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144 Ypsilanti Articles | Page: | Show All

WhereToFindCare.com opens HQ in Ypsilantiís SPARK East

The three women behind WhereToFindCare.com weren't exactly centralized when they started the firm last year.

The trio were spread out all over Metro Detroit, in places like Westland, Trenton and Allen Park. This type of virtual company didn't exactly lend itself to meetings and the like.

"It was very inconvenient," says Barbara O'Connell, co-founder of WhereToFindCare.com. "We're so spread out."

Not anymore. The fledgling business just signed on to claim space in Ann Arbor SPARK's East incubator in downtown Ypsilanti. The three women and an intern will help occupy the quickly filling space of entrepreneurs and established businesses.

"It seems like a good community for entrepreneurs," O'Connell says. "We want to be involved with that."

WhereToFindCare.com helps people choose health-care providers. Its website uses quality and satisfaction data of a number of different types of health care facilities and presents them in a format so users can make an easy decision.

The Ann Arbor SPARK East incubator opened earlier this spring in the newly renovated Mack & Mack building. Itís located in the ground floor of 215 Michigan Ave. next to Bombadillís Cafe.

Source: Barbara OíConnell, co-founder of WhereToFindCare.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

EMU students, staff create online crime mapping tool

Students and staff are playing a significant role in making Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti a safer place, thanks to a new online crime map.

The university's Institute for Geospatial Research and Department of Public Safety teamed up to create the online map that catalogs crimes committed in the university area. The idea is to help combat crime and any perception that certain areas of the campus or city aren't safe through awareness of the real statistics.

Michael Dueweke, manager of the Institute for Geospatial Research, let masters students and staff at the university create the program and website earlier this year.

"It makes a lot of sense to give the students real-world experience in their area of study," Dueweke says.

He was inspired by crime maps made in print publications, but wanted to make something that responded in real time. Crimes appear almost instantaneously after they are logged into the system. They stay in the system for 60 days. Crimes that are tracked include arson, aggravated assault, burglary, criminal sexual conduct, motor vehicle theft, murder, robbery and larceny from a vehicle.

Source: Michael Dueweke, manager of the Institute for Geospatial Research
Writer: Jon Zemke

ISSYS creates partnership and jobs in Ypsilanti

Good things come in three for ISSYS. First the Ypsilanti-based firm hired two people since the last time we checked in with it earlier this year. Second it formed a partnership with a Switzerland-based firm, a move that is expected to (thirdly) create more jobs in Ypsilanti.

As of today ISSYS employs 32 people and has a couple of positions open right now. It expects to hire another 5-6 people by the end of the year. The Swiss firm, Endress + Hauser, might also open an office nearby.

"They have invested in us and they have a minority stake in ISSYS," says Doug Sparks, vice president of ISSYS.

ISSYS spun-off from the University of Michigan in 1995 and uses micro fluids and sensors for research in products like fuel cells. Endress + Hauser is licensing some of the microchip technology to make its own sensors. It discovered ISSYS in 2003 and began putting a deal together in 2007.

Source: Doug Sparks, vice president of ISSYS
Writer: Jon Zemke

Heritage moves into Ann Arbor market with weekly paper

It seems like everyone wants a piece of Ann Arborís news market these days, especially companies focusing on the written word.

Heritage Newspapers, part of the Journal Register Co., is launching a new weekly newspaper in Ann Arbor starting on July 9. Heritage also owns similar weeklies in Saline, Dexter, Chelsea and Ypsilanti, along with other small towns across Metro Detroit.

The company released the information on Twitter, describing the A2 Journal as "a free weekly, home-delivered newspaper ... covering the people, traditions and institutions that make Ann Arbor unique."

It joins one of the most competitive news markets in Michigan, especially for the written word. Even though the venerable The Ann Arbor News is shutting down this summer, a twice-weekly newspaper and website will be taking its place. Then there are the new website publications, The Ann Arbor Chronicle and Concentrate. And of course there is still the Ann Arbor Observer.

All of this is happening in the downfall of The Ann Arbor News and print journalism as a whole.

"It seems to open up this world of possibility," says Fara Warner, a visiting professor of journalism at the University of Michigan. "At least that's what people see."

She adds that similar things are happening at cities across the nation where a lot of entrepreneurs and entrenched businesses are "trying to grasp for what's next," Warner says.

"We still want out news," Warner says. "We just want it delivered in a different way."

Ypsilanti is going through a similar shift. The Ann Arbor News still covers it and so does Heritage Newspapers' Ypsilanti Courier. It also has two news website in the Ypsilanti Citizen and Ypsi News.

Fara Warner, a visiting professor of journalism at the University of Michigan and Heritage Newspapers
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pre-Seed Capital Fund hits three Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti businesses

Three new businesses in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area are about to get by with a little help from their new friend - Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.

