Category: Advocate Profile

Centrepolis Advocate Profile: Mayor Kenson Siver

Like Detroit, the City of Southfield is in resurgence and evolving into a new-age Silicon Valley. The Southfield Centrepolis SmartZone is helping Southfield gain attention as a hub for innovation and technology, and the Mayor of Southfield is at the helm, leading the charge.

The Mayor is truly a mover and shaker—someone who moves things forward and gets things done. Always looking to the future, he believes that by investing in the people, spaces, and businesses in the city, Southfield will continue to thrive, attract and retain talent, and gain its rightful reputation as a business destination with incredible resources and opportunity.

Why Southfield? Why did you want to start working here, get involved in the community, and eventually become Mayor?

Since I was a kid I’ve always gotten involved. I think if you want to see things happen, you need to roll up your sleeves. I’m very hands-on and I’m willing to get my hands dirty; I don’t just direct people. There are always new ideas to pursue and things you can make better. Time keeps marching on, so we need to keep up with change—whether that’s technology or any other advancement. That’s really what I’ve dedicated my whole life to.

What sets Southfield apart as a business destination?

First of all, we are in the population center of Southeastern Michigan and we are also in the geographic center of Southeastern Michigan—there is a reason our slogan is “The Center of it All.”

We also have excellent infrastructure and a network of freeways that come through the city and make it very easy to get from here to any place in the metro region. We also have a great business address with 29 million square feet of office space. And for business professionals that are relocating, we have a wide range of housing options—high-rise living, townhouses, single-family homes, and condos.

Southfield is also halfway between the Oakland County Courthouse and Wayne County Courthouse, that’s why a lot of law firms are located here. We are also a media hub with a number of radio stations here—channels 2, 7, 4, and 20.

What was the motivation behind Southfield Centrepolis and becoming home to one of Michigan’s SmartZones?

As the world of technology has advanced, the SmartZone became another tool to attract businesses. Today, we’re all interfacing continually with electronic media and the SmartZone takes advantage of the fiber optics and the innovations happening here.

We also want to attract and retain talent here. We have opportunities with new companies like Nexcess, P3, Stefanini, and 123Net to name a few. Then we have the existing companies that are doing some phenomenal things in the way of technology. Southfield doesn’t have a GM, Ford, or Chrysler, but we do have virtually everybody that supplies them—from Durr and BASF, to Comau and Lear. All of these auto-related companies are interfacing with one another.

How does Lawrence Technological University and the LTU Collaboratory support the mission of the SmartZone?

We’re very glad that we have Lawrence Technological University as part of our SmartZone, I’m just so impressed with the things that come out of that university. The LTU Collaboratory is a sterling private-public partnership between Lawrence Tech, the City of Southfield, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) SmartZone Network, and the Michigan Works Association. They are developing patents there, working with startup companies, and funding ideas.

This type of resource is important because we lost a whole generation that moved out of state, to the west coast, D.C., Atlanta, Texas, and Chicago. I think we have a “brain drain”, and it is something the governor talks about. There are a number of very good jobs that we need to attract talent for, so what the LTU Collaboratory is doing is bringing and keeping people here.

I said to the president to of LTU, Dr. Moudgil, “This is kind of like grad school—you develop this talent and you have young people that are doing phenomenal things and coming up with the next wave of innovation.” So, why should we lose them to the Silicon Valley or other places when they can grow and develop something here?

Where do you see the Southfield business community in the next 15 years? 

I think we’re going to see a growth in population, and I believe if you have strong neighborhoods, you’ll have strong businesses. Nothing stays the same, and as our housing stock has aged, I’ve made it a priority to reinvest in our neighborhoods and we are doing that big time and spending millions.

I also hope that if the economy holds, we will have a fully redeveloped Northland Mall site, and we have a lot of business interest expressed in it. When you look at Northland, you see that it’s connected to two major freeways and mile roads— it’s so accessible that it’s an attractive piece of property. Technically it’s a ‘brownfield’ but to me in many ways it’s a ‘greenfield’ in the sense that there is 120-acres that is going to be redeveloped and reimagined. And unlike a greenfield where you have to bring infrastructure in, the infrastructure is there including the sewers and utilities. I see research and development there. I see housing there. Providence Hospital is moving south to that property. The other area I see growing is across from city hall.

