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Lightspeed Communications brings fast, affordable internet, jobs to Lansing

Lightspeed Communication's mission is to bring 1 and 10 gig speed internet into homes at an affordable price. Lightspeed is an internet provider that is building a brand new fiber optic network in cities around Michigan, starting in Lansing. "The internet is where most people get their media and information," says Jason Schreiber, CEO of Lightspeed. They want to make it practical and affordable.  

They are making a significant investment in Lansing and according to Schreiber, "No other carriers have made a move to make an investment in the state." The investment will lead to significant job creation and growth in Lansing. Lightspeed has recently hired 6 people to their construction team and as they prepare to build the fiber optic network they will need to hire even more.

 As they continue to grow and expand to other cities they will also need to add to other departments including marketing and IT. They expect to hire over 50 people in the next six months to a year as they make a move into other cities within the next year.

Schreiber says the response to the service has been overwhelming, signing up 1500 hundred homes in their first 6 weeks. "There is a tremendous need for this service in the area."

Source: Jason Schreiber, CEO Lightspeed Communications
?Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Scholarship program offers unique opportunities, agriculture education

Piggy-backing off the success of the Demmer Scholarship Program, a program that sends Michigan State University students to Washington DC, the Hal and Jean Glassen Scholarship Program offers equally great opportunities for MSU students right here in Lansing.

Thanks to a grant from the Hal and Jean Glasses Memorial Foundation, the program pairs 12 students with 12 organizations that focus on Michigan's agriculture industry. Students learn about environmental issues and policy making.  
The students not only get an internship at these organizations but also take a class that offers field trips that allow them to see natural resources in action, and other activities. "The ultimate goal," says Pat Stewart, the program director, "would be for the students to, eventually, land a job in Michigan."

Students get hands on, real world experience through both the classes and the internships and opportunities they may not normally get. "Not all students can land internships with the possibility of a job," says Stewart. "The opportunities here are untold."

As this is the first year of the program, there's no way to know yet which jobs will be landed, but Stewart has high hopes for the program next year and they hope to double both the students and businesses participating.

"Ultimately," says Stewart, "It's about the job growth, the experiences and the opportunities."
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Source: Patricia Stewart, Hal and Jean Scholarship Program
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 

LCC Program teaches adults valuable, workplace skills

Lansing Community College is close to wrapping up a month long program meant to help adult students prepare for a better college experience and also better prepare them for the workplace.

LCC's Gateway to Success Adult Boot Camp, taking place until August 6th, is preparing adults that have been out of the workforce or education system to go back to school. They've brought in employers to help with the program who are interested in different strengths from different generations. Cathy Wilhm, Director, Center for Workforce Transition at Lansing Community College, says, "Education isn't just about learning skills, but also learning what employers are looking for."  Having particular skills may be useless if your potential  employer needs you to work with a team and you never have, "We are creating well-rounded employees," says Wilhm.

After completing assessments to identify possible career paths, students meet with program advisors to set goals. They will take courses related to those fields and also in Microsoft and Internet Basics. There will also be one-on-one learning sessions.

To help with the program, 6 faculty members were brought in and some of those were hired specifically for the program. "We have a ton of people that want in," says Cathy of the growth opportunities for next year. "We will continue to identify opportunities and meet employer demands."
 
Source: Cathy Wilhm, Director, Center for Workforce Transition at Lansing Community College
?Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

YMCA offers programs for refugee families

While the YMCA of Lansing has been working with refugee youth for a little over a year, they have recently been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation to extend that service to families. The Refugee Family Strengthening and Parenting Skills Program will begin mid-July at the downtown YMCA.

In the past, refugee adults only received about three months of classes and programming and then were expected to be self-sufficient. According to Kelly King, Executive Director of the Downtown Wellness Center, "There was a need to increase their skill set."

 The program will focus on hygiene, communication, family time and try to teach them what is acceptable in America while urging them to maintain their own traditions and cultures. The hope is that a large percentage of participants will stay on for further programming that will focus on finding jobs, interview skills, resume building, financial management and more.

