Immigrants can help revitalize Michigan

Michigan State University and its surrounding community of Lansing-East Lansing are among the Top 10 for largest international student enrollment in the United States. Each fall, more than 6,500 international students — 1,800 of whom are new to the university —  arrive in East Lansing. And these growing numbers are boosting other figures – economic ones.

In 2012, international students contributed $213 million to the local economy, according to a study done by the Office for International Students and Scholars.

Other comparable communities in the Midwest have expressed hope in attracting immigrants in an effort to help rebound from their population loss over the past five years.  Conversely, the Lansing region was one of only two regions in the state to see population growth on the 2010 census — a statistic that was likely affected by the growth of the international student population.

At the recent meeting of similar immigrant-friendly advocates the topics of attraction and retention were heavily stressed. Being home to Michigan State University, the Lansing region has had no problem attracting international talent.  Retaining this talent pool, on the other hand, isn’t so easy.

The Global Talent Retention Initiative of Michigan has been working to track the numbers of students who have received job offers and internships after graduation. Prior to GTRI asking for this data, this information was not regularly tracked.

Sara Graham is director of talent and communications at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and is the project manager for Global Lansing.

Global Lansing, led by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), is a volunteer committee launched in 2012 as part of a growing movement of similar economic development initiatives across Michigan and the Midwest. On June 6-7, Global Lansing joined its counterparts Global Michigan and Global Detroit to help launch a Global Great Lakes Network at a two-day event in Detroit. Representatives from similar efforts in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Toledo convened to discuss ways to collaborate and learn from each other.

This kind of new global diversity on our campuses offers wonderful opportunities to connect us to the world — and also requires some adjustments for us to be able to integrate them into our communities. In recent years, our community has begun developing strategies to attract, welcome, and retain this international talent base.  This is not limited to international students, but also includes residents, business owners and refugees (currently, there are more than 10,000 refugees living in the Lansing region).

This past fall, the Global Lansing program “The Getting Started Fellowship” was granted $20,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to match international students with local businesses for internships and potential job opportunities.

Another program Global Lansing has begun work on is to develop an international protocol network to welcome international delegations as they visit our region. Michigan State University brought 1,100 international scholars to our community in 2012. This number, in addition to delegates visiting through other channels like the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission, Lansing Community College, municipal hosted delegations, etc. has reached a critical mass and is in need of an ongoing strategy.

Michigan is one of the leading Midwest states to create tangible economic development programs that tap into immigrants as job creators. Based on the support from Gov. Rick Snyder and developments in immigration changes at the federal level, future success is about to arrive.

This article was originally written for Bridge Magazine by Sara Graham, Director of Talent & Communications for LEAP. Immigrants can help revitalize Michigan.


Export Trade Missions: Excellent Tools to Begin or Expand Your Export Markets

If you are a regular reader of this column, you have learned about Michigan’s State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) program over the past year. You are likely also aware that this region’s STEP program is hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC). You may not be aware that for 2013, LRCC has partnered with the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) to lead an export trade mission.

Both the Federal and State governments continue to put high priority on assisting companies to export, and have put resources in place to do so. Through the leadership of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Michigan is continuing to build resources for firms who wish to export. For example, Michigan opened two foreign offices last year, one in Shanghai and the other in Toronto.

Why Export?
Why should you consider exporting? By the way, exporting doesn’t just apply to manufactured and agricultural goods. Services, particularly architecture, engineering, construction, software and IT services are in demand around the globe. According to the US Commercial Service (part of the International Trade Administration) exporting has many benefits for your company:

• New Customers and Revenue opportunities — more than 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is outside the US. We are known throughout the world for high quality, innovative goods and services, customer service and sound business practices.
• Market and Risk Diversification — slowdowns in one market can be offset by increases in another.
• Increased Profitability — Exporting can be profitable for businesses of all sizes. On average, sales grow faster, more jobs are created and employees earn more than in non-exporting firms.

Benefits of Participating in Export Trade Missions
Opening up a new export market can seem to be very challenging, whether it is your first, or fiftieth. One of the easiest ways to approach a new market is through an Export Trade Mission. This is an organized event which provides many benefits and alleviates many concerns regarding your initial approach to a new market.

• The absolute best benefit is extensive assistance with finding qualified customers who are receptive to purchasing or distributing your products or services. Based on your firm’s profile, people working in that country will identify and arrange meetings on your behalf with suitable prospects. This puts you well on your way to obtaining sales and contracts.
• Up-to-date market information and research. You will be provided with information that helps you understand the market opportunities for your firm.
• Briefings about culture, customs, business and operating environments of the countries you will visit. This will position you well to start off on a profitable business relationship in your meetings.
• Planning and Logistics support. The mission organizers will handle this for you, allowing you to focus on your meetings.
• Organized receptions and events, allowing you access to individuals that is difficult to obtain when traveling by yourself.
• Bonding with other Michigan business owners who are also export minded. The ability to have a peer-to-peer network when approaching new business opportunities is extremely valuable.
• Trade missions are able to support any size business.
• Provide great value. You gain the benefits of traveling with a group, which can lower your costs.
• STEP support — provides 50 percent reimbursement of expenditures for eligible businesses, making a great value even better!

We truly hope you will join us for an export trade mission in 2013.

2013 Trade Mission Opportunities
During 2013, there are many trade mission opportunities being organized by the Pure Michigan Export Program for Michigan firms to take advantage of. Confirmed trade missions include:
• Mexico — April
• Brazil — May
• Germany — June (Please note, this mission may also add Turkey for an additional market, but that is not confirmed as we go to press.)
• Western Canada — June
• Indonesia & Singapore — August/September
• China — September

Additionally, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, of which Governor Snyder was recently elected Co-Chair, also organizes trade missions which you may participate in. They have two planned at this point:

• South Africa — March
• Australia — May

If you wish to participate in any of these trade missions, or wish to consider the benefits and resources available to your business, or perhaps you have had an inquiry from a foreign market and are not sure where to start, please reach out to Ray De Winkle at LEAP:, or Laura Deierlein of the MEDC, who serves as this region’s International Trade Development Manager: We will be happy to assist you in beginning to build a more diverse and stable customer base through exporting.

This article was written for the Greater Lansing Business Monthly. Ray De Winkle, CEcD, EDFP, CTA serves as Senior Vice President of Global Business Development for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). In this role he works to attract new businesses to the Lansing region, as well as helping businesses to access global markets. He and Laura Deierlein will be leading the Export Trade Mission to Germany (and possibly Turkey) in June.

Lansings Place in the New Economy

I think we are truly living in an era of history that we have yet to fully comprehend.

Just imagine, for a minute, a new economy, where personal transience, continuous global transition, technological advancements at lightning speed and lifelong local learning and creativity are the norms for the rest of this century. A place where factories are operated by engineers in control rooms and the floor is busy with far more robots than people. An economy where big things, like SUVs, McMansions and 30 year mortgages matter less while little, inexpensive devices, like iPhones, iPads, urban lofts, electric cars, personal drones, laptops and, most importantly, ideas, are all one needs for potential success and fun. Imagine a lifestyle that requires far less money to be very happy and full of achievement. Imagine a moment where most individuals are their own CEOs — online. Yes, online, where most of the creative workforce awaits each day to come together as a series of personal companies, to momentarily create, as a team, new industries, inventions, music or services. Paid, created, traded, taxed, sold, and delivered — all online. All around the world.

In fact, the President of Belk, a southern chain of retail clothing stores, notes that total retail sales, by 2020, will be greater online than from brick and mortar storefronts. He notes that much of the future of retail brick and mortar will be in the form of a personal experience at kiosk stores that ultimately direct the customer online for the actual purchase.

Now, I say to myself, this is a little over the top. For example, no one is comfortable buying shoes or clothing online, are they? Surely, you have to go to a store to try those things on? I try this argument out on my teenage girls. After the inevitable roll of the eyes, they tweet me about

So, it is clear that, over the last 10 years, technology has so rapidly and profoundly advanced, that the fundamentals of civilization itself — economics and politics — have spun away into this whirlwind of inevitable change (which in great part explains the political paralysis of today — the current economic and political assumptions no longer fit — why won’t this square peg go in the round hole?).

In the midst of the storm, we have yet to find where we will land. But land we will and how different it will all be.

One of the main tasks of economic development agencies like LEAP, as well as businesses, communities and politicians, is to try to anticipate, understand and plan appropriately to take advantage of the new economy and the opportunities it surely will provide to those that are prepared. And LEAP’s number one job is to make sure that, when we all land, the Lansing region stands as an economic giant. Not many regions around will be able to, unfortunately, but the Lansing region has all the tools and assets necessary to be a big winner. If we do things right — now.

