Category: Business Development

Configit Inc. to Open Office in Southfield in December

Configit Inc. is the newest upcoming company to join the thousands of successful corporations in Centrepolis, the Southfield SmartZone. As a Danish configuration software product company, Configit works with manufacturers to build configuration solutions and help them get products or services to the market faster.

With its new facility, the company hopes to grow its U.S. presence and broaden its impact in the automotive industry. The business will be opening its doors in American Center in December. The new office, which will house a U.S.-based software product development team, will bring approximately 51 positions to the area in a variety of roles, including sales, marketing, R&D and consulting, as well as an estimated total capital investment of $803,000.

Driving Success

As the decision was made to expand its U.S. presence, Configit identified three cities as potential hosts to the new office.  The company works with various large manufacturers, including global Fortune 500 companies such as Volvo and Johnson Controls.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently used $2.8 million in Michigan Strategic Fund grants for capital projects to create an influx of jobs in southeast Michigan. Configit was one of only five companies chosen to receive the grant, which is estimated to create 444 jobs in total. Due to its estimated employment creation and growth, Configit was supported by the state with a $365,000 performance-based grant and expedited permitting.

Michigan public official recently visited the Configit headquarters in Copenhagen to discuss its move to Detroit and its role in the automotive industry.

“We’re pleased Configit has chosen Southfield as the location for its software product development team in the United States,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “Oakland County is connecting many of its 2,000+ IT companies operating here through our Tech248 initiative and a global company such as Configit fits perfectly into the strategy.”

Want to learn more about what Configit, Inc. has to offer? Visit their website or LinkedIn, for further information and job listings. For other news, follow them on Twitter, and Facebook.

LTU Collaboratory Prepares Hardware Innovators for Accelerate Michigan Competition

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition gives Michigan entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their innovations to investors while connecting with other entrepreneurs and experts in their field. The winners of the competition are awarded capital funding and acceleration resources to help bring their business idea to market.

The LTU Collaboratory helps small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs scale-up for success as part of the Southfield Centrepolis SmartZone to foster local economic development. To prepare local businesses for the upcoming competition, they hosted a workshop on August 7.

The workshop was designed to review requirements and answer questions about the competition, as well as provide insight on the hardware startup community and what it takes to achieve success. Two LTU Collaboratory experts led the workshop—exposing attendees to resources, trends, and success stories. Mark Brucki is equipped with experience in entrepreneurial and academic research while Dan Radomski brings a strong background in entrepreneurship, commercialization of hardware technologies, and manufacturing.

Achieving Innovation in Hardware

The turnout of the workshop reflected the state of the hardware startup market. This next generation of innovators is a diverse group of people from different demographics, backgrounds, and stages of life, and some LTU students are even bringing ideas forward! Entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses are thinking of consumer products that make life more convenient by adding intelligence to hardware through sensors, wireless connections, remote functionality, etc.

However, commercializing these ideas comes with complex challenges that require support from people with experience who can help navigate business plans and product designs. That’s where the LTU Collaboratory comes in.

“It helps to have a product that has intellectual property and patents to protect against knock-off products and competition,” says Radomski. He continues that “the most important thing is trying to create as lean of a design as early on as possible. What happens too often is the first generation [design] isn’t optimized for cost reduction, durability, reliability, environment, shipping, transportation, customer use, and serviceability.”

Creating a physical prototype product often sets entrepreneurs in a loop of enhancing design, which can drain these companies of funds and cause investors and early customers to lose interest. “The critical design and engineering work is one of the biggest hurdles,” Radomski states.

 Accelerate Michigan Hardware Prize

 The Southfield Centrepolis/LTU Collaboratory, Automation Alley, and other Michigan SmartZones are partnering to support the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in an effort to improve Michigan’s economy, create local jobs, and position our state as a destination for innovation.

The $10,000 cash grant for best Hardware Innovation Company at the competition also includes:

  • LTU Collaboratory Accelerator Program (valued at $10,000)
  • Competitive Industry 4.0 Transformation Company Growth Assessment by Automation Alley
  • Lean Design Product Assessment by Munro & Associates 
  • Supply Chain Partner introductions by PlanetM

Looking to enhance your hardware innovation or compete in the competition? Watch the workshop online and connect with the LTU Collaboratory for incredible support services and resources. 

