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Paragon D&E takes big leap into future by investing $3.5 million in mammoth milling machine

Paragon D&E, a Grand Rapids-based mold supplier, continued its drive to provide innovative, leading-edge services to customers by investing $3.5 million in a huge milling machine for large-scale precision molds and machined parts.

The Italian-made equipment, a double gantry 5-axis FIDIA milling machine, is about the size of a car wash that can easily cut the entire fuselage of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet within a hair's width of tolerance. It's the largest of its kind in North America and one of perhaps only a handful in the world, says Dave Muir, president of Paragon D&E. "People can't fathom the size of this unless they see it," he says.

The investment represents a "significant leap forward" for Paragon D&E to meet the needs of industries that demand large, highly precise molds and machined parts, he says. It took nearly a year to prepare the site and install the machine at the company's plant at 5225 33rd St. SE. 

Muir says the company did not have a specific job in hand when it ordered the machine, but has since landed several contracts to utilize it, including some from the U.S. Defense Department. 

Over the last five years, the company has sought to diversify its customer base that now includes companies in the aerospace, alternative energy, automotive, heavy truck, agriculture and other industries. "We're almost in any industry that you can think of that would need our technology," he says.

The company is seeking NQA-1 qualification so that it will be able to work on materials and components used by the nuclear power industry.

Beside the cost of new equipment, Paragon D&E also has made a significant investment in its employees, leveraging the team approach to all projects. With annuals sales of approximately $30 million, Paragon D&E employs about 140 skilled tool makers, machinists and support staff.  Muir estimates between 10 to 20 new employees could be brought on board next year.

Source: David Muir, president of Paragon D&E


Sharon Hanks is the innovation and jobs news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


New biomass plant turns poop into power

A Howard City grain feed mill is now converting turkey litter into steam, electricity and fertilizer with a $3 million alternative commercially based biomass energy plant developed by a small Kentwood company, Heat Transfer International.

Sietsema Farms Feeds LLC is roasting 70,000 pounds of turkey waste a day to generate 206,400 pounds of steam and 500 KWh of electricity to power a grain mill that prepares feed for the birds. The turkey waste is gathered from several West Michigan turkey facilities.

Using a new gasification technology, the biomass facility will generate enough equivalent electrical energy to power about 400 homes, and produce enough equivalent heat to warm about 150 homes daily during Michigan’s winter months

Dave Prouty, president and CEO of Heat Transfer International, says the innovative system offers farmers multiple benefits in addition to generating the power. The plant can help solve and manage a manure problem that’s long plagued farmers. Waste used to fertilize fields can run off into streams and rivers, causing pollution and algae problems. Now, the waste can be baked and reduced to an ash that’s still useful as a fertilizer.

"Harley Sietsema can turn off his gas and electric, get rid of manure storage problems in the winter, eliminate the liability of manure run-off into the river and get (dry) fertilizer he can use later," Prouty said. "It’s closing a sustainability loop. Hopefully we can convert a liability into an asset." 

The technology was developed in Michigan, thanks in part to a $2.3 million state grant and a $500,000 federal grant.  HMI employs 16 now but Prouty expects to add 20 to 120 workers over the next five years, most with high-tech skills commanding good salaries.

"The future is very bright,” Prouty said. "People see this as a possible solution to help Michigan get out of its current chaos."

Source: Dave Prouty, Heat Transfer International


Sharon Hanks is the innovation and job news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com


Franchise offers innovative home energy audits

Local residential customers are warming up to a new service that uses thermography to isolate air seepage in their homes so they can better insulate their homes, lower their energy bills and reduce consumption of fossil fuels. 

More than 20 customers have sought the innovative home energy audits since Pro Energy Consultants opened their business a month ago at 1549 Michigan St. NE. Co-owner Erin Windemuller says the response has been“fantastic.” 

He and his partner, Phil Boogart, believe demand for this service will grow in popularity because people want to reduce rising energy costs and are more aware of the lasting effect of fossil fuels on the environment. Thermography is not new technology, but it is new for residential consumers wanting a more precise detection method of energy loss, Windemuller said.

Consultants begin their audits by identifying the home’s problem areas, such as condensation on windows or cold, drafty rooms. After scanning the building, consultants return a day or so later with a written audit report that includes thermographic pictures indicating where a home is losing energy, how much energy is being lost, and different solutions for those energy inefficiencies. Windemuller said a comprehensive audit of a typical home cost about $400.  Audits of commercial buildings are also available.