We have to act regionally (as one) while celebrating our individual character, so we can be tall, united and recognized on the global stage. (LEAP Board meetings).

We must embrace, enhance and utilize our emergence as a major, international community (which we are with the power of Michigan State University). (see LEAP’s newly created Global Lansing with partners Prima Civitas, MSU, Meridian Township, GLCVB and others).

Higher education (and affordable access for all) must be our number one priority. Ironically, this starts with the 0 – 12 grade levels.

We must create an accessible culture of private wealth ready to quickly take ideas to the market (the Capital Community Angels is a group really taking off right now).

A network of incubators and money/services to encourage an entire new culture and web of entrepreneurialism, starting with incubators of all types, must be established and nurtured (see LEAP’s New Economy Division headed by co-directors, Jeff Smith and Ken Szymusiak with talent director, Sara Graham). We are fortunate that the private sector, like the NeoCenter, as well as the public sector, like MSU, SBTDC, MEDC, LCC, school systems and charter schools, are all working toward development of this new economy foundation.

Together, we can do it.

This article was written for the Greater Lansing Business Monthly. 

Our Friday note is back!

By popular demand, the Friday note is back after a brief summer rest! The Tigers are thick in a pennant chase, MSU football is soon to begin another championship season under Coach Dantonio (UM is ranked ahead of MSU- really?), election season is clearly upon us with very serious issues waiting to be resolved through compromise in Washington, so indeed what a wonderfully exciting fall it is going to be, no less with our economic development efforts here at LEAP. There is much to catch up on!

• Courtesy of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), I was fortunate enough to be able to attend, on our region’s behalf, the entire Center for Automotive Research’s (CAR) annual international conference. After listening to over 30 presentations by automotive maker executives, suppliers and consultants, I gleamed these interesting themes and trends from the conference:
Most are now predicting a very slight downgrade of U.S. automotive sales projections for 2012, down to 14.2 or 14.3 million vehicles. There was quite a debate about this though.

An even greater debate was with regard to projected U.S. automotive sales for 2013 and beyond. Many are projecting sales of 15 million. But what was particularly interesting and perhaps most important was the universal agreement that the lack of modernization in production process, globalization and technological advancement at many tier 2-4 auto suppliers (and the fact that fully 40% of this sector was wiped out in 2008/09)will prohibit the auto industry from being able to meet a demand of 15 million vehicle sales.
1. This issue really stuck with me and, when I spoke with a CEO of a major supplier in SE Michigan, he absolutely confirmed this fear. He told me that he is totally maxed out capacity-wise and could not possibly supply for increased sales volume of 15 million. In order to meet current sales volume and orders, he said he’s already been forced to place orders from companies in China, which he does not enjoy. Beyond the internal improvements discussion and those associated costs, he made it clear that he and other suppliers will not or cannot spend capital on improvements to expand or open new plants.
2. LEAP, Capital Area Michigan Works (CAMW!) and Lansing Community College’s BCI division are working together with Bill Demmer to put in place a new Manufacturing Council. LEAP has hired Steve Willobee as our Director of Manufacturing and Expansion. So, certainly, from our team and from LEAP, we will be aggressively targeting this issue and companies in our region. I think back to Bill Demmer’s words of wisdom from a year ago, when he spoke passionately about this very issue. He said that so many companies in general, but manufacturers (perhaps smaller auto suppliers in particular?) need assessment assistance to modernize and globalize production issues, so that they may be able to better compete successfully and meet new order demands. He was prophetic. And here we are, so this will be a major priority for LEAP and I am sure our partners. I can’t think of an issue that could more urgently lead to increased supply and, thus, increased investment and potential job creation.
3. Of course, demand is difficult to project. People now own cars for an average of just over 10 years, which is a record. In part, projections are based on the assumption that people will finally say uncle and buy a new car- I am not convinced. For example, typically, GDP must be at or above 3% to sustain new car sales and unemployment rates have to be 6% or below with consumer confidence near 90% (it is currently 65%). Additionally, gas prices play a major role in demand and there are many external, uncontrollable factors (war, hurricanes, demand or not from Europe, etc.) that will drive prices. And then there is the looming “fiscal cliff” concern about Congress at the end of this year and the fear that there will not be sensible compromise.
4. Another complication or opportunity is that the automakers worldwide will be launching a record of nearly 160 new vehicles over the next two years. Mass new vehicle launches, along with the fact that the longer someone owns a car (record 10.1 years right now), actually greatly erodes consumer loyalty to a particular brand. Thus, the competition will be fierce as the consumer market opens wide(with lack of brand loyalty and very tired cars). Some suspect incentives may make their way back, but most disagreed with this.
5. Production capacity amongst the OEMs. Production capacity in the United States is tight but on target. But it was fully agreed by all that “production capacity in China and Europe is enormous, way out of proportion and will have to go away”. I wondered if this would have impact on the economies of China and, especially, fragile Europe? An interesting article from yesterday: China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods
6. Mini vans and mid-sized cars are leading sales in 2012. Luxury cars, small cars and trucks have dropped.
7. I was struck (and admittedly sometimes spooked) as the automotive firms more and more referred to their markets in terms of huge, worldwide, utterly borderless geographic areas like “the Americas region”. If you can’t guess, they see South America and North America as one sales region- period. All job creation numbers, sales efforts, plant locations, etc. are calculated per that kind of a massive, borderless, consumer-driven region. Then there is East Asia, Central Asia, West Europe and East Europe or something like that. Just a curiosity-type of observation by me. But listen to this: 1/3 of the world’s driving age drivers are in 50, “middle household income level” countries- far more countries in this category than ever before in human history. Yes, the U.S. auto market is important, but it is just one market among 5 or 6 huge, regional markets that make up our shrinking, apparently borderless world. Think about that reality, as we all scramble to understand trends here locally involving discussions about regionalism and how we present ourselves to this massive global stage. It’s real, real big out there. I presume we all agree that our very little Lansing region must be seen as one to have any chance of participating and competing with this new, massive-sized reality?
8. And, finally, there was a deep discussion about not only the troubles of the Millennial or Generation Y, but about Generation I (currently 16 and below). Millennials are a huge population that is not participating properly in the economy. Interestingly, skyrocketing college tuition rates were prominently discussed by all, over and over, as a major barrier to consumerism in general, car sales in particular, for this group of people. Currently, 50% of all Millennials, each month, are late in payment of bills. They cannot find jobs, are loaded with debt and are the single most economically devastated group. Additionally, Millennials, but even more so the rising Generation I, are profoundly moved by environmental concerns and are inclined to demand working and living in a dense, urban environment where the need for cars is far less a need because of the availability of affordable and environmentally sound mass transit systems. Thus, the auto industry believes, in part, to capture its future car buyer- millennials- it must produce a more economic and environmentally sensitive car and, perhaps more importantly, a car loaded with social media and full computerization technology. In other words, the car must act like an iPhone.

Again, related to the environmental quality of the car, much discussion was spent on the relentless work by OEMs and suppliers to reduce weight of the car. Literally, every screw and component is being examined for weight reduction. Carbon fiber, long a fantasy, is truly evolving as is the re-use of aluminum (check out the new light weight ATS if you don’t believe it- made right here in Lansing). So, it struck me that any supplier in the future is going to have to strongly incorporate this into their production values.
All in all, a fascinating conference and debate/discussion amongst the top minds in the world in the automotive industry.

• Thankfully, LEAP is working with many serious prospects from a variety of areas of the economy including several in manufacturing. I am hoping that a number of these deals can be finalized and announced this fall.

• I am also pleased to tell you that the state released figures for the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF). LEAP doubled the number of quality applications to the state, over our nearest economic development agency competitor. In fact, soon we will be making many announcements with regard to the many startup businesses this program has critically assisted, one, in which has landed nearly $7 million in venture capital from Chicago, in part, based on this BAF award through LEAP. We thank the MEDC for this terrific initiative and our local partnership with Tom Donaldson and the amazing Small Business Technical Development Center (SBTDC) team.

• There are several more major program/partnership initiatives announcements and project/prospect discussion that will be unveiled at our Steering and Board meetings in early September.

• LEAP’s Work Groups are moving forward nicely: Last week, our new Global Lansing work group, a partnership of so many including MSU, Meridian Township, DTN Management, LCC, and Prima Civitas, led by LEAP’s Talent Director Sara Graham, prepared a day and week to try to better welcome the many thousands of students from foreign nations arriving in our community. The purchasing power these students bring to us all as a region, including and especially impact on local, small businesses, is significant. This new population also brings new ideas and potential business startups to our region. Finally, they have the potential to take our positive, growth-oriented, international, tolerance-based regional message to the world when they communicate and return back to their family, friends and nation.

