Category: Business

‘Coolest Thing Made in Michigan’ Contest Down to the Top 10

Michigan has long been the national leader in manufacturing and innovation, starting as the epicenter of automobile production and continuing to adapt while taking on today’s challenges in emerging technology. From household staples to life-improving machinery, the Mitten State has produced almost everything imaginable.

And now voters have narrowed down the state’s “coolest” to 10 great products. The “Coolest Thing Made in Michigan” contest gives voters the ability to select their favorite of Michigan’s Top 10 and decide what is the most amazing Michigan-made product.

The exciting new web-based popular vote is the idea of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, a trade group that advocates for the state’s manufacturers and their employees. The first-ever award is a part of the MMA’s MFG Excellence Awards, which have honored and promoted the story of Michigan’s makers for a century.

Chuck Hadden, president and CEO of the MMA, said Michigan and the world depends on a firm commitment to cost-effective manufacturing.

“Whether you know it or not, manufacturing has shaped and continues to shape the lives of every person in Michigan,” Hadden said. “From the products we use to the communities we call home, manufacturers make that possible. We’re here to ensure those companies — from the smallest manufacturer to the global giants — can compete with business across the street, throughout the country, and around the world.”

The MMA is giving voters the chance to pick their favorite product that has rolled off an assembly line here. The organization encourages voters to show their state pride by making a selection that defines cool and plays an important part in their lives.

View the nominees that have earned a chance to be the “Coolest Thing Made in Michigan” in the photo gallery below and then vote for your top choice among the top 10 finalists.

The MFG Excellence Awards will be presented Nov. 8 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. The annual honors highlight Michigan producing more than $52 billion in manufactured goods every year and employing more than 623,000 people.

The MMA provides professional development and strategic business services that help companies compete with others states and countries through cost-saving services and offering a top-tier package of competitive insurance rates. The group also hosts events focused on providing solutions to manufacturing issues.

Supporting manufacturing in Michigan is a necessity, said Elyse Kopietz, MMA director of communications, marketing and events.

“Manufacturers spend every hour of every day working to improve the lives of people around the world,” Kopietz said. “That’s something we should all take pride in — these are stories that deserve to be told.”

Learn more about the MMA here

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How Students from Small Colleges Land Big Corporate Jobs

As the vice president of human resources for Ford Motor Credit Company, Gale Halsey has the capacity to launch a search for employees and interns anywhere.

Halsey, however, makes a point of staying close to home after experiencing the success she’s had with the Concierge Career Connection program created by the Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA), a 14-member group of the top private colleges and universities in the state.

The program pulls together students from MCA schools and places them in front of some of the best corporate recruiters in the nation. The alliance launched the career connection in 2010, and it has since expanded to more than 30 companies and a wide array of professional opportunities.

“It’s truly one-stop shopping,” said Halsey. “We’re getting qualified candidates, and there’s power in having trust in the students we’re going to interview. MCA has built a relationship, and we know we will be talking to the best of the best.”

While it may seem that Ford and other large employers would stick to bigger universities for dedicated recruiting events, Michigan Colleges Alliance President Dr. Robert Bartlett points out that collectively the partnership of schools is the third-largest group of students in the state. This is another example of how MCA schools work together to provide education and career opportunities for students.

“The diversity of talent in our colleges and universities is second-to-none, and companies covet the students that we have because they are getting young professionals who are ready to achieve,” Bartlett said. “The concierge program is unique. There’s nothing like it in the country. Every campus is involved and connected, so if you’re a student attending one of our schools, you’ve got your school behind you and MCA helping to advance your career.

“You will get a great education, and you’ll be ahead of the game in terms of opportunity and connections to leading employers in Michigan and beyond.”

Beyond Ford, examples of corporate recruiters who have worked with the MCA as part of the career concierge program include:

  • Amway
  • Delta Dental
  • Enterprise
  • Fiat Chrysler
  • General Motors
  • Gordon Food Service
  • La-Z-Boy
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Meijer
  • Perrigo
  • Spectrum Health
  • Stryker
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • Whirlpool Corporation

The alliance is able to match students’ credentials to positions that are open and coordinate pre-arranged on-site interviews and career fairs. The MCA has a personalized recruiting process that often is hard to navigate at massive universities.