Windemuller and Boogart, former self-employed construction workers tired of waiting for the recession to end, were among the last in Michigan to be awarded a franchise from Pro Energy Consultants, the nation’s first home energy auditing franchise. Their territory covers primarily Kent and Ottawa Counties, Windemuller said.

The Cleveland-based franchise has signed on and trained more than 30 other franchise-holders since it was established in October 2008.

Source: Erin Windemuller, ProEnergy Consultants

Sharon Hanks is the innovation and job news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


Kent Career Tech Center launches college 3-D Animation, Game Design course for high schoolers

Kent County high school students now have the option to receive college credit for 3-D animation and game design at Kent Career Technical Center (KCTC).

After a two-year pilot, KCTC launched the college-level 3-D Animation and Game Level Design course in September. Students must pass a prerequisite graphics class at KCTC. Students can use the credits at either Ferris State University or Davenport University.

"We articulate the 10- level class at Ferris," says Amy Badovinac, the instructor for the KCTC course. "I teach our students here the exact same classes Ferris students learn at college or online."

An advisory committee of business leaders, people from the animation and gaming industry and post-secondary schools guide the curriculum based on what students need to know to get a degree and then get a job using the skills.

Those careers could include jobs in the rapidly growing gaming industry, the film industry for companies such as DreamWorks and Pixar, local television stations, creating 3-D animations for the web, educational video games, or storyboarding for companies creating marketing campaigns.

"Locally Herman Miller, Stryker and Steelcase create 3-D models to showcase their products," says Badovinac. "One of them worked with our students to create a model for a chair. You can put the model through Internet conferencing to a client in a Japan, the client can decide if they like the chair and fabric and changes can be made instantly, versus creating whole products and shipping them."

Students also work with a KCTC English teacher to receive high school credit for one year of English because the animation course requires extensive composition, storytelling and writing.

Source: Amy Badovinac, Kent Career Technical Center

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.




Allendale software firm adds jobs, looks to enter new juvenile court markets

BizStream LLC in Allendale has added a full-time and a part-time position as the company responds to demand for its consulting services and its proprietary CourtStream product that helps juvenile courts handle management of individual cases and facilities such as detention centers.

CourtStream is being used in Ottawa, Allegan, Washtenaw and Calhoun counties, says the company's co-owner Brian McKeiver, 29, who graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in computer science in 2002. He says BizStream hopes to make further inroads in other Michigan counties and courts in the state of Ohio.

Founded in 2000 under the BizStream name, the company he co-owns with Mark Schmidt now employs six full- and two part-time people, McKeiver says.

The CourtStream software reduces the need for paper documents in the juvenile court systems and allows case workers to securely access files from satellite locations or even home offices.  For instance, a case worker can easily call up court orders, detention information, offense history, case management history, and court calendars in one central location, greatly reducing the need to track down information from a variety of sources.

Since the information is centralized on each client, the caseworker doesn't need to spend time calling detention officers, therapists or other service providers. Anyone inquiring about a particular case can immediately see up-to-date information on a summary page, such as whether a client tests positive for a drug screen when being admitted into detention or does not show up for an appointment.

"One of the biggest beneficiaries of the software package are the kids themselves," McKeiver says. "They don't get lost in a court system, allowing them to get the help they need."

In addition to case management, CourtStream can generate reports for program evaluations and funding sources in a matter of minutes.

The company also sells and customizes its BizStream Portal that serves as an online Intranet for business applications.

Source: Brian McKeiver, BizStream LLC

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids technology startup releases iPhone music app for workouts

Grand Rapids-based Rehab Technologies, LLC has launched two technology products for the health and fitness industry with this week's release of its Cadence Desktop and Cadence App.

The Cadence products, released under the company's dba TrekoClinics.com, enable runners, walkers and other exercise buffs to sync their iTunes music library to match the pace of their workout.

Cadence Desktop analyzes a user's iTunes music and assigns a beats per minute (BPM) rate to each song, says Curt Kuiper, Rehab's managing partner. Using the Cadence App, users sync their iPhone (3.0) or iPod Touch (2G) to their computer and choose the BPM they want for their workout. By keeping in time with the music, the user can improve the consistency of their pace,  speed up their pace or slow it down while listening to their favorite music.

"There's a debate between whether you should try to change your stride length or your cadence to maximize your workout," Kuiper says. "Research shows that sticking with a cadence that works for your body is better."

To play songs with a faster or a slower BPM, users simply move a slider on their iPhone or iPod touch-screen.

Cadence Desktop includes a tap feature that set a song's BPM by clicking the mouse in time to the music for 10 seconds. They also can remove any song they don't want to use for their workout.
 