Our first effort had pluses and minuses, but much was learned and the effort will be ten times improved next year. This is absolutely critical, as we all, from MSU to Meridian Township to the entire region, must all embrace the diversity and power of this growing population of friends. Did it ever occur to us all that Lansing is a growing international region? That if we accept this about us, it holds promises and opportunities unique to us versus so many other regions of the state and country that don’t have an international magnet (asset) generated by a major world class university? Again, we are fortunate. As evidence, we are the proud home to the 20th largest Chinese population in the United States right now. Amazing.

And if you are a business in the region, and you understand the global community, for instance advertising in both Spanish and English, well, have you ever thought about adding Mandarin? Just saying…

• The Placemaking Work Group is close to announcing an exciting program to place public art in public spaces. Both L-TREP and RIN continue to bring key stakeholders together to regularly strategize how to improve both our traditional economic development network and start up business network. Agriculture Development is on the cusp of several major grant announcements that will begin to enhance our food production and farmers market innovations. One effort here has already attracted state attention as a potential model for other region. The SmartZone and Corridor Improvement Authorities continue to do good development work as does the important Accelerator Region (FRIB and more) and Automotive and Property Rehabilitation work group.

• In fact, with regard to the Automotive Work Group, thank you to Mayor Bernero’s national leadership and the team at LEAP for putting together an important day and half exchange and conference that brought our three (Lansing, Lansing Twp and Delta Twp) former GM sites (now RACER Trust) together with top economic advisors from the White House and federal agencies. Many of you were involved. From our region-wide bus tour (thank you for tolerating my voice that long, but the police escort was super cool) to the private meetings, business round table and conference itself, we accomplished two critical goals: One, we impressed and educated top officials in Washington DC that our region is united, together, innovative and conducting successful economic development. Two, that we are more than deserving of significant grant assistance, across borders, with regard to re-developing our RACER Trust sites and I know we positioned ourselves well. We will see.

• So, somewhat related to the Global Lansing group: Are you interested in an experience that will broaden your horizons? Consider hosting an exchange student from Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) this year! As a non-profit High School Exchange Organization, CIEE brings high school students from around the world to the United States to spend 5 or 10 months with a host family. Host families not only gain a new member, but also learn how to see their world from another perspective. CIEE students speak English and arrive with the appropriate visa, medical insurance, and spending money. They are eager to share their culture while learning of ours, as an active member in an American family.

If you are interested in more information or would like to know what other countries we have students coming from, please contact me and we can work together to find a great fit for you and your family. Many thanks for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!

Emily Eschner USA High School Program CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange Tel: +1.207.553.7833 Email: Web:

• From Marsha Madle 517.230.1697: Hello LEAP Friends and our Local Entrepreneurs: Thank you for your support of our local entrepreneurs. We would like your help in spreading the word about our entrepreneur meet up — ICE. Our meet up is open to entrepreneurially minded individuals who are eager to network, share ideas and get motivated to take action. We are kicking off our 2012 -2013 year on Tuesday, September 11 at Gone Wired Cafe and would like you to pass the word to anyone you think would like to join the conversation. We are looking forward to an exciting year with more guest speakers talking with us about topics related to our theme — “Wanna Start Something?”. I will be sending out more information as details develop.

I look forward to our very exciting LEAP Steering and Board meetings in early September!


Art Matters in Economic Development

Don’t think the arts are a critical component to economic development?

A good exercise in your own hometown is to somehow pretend that you are a total stranger in your own land. A visitor for the first time. You know nothing, but for first impressions. I would suggest to you that your eyes immediately search for signs of safety, fun and comfort while your brain asks the simple question: Is this a good place for me? And perhaps your heart asks, could this be love at first sight?

The tallness and interest of a downtown skyline is the first sight. That is love.

Helpful, friendly signs; smooth roads; kempt landscapes of properties; cleanliness and beauty. Yes, your mind relaxes.

And then there is the public art. And museums. Theaters. Galleries. Indeed, this place speaks to you—in universal language.

You’ve made a judgment. It sticks. Unshakable from then on.

I could live here, you secretly say to yourself. I could move my business here.

Taxes, schools, housing stocks, neighborhoods, crime rates, fire protection—yes, that’s all very important, but all of that comes second. Way second.

Last September, my wife, Kerri, and I had a chance to visit Charlotte, N.C. I had to attend a conference, so we stayed downtown near the convention center. A very typical equation for first-time visitors to a quality place.

The road in from the airport was immaculate. The downtown buildings rose up into the blue sky and gleamed of glass, concrete twists, brick, balconies and glinted sunlight. The stadiums were huge and full of imagination.

I never gave my car back home a second thought. We walked everywhere and in between from the downtown hotel to the convention center. The green parks, the clean streets and sidewalks, the flowers and plants, the excitement of buses and people roaring around us, were more than enough.

But it was the public art that made me conclude to myself, I could see my kids living here someday when they grow up. And I don’t mean necessarily living in downtown Charlotte. Or even working in downtown Charlotte. I mean, living and working here, playing here, in this place. The downtown told me everything I needed to know about the entire region.

But back to the public art. That told me everything, too, about the region.

Beyond the public art’s pleasure it gave to my spirit, it also told me this stealthy message: This place has plenty of money, mainly disposable income. Real wealth. Real talent. Real big vision. Which means there are a lot of smart and diverse people here. Which means there are a lot of successful businesses. Which means there a lot of jobs. Which means this place is full of opportunity. Not just for me, but for the many.

This place has hope. And a bright future.

And, at its core, that is economic development.

This article was written for the Greater Lansing Business Monthly. 

Fireworks you say?

Hello and I wish you all a spectacular 4th of July- be safe and have great fun with friends and family! Enjoy the crystal clear blue lakes of Michigan, some of the greatest beaches in the world; relax at our local restaurants and patios, ready with your favorite beverage and homemade food. Sit back, shoot some fireworks into the starry night sky, and be grateful we live in America, in Michigan and in Lansing!

Fireworks you say? Oh yes, they continue year around in the Lansing region. An explosion of new activity and good news as Lansing emerges as an economic powerhouse.

First, thank you and congratulations to Pete Bosanic and PM Environmental and Engineering as they continue to land new business throughout the state and nation. This home spun story is a good one as PM was started and is headquartered right here in Lansing, but now has offices throughout the country bringing PM’s excellent environmental and engineering services to many states and companies. PM is LEAP’s newest Small Business and Entrepreneurial member, joining just this week, to help support LEAP’s efforts in growing our regional economy. Thank you to Pete Bosanic and PM!

  • Eastwood Towne Center announced that a new $15 million, 128 room Hyatt Place hotel will be constructed this fall in the brand new Heights area. It’s the first Hyatt Place in our region and it promises to be beautiful and beneficial to us all. Of course, Best Western Plus, on Lansing’s southside, recently completed a $10 million renovation, but this is the first new hotel that I can recall, in quite some time, to be built in our region.  According to the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, quoted  in the Lansing State Journal, 250 to 500 hotel rooms should exist on each freeway interchange. This interchange, with Hyatt Place, will now hold 428 rooms total, still short of the needs of just that interchange alone. Our region still needs many more hotel rooms to accommodate our growing economy. In particular, to grow our regional convention business and have the greatest regional impact, somehow, someway, there must be at least one new hotel, to be built in downtown Lansing, walkable from the convention center. This is the only way to truly expand our region’s convention business and regionally speaking, impact our hotel economy.  Congratulations to new LEAP member, Lansing Township and its DDA for getting the job done and let’s continue the needed expansion of hotels in our region!
  • Congratulations to the city of Lansing, Davenport University and developer Ron Boji for their announcement last week of a new $10 million, 55,000 square foot high tech Davenport campus in downtown Lansing. Why? Davenport research shows that “Lansing will continue to be a growth market” says Davenport President Rick Pappas from Grand Rapids. This will enable Davenport to accommodate 2,000 students rather than the current 800, in great part, accommodating an undergrad and graduate level nursing school. Later in the day, Davenport and Cooley Law School announced a joint masters in business administration and law degree in a “slightly accelerated format”. This program begins in September. The new Davenport campus will open in September 2013 and will rehab the former Fifth Third, nine story building on Allegan Street. Great credit belongs with Ron Boji for putting a highly unique deal together for his project, to Davenport University leadership for their commitment to remaining in the city’s downtown, and to Mayor Bernero who remained his tenacious self even after several setbacks earlier in the year.Let me also mention that LEAP played a prominent role in making this project a go. For several months, LEAP worked closely with developer Boji, the city and the MEDC in a very complicated matter involving previous loan/grant agreements that had to be resolved for this project to be an effective win-win for everyone and a go. It was imperative to finally resolve this complicated matter and I am pleased to tell you that LEAP got the job done. We are also grateful to the MEDC for the final resolution to this difficult matter.
  • Niowave will be holding a press conference July 3rdto unveil its 14,000 sq. ft, $10 million expansion of its facility in Old Town. This very high tech, accelerator firm, which has grown from 2 to 50 employees over the last seven years, is a leading example of the future of our region’s economy. Myself and LEAP have been very involved over the last year with this project and, in fact, have packaged an incentive program for them that is critical to allow Niowave to add 15 to 25 more employees over the next year to two years which will be introduced by LEAP at Lansing City Council this Monday night for their consideration. The specialized refrigeration equipment for continued accelerator work is one-of-a-kind in the world. Sen. Stabenow, Sen. Levin and Mayor Bernero will be at the event along with other dignitaries and LEAP! Congratulations to Terry Grimm, Jerry Hollister and the Niowave team.Speaking of Niowave, did you read that Niowave entertained nearly 100 top nuclear scientists from around the world over the weekend at a conference held at Niowave? You can read about that event here.