We are also seeing tremendous reinvestment in existing office space here. Town Center alone has spent $6 million and they are still working on the parking structure and the main lobby. We have also done studies that say we can use more hotel rooms in Southfield to support business travelers. The new owner of Hawthorn Suites is putting well over a million dollars in refurbishing and extended stay, the Westin is doing extremely well, and another hotel is totally booked for the Robotics competition happening at Cobo Hall.

How else are you and the city supporting the growth and success of startups and entrepreneurs? 

We have a business development office that works very hard to find space and make connections with businesses—we regularly entertain people here who are interested. I’m also a fan of the Chamber of Commerce as a partner, and I don’t want to forget to mention that Southfield was the 9th Michigan city to be named “redevelopment ready.” These are all things that are helping businesses grow here, and we work with businesses on the incentives that the State of Michigan offers.

As Mayor, my job entails being an advocate, an ombudsman, and an ambassador for the city, which includes Southfield Centrepolis. I have people that I talk to all the time that are doubtful that a young professional will come work here, and I tell them the success stories that other people had. I think there is great opportunity here—for talent, businesses, and innovation— you can’t listen to all the noise.

Centrepolis Advocate Profile: Jeffrey Granat

Jeffrey Granat—Business Services Specialist/TAA Case Manager – Program Coordinator at Oakland County Michigan Works! Southfield—is in an instrumental part of stimulating the workforce and economy in Southfield and Oakland County. He is a man focused on building talent and setting that talent up for success by connecting local individuals searching for jobs with training and resources that help them start and establish a career. In turn, this talent empowers businesses to reach their goals and continue to grow.

How would you describe your current role?

 I work with local businesses to ensure that talent needs are being met, help promote job opportunities for employers, collaborate with partners to develop programs to prepare/educate jobseekers for the workforce, and provide career assistance for job seekers to enhance their career development opportunities

What do you like about working in Southfield?  

The City of Southfield is the “Center of it All”. It is a diverse community and our center is now part of Centrepolis, giving us greater exposure to the community and businesses. Southfield provides tremendous resources to its residents and businesses, and we are proud to serve this community because of that!   

How long has your company been located in Southfield? 

Oakland County MI Works! has been here for about 40 years. We recently moved to our current location at 21415 Civic Center Drive, Suite 116 in July of 2017.

How does your company benefit from being in Southfield? 

We have the opportunity to work with a diverse group of job seekers and employers. It gives us exposure to different industries and a variety of populations. It really provides us an opportunity to make an impact in what we do. We are now in a more visible area of Southfield and this opens up enormous opportunities for more partnerships in the community. 

How do you support the Southfield business community?

We support the Southfield business community by serving as a hub for a variety of business and workforce development resources. We have been active in working with companies of all sizes and helping them promote their job openings and getting out the word about the different opportunities that are available in many different industries. We have served as partners on different committees trying to be a part of the solution in the hunt for talent in Michigan and continue to be active in creating job fairs and regional events to attract job seekers and employers to the area. Additionally, we can provide businesses with information about the labor market that will help them make informed decisions (wage information, job growth, etc) based on trends and data.

Where do you see the Southfield business community in the next 15 years? 

The business community in Southfield continues to be robust and we see the future as very bright. By being part of Southfield, we will be active in meeting with employers and learning about their needs and continuing to stay up on the trends. This will allow us to deliver quality services to the job seekers and ensure that we stay current with the needs of the employers. There are several large employers along with mid-sized and smaller employers in Southfield in various different industries, which will allow us to observe closely and build partnerships with these companies in order to have a representative understanding of market conditions.

How are you supporting the growth and success of startups?

Being part of LTU’s campus and sharing space with the LTU Collaboratory, we are able to connect startups and entrepreneurs with resources and funding available to grow their business.  We offer workshops and counseling through Oakland County’s One Stop Business Center for entrepreneurs.  We connect startups to local and state economic development partners, and promote their business  

To connect with Jeffrey Granat and Oakland County Michigan Works! Southfield, call 248-796-4578 or fax 248-796-3508.


Centrepolis Advocate Profile: Tanya Markos-Vanno

Tanya Markos-Vanno | City of Southfield

Tanya Markos-Vanno is one of the City of Southfield’s most visible movers and shakers—she is continually making appearances at events around the city and leading the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce in creating connections that drive and strengthen our local businesses.

How would you describe your current role?  