To help make the program successful, King says they will be hiring translators and interpreters, a few Master's Students from MSU and an immigrant from Iraq to help with both programs. They have also hired on a refugee student from Burma.
King says, "We are really excited to help these folks succeed in the community and call Lansing their home long-term."
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Source: Kelly King, Executive Director of the Downtown Wellness Center
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs introduces app to share Michigan art

A project that has been in the works for a few years, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) has introduced an app that will send tourists and residents on an art tour of Michigan.

According to John Bracey, the Executive Director of the MCACA, there is art all across Michigan that even residents don't know about. He wanted a way to let people know about that art.  The building of the app was made possible because of funds provided by the Michigan Economic Development Cooperation, and they made a connection with Venturit out of East Lansing to build it. Bracey says they were excited to be able to hire a local company.

The app will allow users to input their location and then show them the locations of all kinds of art from fountains to sculptures.  They will be able to view individual pieces or build a customized art tour. "The idea is to show a different image of the state of Michigan," says Bracey.

Once the app has been in use for a while, Travel Michigan should be able to provide numbers to show the impact it is having on tourism. While it may be indirect, it will hopefully allow people to visit new neighborhoods and cities and then visit local businesses in those areas.
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Source: John Bracey, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

CourseWeaver lands funding, launches new Homework System

CourseWeaver , Lansing based provider of innovative learning solutions and a cloud based Homework System, will close on a $4 million round of funding this summer. This round will allow them to begin building the next generation Homework System.

The current Homework System allows instructors of k-12 courses and university educators to sign up and have an entire class ready in minutes. The system, powered by LON-CAPA, features all the tools instructors could need including the most advanced physics and math engine, individualized assessment and cheat-blocking randomized variables, powerful tools for exam creation and administration, and text book material from major publishers.

According to CEO and Co-Founder, Rob Fulk, their goal is to "totally revolutionize k-12  and university education."
With this round of funding they are able to take even more steps toward that goal and create jobs in the Lansing area. They will need 10 engineers over the next two months and will be recruiting locally.

Courseweaver is making things easier for teachers, cheaper for students, and is also radically changing the publishing industry. Fulk says, "It's like the iTunes of education," allowing both teachers and students to only choose and purchase the materials they need rather than entire textbooks.

They already have customers around the globe, are establishing a Canadian presence and Fulk says they are ready for fall.
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Source: Rob Fulk, Courseweaver
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

4-H and Veterinary Science Camps educates, creates opportunities

Last week, the MSU Extensions Program held the first ever 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp.
The goal of the camp's first year according to camp director Julie Thelen, was to better connect Michigan youth with MSU, the professors and the programs so that they are better prepared for life on campus and experiences later in life.

Julie was hired a year ago to expand the curriculum, 4 veterinary students were hired to assist with the program and others are hired annually to help with programs like this. They needed all the help they could get considering the interest in the program. They received 124 applications and had to max participation at 60 students. After the deadline they had 60-80 more interested. They even had an application from Singapore and a few others from out of state. 

Throughout the camp students are given hands on experience, able to work with live animals (some for the first time) and are faced with everything they would need to do to get into veterinary school. At the end of the week they are given real world situations to respond to and have presentations with one of the head professors from the Vet school.

"It's a big deal for them to be able to interact, learn and get behind some of the misconceptions concerning agriculture," says Thelen.

Source: Julie Thelen, Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MEDC announces funds to support entrepreneurship, technology

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced the approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund of Entrepreneurial Service Provider Request for Proposals awards. These awards will, according to Paula Sorrel of the MEDC, go toward creating early stage technology companies and will also generate more than $15 million new investments in the state. "We are focused on creating a strong pipeline of companies," says Sorrel.

The funds are going toward entrepreneur services all across the state, and $500,000 is coming into Lansing through the Michigan State University Foundation and Spartan Innovations. The funds will be distributed over two years to help grow the GreenLight Business Model Competition. The last GreenLight Competition had nine universities compete, which according to Sorrel is an impressive number. She says it's the basis for a strong pipeline, a pipeline they hope to grow.

