a win that is expected to set the stage for more growth for the sustainability start-up.

"It's a very significant project," says Glynne Townsend, president & CEO of Spider9. "It's twice the size of anything we have done so far. It's also the first project we have done in Europe."

The downtown Northville-based company's technology helps make alternative energy generation and storage more efficient. It is partnering with with Easypower, a European-based energy firm, to deliver a two-megawatt hour grid-tied energy storage system. The system is set to be installed next year and will be tied to a large solar panel farm in Europe.

Spider9 will provide the hardware and software to manage the system. This is a big step-up for the company because most of the systems it manages handle half a megawatt hour of alternative energy generation.

The 2-year-old company has validated, demonstrated and made the first sales of its technology over the last year. It has also hired four people in that time period, expanding its staff to 15 employees.

"We're starting to get some traction in the market," Townsend says. "We're looking to triple our sales over the next 12 months and double our staff."

Source: Glynne Townsend, president & CEO of Spider9
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Green start-up Terra-Telesis aims to capture feral energy

Ever feel the breeze when a bus passes, or watch something get knocked over when a jet engine takes off? That phenomenon is called wake vortex or jet blast, but Al Khavari sees it as the basis of a new alternative energy start-up.

Terra-Telesis is working on technology that can harness this feral energy, such as through a turbine. "We are trying to repurpose energy," Khavari says.

The Sterling Heights-based company (it calls the Macomb-OU INCubator home) is currently working on a model of the technology. Khavari and his team of two people expect to continue demonstrating the technology's effectiveness and raise a seed capital round later this year and into 2014.

"We have reached the point that with two more tests and money we will be able to test the technology in a wind tunnel and the real world."

Terra-Telesis is currently looking to raise $750,000 and expected to build its first prototype within the next year.

Source: Al Khavari, founder of Terra-Telesis
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ZeroBase cuts ribbon to new HQ in Ferndale

ZeroBase is cutting the ribbon to its new headquarters in Ferndale today, a move that is helping accommodate the alternative energy start-up's rapid growth.

ZeroBase, formerly ZeroBase Energy, makes solar-powered off-grid systems designed to be used in remote areas. The 4-year-old company landed a large contract with the U.S. Army, which allowed it to begin making its products in earnest late last year.

The company has since expanded its team from three employees to 14 employees and three interns to meet the demand for its products. That growth prompted the company to move from its 500 square feet of space in TechTown to 3,000 square feet in Ferndale.

"We didn't have a lot of space," says Michelle Klassen, power product specialist for ZeroBase. "We were piled on top of each other."

The new space in Ferndale gives the ZeroBase team some elbow room to continue its work. The company is focusing on pilot projects for commercial customers for the rest of this year, such as providing its mobile alternative energy products to rural areas in African countries.

The new headquarters, which includes space for offices and lab work, will help accelerate the time to develop a successful pilot to half a year or less. Plus, the new space will provide close proximity to local companies and organizations that might be interested in doing business with ZeroBase in one way or another.

"It (the new location) is mainly about community development," Klassen says. "We want to be in a location where we can reach out to local businesses."

Source: Michelle Klassen, power product specialist for ZeroBase
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TM3 Systems scores Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund investment

TM3 Systems is spinning out technology developed at NextEnergy that is expected to make energy use in remote locations much more efficient.

The Royal Oak-based start-up's product meters, controls and conditions power usage in remote locations. The technology's grid monitoring and automatic generation and demand control optimizes off-grid power use.

"We see an incredible opportunity to increase the efficiency of power distribution in off-grid power applications that saves fuel and increases the effectiveness of those systems," says Nate Lowery, CEO of TM3 Systems.

The 8-month-old start-up and its team of three people have raised $750,000 in seed capital, including $250,000 from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund. It is aiming to raise more than $1 million in a seed capital round later this year. That money has allowed the company to build its prototypes, of which it has already sold six units.

"We are in the process of signing contracts as we speak," Lowery says.

Source: Nate Lowery, CEO of TM3 Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Energy Reduction Coalition takes risk out of LED lights

Achieving market acceptance of new technology is one of the biggest challenges start-ups can face. It is no different for getting the general public to accept LEDs, the most energy-efficient lights on the market. The Energy Reduction Coalition is working to do just that.

The Troy-based non-profit is working to help companies and governments transition to the more energy-efficient bulb by taking the risk out of it. Adoption of LED lights can lead to savings in excess of half of electricity costs. However, making that transition comes with large up-front costs and the people who make those sorts of decisions are often reticent to be among the first to do so.

The Energy Reduction Coalition aims to help make that transition easier by taking on the risk and making the projects happen. It does the analysis of changing to LEDs, installs them, standardizes the process of replacing them, and provides a return guarantee if the cost savings don't materialize.

"I make it really simple for them," says Carl Walsh, founder of the Energy Reduction Coalition.