Cadence Desktop is Mac-based. Rehab Technologies plans to release a PC version in a couple of months, Kuiper says. However, the iPhone/iPod app is compatible with Windows.

The Cadence Desktop download is available free, or if purchasers would like to pay for it, they can pay what they choose. The Cadence App is $2.99 and available from the iPhone App Store or at www.cadenceapp.com.

Source: Curt Kuiper, Rehab Technologies, LLC


Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.



Grand Rapids headhunter releases iPhone app designed for recruiters

A Grand Rapids entrepreneur recently released what she says is the first iPhone application designed especially for corporate recruiters. AutoSearch Mobile searches for passive candidates on social media sites including MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and others, and does it all from one search query without the user having to log into each individual site.

Lori Fenstermaker, 36, owner of Grand Rapids-based recruiting company Automatic, developed AutoSearch Mobile based on her proprietary web based software, AutoSearch. Fenstermaker partnered with Cadence Solutions, owned by her husband Adam Fenstermaker and Matt Bidwell, to develop AutoSearch as an Internet search tool to locate hard-to-find candidates for her client Amway
Corporation
, who often has specialized jobs to fill.

Amway asked to license the software and Fenstermaker says that gave her the idea to license it to other clients, as well, including PNC, Gordon Food Service, Herman Miller and ManPower, and users in Mexico, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

"It takes hours to key in searches on your own; AutoSearch can do it in seconds. Young people are using social media and it's a great way to interact with them to bring them into West Michigan," she says. "You can quickly scour through social media to find specific candidates."

With AutoSearch Mobile, Fenstermaker says that in-house recruiters can perform candidate searches while traveling, commuting via train or bus or while sitting in a doctor's waiting room.

The mobile app retails for $4.99 and is available through the iPhone App Store.

Source: Lori Fenstermaker, Automatic

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.



Trends in life sciences will determine innovations; SUMmIT to explore emerging technologies

Innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists working to market leading-edge medical devices or molecular medicines have an opportunity to learn how to navigate the constantly changing regulatory, insurance and patient care systems environments.

That opportunity comes next week at the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative's SUMmIT, one of the region's first to bring together the drug, diagnostic and device industries to discuss emerging trends.

EDF Ventures' Managing Director Mike DeVries will offer his expertise in medical devices at the event. He says that in bringing new medical devices to market, that the majority of the trends are dictated by the demographics of just two client groups: an aging population and an obese population.

"Innovators continue to move towards doing surgical intervention in a less invasive manner," he says. "And the aging population expects more out of the technology because people don't have a sedentary lifestyle anymore."

DeVries says aging and obesity are opening a lot of doors for new medical devices ranging from wheelchair innovations to medical implants. But manufacturers wishing to diversify or startups hoping to capitalize on the next big thing must get in line ahead of the competition.

"There are fundamental differences between how manufacturers operated in the past and how to think about medical devices," DeVries says. "Lot sizes (for medical devices) are in hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands like in the auto industry, and regulations are stiff and complicated.

"The other issue is where do you start, who do you talk to just to get into the supply chain," he says.

Joining DeVries will be Daniel H. Farkas, Ph.D., laboratory director of the Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine and Shawn Shirazi, senior director of formulation research and development for Perrigo; all three will speak and lead panel discussions at the September 17 event.

Source: Mike DeVries, EDF Ventures; Rebecca Howe, Lambert, Edwards & Associates

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.




Grand Rapids jukebox company moves to Priceline Building

AMI Entertainment Network has chosen a portion of a facility at 4147 Eastern Ave. SE in Wyoming to house administration and some data support for its emerging line of Internet-connected jukeboxes.

Throughout its history as the former Rowe International in Grand Rapids, AMI was known for its traditional jukeboxes. Today, the company specializes in jukeboxes that access music directly from the Internet, requiring a sophisticated data center and backup data center to ensure that music is available for users of as many as 15,000 different machines.

About 60 employees will work at space in the Priceline Building, which will serve as the backup data center to its primary center in Chicago. While AMI Entertainment is not adding any new jobs concurrent to the move into the new facility, it may to do so if business improves.

“We do expect that once the economy picks up – and we have a few other irons in the fire – we expect some growth,” says Ed Gundrum, chief operating officer of AMI Entertainment. “The jukebox business is our core business. We’re never going to turn our back on that, and we’re exploring new ways to use the data center and other technology we have.”

AMI Entertainment will use only about 20,000 square feet of the 90,000 square feet available in the building.  The company is not doing any manufacturing work in the Priceline building, having recently moved its manufacturing operations to facilities in Mexico and its warehouse distribution facilities to Texas.