10 Steps to Get Your Startup Idea Funded in Michigan

Getting an idea funded and off the ground is one of the biggest challenges startup entrepreneurs face. It’s not enough just to have a million-dollar idea, you need to be prepared for and knowledgeable about all the variables that banks, angel investors, venture capital firms, and funding and grant organizations need to know.

Further, you need to make your product compelling and understand how to strategically sell your idea and position it as an innovation. While some startup ideas may require a small amount of funding that could be acquired through “bootstrapping”, crowdsourcing, or micro-lending, most ventures will require a substantial amount of money in order to gain traction and take off.

In Michigan, there is a high level of collaboration between investor and entrepreneurs which is inspiring greater economic growth than other states. In fact, Michigan is ranked number one for the amount of money we invest in research.

Investors are out there, but before pursuing the funding you need, go through the following ten steps in order to set yourself up for success.

1. Research Your Market & Competition

Where does your product fit? Once your startup idea is well-developed, it’s crucial to find out if and where it has a place in the market. Do your research, figure out what industry your product falls into and gain visibility over the competitive landscape. Identify your top competitors and figure out the root of their success—innovation, high-quality materials, excellent customer services, industry expertise, etc. Then figure out how your product can be better than the competition through a SWOT analysis. During research, resources like the Southfield Business Catalyst can connect you with data on the business climate, industry trends, customers, competition, and more.

2. Gather Legal Information

Is your product unique? Determine if your product is patentable and can be produced without infringement. Start by doing a preliminary patent search then look into regulatory issues and legal steps to take. You’ll also want to do a trademark search when deciding on what to name your product and/or company. Legal issues can cost a lot of money, so it’s important that you ensure your product will not cross any legal boundaries.

3. Understand Production Details

How will you build your product? Getting a general sense of the production process and involvement is a big part of funding. You’ll need to know the intricacies of your invention and whether it will require specialized materials or unique manufacturing techniques.

4. Identify Your Audience

Who will buy your product? Establish your target audience in as much detail as possible, including specific regions and demographics such as gender, age, ethnicity, profession, family structure, etc. It’s helpful to run some form of focus group testing on your product to see if your audience is indeed interested and inclined to buy.

5. Establish a Powerful Message

How will you sell your product? It important to have a clear story that maintains consistency across all communications in order to establish a powerful brand message. Your audience and investors want to know why you are in business (your mission), how your idea supports your mission (your approach), and what unique benefits your product will offer (your difference).

6. Build a Prototype

What will your product look like? Your product design should be developed from sketches, to a virtual prototype/CAD, to a 3D physical prototype. It’s easier to sell an idea when you have something investors can touch and experience. You may need to engage a prototype designer, engineer, or manufacturer who can help develop your design using 3-D printing or other materials to produce a model. Incubators and accelerators like the LTU Collaboratory can help you develop and validate your design.

7. Create a Sell Sheet

Why should someone invest in your idea? After researching and defining your market, legal assets, production details, audience, and message, you should distill it down into a one- or two-page document that outlines all key details. These details might include: The problem your product solves, your products feature and benefits, your product’s market, and the legal status on your invention (patent pending, trademark, etc.). You should be equipped with a sell sheet anytime you are engaging a prospect investor.

8. Find the Right Prospects

Who should you ask for funding? Beyond doing your homework about your business, you need to make sure you are talking to the right people. Start by compiling a list of 30-50 prospects by utilizing online resources about the investment community in your region like the Michigan Venture Capital Association Landscape Guide and Landscape Map.

9. Look for Opportunities

How will you get in front of investors? There are lots of events and opportunities to connect with investors and other entrepreneurs across Southeast Michigan.

Events like the Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship bring together hundreds of local entrepreneurs, investors, and support professionals in the Great Lakes region to network, participate in breakout sessions, and compete in the ACE Challenge. You can also find seminars and round-table discussion about trends in technology and the startup world, such at the LTU Collaboratory’s frequent “Tech Tuesday” meetings and workshops.