White Pine Systems, OcuSciences and RealKidz (all Ann Arbor SPARK-sponsored start-ups) received between $142,000 and $250,000 in seed money. Ann Arbor SPARK administers this money.

"We hope this acts as an incentive to bring an angel (investor) to the table to make an investment," says Skip Simms, administrator of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.

Ann Arbor-based White Pine Systems will use its $225,000 to further its internet-based medical records service. That service securely stores and manages personal information, such as medical and legal records.

University of Michigan spin-off OcuSciences has $250,000 to develop its OcuMet line of ocular metabolic imaging products. The Ann Arbor-based firmís products allow detection of several diseases through indicators in the eye, several years earlier than current clinical methods.

Ypsilanti-based RealKidz, an on-line retailer, plans to use its $142,000 to further its development of large size kids clothing and social network. RealKidz is a tenant of SPARK East business incubator.

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, a collaborative effort of Michigan's 15 SmartZones, is an equity investment fund. It receives the same returns as a private third-party investor. Ann Arbor SPARK is one of these SmartZones. Thirty-four companies from across the state have received seed money from the fund since its inception.

Skip Simms, administrator of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sensei Change sets up shop at Ypsilanti's SPARK East

Diana Wong is a person who specializes in change. One might even call her an expert. But it doesn't take her well-trained eye to recognize the change that's washing over downtown Ypsilanti.

"It's an incredibly dynamic place," Wong says. "The energy there is dynamic. It's in the early stages of renewal and renaissance. Not everybody sees it but there are a lot of pieces in place."

One of those key places is Ann Arbor SPARK's new East Incubator. The office space for entrepreneurs on Michigan Avenue next to Bombadill's Cafť is where Wong choose to set up the office for her new start-up Ė Sensei Change.

The Eastern Michigan University business professor's firm specializes in handling change in the business world. That could be everything from helping professionals switch career paths to helping corporate executives make a successful switch to entrepreneurism. Wong makes sure these people make the changes in their strategies and technique to enable a successful switch.

"I find that a lot of strategy doesn't happen without fundamental change," Wong says.

What's staying consistent is the size of the 5-year-old company. Right now it's just her and four independent contractors. She hopes to change that by adding more independent contractors and even an employee or two when she starts taking on more work.

Source: Diana Wong, president and CEO of Sensei Change
Writer: Jon Zemke

VAL-IT teaches IT, moves into Ypsilanti's SPARK East

Many IT start-ups begin with the idea of providing superior service to small and medium-sized businesses. Not so with VAL-IT.

The Ypsilanti-based firm specializing in teaching IT skills first and foremost, and is targeting the big boys of the business world Ė like corporations, university student bodies and major industrial clients. The idea is that IT is such a fast-growing sector, someone has to train the people for all of those new knowledge-based economy jobs.

"It's to address the needs of knowledge professionals," says William Bathgate, CEO of VAL-IT. "They are needed over all industries."

VAL-IT's three employees and handful of independent contractors all have extensive backgrounds in the IT world. Bathgate wants to leverage those into a profitable business. He choose to set up shop in Ann Arbor SPARK's East Incubator in downtown Ypsilanti to be near the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw County's east industrial core.

Bathgate has no plans to hire right away, but can see adding jobs when the classes start rolling in and the need warrants the extra workers.

Source: William Bathgate, CEO of VAL-IT
Writer: Jon Zemke

LaVision anchors its office in Ypsilanti's new SPARK East

The anchor tenant for Ann Arbor SPARK's East business incubator, LaVision, isn't new to the area or to business, but it's found a good home there, amongst a gaggle of start-ups.

LaVision is a subsidiary of a European parent company that provides laser-imaging systems for advanced manufacturing systems. It leased space in the Key Bank building in Ypsilanti for about a decade before moving to SPARK East's new digs on Michigan Avenue next to Bombadills Cafe in downtown.

"I like it here," says Callum Gray, CEO of LaVision. "There are great places to eat and the price per square foot is great compared to downtown Ann Arbor."

He also likes its close proximity to Metro Airport, an option that lets him go anywhere in the world after a few minutes drive.

LaVision has a staff of four people and an intern at its new Ypsilanti offices. It plans to add another person or two to it within the next five years.

Source: Callum Gray, CEO of LaVision
Writer: Jon Zemke

Eastern Leaders sets sights on micro loans, land bank

The Eastern Leaders Group has some lofty ambitions for Washtenaw County, but they all seem attainable when looking at their 33 page plan.

The group is made up of local leaders from the public, private and university community dedicated toward improving the eastern half of the county. The idea is to harness their collective power and influence to make these improvements, such as building on Eastern Michigan University's reputation and resources.