Source: Ed Gundrum, AMI Entertainment Network

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


BioBusiness Accelerator aims to attract bioscience startups to MSU's Holland R&D facility

By creating the new BioBusiness Accelerator at the Michigan State University BioEconomy Institute, Lakeshore Advantage took another crucial step toward attracting bioscience startups to the region. Recruiting those businesses falls to the recently hired manager of the BioBusiness Accelerator, Randy Olinger.

Lakeshore Advantage, a driving force behind Pfizer's donation of its former research facility to MSU, indicates Pfizer invested some $9 million to renovate the facility for re-use.

Olinger, 58, a biochemist and entrepreneur, says he has worked with MSU's R&D arm a number of years through his various companies that manufactured bio products with technology developed and licensed by MSU.

One Accelerator tenant, AFID Therapeutics, is in place already. But Olinger says the 140,000-square-foot facility has plenty more room for other entrepreneurs who need some of the 25,000 square feet of laboratory space and/or can use the 30,000-square-foot Pilot Plant, its R&D staff, or its 30 chemical reactors.

"The purpose of the BioEconomy Institute has four components of activity," Olinger says.

  1. The traditional research and academic mission of MSU.
  2. Embedded corporate research, where industrial affiliates rent space and carry out their own research or contract with the MSU researchers on staff.
  3. Use of the Pilot Plant facilities by BioBusiness Accelerator tenants or outside sources who want to scale up processes to production quantities.
  4. Small business development and incubation for six to eight companies at a preferred lease rate.

"The ideal candidates for the small business incubator are companies producing products that use biobased renewable materials, have a reasonable business plan, and some protected intellectual property that will enhance their ability to successfully commercialize their products," Olinger says.

In return, those businesses will receive help establishing a lease with the Institute, assistance with landing grants and loans, and help developing business strategies, marketing plans, and indentifying investment partners.

Source: Randy Olinger, Lakeshore Advantage BioBusiness Accelerator

Related Articles
Chemical maker moves to former Pfizer facility in Holland, state awards $150K to keep Pfizer talent
Going Green

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.



Chemical maker moves to former Pfizer facility in Holland, state awards $150K to keep Pfizer talent

Lansing-based AFID Therapeutics received a $150,000 loan from the state's Company Formation and Growth (CFG) initiative to hire three former Pfizer scientists to work at AFID's new location – the former Pfizer research laboratory in Holland. The money comes from an $8 million fund established in 2007 to keep former Pfizer employees, technologies and high-tech equipment in the state after Pfizer closed several of its facilities.

AFID is the first commercial venture to occupy lab space in what is now the Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute, a facility Pfizer donated to MSU. The university has redeveloped it as a biotechnology business incubator.

"The product AFID is producing in the MSU Bioeconomy Institute is a government-related contract specialty chemical for industrial and commercial uses in aviation and aerospace," says Randy Olinger, manager of Lakeshore Advantage's BioBusiness Accelerator, headquartered at the Bioeconomy Institute. AFID's new venture is the first in the accelerator. "But I can't give you any specifics (due to confidentiality agreements)."

Lakeshore Advantage played a crucial role in negotiating the donation of the facility and in securing the CFG loan for AFID.

MSU retained seven former Pfizer employees to run the pilot plant and the building and to provide expertise for biotechnology startups in the business incubator. The pilot plant contains 33 different chemical reactors with a combined capacity of about 37,000 liters, and is used to scale up chemical processes from lab bench level to tons of material.

"AFID occupies some lab space in the building and is very actively using the pilot plant and the personnel," Olinger adds. "They've not hired the three former Pfizer scientists yet, but will be looking for scientists trained in chemical synthesis and possibly production processing and analytical chemistry techniques."

Source: Randy Olinger, Lakeshore Advantage; Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.



X-Rite targets ‘prosumers’ with ColorMunki Version 1.1

Kentwood-based X-Rite Inc. expects to tap new markets by releasing version 1.1 of its ColorMunki photo and design software. ColorMunki works with design programs like Corel, QuarkXPress and Photoshop to assist users in managing the colors in their projects and designs.

X-Rite especially sees potential for growth with users it describes as “prosumers,” or non-professionals who are too advanced in their skills to be considered pure amateurs.

“It’s not going into an entirely new market, because there is some fluidity within the photo market,” says Iris Mangelschots, X-Rite’s vice president of sales and marketing. “For the prosumer, they have a tendency to emulate the professional.”

Brad Freiburger, X-Rite’s interim chief financial officer, declines to speculate about specific job growth numbers, especially given the recent state of the economy. Even so, he expresses confidence that the new version of ColorMunki would strengthen the company’s position.