Even if you don’t establish any leads at these events, practicing pitching your idea will help you gather feedback and continue to refine your story and sell sheet for future opportunities.

10. Know How to Negotiate

How will you secure the capital you need to succeed? The key to a good negotiation is knowing all the costs associated with starting your business venture and the numbers behind them. You should also draft the investment terms that are non-negotiable. Once you have financials and terms established, it all comes down to being able to sell your idea with confidence, backed by everything you’ve acquired in steps 1-9.

Need help navigating some of these steps? The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has a network of SmartZones across Michigan focused on helping entrepreneurs develop technology and bring their ideas to market.

State of the City Address: Southfield to “Reinvest & Renew”

This year’s Southfield State of the City Address, hosted by the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce and presented by St. John Providence, was held on March 19 at the Shriner’s Silver Garden Event Center in Southfield.

Southfield city officials and business professionals gathered to hear Mayor Kenson Siver share the city’s successes in 2017 and initiatives for 2018. Among the attendees were representatives from all of the event sponsors—Ascension, Lawrence Technological University, Everstream, TCT, Cybernoor, Motor City Mini, the Better Business Bureau, and Pinnacle.

The event started with a welcoming message and remarks from Tanya Markos-Vanno, Executive Director of the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, who highlighted the organization’s recent achievements, which included 21 ribbon-cutting ceremonies, 44 events, and 68 new members.

Health & Wellness

The next speaker was Joe Hurshe, President of St. John Providence Hospital, who shared some exciting investments and innovations the health system is developing. To date, the Southfield hospital has been awarded the designation of a Top 100 Hospitals in the U.S. for the tenth year in a row—an honor that speaks volumes to the expertise and customer service they provide. Providence Hospital continues to grow, with new services lines and programs like Mobile Units that will provide mammography, heart, and vascular screenings.

Hurshe also emphasized the fact that Providence is a regionally and nationally preferred academic teaching center, with 16 different residencies, fellowships, and research programs that are connected to Michigan State University, Lawrence Technological University, and the American University of the Caribbean.

Additionally, another local health system, Beaumont Health, has just purchased an office building on Northwestern Highway in order to consolidate its support operations.

Lathrup Village

Following Hurshe, Kelly Garrett, the first African American Mayor of Lathrup Village, talked about ways in which her city is supporting their community and the City of Southfield.

There are new officials in place that will help Lathrup continue to thrive, including Sheryl Mitchell, the new City Administrator, and Scott McKee, the new Police Chief. Lathrup Village’s current developments include constructing the residential Townhomes of Lathrup and the expansion of The Michigan First Credit Union, which will add 100 new jobs to the area.


When it was time for the formal State of the City Address, Mayor Siver shared that Southfield is focused on reinvesting in and renewing the city.

The first topic was construction and renovation projects. With a $30.3 million budget, the city is venturing to repave 246 miles of local roads, including Eleven Mile, Nine Mile, Evergreen Road, Lahser Road, and Franklin Road. Planned construction for the year will also roll out across housing, business development, and efforts to enhance the community.


Southfield has always worked to maintain attractive, safe neighborhoods for its residents and continues to pursue projects that support the beautification and safety of these spaces, in order to drive out blight.

To do this, the City wants to improve public infrastructure, raise property values, and assist homeowners and renters with yard care. Programs that support these efforts include Oakland Rebuilding Together, Habitat for Humanity – Rock the Block, the Southfield Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (SNRI), and the Big Rake—a neighborhood clean-up effort that last year brought together 350 volunteers to rake 120 yards in six days!

Additionally, Spring Haven Apartments is a new residential building under construction and will provide more luxury apartment living options in Southfield.

Business Development

The Southfield Town Center is undergoing $56 million in renovations this year, with upgrades that include parking structure and infrastructure repairs, as well as modern design makeovers of the lobbies and a new conference center.

The Southfield Westin Hotel just completed the reconstruction of guest rooms, meeting rooms, and public spaces. Likewise, the Best Western Premier Hotel (the venue for last year’s State of the City Address) is now a destination for business travelers and business meetings or conferences after $3.6 million in upgrades to the hotel and the restaurant (which is now called The Nomad Grill). Additionally, a $6 million, 20,000 sq.-ft. Southfield Conference Center is to be built on 12 Mile, just east of Inkster Road.

