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Immigrant entrepreneurs ACCESS opportunities

Hopeful immigrant entrepreneurs now have a fallback in the form of a unique model support program for those needing some business survival skills.


"As lawmakers in Washington work out an overhaul of the immigration system, a Michigan-based social and economic services agency has launched a comprehensive program to help immigrants open or expand businesses.

Dearborn-based ACCESS recently held a graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of its Immigrant Entrepreneur Development Program. It's one of several immigrant- and refugee-focused efforts in the organization's new Growth Center division...

Dijana Bucalo, a former Bosnian refugee who settled in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, is a self-described "clothing artist" with a fashion design and costume-making shop in the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit in the city's Midtown neighborhood. She came to the United States in 1996 after war in her homeland – knowing no English but with experience as a fashion designer.

Still, she took a job far from her preferred field. Bucalo became a real estate agent and said she was successful at it until the housing market tanked a few years ago.

"I should be thankful the economy went bad," she said. "It helped me to think more seriously about my business, my skills and my trade."

More here.

Building for Baby Boomers forum set for Apr. 25

The Baby Boom generation has a significant presence in Metro Detroit. Public transportation and dense, affordable housing will be just a few of the amenities needed to keep Boomers in place during their retirement years. Area scholars and leaders will be discussing these and other options at the "Mayors & Managers Forum: Built for Boomers" to be held at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Thursday, April 25, from 8:30-11 a.m.

Click here for more information and to register.

Oakland County, Grosse Pointe homes are hot, hot, hot

Homebuyers have crawled out from under the woodwork in Oakland and Wayne counties again. And it looks like sellers who stuck out the weak housing market can finally get out of the basement by getting good prices for their homes.


"The dearth of move-in ready homes is the result of underwater mortgages causing homeowners to keep their homes off the market, a better economic climate leading to more jobs and people not making as many improvements on their homes since the 2000 recession, said Randy Repicky, branch manager for Johnstone & Johnstone Realtors in Grosse Pointe Farms.

"If you wait until the next day (to make an offer on a home), it won't even be around in many cases. As soon as they hit, you better be on your game for it to work," Repicky said.

Compared to 2011, it took 2 1/2 fewer weeks to sell a home in 2012, going from 127 days to 109 days in the Grosse Pointe communities, according to data provided by Farmington Hills-based Realcomp II Ltd. and others. A $449,000 home Johnstone & Johnstone listed on March 22 sold 18 hours after five showings, Repicky said.

It's not just Grosse Pointe, however, where buying a home is becoming more like the Kentucky Derby than an Olympic dressage event.

Homes sold last year in Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township more than a month faster than they did in 2011, and two weeks faster in Ann Arbor."

More here.

The Oakland Press has also picked up on the hot housing market.

Dental franchises are winning, tooth and nail, in Metro Detroit

Smile! It may not be long before you can visit your dentist's office no matter where you are in the country.


"Great Expressions Dental Centers, founded in Michigan and headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, is an impressive growth story, with about $275 million in annual revenue and a spot on Inc. magazine's list of America's fastest-growing private companies. About 600 of the firm's 2,300 employees, including dentists and hygienists, are in Michigan...

For Beckman, the goal at Great Expressions is to keep growing annual revenue to about $500 million, mostly by acquisition. He has about 15 company-built stores, including a new location in Midtown Detroit.

And why build there? "I wanted a location here as soon as I heard Whole Foods was coming to the area," Beckman said, referring to the market slated to open in June. "We want to be part of what's going on here in Detroit."

More here.

What Detroit can learn from Denver's transit development

With the creation of Detroit's new regional transit authority, it seems the train is finally leaving the station. Now, Detroit should look to cities like Denver, which has seen significant real estate and residential development around its train lines.


"While Denver still remains a relatively low density city that relies heavily on the automobile and highway transportation, there has nevertheless been a clear change in regional policy that is encouraging more transit and higher-density transit-oriented development and that change in policy is having a recognizable impact on Denver’s land use and urban form.

Denver's recent success is encouraging for all U.S. metros, largely because the city followed a typical path in the 20th century. During a period of intense sprawl and transit failure, between 1950 and 1990, the city's population density shrank from 4,741 people per square mile to 3,309. Since reversing course in the mid-'90s, however, density is back around 4,000 people per square mile...

All told, Denver has created some 18,000 residential units, 5.3 million square feet of retail, and 5.4 million square feet of office space within a half mile of transit station, Ratner and Goetz report."

More here.

Detroit and Grand Rapids should join economic forces, leaders say

Here's a thoughtful piece on why Detroit and Grand Rapids, cities that developed very different business climates over the decades, should work together on economic expansion projects.


"In a post-recession Michigan, business leaders from Grand Rapids and Detroit realize they must cooperate like never before to survive and grow. Together, they're providing money to fledgling start-ups, helping each other with sister initiatives to recruit and retain young talent, infusing respective city cores with new development and retail, and recognizing they are stronger if East and West are both thriving.

This developing east-west harmony is crucial to the state's economic future, said Chris Rizik, CEO of the $100-million Renaissance Venture Capital Fund created by Business Leaders for Michigan.

"We can no longer be looking at Michigan as silos," he said. "When we've got Detroit seemingly not in sync with Grand Rapids, we look like a smaller, less cohesive state, and we look less attractive to companies looking to be here and to talent looking to be here."

More here.

Detroit-style adds new pizzazz to pizzas nationwide

Since its pies have started making "Best of..." lists around the country, and its pizzaiolos have been winning national competitions, Detroit is the new hip when it comes to pizza.


"Say it with us: "Detroit-style pizza."

Every day, people come into Jeff Smokevitch's stylish Brown Dog Saloon in Telluride, Colo., look at his menu and ask, "What's Detroit pizza? It's like Chicago, right?"