“We certainly are optimistic this product, along with some of our other products, is going to help us in that regard,” Freiburger says.

Defined by Mangelschots as amateur photographers who spend more than $1,000 a year on camera accessories, prosumers are expected to embrace ColorMunki 1.1 because of their heightened interest in the presentation of their work.

“For these guys, it’s really important to create good quality images,” Mangelschots said. “For them, it is a hobby art. They spend a lot of time and a lot of money.”

Version 1.1 allows users to exercise more precise display control, including the adjustment of light functionality when color matching from display to display. Specific features include better and more precisely controlled display luminance, user-defined ambient light levels, better display contrast and brightness workflow.

Source: Iris Mangelschots and Brad Freiburger,  X-Rite Inc.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Cisco Systems selects Davenport University to pilot workforce retraining initiative in healthcare IT

Cisco Systems has selected Davenport University to be the only Michigan university to pilot its Workforce Retraining Initiative focused on preparing information technology workers for jobs in health care IT. Cisco is the leading global supplier of Internet networking equipment and creator of the Cisco Networking Academy, an educational initiative that supports 128,000 college students nationwide who are pursuing technology-based jobs.

The university will offer the seven-week course as a traditional classroom option and through Internet learning this September.

"We partnered with Cisco immediately to strategize doing this healthcare module to allow IT professionals more ability to move into healthcare jobs," says David Fleming, provost. "Especially for people associated with the auto industry, this retraining can help move them into healthcare IT positions."

Students will learn the IT systems necessary for successful practice management, creating and protecting electronic health records, telemedicine, mobility, telephony and the use and integration of information.

The training will broaden the knowledge and experience of unemployed and employed IT professionals as well as college students working toward IT degrees, making them more attractive to potential employers.

Through Davenport's Leadership and Management Development Institute, the university partners with corporations to train top management using an online system. As a result, Fleming says, the university can deliver this training to any employee at any location in the country.

Source: David Fleming, Davenport University

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.




Saranac VC fund eyes Michigan green companies

Saranac-based venture capital firm NXGen Holdings expects by the end of 2009 to add between eight and 15 new jobs between West Michigan and Mid-Michigan as part of an aggressive acquisition campaign that will target companies working with green technology.

The new jobs would develop in what White describes as the new technologies and innovation industry.

NxGen, which is owned by Green Bridge Industries, says it is looking for companies working with environmentally friendly technologies or products that are looking to make the leap from research and development to serious revenue generation.

William White, chairman and CEO of NXGen Holdings, said the company also plans to open a research and development lab somewhere in Michigan as part of the company’s growth strategy.

The acquisition strategy, according to White, is designed to bolster the company’s positioning to add shareholder value and bottom-line earnings. He said companies dealing in environmentally friendly products or technology may benefit from the strong corporate structure NXGen Holdings would offer.

While the company is interested in Michigan-based acquisition targets, White said it will not look exclusively in the state to find companies to acquire.

Source: William White, NXGen

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Fleetwood Group awarded wireless technology patent, designs apps for homeland security, wind energy

Holland-based Fleetwood Group recently received its 11th patent for its innovations in radio frequency (RF) wireless technology, and that technology is the catalyst to launch the company into the healthcare, homeland security and wind energy fields.

The technology allows a handheld device to communicate with a base station via radio frequency, for example, when electronic voting takes place at a conference or seminar. Fleetwood's patented RF technology avoids interference caused by cell phones, pagers, wireless Internet access and other devices by automatically hopping from frequency to frequency for clearer reception.

"We design, develop, manufacture, package and ship a little over one million RF devices a year," says Don Beery, director of new business development. "We work with some OEM customers in the educational/interactive learning industry and we private label."

Fleetwood aims to enter the healthcare, homeland security and wind energy fields, in that order, with advanced products geared to solve problems within the industries.

Each RF keypad has a unique serial number assigned to, say, a college student. It detects when the student enters and leaves a classroom.

Beery says the company is close to signing a contract with an OEM to produce a similar tracking device for patients, staff and equipment in healthcare settings.

"For homeland security," he adds, "we have a mobile handheld device for checking I.D. – security guards can use it to tap into computer system to check authorizations, etcetera."

The product launches this fall in the interactive learning/corporate meetings industry. 

Beery proposes that adding the technology to the converter boxes of wind turbines equips them for remote monitoring through a worker's cell phone or computer.

Source: Don Beery, Fleetwood Group

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


 

105 high tech Articles | Page: | Show All
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