One of their checked-off goals includes the opening of the Ann Arbor SPARK East business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti this year. The group expects the incubator to help make Ypsilanti and the surrounding area more attractive to new economy firms and the high-paying jobs they create.

The Eastern Leaders Group also plans to push for a number of other tools, such as the creation of land bank and micro loans for promising start-ups. The land bank is expected to help save foreclosed property from demolition, put them back on the tax roles quickly and stabilize area with heavy foreclosure rates. The micro loans would help fledgling small businesses grow, especially in this time known for its credit crisis. They're part of larger goals aimed at stabilizing the area and developing local businesses.

These tools, especially the land bank, will also help the Eastern Leaders Group bring in more federal money to push its programs forward.

"What we're trying to do is leverage all of that funding," says James McFarlane, a project manager for Eastern Leaders Group.

Source: James McFarlane, project manager for Eastern Leaders Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti's SPARK East to show off new digs this Friday

The doors of Ann Arbor SPARK's East incubator have been open for a few months, but now the public can come on in and have a looksee this Friday afternoon.

Anyone and everyone is invited to drop in at the new economy business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti between 1:30 and 8 p.m. Ann Arbor SPARK employees will be showing off the new, edgy digs in the restored Mack & Mack building with tour and a press conference.

The incubator will also be showing off its first eight tenants. They range from LaVision, the anchor tenant, to a number of start-ups like Smart Dining and Brainstorm Creative. The incubator is only half full so far, and has plenty of room for virtual tenants.

"We have the same opportunity in SPARK East as we do in SPARK Central (downtown Ann Arbor) to be a virtual tenant," says Elizabeth Parkison, managing director of marketing and public relation for Ann Arbor SPARK.

A virtual tenant is sort of the cheapest, bare bones way of taking advantage of an Ann Arbor SPARK incubator. Virtual tenants pay $95 a month and can take advantage of things like the conference rooms, drop in to use the office space and the business acceleration services. The big difference between virtual tenant and actual tenants is the actual tenants can use the space as their everyday office.

All of these options and more will be available during Friday's open house. SPARK East is located in the ground floor space of 215 E Michigan Ave next to Bombadills Cafť. For information, call (734) 372-4070.

Source: Elizabeth Parkinson, managing director of marketing and public relation for Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti Brainstorm Creative bets big on lotto tech, hopes to add 25-30 people

Investing in the lottery isnít normally regarded as a sound investment, but it's one that the people behind Brainstorm Creative are getting ready to really cash in on this year.

The downtown Ypsilanti-based firm believes its newest lotto-based technology, Millionairesgreetings.com, will let it quintuple its staff this year. Right now Brainstorm Creative employs six people. It hopes to add 25-30 people as it starts to put the technology out in a pilot phase in October.

"We are optimistic about a full launch," says Joseph Gough, president of Brainstorm Creative.

Millionairesgreetings.com is service where customers can send a card to someone that comes with a lottery ticket. If the person who receives the card wins, they get 80 percent of the prize while the send gets 20 percent.

"It's a marriage between greeting cards and lottery games," Gough says.

Brainstorm Creative, a spin-off of Indian Trail Productions, recently set up shop in Ann Arbor SPARKís East Incubator in downtown Ypsilanti. It won a free one-year lease starting this month during the ACE Awards.

"I really like it," Gough says. "I think they have some pretty progressive ideas about setting up a creative community there."

Source: Joseph Gough, president of Brainstorm Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Smart Dining sets its table at Ypsilanti SPARK office

Making a choice about going out to dinner takes lots of information, especially when a group is making that decision. Enter Smart Dining, the company that strives to provide.

The downtown Ypsilanti-based firm serves as a resource for local restaurant websites, menus, reviews and discounts. A click on its website can provide easy access to all of this valuable information, making dinner choices easier.

Of course it's never as easy as it sounds. The company started off with a partnership with The Ann Arbor News two years ago and lots of immediate promise. Unfortunately, The Ann Arbor News' plans changed. Smart Dining is focused on avoiding that same fate, revamping its website and business model.

"How do you create an advertising vehicle that isnít an in-your-face piece of junk mail?" says David Kanaan, president and co-owner of Smart Dining.

Smart Dining's four people are doing this in Ann Arbor SPARK's new East Incubator in downtown Ypsilanti.

"It's a fantastic place," Kanaan says. "If you saw what they offer to small businesses it would be stupid to go elsewhere. What they offer is unbeatable."

He is taking those vibes and getting ready to go forward on them. He thinks Smart Dining is one year away from hitting on all cylinders and then sky is the limit.

"The chance for expansion is infinite," Kanaan says. "It's all about gaining traction in one market and moving onto the next."