Mark Alafita, Ford’s human resources business opportunities manager, said his team performs an annual evaluation of college campuses from which the company draws interns and employees. The team looks at demographics, business school rankings and other data that predicts where they’re likely to find successful candidates.

“With MCA, I can get a wide range of backgrounds in terms of people and what they have studied,” he said. “I don’t need everybody with the same teaching and mindset. We want different ideas to help us generate our success.

“MCA really hit a sweet spot for us.”

Alafita said Ford Credit strives to find candidates who see Michigan as a career destination.

“We want people who want to be where our core business is,” he said.

Halsey, meanwhile, said executives at Ford Motor Credit Company have taken notice of MCA.

“They’ve made me look good,” she said. “We’ve had great success with these candidates. They’ve been prepared for positions through their schools and the alliance.”

The smaller, private school environments allow students to engage with their instructors and emerge as thought-leaders, Bartlett said. Students have greater access to faculty members and mentoring.

“Independent colleges and universities are a place where students can truly flourish on their own terms,” Bartlett said. “They’re not just a body in a large lecture hall. They are part of student-centered learning environments. They grow as individuals in the classroom and beyond. That’s meaningful when you’re ready to take the next step in your professional life.”

Learn more about Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges by visiting the Michigan Colleges Alliance website.

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From Hot Sauce to Craft Beer: MSU Agri-Food Leadership Makes Huge Economic Impact

It wasn’t long ago that Scotty and Suzi Owens were typical gardeners who enjoyed sharing some of their harvest with friends. The hot sauce they made with homegrown peppers got rave reviews, and people said they should go into business selling it.

When Scotty got laid off from his work in tool and die during Michigan’s economic downturn, he and his wife did just that.

Fast forward to today and bottles of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce and salsa are in grocery stores around the country. The couple’s business is operating with seven employees out of a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and in 2019 they’re on track to go nationwide in Kroger stores and begin exporting their award-winning products to China.

So, how in the world did that happen?

The Michigan State University Product Center recognized Suzi and Scotty Owens as 2018 entrepreneurs of the year.

“We had the dreamiest stars in our eyes, but I was almost at a brick wall at what to do,” Scotty Owens said. “MSU really steered us in the right direction.” The Owens came across the Michigan State University Product Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There they received guidance on the rules and regulations involved in making a food product, took classes on bottling, learned about labeling and in 2012 got licensed to work out of a commercial kitchen.

A year later Scotty O’Hotty was on the shelves in small grocery stores that the Owens connected with through MSU’s Making It In Michigan food show, and the business has been growing ever since. Earlier this year the MSU Product Center named Scotty and Suzi Owens their entrepreneurs of the year.

Scotty O’Hotty is just one of many success stories at the MSU Product Center, which helps start or expand businesses in the agriculture and food sector. Just last year, the Product Center helped launch 87 new Michigan businesses that invested $35 million into the economy and created 350 new jobs.

But the MSU Product Center is just one way that MSU has been helping to grow the state’s food and agriculture system over the past 160 years. As the country’s pioneer land-grant institution, the then-Michigan Agricultural College has been a leader in practical, science-based education from the start, and even though the name has changed agriculture remains an important  area of research, with a big impact on the Michigan economy.

“The idea of us being here to help support and build and grow the agriculture and natural resources industries of the state goes back to the very beginning,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and assistant vice president of research and graduate studies.

Back in the mid-1800s, MSU was established by federal law as an agricultural school — the first to teach scientific agriculture. It became the prototype for the nation’s land-grant institutions, which were created to promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. Though MSU now carries out that mission across a wide range of disciplines, the original focus was agriculture.

Before the start of the 20th century, MSU had birthed groundbreaking agricultural advances including the development of hybrid corn to increase yields and the discovery that a swath of Michigan is fertile ground for sugar beets. Pioneering work has continued on everything from the process used in the homogenization of milk to how Michigan farmers can grow hops for the state’s booming craft beer sector.

Nearly 5,000 students are studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs through Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And today MSU is a global leader in agricultural education, using scientific research to address real-world problems and help agri-food businesses implement solutions.