    But there’s even more. As you may have seen in this morning’s edition of the Lansing State Journal, two local companies have received $1Million Federal Grants each.  Niowave, which is headquartered in Lansing, is a leading developer and specialist of particle accelerators, and is a shining example of the direct benefits of having a world class Nuclear Research institution in our front yard.

    The second awardee, NamesforLife, specializes in bacterial-names data basing and research.  NamesforLife is a graduate of the Technology Innovation Center (TIC incubator/SmartZone which is now managed by LEAP) in East Lansing, and is also a technology derived from the expertise at Michigan State University.  LEAP will be assisting in the site selection for NamesforLife as they look to expand staff and space.

    This is excellent news for these companies and ideal examples of how we are moving toward identifying and expanding our competitive advantages in the “Accelerator” Lansing Region.

  • LEAP member, Emergent BioSolutions scores another major victory! Emergent has received a $220 million federal contract, selected as “one of three new centers to develop new forms of vaccine against bioterrorism threats and pandemic illnesses. According to the LSJ, Emergent Chairman Fuad El-Hibri noted that “Lansing is expected to receive a ‘spillover effect’ in the form of jobs.” This just adds to the great story of Emergent. Earlier this month Emergent began its $108 million campus expansion here in Lansing.
  • Congratulations to Delta Township. Fed Ex will be constructing a 100,000 sq. ft., $7 million new facility in Delta Township creating 50 new jobs and retaining 100 jobs. This is a big project and a big building- good for all. Not much more is known, but this is quite significant.
  • Douglas J Salon and headquarters has acquired property in downtown Okemos (Meridian Township). They will build a 31,000 sq. ft. commercial building with additional 10,000 sq. ft. of residential. This is a $15 million project and will create 35 – 70 new jobs. Great job to all involved in Meridian and thank you to Douglas J!
  • And again in Meridian Township, the Meridian Mall theaters will receive a $3 million makeover, with developers introducing to the region a new way to be entertained by movies – eat at a small restaurant as part of the movie and enjoy cocktails. This fun project is a critical forward step for Meridian Mall – again congratulations to Meridian and all involved.
  • Big congratulations to one of our pinnacle companies and LEAP member, Auto Owners Insurance. “A.M. Best Company has affirmed the financial strength rating for Auto Owners Insurance Group A++ Superior, A.M. Best’s highest rating available. Auto Life Insurance also received a A+ for its life insurance…A.M. lists the reasons for Auto Owners outstanding rating: ‘Auto Owners Insurance Group’s superior capitalization, historical trend of solid operating income, experienced management team, blend of commercial and personal product offerings and long-standing agency relationships. In addition, Auto Owners has strong risk management techniques and a well-established market position.’”
  • We noticed that, last month, locally owned, nationally renowned (and newest LEAP member!) PM Environmental and Engineering’s President Pete Bosanic was present with Governor Snyder as the Governor signed new and important legislative reforms to the “leaking UST” law. “The passage of this law should make it much easier in Michigan to obtain a regulatory closure at properties that are having leaked UST (tank) issues.” Pete, as Chair of the Michigan Petroleum Associations Environmental Committee played a very involved role with this legislation. Congratulations to local leadership and expertise like Pete Bosanic and PM Environmental as they and we continue to climb on the state and national stage of achievement.
  • I am pleased to tell you that LEAP, with the MEDC’s liaison Kathleen White, stationed in our office, conducted 10 retention visits last month along with 4 company project visits. We are also very busy with prospects. We had two major site tours in just the last two weeks alone.
  • From LEAP Member TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®, who were recently featured as speakers at Cobo Arena on the subject of hiring veterans: TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Seeking To Hire Military Veterans To Fill Hundreds Of Positions Nationwide. The nation’s fastest-growing moving company attended and presented to the  National Veterans Small Business Conference to bolster veteran hiring efforts.“Just as Lansing-based TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® opened its 224th franchise with the help of new franchisee and United States Air Force veteran Terry Bruns, the Company is also looking to add more veteran employees ahead of the busy summer moving season. To advance the effort, the Company participated in the National Veterans Small Business Conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center. The national conference attracted thousands of veterans, business owners and federal employees.

    TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® identified prospective employees among the veterans in attendance, as well as those vets across the nation actively working with the United States Department of Veteran Affairs to find work.

    The nation’s largest franchised moving company has a number of positions to fill, including managers, customer service representatives, administrative staff and movers. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® currently has a number of U.S. military veterans and active ROTC personnel working within its system spanning 34 states, and nearly 10 percent of its current franchise operators are veterans.”

  • Want to know more about LEAP’s 3D Printer system? There is a great story here about the power of 3D printing and what it’s all about. We have many local customers and customers from around the state coming to Lansing and using our 3D printer each week.
  • The Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau will be offering additional cultural training for the 400+ Certified Tourism Ambassadors in the region. This fall our region will welcome 1,400+ international students to Michigan State University and the CVB is working hard to make the region a welcoming community for international business, visitors and students through this extension of the certification programming. The first training will take place on Wednesday, July 25th at the Kellogg Center.
  • Recently LEAP has been getting some great mentions in many publications for the work we are doing. If you haven’t yet, please take a minute to read the recent editorials from the LSJ, Education, business signs of Lansing’s brighter future  and Public art gives a sense of sophistication to Greater Lansing, the Outlook piece from LEAP’s Placemaking workgroup co-chairs, Steve Curran and Julie Pingston, Public art critical to ‘placemaking’, and the article regarding Niowave’s expansion plans, Niowave planning $10 million Lansing expansion.We also began a new show with Lansing Public Media called “Lansing Regional Economic Report” that is a monthly television program running on the Government Access channel. We have 2 episodes already in rotation and a third that is currently being edited. If you haven’t caught the episodes, you can watch them as they are published in our Media Room.

    Also, for the last 6 months we have been recording the “Pure Lansing” monthly radio show on the Michigan Business Network. We have had some wonderful guests so far this year, and next month we will host President Lou Anna K. Simon from Michigan State University for the whole hour. We are very excited to participate on the network. You can listen to all the interviews from earlier this year, here.

  • Area Development released a new study on the top places for jobs and economic growth recently. Lansing placed 96th overall, but took hold of the 39th spot among mid-sized cities. There is no doubt that our region will continue to climb higher and higher on this list as we work hard towards making our region great! You can read the study and view the list here.
  • And finally, but certainly not least, a hearty congratulations and thank you to LEAP member Chris Holman and the Greater Lansing Business Monthly (GLBM), for celebrating the magazine’s 25th anniversary of publication. GLBM has been the champion of our region and for small business development. It is a staple on any tabletop in any lobby in our region. Thank you Chris and GLBM for making a difference in all of our lives and playing a very major role in helping our region climb to a new level. You, Chris, like when you started the magazine 25 years ago, also started a new attitude in Lansing. We are all most thankful.

Have a wonderful holiday,


Lansing is a Brainy city

There’s been great and interesting news on the Lansing region’s economic front over the last couple of weeks that I will get to in just one moment.