The Energy Reduction Coalition is a non-profit because it makes it easier for customers to trust that a non-profit focused on sustainability wants to help them. So far it is working with a handful of local companies and municipalities to make the switch to LEDs.

"In 2013, we're hoping to make a big difference," Walsh says.

Source: Carl Walsh, founder of the Energy Reduction Coalition
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cleaning firm Breathe Green launches Dirty Glove product line

Erecenia Friday's story is a classic tale of turning economic lemons into entrepreneurial lemonade. The Metro Detroit resident lost her job at a non-profit in early 2009, a casualty of the Great Recession. Shortly after that she started a green-cleaning business called Breathe Green.

"A friend suggested I turn my love of green cleaning into a business," Friday says. "I printed up some business cards and discovered people really like green cleaning."

Today the Oak Park-based business has three employees and an intern. It is also launching its own green-cleaning product line called "Dirty Glove." The enzyme-based product breaks down stains and smells and can be used as a multi-purpose cleaner.

"We use it in bathrooms, kitchens, on a tile floor," Friday says. "It's great on porcelain."

Breathe Green will be using Dirty Glove products in its own operations, serving as a more cost-effective option for its business. It will also be available in local Kroger stores later this summer. It will first sell an industrial-sized container (32 ounces) of its multi-purpose cleaner. Friday plans to expand its product lineup to floor, countertop and other specific-area cleaners.

Friday came up with the formula for the cleaner herself after recognizing that a lot of green cleaners are made up of simple ingredients, such as glass cleaner made of vinegar and water. She researched the recipes for other cleaners and came up with her own unique line.

"I did a lot of research online and in the library and interviewed some professors," Friday says.

Source: Erecenia Friday, owner of Breathe Green
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ecotelligent Homes expands into commercial, adds hires

Ecotelligent Homes has gone from a side project for an automotive engineer to a growing business employing a handful of people and counting.

Amanda Godward started the Farmington Hills-based business in 2009 while she was working as a mechanical engineer in the auto industry. The business, which helps building owners make their structures more energy efficient, was an outlet for her passion for the environment. By 2011 it had become her full-time job.

Today Ecotelligent Homes employs four people and the occasional intern. It recently hired a residential energy auditor and is looking to hire an energy consultant now. Godward's staff primarily handles energy audit work for residential structure but started expanding into commercial work last year. It is also looking at expanding into installation of energy-efficient options.

"By the end of 2014, our goal is to have insulation and heating-and-cooling crews on staff," Godwards says.

Ecotelligent Homes won the Emerging Company award at the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge last week. The $10,000 prize goes to the company in the Fostering Energy Affordability category.

"It (the competition) helped us formalize sharpening our focus," Godward says.

Source: Amanda Godward, owner of Ecotelligent Homes
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EcoFuel Technologies turns throwaway plastic into diesel fuel

When Swaminathan Ramesh sees people throwing away plastic he sees waste of a different kind. Wasted energy and resources. It's a big reason he started EcoFuel Technologies last year.

"I wanted to do something with waste plastics because I see them everywhere," Ramesh says. "And I have a background in the polymer chemistry."

The Troy-based start-up is working on technology that turns garbage plastic into diesel fuel. It currently has a prototype that can handle 100 pounds of plastic, turning every 10 pounds of plastic into one gallon of diesel fuel. Ramesh claims that his company's technology produces three times more energy than its competitors.

"We are unique because we can actually make money," Ramesh says.

EcoFuel Technologies
and its team of five people recently landed five figures' worth of financing from the Michigan Microloan Fund Program to help push forward the development of its prototype. The company hopes to land $500,000 in seed capital this year to build a machine that can handle 2,000 pounds of plastic a day and then $1.5 million in a second round of seed capital to build a machine that handles 10,000 pounds of plastic each day.

"They (investors) want to see us perform the same way at a larger scale," Ramesh says.

Source: Swaminathan Ramesh, founder & president of EcoFuel Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Red Point Engineering grows after move to Auburn Hills

Red Point Engineering made the move from Silicon Valley to Metro Detroit last year to take advantage of the region's talent pool and depth of resources in the automotive sector.

The nearly 10-year-old company specializes in advanced electric vehicle technologies and electric drivetrain development and integration. It choose to move to Auburn Hills because of the municipality's proximity to automotive suppliers and I-75.

"It (the city of Auburn Hills) has been very friendly and helpful to us so we can get started," says Monica Kedzierski, business development director of Red Point Engineering.

Kedzierski declined to publicly disclose the size of Red Point Engineering's workforce because of competition concerns, but did note that it has been growing since landing in Metro Detroit. It is constantly on the lookout for engineers in the software, electrical and powertrain fields.

"We're going to need to expand," Kedzierski says. "We will need a larger building to fulfill our customer requirements and scale the business."

Source: Monica Kedzierski, business development director of Red Point Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

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