Adding to those developments, more than 17 new businesses joined the Southfield business district. Vibe Credit Union built a new store in the City Centre, Kroger just completed a $1.6 million renovation, and New Seoul Garden is working on a total remodel and will reopen later this year. Further, automotive and technology giants Stefanini, Autoliv, and Lear have expanded operations in Southfield.

One of the biggest and most exciting redevelopments is that of Northland Mall! This complicated undertaking has made huge advancements in demolition and unraveling the 33 property easements placed on the space (they are down to one easement!). The city is also stockpiling dirt that will fill the old shipment tunnels beneath the complex. Among other businesses that are considering moving into the new Northland space, St. John Providence Hospital will a 30-acre site for their new Pacific Medical Building.


This year marks the City of Southfield’s 60th Anniversary! To promote Southfield and engage the community, the City will be putting on some of its signature events including the Summer Soulstice Fun Run, the Corporate Challenge, Eat to the Beat, Jazz & Blues, and A Taste of Southfield.

Recent recreational improvements to Southfield include a pedestrian loop that adds more walkable space to the community, a bike-sharing program with seven locations around the city (LTU, Civic Center, Marriot Courtyard, Town Center, City Centre), and the Red Pole Park public art installation along Northwestern Highway.

Southfield is also increasing the presence of public art throughout the city, and after securing 18 pieces of artwork from Northland Mall. ‘The Pioneer Family II’ sculpture has been installed at the Mary Thompson Farm, the ‘Soral Elrog’ sculpture has been put in the south garden of the Municipal Building, and The Boulder Garden at Carpenter Lake is under construction.

While there were many more announcements and impressive accomplishments shared in the 2018 State of the City Address, the idea that Southfield is actively working to ‘Reinvest & Renew’ is the inspiring thought that makes us excited for what’s to come!

Helping Southfield Entrepreneurs Succeed with New ‘Business Catalyst’

Home to over 10,000 businesses, the City of Southfield proudly works to support organizations of any size. That’s why the Southfield Business Development department publicly launched an online resource focused on entrepreneurs and small businesses this past month.

The Southfield Business Catalyst is an online tool that provides information about the local economy, customers, competition, and other market data to help business ventures make effective business decisions.

Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver commented on the tool, saying, “It can be challenging for new businesses and entrepreneurs to find the correct resources and information they need to create effective business plans.” He continues, “The Southfield Business Catalyst will address these challenges by providing the most current data available in one convenient place.”

Filled with a wide variety of easily accessible, up-to-date market data, the interactive toolkit is a comprehensive resource for anyone entering the market. Information segments available at entrepreneurs’ fingertips include:

  • Industry trends
  • Zoning controls
  • Available properties
  • Business climate
  • Customers
  • Competition
  • Workforce
  • Local Opportunities

“This online toolbox will give small businesses access to information about the Southfield market, providing entrepreneurs with tools to make educated business decisions,” stated Rochelle Freeman, Southfield’s Business and Economic Development Director. “We know this information will be an asset to help business owners thrive in Southfield.”

Southfield Centrepolis continues to work collaboratively with the City of Southfield, the LTU Collaboratory, and Lawrence Technological University to create an environment of success for businesses both big and small.

By empowering entrepreneurs with the Business Catalyst, Southfield’s business community and the local economy will continue to thrive. Mayor Siver expresses, “We’re excited to offer this toolbox and want entrepreneurs to know that Southfield is open for business!”

Explore the Southfield Business Catalyst online at To learn more, contact Southfield’s Business and Economic Development Director, Rochelle Freeman at 248.796.4161 or

Meet the Winners of the Excellence in Southfield Awards

The City of Southfield is home to over 10,000 businesses, including more than 100 “Fortune 500” companies. In order to recognize Southfield businesses and individuals who have stood out and demonstrated best practices in business leadership and community service, the Southfield Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual Excellence in Southfield Awards and Reception Ceremony.