No, it isn't.

Neither is it like New York, New Haven, California, Neapolitan or Sicilian pizza. It's distinctly Detroit-style, and Brown Dog customers -- who had never heard of Detroit-style pizza two and a half years ago -- now devour it...

Unlike New York's thin, wide, floppy pizzas and Chicago's burly deep-dish ones, Detroit's thick, square pies -- first made at Buddy's Rendezvous in Detroit in 1946 -- have never managed to make a dent in the national consciousness.

Think it sounds farfetched? They and other experts said they believe it's only a matter of time."

More here.

Oakland is one of Michigan's healthiest counties

As compared to the rest of the state, even with plenty of good pizza around, it seems Oakland County residents take their morning runs and carrot juice seriously.


"Oakland County ranks third for health behaviors and sixth for health factors among Michigan’s 83 counties, according to the County Health Rankings Report. The report is produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute...

Oakland County has improved and/or maintained its position in 20 areas such as health factors, health behaviors, adult smoking, adult obesity, residents attending college and violent-crime rate."

More here.

SE MI Sustainable Business Forum kicks off Sustainable Spirits events

The SE MI Sustainable Business Forum is tipping its glass to a new event series mixing happy hour with presentations on sustainability. There will be new get-togethers on the first Thursday of each month.

For more information and to register, click here.

Detroit bids to host ESPN Summer X Games

Detroit may not have mountains, but it's got plenty of turf for extreme sports. It'd be a banner moment for the city and the metro area if Detroit wins its bid for the Summer X Games.


"Picture this: thousands of thrill-seekers flooding Detroit for a summer festival of alternative sports, music and film. It's not a sure thing yet, but it could be reality in less than two years.

Working with a host of city stakeholders, Detroiter Kevin Krease, 27, and new resident Garret Koehler, 26, are hoping to bring the ESPN Summer X Games to Detroit in July or August of 2014 through 2016. Earlier this year, their pipe dream became an official possibility when the sports network announced Detroit had qualified as a potential location...

The X Games, first organized by broadcaster ESPN in 1995, are global extreme sports competitions -- kind of like alternative Olympics for daredevils held every winter and summer. The Summer X Games include skateboarding, car racing, motocross and BMX events...

If Detroit wins the bid, you won't need to be a BMX fanatic to enjoy the X Games. Krease envisions the event becoming the city's version of the South by Southwest festival in Austin, with music, film, art, beer gardens, events that highlight urban gardening and technology work in the city and more."

More here.

Automaker profit sharing to positively impact the local economy

It looks like auto industry workers, still a major force in Detroit, might take those bonus checks on a spending spree.


"Mark J. Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan at Flint who is also a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an e-mail that “rising stock prices are often shared with workers” through profit-sharing and bonuses.

One example, he said, is the auto industry...

In total, Perry said more than $360  million in profit-sharing checks will be paid out by Detroit’s Big Three automakers. The ripple effects in the region will be big, he said, with the money sure to go to down payments on homes, remodeling projects and other big-ticket items."

More here.

After layoff, a gardener digs a new business

A former office dweller finds a new landscape in her blooming travel gardener business.


"After three decades behind a desk, Eileen Hugelier now spends her days designing, planting, pruning and tending gardens around her leafy hometown of Farmington Hills, Mich. At 60, she's the owner of Roots & Shoots Gardening, which she founded in 2002...

"A lot of people have about an acre of land, but just don't have time to take care of it themselves," says Ms. Hugelier, who spends most of her time planting annuals, doing garden design and upkeep, and trimming shrubs..."

More here.

March Madness at the Palace is the Battle of the Brass Bands

During NCAA tournament play at the Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend, the bands weren't playing second fiddle to the basketball teams.


"What you do not always see during the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament on television is this: a bass trombone player who hops around on stilts before the game, a band director who rips off his dress shirt and conducts in a tank top, and a tuba player who shimmies out of his pants at halftime, revealing American-flag boxers and tights...

Before the game is, perhaps, the only time the players listening.

Josh Bartelstein, a team captain for Michigan, said that he had memorized the order of his band’s pregame songs and began warm-ups on the same tune every game. He had his favorites, even if he could not name them.

V.C.U. has a repertory of about 60 songs. Kopacsi is usually open to suggestions from his students, which fits his personality as much as the baseball jerseys. He indicated a band’s wardrobe said something about the band.
Michigan State, for instance, wore simple shirts with Spartans logos and sneakers. In Salt Lake City, the Harvard band’s official uniform included a white shirt, a dark tie and a Crimson jacket with gold buttons and an emblem on the left breast..."

More here.

"Transformers 4" to film in Metro Detroit, create 339 jobs

After passing on Detroit for its third installment, the Transformers film series (and its generous budget) is back.


"Transformers 4 was awarded an incentive of $20 million on $81,933,992 of projected in-state expenditures.   The project is expected to hire 368 Michigan workers with a full time equivalent of 339 jobs...

Transformers 4 is the third film in the series to use Detroit as a backdrop.   The first Transformers, released in 2007, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, released in 2011, also filmed in metro Detroit."

More here.

Michigan fares well in job gains against east, west coasts

Michigan has stopped its economic belt tightening, holding its own among the rest of the country in terms of job growth.


"Jobless woes beset states large and small as well as the East and West coasts in January, but the nation’s midsection continued to thrive...

All told, about 17 states and Washington, D.C., have unemployment rates similar to the national average; 24 states are below than that level and nine states are higher. January was a good month for Michigan, Washington and Massachusetts, which added a seasonally adjusted 26,500 jobs, 24,100 and 16,100 respectively, from December."

More here.
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