But I’d like to first take this opportunity to recognize some great news for LEAP from an organizational perspective. There have been many entities that have re-joined, joined anew or even upped their membership to LEAP, after a period of absence:

  • Two weeks ago, we were honored that Lake Trust Credit Union, under the new leadership of CEO David Snodgrass, re-joined and upped their membership in LEAP to a Lead membership. Thank you to Lake Trust! We look forward to your continued leadership within our region and at LEAP.
  • Recently LAFCU, Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, Bath Township and Lansing Township joined LEAP as new Members. Thank you to LAFCU’s Pat Spyke and Farm Bureau’s Jim Robinson for joining at the new Small Business category. Thank you to Lansing Township’s Supervisor John Daher and Bath Township Supervisor Paula Clark (and Superintendent Troy Feltman) for their continued leadership with the region and new leadership with LEAP.
  • Thank you to DeWitt Township and Supervisor Rick Galardi for upping their membership to the new, small municipal membership category. Rick and Township Manager Rod Taylor have been incredible leaders for our region.
  • Additionally, thank you to Lansing Board of Water and Light and CEO Peter Lark for upping their LEAP membership to Lead membership level as well. We welcome BWL’s continued leadership and participation with shaping the economic development prospects of our region and at LEAP.
  • We also thank Lansing Community College’s Board of Trustees and President Brent Knight for joining LEAP at the full Lead membership rate and look forward to their continued expertise and leadership with LEAP and throughout the region.
  • Also, a major thank you to the Lansing Regional International Airport Authority, its Board and Executive Director Bob Selig for rejoining LEAP at the Lead membership level. We are doing many significant projects with the airport as we speak.
  • Thank you to Harvest Creative Services CEO Steve Curran and CEO Andrew Henry of Red Cedar Software Solutions for re-joining LEAP at the new Small Business level. Their enthusiasm and guidance at LEAP has been invaluable.
  • And finally, a big thank you to the Board of Directors and CEO Lee Hladki at the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau for re-joining LEAP at the full Lead membership level! We are working on some exciting marketing opportunities and other innovations with GLCVB as well as the Placemaking committee.

Thank you to LEAP Board Chair Steve Alexander of PNC Bank and the LEAP Executive Committee and entire LEAP membership for supporting the approval of a historic contract for services with the city of Lansing’s LEDC. Presuming the contract is approved by the LEDC Board later today, this agreement promises to begin ushering in to our entire region a new economic development model or even a new era as to how we individually and collectively, as a region, transform the way we conduct economic development.

It is all very exciting and very encouraging for our entire region, as we once again answer the bell of the impossible- and make it all possible. And your LEAP is stronger than ever and leading the way.
Finally, on a happy/sad note, we wish well LEAP’s CFO Rich Howard as he moves on to a great job opportunity as an administrator with a new entrepreneurial charter school that will open this fall in Lansing. Rich is an educator and is passionate about schools, but Rich helped LEAP profoundly over the last year and half through its difficult transition process. He has been and remains a great friend and outstanding colleague to me and everyone here at LEAP. Rich will continue with a part time consulting contract with LEAP through the rest of the year as he continues to help our transformation. New and great things await Rich!

On to big economic development news- and I mean big!

  1. Sparrow Health System/Mayo Clinic. Wow. Get used to those two giant names, regionally and of course nationally, flowing together. After a year of negotiation, Sparrow is now one of only five health care systems in the entire nation that have been admitted into Mayo Clinic’s Care Network. Sparrow is the only health system in Michigan to share this relationship with Mayo. The front page story in the Lansing State Journal quotes Shirley Weis, Chief Administrative Officer of Mayo as saying, “This is really a dream come true, and it’s a dream come true in terms of our commitment to patients…we think (this network) will make a real difference in health care delivery for our country.”Again, Lansing moves onto a national stage- where it belongs and deserves to be. Our assets, like Sparrow, like the coming FRIB and Broad museum at MSU, like Emergent Biosolution’s recent biotech campus announcement, like Accident Fund’s recent Corporate headquarters in the Power Station downtown Lansing, like GM’s top-of-the-line plants packed with employees and turning out GM’s best vehicles, and like so many other examples from our region- We are an economic powerhouse making noise statewide, nationally and globally. This is the scale of the Sparrow/Mayo Clinic announcement- a true, long term game changer so big that we really don’t yet fully understand all of the possibilities and opportunities that this affords us all. Congratulations to Sparrow CEO Dennis Swan, his team and Board of Directors for an amazing leadership job!
  2. Did you hear that The Atlantic Cities magazine and Creative Class guru Richard Florida named the Lansing region as one of the “brainiest” regions in the United States? Well, to be brainy about it- #16. Although it sounds a little silly, take it seriously. This serious research software called Lumonsity tracks “higher cognitive performance scores…associated with higher rates of innovation, greater concentrations of high tech industry and high per capita incomes.” Notes the report. The software measures memory, process speed, flexibility, attention and problem solving of more than one million users, in collecting their data.
  3. And…did you hear that Michigan’s economy grew 2.3% during 2011? “A top ten performance among the fifty states…by far the best among other Great Lakes states.” reports John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press.
  4. And then this great news! The Clinton County Economic Alliance and President Brian Coughlin, along with Clinton County Board of Commissioners and Chair Bob Showers and St. Johns City Manager Dennis LaForest and City Mayor Dana Beaman, announced that the former and long vacant 265,000 sq. ft. Federal-Mogul plant in the heart of St. Johns had been purchased by F.C. Mason for use as the company’s main manufacturing facility, hiring 40 new employees and retaining 62 people. F.C. Mason specializes in the agricultural equipment business that provides parts for tillage equipment to companies such as John Deere, Case New Holland and International Harvester. I know how hard and complex this project was involving brownfield grants and other forms of assistance. Congratulations to the Clinton team and a huge thank you to F.C. Mason President and owner Chris Turner.
  5. You may have noticed or are noticing a series of almost daily press releases from LEAP right now. That’s because the new LEAP Workgroups are beginning to start their very task-oriented work. The newest addition is Global Lansing, which is an effort to bring many individual efforts throughout our region together to welcome and work with the growing foreign student population at MSU. This population represents new ideas, wealth for local investment and purchasing power for our small business and residential communities. Perhaps, most importantly, this population simply represents another unique asset for our region that others don’t have and never will have- A significant international population which is a rare key to a vibrant future. But to be our best and represent who we are, as a region, which is a historically a very tolerant and diverse community, we need to make sure we are all as fully coordinated and educated as possible.The other work groups to begin meeting this or next week include: Placemaking, Agricultural Development and Accelerator Region. They join: Automotive/Property, Michigan Ave Corridor Improvement Authority, Lansing Regional SmartZone, LEAP/Tri-County Regional Economic Professionals, (L-TREP) (monthly meeting of all economic development industry in region) and the Regional Innovation Network, (RIN) (every other month meeting of stakeholders involved in the regional industry of start up businesses).Unlike committees, these work groups are relatively small, tasked with exact outcomes for the year and highly focused on specific economic development issues of our region.


  6. We welcome LEAP SVP Ray DeWinkle, Lansing Mayor Bernero and the Prima Civitas team back to the U.S., after their recent visit to Turkey (our third since the start of the year). Ray continues to work a series of prospects. I am proud that for the first time, I believe, our region has signed a formal agreement, to remove barriers and build relationships, between a country and our region. There were actually two agreements: One is with Turkish Automotive Parts and Components Manufacturers Association (TAYSAD). The other is with the ULUDAG Exporters Association (OIB). While real prospects are already on the horizon, this has to be seen as our region successfully targeting a rapidly rising star, one that most others have yet to even recognize, but we have positioned ourselves well ahead of most of the competition- so far. We look forward to welcoming Turkish investment and business here as well as introducing our products to their markets. Click here to read Ray’s blog postings and see pictures from the trip within our blog at
  7. Congratulations to DeWitt City Manager Dan Coss and the DeWitt DDA as they have recently purchased a critical building in its downtown. Dan writes, “The City of DeWitt has acquired a 5,500 square foot building in downtown (115 North Bridge Street).  Currently it is occupied by Mt. Hope Church and they will be renting it from us for the next 3-4 months while their new location is being renovated.” This is a good opportunity for downtown DeWitt and for a company who might enjoy that environment- give us at LEAP or Dan a call!
  8. From Andrea Ragan, IT Council Executive Director, “As you may know, and now have hopefully seen in the news, the IT Council has a new education and training opportunity available. We have launched Capital Tech Knowledge E-Pathways program to increase the IT Talent pipeline in Greater Lansing. Participants can learn a particular skill, series of skills through short-term trainings or embark on a 2-4 year educational path to a degree in Computer Science or Computer Analysis and Programming. Read more about the program from the Lansing State Journal and WLNShere.This program was designed to meet YOUR needs as an employer, so I am reaching out to you to invite your participation at a variety of levels. Employers can assist by reviewing candidates and providing feedback on their hiring potential; building relationships with participants—a great way to get to know potential employees if you have current openings—and providing mentors/mentorship to ensure the success of the program; engaging in short-term training sessions. Please let me know if you’d like to join me for our first Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday, June 27th.Please contact me with any questions, concerns or ideas; or visit to learn more and submit a registration form. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!”