MSU has played no small role in Michigan’s massive food and agriculture economy, which fuels more than 800,000 jobs and makes an annual impact of more than $100 billion, according to a 2018 study. Here are just a few glimpses of the breadth of MSU’s engagement in the industry:

Preparing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders

Today, MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes nearly 5,000 students studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs in forestry, animal science, crop and soil science, horticulture and many others.

“Through our educational programs we train the next generation of agri-food leaders both in the public sector and in the private sector,” said Bill Knudson, a professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “We have a lot of two-year programs as well, geared primarily toward people who will be working on the farm both in the crop area and the livestock area.

Michigan State University student Loren G. King is studying how technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles can make farm operation more efficient.

“Not only do we train our workers, but we also train our regulators. We’d have a much less safe food supply (without MSU’s leadership).”

Among those thousands of students is Loren G. King, who comes from a family farm in southwest Michigan and is learning about agriculture technology. Looking at global population estimates during his lifetime, the 20-year-old knows that the food and agriculture system will have to produce more and, to remain sustainable, do so while using fewer inputs such as fertilizer.

So, he’s studying how farms could deploy autonomous vehicles and drones to become more efficient. He envisions a completely cloud-based farm where managers can use mobile devices to gauge moisture and nutrient levels to see how crops are doing.

“It’s about expanding the efficiency of the farmer right now,” King said. “You’ve got to feed more people while using less.”

Bringing innovation into everyday life

Embedded in the DNA of a land-grant institution like MSU is the drive to use cutting-edge scientific tools to address problems and forge new opportunities. Because of that, food and agriculture study at MSU is definitely “not a science for science’s sake operation,” Buhler said.

A benefit of MSU’s research is that Michigan has developed the country’s second most-diverse agricultural economy. In addition to staples such as corn, milk and eggs, the state’s agriculture sector is full of smaller, specialty crops from asparagus to wine grapes.

Some of Michigan’s fruit varieties, for example, have been developed by MSU on nearly 20,000 acres that are used for agriculture and natural resources research and education throughout the state.

Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs is a leading researcher on the invasive spotted wing drosophila insect.But that diversity also breeds new challenges. Fortunately, MSU also is at the forefront of combating new crop diseases and pests. For example, professor Rufus Isaacs this month made a list of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers for his work on the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive insect that damages fruit crops. Isaacs is just one of many MSU food and agriculture experts on the list.

“The large companies that are there to support major corn, soybean and dairy are not available for a lot of these smaller, more specialized industries,” Buhler said. “If we’re not there to help them with their latest insect, there aren’t a lot of options. If we weren’t here I don’t know who would fill that gap in all these specialty areas.

“Not many years ago there were almost no hops grown in Michigan. Had MSU not been here to help people learn how to manage hops and control diseases I don’t think it would have happened.”

Aside from immediate threats, MSU also is researching long-term challenges from food waste to world hunger through efforts including the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Climate change poses another problem, and MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute is working to improve the ability of crops to handle weather extremes.

“Minor changes in weather could have a real impact on us,” Buhler said.

Helping communities grow

Not only does MSU do research to support Michigan’s food and agriculture system and educate the next generation of industry leaders, the university also takes what it learns and shares it with the broader public. That work takes many forms including the new “Food @ MSU. Our Table” program, which helps people make better-informed choices about food.

In an era where the population is both growing and becoming more urbanized, it’s easy for people to be even more disconnected from the sources of the food they eat. That’s why MSU also is active in urban agriculture around the state, including the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

Michigan State University’s first urban food research center is being established in northwest Detroit through the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

MSU is establishing its first urban food research center on a 2.5-acre former school site in a northwest Detroit neighborhood. The findings on everything from soil remediation to fertilizer and pesticide use will inform urban growers around Michigan and beyond.

“When you’re growing food in an urban setting it’s very different than in an open space,” said Dave Ivan, MSU Extension director of community, food and environmental programming. “This new center really will provide an opportunity for us to plant a flag in an area, working with a lot of the existing leaders in the Detroit urban ag movement in terms of how we can help you address the challenges you’re facing.“

We have a lot of credibility in communities, so people trust the information that we provide. They know that we’re scientific in terms of guiding our recommendations or framing an issue.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.