Source: David Kanaan, president and co-owner of Smart Dining
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilantiís LookInTheAttic named 1 of Michiganís 50 companies to watch

It's not hard to find LookInTheAttic these days, especially now that the downtown Ypsilanti-based firm has been named one of the Edward Lowe Foundation's Michigan 50 Companies to Watch.

It's easy to see why when you look at the company's year-to-year growth. Steady success has allowed the eight-person firm to add one more person to its staff and open yet another position. It hopes to create yet another job later this year, as the company continues on its growth track.

"We're consistently seeing 20-30 percent growth every year, even in this recession," says John Coleman, president of LookInTheAttic.

The store specializes in selling antique reproduction hardware and housewares both at its storefront and online. Although the store is based out of a historic storefront in downtown, most of its sales (about 85 percent) are from online purchases. That percentage of business inspired the owners to start Silver & Gold, an online jewelry store.

Coleman didn't decided to open up in downtown Ypsilanti because of what it could be but because of what it is today.

"The building prices are right," Coleman says. "It gives us a billboard on Michigan Avenue and a nice place to work."

Source: John Coleman, president of LookInTheAttic
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti's ETCS looks to pair local talent with jobs at job fair

For years Washtenaw County's Employment Training and Community Services has been all about connecting employers with future employees, and vice versa.

Now the Ypsilanti-based agency is reaching out beyond the county's borders, taking part in the 2009 Livingston Regional Job Fair in Howell on April 22. The idea is to combine the workforce and employers of both neighboring counties to get more local people employed.

"We're trying to do as much outreach as possible to let employers know how much talent there is available here," says Dorion Holbrook, corporate and business services representative for ETCS.

Businesses looking for new employees and workers looking for new jobs are both invited to come to the event at Crystal Gardens Banquet Center, 5768 E. Grand River Ave. in Howell.

For information, contact Dorion Holbrook at holbrookd@ewashtenaw.org or (734) 544-2952.

Source: Dorion Holbrook, corporate and business services representative for ETCS
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti pushes envelope with news consumption

A media revolution is taking place in Washtenaw County and the first casualty appears to be The Ann Arbor News, a venerable 174-year-old local institution.

Replacing it will be a news website, AnnArbor.com, and a newspaper that publishes every Thursday and Sunday. The Ann Arbor News as we know it will cease to be in July. Booth Newspapers, which owns the paper, plans to continue providing news coverage in the Ann Arbor area.

The purpose of reporting on local news will be the same, but the website's staff will be significantly smaller than the newspaper's current staff. How that reporting is done, what it looks like and how it's presented are still details that are being worked out.

"This is not the end of local journalism in Ann Arbor," says Laurel Champion, publisher of The Ann Arbor News and who will serve as the executive vice president of AnnArbor.com. "This is just a changing in how it's served."

But what happens next for local journalism is not as clear. A number of independent, web-based news organizations have popped up in recent years, including this publication, YpsiNews.com, The Ann Arbor Chronicle and the Ypsilanti Citizen. Local blogish websites, Mark Maynard and Arbor Update, have also surfaced as information alternatives.

Much of the initial conversation in the aftermath of The Ann Arbor News' announcement has centered on how the business model for newspapers is irreparably broken, leaving a huge void when it comes to a community voice and watchdog. Some are not so certain.

"The model of current journalism is broken," says Steve Pierce, owner and managing editor of YpsiNews.com. "It's not unusual that the people who broke that model are running around saying the sky is falling."

Almost in the same breath, Pierce says the recent developments with The Ann Arbor News are a "huge concern for me." Pierce started his website in 2006 after he thought local news coverage in his community was lacking and decided to step up. He isn't a journalist by trade, but his sometimes muckraking site has served as a watchdog of local government and events.

But he concedes the community needs more than just him. He credits The Ann Arbor News for having the wherewithal and deep pockets to go after the hard investigative stories.

"There is no way my little media outlet can afford to do that," Pierce says. "The Ann Arbor News has been willing to spend the money on important fights like the President's house and the EMU murders. Even if The Ann Arbor Chronicle, Ypsilanti Citizen and Ypsi News combined resources there is no way we could take the EMU lawyers to task."

He is currently looking at other avenues to help deepen local pockets, like Spot.us, and keep local media watchdogs barking. Not that there aren't working watchdogs today. It's just that they are more in the puppy stage of life. But they have been able to bark loud enough recently to make local government meetings more accessible and open to the public.

"There is this notion that real journalists are doing investigative reporting, routing out corruption, asking tough questions," says Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. "There is the idea of the Fourth Estate. We aspire to some extent to fill that."

Source: Steve Pierce, owner and managing editor of YpsiNews.com, Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle and Laurel Champion, publisher of The Ann Arbor News
Writer: Jon Zemke
144 Ypsilanti Articles | Page: | Show All
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