  9. Congratulations to LEAP member Peckham! Peckham received two NISH national awards for outstanding performance and support to the AbilityOne Program and for creating employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. The Performance Excellence in Government Contracts and Performance Excellence in Quality Work Environment were presented to Peckham’s CEO Mitch Tomlinson. These awards recognize agencies that provide employees with disabilities with enhanced employment opportunities, improved wages and upward mobility. Peckham was recognized for making extraordinary gains in employee and client satisfaction, adhering to the highest level of quality assurance standards.I might add that two weeks ago I took a marvelous facility tour with Peckham officials. They have two new buildings. The design of the buildings are remarkable, as every interior detail takes into account a wide variety of sensitivities with regard to disabled employees. It is beautiful, comfortable, quiet, friendly, diverse, light, happy, spaced in a way that accommodates physical and mental disabilities- it’s really inspirational and nothing short of that. 
  10. “The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will hold a walking architectural tour (exterior) of more than a dozen significant buildings in downtown Lansing 10:30 a.m. – noon, Saturday June 16.The tour will include numerous buildings designed by major architects including the former Liebermans gift shop which was designed by mid-century architect George Nelson and the Ranney Building (now lofts and retail) which was designed by Darius Moon.Other buildings on the tour, which is called “Behind the Façade,” are the Arbaughs, the Knapps, the Atrium Office Center (formerly the Michigan Theatre and the Strand Theatre,) Rousser Drugs and Lansing Home Dairy (now Foster Swift law firm). Other buildings on the tour are the Hollister Building, the Boji Tower (formerly the Olds Tower) and the Comerica (Bank of Lansing) building.

    The tour is free, will be held rain or shine and an annual meeting of the Society will be held immediately following at MBC in downtown Lansing. RSVPs for lunch on your own at MBC is appreciated. Call RSVPs at (517) 282-0671.


  11. Come Test Drive GM’s newest vehicles this Saturday from noon to 5:00 pm! Presenting General Motors’ Ride and Drive event at the downtown Lansing Grand River Assembly plant.Come celebrate the launch of the newest Cadillac – the ATS as well as over 20 vehicles including the new Malibu, Lacrosse, Equinox, Sierra, Camaro, and Volt. Meet Johnny O’Connell of Cadillac Racing and see his #3 V Series car. There will be free music – UAW Local 652 Team Leader, Jeff Wood. Come and enjoy this GM event specialized for Lansing!

See you later!


LEAP goes global: A Manufacturing Cousin, Mount Olympus, and Silver Domes

The Turkey-Michigan Forum: Trends in Research & Development with Industry continued through Wednesday afternoon.  After it ended we had enough time to do some sight-seeing and some shopping.  The group split up, some starting at the Hagia Sophia.  Dedicated in 360, it was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years.  It served as the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral for Constantinople for most of its life, but also served as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, and Mosque at different periods.  It is now a museum.  It is a magnificent edifice.

As I had toured the Hagia Sophia on my last trip to Istanbul, I chose to return to the Grand Bazaar with some of the other participants.  The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops, which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.  On our first trip to Istanbul, we had made a brief stop at the Bazaar in order to get out of the snow and the cold.  It was nice to get inside some of the warm shops and enjoy a cup of Turkish tea.  This time the weather was very warm.  Several of the other Forum attendees were on a mission to purchase silk scarves for themselves, or as gifts for friends and family members.  In addition to silk, the Bazaar is known as a very good place to purchase gold, silver, leather goods, beautiful rugs and antiques.  The Bazaar is a labyrinth of narrow “streets” each lined with hundreds of small shops.

We agreed that the merchants are politely persistent, but respectful relative to other markets we had experienced.  One of the merchants in particular stands out, with his lines of: “Let me sell you something you don’t need,” and “I won’t cheat you as much as the other guy.”

All prices are negotiable, so it is a good strategy to aggregate group purchases in order to negotiate “volume” discounts.  Our group finally settled on a shop that looked promising.  As an added bonus, it was air-conditioned, which was a welcome relief from the heat.  After choosing the scarves they wanted and negotiating for what everyone agreed was a fair price (which included walking out of the shop once), we left the shop contented.  And then came the line that seems to be standard when finishing up business with a shop owner: “Thank you for your purchases, now let me introduce you to my brother/uncle/cousin next door with the rug shop.”  It seems everyone has “relative” in the rug business.  I can only assume they are the highest margin product there, as rugs seem to be the most aggressively marketed item.  Of course, since they know we are not from Turkey, they “will be happy to arrange shipping” for us.  We declined to visit the rug shop, even though they are very beautiful.  It was getting close to closing time, 7:00pm, or 19:00, in the local vernacular, and some of our group wanted to purchase some jewelry items as gifts.  Time flies when choosing from thousands of scarf designs and spending time negotiating prices!

We then connected with some other Forum attendees for dinner.  We didn’t want to make it a very late night, as we had an early start the next morning.

On Thursday, we left our hotel at 6:30am in order to catch a 7:30am ferry to Bursa.  Bursa lies across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul.  It takes about 4 – 5 hours to drive there, as you need to maneuver through Istanbul traffic, and then drive around the Sea of Marmara and Bay of Izmit.  The ferry trip is 1.5 hours.  Before boarding the ferry, there is a security check, where bags are X-rayed and passengers pass through metal detectors.  We took a large ferry which carried automobiles as well as passengers.  The passengers consisted of bicyclists, backpackers, business people and vacationing families.  After arriving at the dock, it is still approximately a half-hour bus ride to Bursa over a small coastal mountain range and into the valley where Bursa sits.

We were guests of the Uludağ Automotive Exporters’ Association (OIB), which is based in Bursa, a major center of Turkey’s automotive industry.  Since LEAP had signed an MOU with OIB on Tuesday afternoon, I was very eager to learn more about the region and its industries.  OIB had a bus waiting for us.

OIB had a busy day planned for us.  Our first stop was at the OIB Automotive Technical High School.  A what?!  Yes, a high school.  OIB opened this school for the 2010/2011 school year with 180 Freshmen students.  In the just completed 2011/2012 school year they added 180 more Freshmen students.  In two more years, they will have their first graduating class, and be at their planned enrollment of 720 students.  It is partially a residential high school with dormitories for 250 boys and 50 girls on site.  The entire campus and facilities are brand new.  The design was chosen through an architectural competition.

The high school was founded as a way to help increase Turkey’s number of technical workers in the automobile industry.  This shows that talent development is important around the globe.  Along with the normal high school subjects, the students learn about all the systems in an automobile, with very well equipped laboratories.  For example, there were separate lab facilities for gasoline and diesel engines (remember, diesels are much more popular around the world than in the US), each with at least a dozen engines of different sizes, along with cut-away cars showing how everything is integrated.  I recently had the opportunity to tour the facilities at LCC-West, and there are a lot of similarities.  What is different though is that the students are in the building all day, many of them living on campus, and the facility is 100% dedicated to automotive systems education.  The plan is for the students to enter the automotive industry after graduating, some immediately, others after pursuing technical degrees.  Students are chosen from a pool of applicants, with fees covered by OIB and the government.  I think of it as a specialized charter school.  Like LCC-West, The Technical High School enjoys strong support from the local auto industry, particularly two of the larger manufacturing companies in the region: Fiat and Renault.  Their names were on many of the labs, and many of the engines and car bodies carried their logos.

Regrettably, we were on a tight schedule, so we didn’t have an opportunity to ask many questions.  The theme that is shared with our region though, is workforce preparation and talent development.

We next visited ULUTEK, the cyberpark of Uludağ University.  We received a brief presentation of their work to incubate and commercialize technologies from the University.  Again, this mirrors the work of that MSU’s Spartan Innovations and LEAP’s New Economy team.