The 2017 winners were announced at the ceremony on Thursday, November 30 at the Westin Hotel in Southfield. Meet the winners below and learn why they have become visible members of the Southfield business community.

“Company to Watch” Award — Autoliv

Autoliv is the world’s largest automotive safety supplier, and the company continues to innovate, which is the main reason they received the Company to Watch Award.

In the world of automotive occupant safety, Autoliv was the first to introduce the two- and three-point seat belt system and airbags for front and side impacts. They were the first to launch pyrotechnic belt pretensioners and pedestrian protection systems. Autoliv also produces active safety systems, including brake control systems, radar, night vision and camera vision systems.

Additionally, Autoliv’s vision of Saving More Lives is the guiding principle to more than 70,000 associates in 27 countries. Each year, their products save over 30,000 lives and prevent ten times as many severe injuries.

Recently, Autoliv also announced that they will be building a new Tech Center in Southfield, which will employ about 250 new workers.


What does your company do and where exactly are you located?

We are the world’s largest Automotive Safety Supplier. Globally, we are headquartered in Sweden, but Southfield is our North American Headquarters for the Electronics Group.

How is your company innovative?

We make innovative automotive safety products including Radar Systems, Night Vision Systems, Camera Systems and Autonomous Driving Systems

What do you like about doing business in Southfield?

We like Southfield because it is growing, it supports the businesses in the city. Additionally, it has Lawrence Technological University, and we hire students for internships and full time employees when they graduate from there.

What do the next five years of your company look like, what are your goals?

We are growing in the next five years. We are building a brand new technical center that will house all of our Southfield employees—currently, we are in four different buildings.

What is the best way to get in contact with your company?

Our website has a lot of great information and contacts.


“Sustainability” Award — JVS

JVS is a Southfield-based human services organization founded over 75 years ago to help people realize their life’s potential. In the realm of sustainability, the agency has two “green” initiatives, eCycle Opportunities and the JVS Green Team, which aim to leave a zero footprint within their organization and the greater metropolitan Detroit community.

The eCycle Opportunities (ECO) is a JVS subsidiary, which recycles electronics to ensure that electronic parts and components are kept out of landfills and safely recycled to protect the environment, as well as individuals’/businesses’ personal and private data. This venture has collected nearly 400,000 pounds of electronics from more than 1,000 consumers and organizations.

The JVS Green Team initiative has also been a great success. The agency has collected approximately 1,000 pounds of materials and is on target to collect 12,000 pounds or six tons of pulp and paper recyclables over the next year.


What does your company do and where exactly are you located?

Helping metropolitan Detroiters realize life’s potential, JVS is an award-winning nonsectarian human services organization with four main locations in the metro area. Through a variety of programs designed to help people maximize their self-sufficiency, the agency helps job seekers jumpstart their job searches, provides meaningful programs for people with disabilities and helps seniors remain active and engaged.

How is your company innovative?

ECO was launched with three goals: keep e-waste out of landfills, provide jobs for people with barriers to employment, and create revenue for mission-based services.

ECO has recycled more than 200 tons of electronics since its launch in 2015. The electronics brought into ECO are dismantled and the commodities are sold. All proceeds from the program are recycled back into the community by supporting our agency’s programs to help people with disabilities lead fulfilling lives. For more info, visit

What do you like about doing business in Southfield?

The Chamber of Commerce is very helpful and supportive of Southfield businesses and organizations, and has been instrumental in helping us make mutually beneficial connections.

What do the next five years of your company look like, what are your goals?

JVS is currently in the beginning stages of updating our strategic plan. However, we can share eCycle Opportunities’ 2018 goal: to collect and recycle 300,000 pounds of electronics from local consumers, school districts, businesses and organizations. ECO hopes to achieve this goal with new and expanded partnerships with businesses and organizations in Southfield who need to recycle their outdated technology assets. By partnering with ECO, they can be environmentally responsible while also making a difference in the lives of people served by JVS.

What is the best way to get in contact with your company?

Call the main JVS phone number at (248) 559-5000, or visit our website at


“Business Innovation” Award —Stefanini

Stefanini is a technology company offering IT services to businesses in many different sectors and industries. As technology continually changes, constant innovation serves to be their differentiator. With the accumulation of data on the back-end, intelligent solutions will help them continue to thrive, evolve and continuously improve customer services as well as the customer experience.