The Executive Director acts as the chief executive and administrative officer of the Chamber and oversees all the functions of the office and the organization, serving as coordinator, advisor, membership recruiter, and member advocate.

What do you like about working in Southfield?  

I love the City of Southfield! It is such a diverse community and the people who live, work and play here are all very welcoming. I’ve never felt so at home in a city.

How long has your company been located in Southfield? 

The Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce has been in existence since 1953.

How does your company benefit from being in Southfield?

We couldn’t ask for a better partner – The City of Southfield.

What is your relationship with Southfield Centrepolis? 

The Southfield Area Chamber considers the city of Southfield a partner and we wish to support their vision of Southfield Centrepolis. This SmartZone will help build commerce and connect businesses, both of which are goals of the Chamber. Whether these supported businesses are members or not, it is our business to create connections and support those who are, through endeavors such as Southfield Centrepolis.

How are you supporting the growth and success of startups? 

The Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce is a full-service Chamber representing the cities of Southfield and Lathrup Village. By consolidating resources from several hundred businesses (large and small), the Chamber works collectively to support our members as we build a healthy economy and improve the quality of life in the greater Southfield community. Our relevant and informative initiatives and programs are designed with our members’ input and through partnerships with local businesses. We host monthly mixers, educational series and other relevant programs that help our small businesses and entrepreneurs continue success. We create connections, business owners can call on us for anything related to business and we will happily put them in touch with the resources right for them.

Centrepolis Advocate Profile: Rochelle Freeman


Rochelle Freeman (“Shelly”) is truly the spirit of Southfield—she is everywhere, knows everyone, and is always doing something that is focused on supporting Southfield’s business community.

Shelly helps retain, expand, and attract businesses citywide, emphasizing innovation and entrepneurship, as Southfield becomes a booming business center, and home to the Southfield Centrepolis SmartZone. She cultivates entrepreneurship in Southfield by creating jobs and workforce training opportunities in diversified business sectors for Southfield residents.

Her role is to promote Southfield, locally, regionally, nationally and globally, and represent the city as an innovative and advanced place, by reinforcing the strengths of our diverse residential, educational, cultural, and business communities.

What do you like about working in Southfield?

Southfield is home to the best and brightest talent and companies in the world. Our companies develop and produce products that are revolutionizing society, and many times I have an opportunity to see the future before it happens. I’m in awe of the expertise that is housed in our community, including leaders in autonomous vehicles development, artificial reality, harnessing big data and the like. It’s an exciting time!

What is your relationship with Southfield Centrepolis?

The State of Michigan created the Michigan SmartZone network to connect universities, industries, research organizations, government, and other community institutions to stimulate the growth of technology-based businesses and jobs. Southfield has been partnered with the Automation Alley district since its inception in 2003, and initially utilized our funding stream to support the infrastructure needs of the American Centre business park.

Today, the American Centre business park with Lawrence Technological University (LTU) is known as Southfield Centrepolis. The City of Southfield and LTU seized an opportunity to create a hub of innovation concurrent to our approval of a 15-year extension from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for the SmartZone designation. I work to continue and support this mission.

Where do you see Southfield Centrepolis in the next 15 years?

Southfield Centrepolis is and will be home to many innovative and hi-tech companies. The LTU Collaboratory and Lawrence Technological University will be the go to place for all Michigan second-stage businesses and intrapreneurs seeking to accelerate their companies to the next level.

What changes would you like to see?

Southfield realizes that we must invest in the physical environment, creating a sense of place, to attract, engage, and retain knowledge and skilled workers. We need to continue to invest in our infrastructure and placemaking to enhance the American Centre business park making it more walkable, with amenities for the businesses. We will work to enhance the area with better signage and reach out to more retail establishments.

How are you supporting the growth and success of startups?

The Southfield SmartZone is built on partnerships. Partnerships include both public and private organizations, which depend upon local business people for leadership. These established partnerships play an important role in the delivery of workforce and economic development activities in the SmartZone. Existing partnerships include the State of Michigan, Oakland County, Lawrence Technological University, and Automation Alley.

These partnerships are leveraged to attract new investment, strengthen the existing business environment, and leverage funding opportunities. The LTU Collaboratory is a hands-on, regional resource center at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield fostering business growth and economic vitality. We assist entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and second stage start-ups in growing and launching their ideas through education, resources, networking, mentoring, and connection to funding sources, all in our state-of-the-art collaborative environment for innovation.

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