Our next stop was at Beyçelik Gestamp, our first automotive related manufacturer of the day.  This name should sound somewhat familiar to some of you, since we have a Gestamp facility in Mason.  This particular factory is a joint venture between a Turkish firm and Gestamp, of Spain.  The Turkish firm was a successful metal stamping and die making operation, and joined with Gestamp to expand its success throughout Europe.  Our local facility is wholly owned by Gestamp.  I had the opportunity to meet the CEO, as well as the General Manager.  The General Manager was well aware of our Mason facility, as he had visited there.  This is another example of the global nature of the auto industry.  The company gave us an overview of their processes (stamping out metal body parts for the local auto assembly facilities), provided us an excellent traditional Turkish lunch (chicken, lamb, a lot of fresh vegetables, with baklava and rice pudding as desserts), and gave us a tour of their modern facility.  Along with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, it was very interesting to walk through a long hallway in the production facility with interesting décor.  One side of the hallway was covered with wall-sized photos of employees and their families enjoying themselves at company outings/picnics, and on the other side were wall-sized pieces of children’s artwork, which I assume were created by employees’ children.

Our next stop was at Martur Automotive Seating Systems.  The company was founded in 1983 to produce molded foam, and is now one of leading suppliers for production of automotive seats worldwide.  To supply globally, they partner with major Tier 1 suppliers such as JCI and Magna.  The company designs and manufactures seats and interior parts for automobiles, light commercial vehicles and buses. Additionally, Martur also design and manufactures automotive fabrics.  We were provided presentations by the Directors of Business Development and R&D, the Manager of Textile R&D, and Senior Specialist of R&D.  What I found most interesting about Martur is that it is a completely integrated company, from designing new seats – they were very proud of a fold-away front seat which was going to be featured in a new model which they wouldn’t identify – to having their own steel service center, stamping and seat frame assembly operations, to weaving, knitting and dyeing their own fabric (starting from a monofilament), sewing their own covers, to manufacturing their own foam (how the company started) scrim and mechanisms.  It made me think of Ford’s River Rouge facility.  Raw steel and monofilament go in – and complete seat assemblies come out.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to tour the facilities to see this all for ourselves – we had to move on to our next stop, so all we were able to observe was their presentation, while enjoying Turkish tea, of course.

We next went to Durmazlar.  This company manufactures high performance machines used for forming sheet metal, under the DURMA brand name.  Their line consists of: Press Brakes, Shears, Punches, Laser Cutters, Plasma Cutters, Plate Rolls, Profile Benders, Bandsaws, Corner Notchers, and Ironworkers (multi-functional machines combining many of these processes).  The company sells globally.  We had a brief walk-through one of their facilities and then a presentation by their R&D Director.

You may notice a theme to the presentations we received on these company tours: Research and Development.  Clearly, our hosts focused this tour on that because our group was in Turkey to attend the Turkey-Michigan Forum: Trends in Research & Development with Industry.

Each of the facilities we visited was in a large industrial zone, so the travel time between the stops was short.  Our final stop of the tour was in a different location, so we traveled a bit further to the Tofaş Türk Otomobil Fabrikasi.  This is a Fiat vehicle assembly facility, producing the Doblo light commercial vehicle, which won “International Commercial Van of the Year” for 2011, and the Linea small passenger car.  It is a competitor vehicle to the Ford Transit Connect, which is also assembled in Turkey.  Tofaş is Turkey’s largest automobile and light commercial vehicle manufacturer.  In addition to Fiat vehicles, the company assembles vehicles for Citroen, Peugeot and Opel/Vauxhall.  We only had time to visit two of the plant’s main departments: the stamping facility (our second one of the day), and the mechanical assembly area – where the chassis and powertrain components are married with the vehicle bodies.

And then, it was time for our group to get back on our bus to catch the ferry back to Istanbul.  Well, most of the group, anyway.  Lindsay Eister of the MEDC and I left the group at that point.  If you remember, Lindsay was one of the two MEDC staff people who joined us electronically for the seminar we conducted in April, when it was 2:30 on a Monday morning!  This time, she was able to join us in Turkey.  We caught a Fiat Doblo cab to our hotel for the evening.  I had arranged a dinner with a prospect for that evening, and prospect appointments the next day.

Bursa sits in a lush valley at the foot of Mount Uludağ which historically was known as Olympus (one of several mountains by that name), and the city was known as Prusa ad Olympum from its position near the mountain.  Mount Uludağ/Olympus is the highest mountain in the Marmara region, reaching 8,343 feet at its peak.  It is a very popular winter skiing destination.  Bursa is also known for its thermal baths.  The City was one of the largest centers for the silk trade during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, and is still known as a center for purchasing silk products, with its own Silk Market.  Bursa served as the capital of the Ottoman State between 1326 and 1365, so I am certain there are fascinating places to visit and learn more, but there was no time on this trip.

With a population of 2,650,000, Bursa is Turkey’s fourth largest city.  With a population one-fifth the size of Istanbul, we could certainly notice a difference in the traffic.  Because of its location in a valley the climate is lush.  The city’s nickname is “Green Bursa”, referring to the parks and gardens within its urban environment, as well as the vast forests in the surrounding region.  While traveling between appointments, we paralleled a long greenway, with a waterway/river and a trail alongside.  It reminded me of our own River Trail.

There was one distinctly different architectural feature we noticed right away in the Bursa region.  The domes on the Mosques are all silver.  They reflected the bright sun so it was very easy to pick out the mosques in the region.

After very promising prospect visits on Friday, Lindsay and I returned to Istanbul.  This time we took a smaller, passenger-only ferry.  We departed on Saturday morning for our return flights to Michigan.

View Ray’s photos here.

LEAP goes global: A Minister and a President

Once again I find myself back in Istanbul, Turkey.  This time I am accompanied by Mayor Virg Bernero.  We flew out of LAN on Saturday afternoon, June 2.  That was “Be A Tourist In Your Own Town” day in the Lansing region.  Since we didn’t leave until mid-afternoon, the Mayor was able to host his Mayor’s Riverwalk in the morning, and I was able to participate in some of the “Tourist” events.

We have flown to Istanbul to participate in the Turkey-Michigan Forum: Trends in Research & Development with Industry.  This forum has been organized by the Prima Civitas Foundation.  Along with industry participation, The Forum is targeted to higher education, and has convened an extensive collection of Deans and other high ranking academic officials.  Lansing is well represented with Lansing Community College President Knight and a large Michigan State University contingent: Provost Wilcox, Engineering Dean Udpa, Eli Broad School of Business Dean Lenway, Human Medicine Dean Rappley, Veterinary Medicine Dean Brown, James Madison Dean Garnett, Arts and Letters Dean Wurst, and several others.  Many other Michigan colleges and universities are also attending, along with many Turkish colleges and universities.

Mayor Bernero represented our region as a panelist in a session discussing “Trends in Regional Government and Industry”.  He was joined by Ms. Lindsay Eister of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Rochelle Black of Oakland University, and Turkish representatives from the Istanbul Chamber of Industry, the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council, and the Turkish Ministry of Labor.  After the panel, Mayor Bernero was interviewed for Turkish television.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Forum was joined by His Excellency Zafer Ҫağlayan, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Turkey. Minister Ҫağlayan attended to preside over a signing ceremony for several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs).  There were three speakers at the ceremony.  First, Mr. Mehmet Büyükekşi, Chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM).  TIM was serving as the host of our Forum, the Assembly has a conference facility in their office complex.  Mayor Bernero was invited by Minister Ҫağlayan to be the second speaker at the event, and the only representative from the State of Michigan to speak.  The final speaker was the Minister himself.  After the speeches, we signed the MOU’s.

Mayor Bernero and I were privileged to represent the Lansing Region and sign two Memorandums of Understanding.  The first was with TAYSAD, the Association of Automotive Parts and Components Manufacturers (TAYSAD).  I have established an excellent working relationship with this organization, they were the ones who hosted the Seminar I organized last April.  This signing ceremony allowed me to introduce Mayor Bernero (elected officials are held in very high regard in their culture), and to continue to build the relationship with TAYSAD’s Chairman and with TAYSAD’s Secretary General.  The second MOU was with Uludağ Automotive Exporters Association (OIB).  This association has 4,300 active members from 56 cities in Turkey.  This is the beginning of a new relationship with this organization.  They are based in Bursa, where I have not yet had a chance to travel.  I will be in Bursa this week Thursday and Friday, meeting with OIB and with prospective companies, to further develop the relationship.

Signing the MOU’s is an historic occasion for the Lansing region.  This type of global relationship has never been established by our region.  I am privileged to represent our region and open up bilateral opportunities for increasing commerce between our respective regions.

After the MOU signing ceremony, the Minister of Economy had arranged for several of to attend a dinner with Turkey’s President, whose official title is: His Excellency Associate Professor Doctor Abdullah Gül, 11th President of the Republic of Turkey.  This dinner was part of the Turkey World Trade Bridge 2012 Conference/Exposition, which had 1,500 delegates from 130 countries attending.  This is one more example of how Turkey is actively leveraging its millennia-long position as the crossroads of global trade.  While it wasn’t an intimate dinner, the Minister had arranged for us to have tables very near the stage.  It provided a fascinating look into a truly global gathering.