The MEDC tracked 30 new tech companies in the state last year, and the hope is that with these awards, that number will grow. "The tech sector is always evolving and we are trying to evolve with it," says Sorrel.

Other approved proposals came from programs such as, Invest Detroit, Ann Arbor SPARK, NextEnergy, BBC Entrepreneurial Training and Consulting, Inforum Center for Leadership, UofM Center for Entrepreneurship and the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

Source: Paula Sorrel, MEDC
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

Gourmet Gone Wild cooking class reconnects participants to hunting and fishing

The group Gourmet Gone Wild began with the goal of reconnecting people, particularly the age group of 20-40, to hunting and fishing. Many in the older generation are used to getting their own food, and there are programs to help the younger generation connect, but according to Ryan Griffith the program director, that age group got kind of lost.  And now Gourmet Gone Wild has introduced a cooking class to further that reintroduction.

The class will be a hands on experience, teaching participants how to tie a fly fishing line, prepare any salmon they may catch, cook the dish, and much more. It will teach participants how to go about getting the proper licenses, and once they have them, how to use them. "We are more than a foodie group," says Griffith, "our focus is on changing the perceptions of hunting and fishing."

The goals of the program and the class are to improve; awareness, image, opportunity and conservation. The success of the class, and the reach of these goals, can be measured by the sales of hunting and fishing licenses. If those numbers go up, the money is going back into the state, towards conservation, and they know the program is making a difference.

Source: Ryan Griffith, Gourmet Gone Wild
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Home Builders Association pairs skilled students with trade programs

The Home Builders Association of Greater Lansing has teamed up with area businesses and formed a Workplace Development committee that will address the growing need for skilled trade workers in today's job market.

When the economy first took a hit, many tradesmen were left without work and left the state. But now, according to Cindy Kosloski, the CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Lansing (HBA), things are on the rise and "Michigan contractors have the work, but the skilled tradesmen aren't there."

The HBA wants to help connect students that may not want a four year degree with the schools and resources that will get them a career in a trade occupation. Schools like the Capital Area Career Center and businesses that will offer internships where students can learn a trade and create a career are the focus of the collaboration. "The hardest part is connecting with these students and telling them that if they don't want a four year degree, there is still something for them," says Kosloski.

 She adds that at least 12-15 participants from these programs have been hired in full-time to the business where they performed their internship.

Kosloski says there is an immediate need for these jobs and "for the people in the trade, the possibilities are endless."

Source: Cindy Kosloski, Greater Lansing Home Builders Association
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MSU Bias Busters class creates books to bust stereotypes, answer questions

In the MSU class "Bias Busters" taught by Professor Joe Grimm, and funded by the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiative, journalism students are gaining real, hands on job experience while answering common questions people may have about different ethnicities or cultures.

During the course of the semester, the students in the class do all the legwork; interviewing people, gathering information, and getting the books published. By the end of the class they have a published book they can take to job interviews or add to a portfolio.

"The idea," says Grimm, "is that journalism students have the skills to create valuable content."  The content of these books is very timely and important according to Grimm and he wants to get people talking to each other and understanding each other better.

But the content isn't the only way these books are making an impact and many students who have been in the class have already landed jobs thanks to their work on the project. One student got a job after graduation with the book's publisher and two more are being paid to contribute their skills to the books. 

They have printed 4 so far this year and are planning another in the fall. The publisher they work with allows them to print on demand and the books are available in print and on all electronic platforms.

Source; Joe Grimm, MSU School of Journalism  
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

Bio-Based projects get off the ground at MSU

With combined funding of 2.4 million, MSU and the Michigan Strategic Fund, are helping several bio-based researchers out of MSU get on the fast track to development.

Thanks to the Michigan Transitional Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program, promising projects will now have the resources they need to further development and enter a competitive market. The first three projects were chosen at the end of the school year and are getting started right now.

"We want to see that these projects get off to a good start and get the resources they need," says Richard Chylla, Executive  Director of MSU Technologies. The hope is that these technologies will get commercialized or lead to startups that will create jobs and bring capital to the region. They have already contributed to job growth as MSU just hired a Commercialization Project Director.

Additional projects will be considered in January and researchers will be able to apply for funding over the next three years.

Any funding put into these projects is highly justified as the industry of bio-based chemicals is expected to grow by more than $450 billion by the year 2025.

The projects kicking off include ways to increase farmer's profitability and processes that will turn waste into productive materials.

Source: Richard Chylla, MSU Technologies
Writer: Allison Monroe Innovation News Editor

The Hatching celebrates one year of supporting entrepreneurs

The Hatching, a pitch competition that allows entrepreneurs with a business idea to win money and grow their business, turns one-year-old this week.

In its first year the competition has helped create 18 jobs and form 12 companies, companies that, according to Tony Willis of Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), may not have gotten their ideas heard otherwise.

The Hatching, a joint effort between Spartan Innovations and LEAP, is a monthly event and the winners of each session are given not only prize money but access to resources that can otherwise be pricey and difficult to obtain such as legal help (provided by Loomis Law) and marketing assistance (from Michigan Creative).

There have been many successes out of the Hatching, including the most televised success, Swaddle-mi-Billi, a wearable jaundice treatment for infants. The company was featured on a startup reality show on A&E and it has become a mainstream product. Other successes include, Eightfold Marketing, Go Green Trikes, Poochie Bowl, What's Mapnin' (who won the year-end Grand prize) and more. All of these companies are growing, hiring, and contributing to economic development in Lansing.  "All of these businesses saw a common problem, and solved it," says Willis, "They created a business that can revolutionize that area."

In their second year, LEAP and Spartan Innovations hope to double the numbers from the Hatching's first year. They hope to see more attendance, more submissions and more jobs.

Source: Tony Willis, Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 
 
 

Michigan-Florida Green Corridor gives access to alternative fuels

After five years in the making, the I-75 Green Corridor is in the final stages, offering a way for drivers of alternative fuel vehicles a way to fuel up between Michigan and Florida.

Funded by the Department of Energy and supported by the Clean Energy Coalition, and with assistance from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Green Corridor is one of the world's longest biofuel stations corridors. In Michigan alone there are 12 biofuel stations along I-75. There are 26 E85 (a fuel with 85 percent ethanol) stations, and 9 B20 (a biodiesel blend) stations.

According to John Overly of the Clean Fuels Coalition in Tennessee, the biofuels industry quickly "Went from the thousands, to the billions."The more we can create these stations, the more jobs we can create and the more citizens we can help." The biodiesel industry alone has created 62,000 jobs and many of these jobs have a local impact during projects like this.

The corridor should be completed this summer, with only 40 stations left to install. Most of the work ahead comes with working to promote the stations and making people aware they are available. Overly is hoping that this project paves the way for many more like it, "Michigan has used state funding to support adding stations, and Tennessee is hoping to follow suit."

Source: Jonathan Overly, Clean Fuels Coalition
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

Growing Michigan distillery industry gains representation

Distilleries in Michigan have become such a large industry, ranking # 4 in the nation, that a statewide association has been formed to help unify their interests. The Michigan Craft Distillers Association will give the distilleries in Michigan a voice.  "It's no longer just a business," says Kris Berglund, Treasurer of the association and owner of Red Cedar Spirits, "it's an industry."

That industry is so heavily regulated by the government and yet until now, was always left out of important, legislative conversations. This association guarantees their needs and issues are heard by those that matter. It will also help give the industry the marketing and promotion that the beer and wine industries already receive.

Even before it was formed as an official organization, the association had a hand in making sure distilleries were considered in a "Farm to Glass" bill that did not originally include them. It has opened up communication between distilleries and other associations, and is helping to bring focus to the rapidly growing industry.

According to Berglund, membership is expected to grow, and not only membership, but the distilling industry in Michigan. The industry itself has created a lot of jobs and will continue to do so as it expands and matures.

Source: Kris Berglund, Treasurer Michigan Craft Distillers Association
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovations News Editor
 
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