-Ray De Winkle


View Ray’s pictures here.

Positive signs along our skyline

I hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful Memorial Day holiday and the beautiful Michigan weather. And what a week it has continued to be…

Tuesday showed again that the Lansing region is leading the way in economic development.

First, Emergent Biosolutions, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, right here in the city of Lansing, held a ground breaking ceremony for their $108 million new campus/laboratory/offices. The new campus will allow them to better attract the top biotechnology talent in the world and it also upgrades and hugely improves very old infrastructure that was hindering their growth on this site versus other sites in other states. Thus, incentives, like the brownfield program, were used and were absolutely critical to the project happening. Congratulations to Emergent’s  Executive Vice President and LEAP Board member Adam Havey, for his vision and commitment, and to the city of Lansing’s Mayor Virg Bernero, LEDC’s Karl Dorshimer and AKT’s Eric Helzer for their terrific and innovative work structuring this brownfield.

Later the same day, we all went to watch the “topping” ceremony held at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s new, $182 million co-generation plant in REO Town. The final beam of steel was hoisted by a crane into the crystal blue sky with an American flag attached to it. It was truly inspirational. This is the first electric plant to be constructed new in Michigan in 25 years. Its energy will be produced by the combined  use of coal and natural gas. The plant will provide cleaner energy, continue to provide electricity at low rates and will provide 180 employees into the heart of the re-surging urban area of REO Town. True density development in every respect. Congratulations to BWL CEO Peter Lark, his team, The Christman Company and the local trades.

I will say it again, agriculture, manufacturing, small towns, townships, retail malls, incubators, work force development, etc. are all absolutely critical to economic development efforts. But, there is only one thing a region can truly do that moves the needle as far as getting the general population and the business community to feel that genuine growth progress is being made, that there is hope, that the future is bright- and that is for key downtowns to erect tall buildings into its skyline. Skyline changes to a downtown absolutely represent whether a region is moving forward or stagnating. And it’s happening, again, right now in both downtowns of Lansing and East Lansing- great news for us all in the entire region.

And then this.  Our region just posted its lowest unemployment rate since April of 2008. 6.4%.

Some great articles were in the Lansing State Journal over the last several weeks that documented well this economic engine story: Check out: Billion Dollar Boom, Construction Could Add to Summer Jobs, Unity Leads to Strength. In Capital Gains, check out, Lansing Growth Series: The New Way to Work in Town or CBS Detroit’s Channel 2 web site Tech Tour Day Nine: Lansing’s A Wonderful End to the Trip.

Speaking of the Lansing State Journal, I continue to urge you to check out their Sunday feature “Outlook” section. It is a very in depth section that tackles one major issue per week. This Sunday, LEAP is running a full page advertisement in this section that re-introduces our recent re-structuring, mission and staff. The ad is paid through an in-kind partnership with the Lansing State Journal and we are grateful for this opportunity.

And finally, look for the June cover and cover story of Chris Holman’s Greater Lansing Business Monthly magazine which will feature LEAP.

Breaking News and Shall We Make some History Today? Try these two announcements by LEAP:

  1. In partnership with Prima Civitas, LEAP’s SVP of Business Attraction, Ray De Winkle, again is going to Turkey for a very short visit. He leaves tomorrow. But for the first time in the Lansing region’s history, as far as I know, we (LEAP and Mayor Bernero on behalf of our region) will be signing a series of agreements with a rising foreign economic power, Turkey (The Prime Minister’s Office and related private Associations like auto suppliers), to tear down barriers and open up real and fair relationships between our economies, institutions and businesses that will lead to future job growth and business investment here and there. Yes, I would describe these agreements as historic for our region. And, just another true sign, that our Lansing region is receiving the international recognition that it now deserves as a major world economic player. Congratulations to LEAP’s Ray De Winkle for his leadership and tenacity on this and to Prima Civitas’ Steve Webster for his vision and leadership.
  2. Three local innovative companies (LAFCU, Niowave and Harvest Creative Services), including two LEAP Board members (LAFCU and Harvest)applied and have been selected to attend a half day round table discussion with the economic team of President Obama at the White House. Over the last few years, the Obama Administration has invited groups of innovative small businesses from each state to meet at the White House and discuss policy improvements. Finally, Michigan’s turn came and I am so pleased to tell you that three of the just under 30 businesses selected from the entire state are from our region. LEAP facilitated this process through the MEDC. Congratulations to Terry Grimm and Jerry Hollister from Niowave, Pay Spyke from LAFCU and Steve Curran from Harvest Creative Services. Represent us well today at the White House!

And on to other pertinent news:

  1. LEAP Board member Jackson announced yesterday its acquisition of SRLC America Holding Corp from Swiss Re. This $621 million transaction is more good news for Jackson. Through the added capabilities and benefits of SRLC, Jackson will be able to increase revenue which can only be good news for their overall company, parent company Prudential and hopefully Jackson’s  national corporate headquarters  here in Lansing. We are blessed to be the hub of the Midwest for insurance company headquarters. They add hundreds of jobs each year and hugely contribute to our economy as well as philanthropically.
  2. Congratulations to LEAP member, Eaton Rapids for their move forward on putting in place a Historic District in their downtown. This innovative tool helps a community to preserve historic buildings, create place and attract business. Eaton Rapids is a beautiful town and its leadership has remained aggressive and committed to working to improve their climate for business and people retention and attraction. 
  3. Congratulations to LEAP Board member, Meijer and Bath Township. The new Meijer store opened in Bath Township. It’s a great looking building in a great community. Congratulations to Meijer’s Steve Higbee and the Meijer team and employees. Great success, again, awaits Meijer. It was also nice to hear Meijer comment as to how seamless and easy it was to work with Bath Township officials. Terrific job. 
  4. Another successful high tech small business, Phenometrics, graduates from the Technology Information Center (TIC) in downtown East Lansing. The TIC was started and run by the city of East Lansing and is a part of the Lansing Regional SmartZone which is now run by LEAP, soon to be expanded regionally. I am including the following message from Phenometrics owner Mimi Hall. She delivered this message to the TIC, LEAP Co-Director Jeff Smith and to East Lansing. It’s such a great message that I wanted to share it with all. Thank you Mimi and good luck as you grow in our region. LEAP will still be with you. And to the LEAP staff and region, I say, let’s do a hundred more of these!Dear Amy, Jeff and City of East Lansing staff,

    On behalf of Phenometrics, the staff and owners, we want to thank you for allowing us to join the Technology Innovation Center community and be part of the SmartZone program. I can hardly believe that it was only one year ago when I showed up in East Lansing with a business plan and high hopes of getting a new biotech company off the ground. TIC gave us our first leg up, from getting an initial scholarship for rent, to working with Jeff Smith on funding applications, to becoming close to other member entrepreneurs, and the list is too long. Phenometrics’ fast growth and production development can be attributed to your support and facility.

    With bittersweet sentiments we leave the comfortable cocoon of TIC to standing on our own at the  MSU Foundation Alliance building. Now we look forward to our next step as we scale up production and continue to seek capital funding. We will remember our time here at TIC with fondness and gratitude.

    Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for being given this outstanding opportunity. Hope to see you at our new facility when we have our opening party.

    Mimi C. Hall
    Chief Executive Officer
    Phenometrics Inc.


  5. More to come, but I am very excited about a partnership coming together that is going to recalibrate and enhance the Manufacturing Council. Stay tuned. 
  6. At next week’s first, new LEAP Steering Committee, we will be discussing several items including the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system for the Avenues (MI and Grand River), the recent benchmarking study comparing the public costs of our region with 22 other communities throughout America and a proposed partnership, led by LEAP, to work collaboratively to grow economic opportunities in conjunction with our rapidly rising foreign national population, especially the students at MSU. As but one small example, we are home to the 20thlargest Chinese population in the country, 2,200 Chinese students at MSU. We want to make sure that there is a fully coordinated and institutionalized approach to welcome these visitors and to attach them to the many retail, shopping, housing, fun, recreational  and business investment opportunities of our region. We embrace this diversity wholeheartedly! 
  7. Finally, our Executive Committee, at the Steering Committee, will be considering a contract to be signed between the city of Lansing’s LEDC and LEAP. This is truly a historic moment for our region and will usher in an entirely new and improved economic development model and, indeed, era, that will serve both the city of Lansing and entire region much better and much more globally.

Until next time!