Stefanini also recently opened the Stefanini Innovation Center in Southfield Centrepolis. This will be a major contribution to the business community, which will improve Southfield’s position as a global business destination.

Learn more about Stefanini on their website.


“Chamber Member of the Year” Award—University of Phoenix

Over this past year, the University of Phoenix has demonstrated excellence in its approach to community and corporate giving by opening its doors and classroom resources to the Southfield community at no cost.  Also, the University of Phoenix staff has volunteered to ensure that all organizations using our facilities are accommodated.

The University of Phoenix has had two Southfield Chamber BNG groups meeting at our Southfield Main Campus. Several other community groups use their location for meetings. This includes: The Southfield Area Rotary Club, Execunet, South East Michigan Entrepreneur Association, local Entrepreneurs, and other business leaders.

Dr. Jan Cardwell also serves on the Board of Directors and Succession Committee and has dedicated her time to the success of this great Chamber.


What does your company do and where exactly are you located?

The University of Phoenix provides opportunities for adult learners to complete their higher education goals. We provide bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs. The University of Phoenix–Detroit Main Campus is headquartered in Southfield at 26261 Evergreen.

How is your company innovative?

The University of Phoenix is the premier forerunner of online or virtual learning, which has changed the entire landscape of how students complete their higher education.

What do you like about doing business in Southfield?

Our Southfield location is in Southeast Michigan. This provides opportunities for students and the community to use our centralized headquarters.

What do the next five years of your company look like, what are your goals?

We are an online university. Over the next five years as virtual learning gains more popularity, the University will reduce our local footprint for learning and increase our Alumni community outreach.

 What is the best way to get in contact with your company?

Connect with our local contacts: Dr. Jan Cardwell, Detroit Campus VP/Director at or 248.675.3721; and Dominika Lazarska, Campus Operations Manager at Dominika.lazarska@phoenix.ediu48.675.3701 or 248.675.3701.


“Commitment to Community” Award — HAP

HAP has always contributed and participated in Southfield community initiatives. The company has sponsored and supported many Chamber events and activities and is more than willing to provide us with experts to speak about health related topics. HAP also offers free aquatics and exercise classes for people 65 and over at the Southfield community center.

HAP was a participator and leader in the Inaugural Southfield Community Cup Challenge this year. This initiative gave way for more engagement of HAP employees in the community; it provided an opportunity to give back to the community via food drive, engage with other companies in Southfield area and promote healthy habits through weekly events. Tamara Duby-Sheanhan and Laura Garman have recently taken leadership roles with the Southfield Young Professionals, with a dedication to growing the group.


What does your company do and where exactly are you located?

Health Alliance Plan (HAP) is a Michigan-based, nonprofit health plan that provides health coverage to individuals, families and companies of all sizes.  HAP’s Southfield office is located at 21700 Northwestern Hwy, between 8 and 9 Mile Roads.

How is your company innovative?

HAP is committed to advocating for quality health care that is accessible and affordable for consumers.  HAP was founded in Michigan in 1960 and continues to be a Michigan-based business.

What do you like about doing business in Southfield?

Headquartered in Detroit, HAP also has offices in Southfield and Flint.  The majority of HAP’s employees are based in the Southfield office.

What do the next five years of your company look like, what are your goals?

Health care and coverage are becoming much more consumer-focused.  HAP is committed to increasing health care literacy among consumers so they are better informed to make decisions with their all-important health care dollars.  HAP will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2020.

What is the best way to get in contact with your company?

On our website or at 855-WITH-HAP (or 855-948-4427).


“Volunteer of the Year” Award —Sheila Byrd

Sheila’s has a passion to help the community—she has been a member of the Southfield Chamber of Commerce for three years and is now an Ambassador for the Chamber. She is really and exceptional individual who is ready and willing to go the extra mile for the Chamber and its members without hesitation.

Sheila loves being a part of the Chamber, working with others committed to helping make Southfield a city where businesses and the community can thrive. Sheila is a Rotarian with the newly charted Southfield Area Rotary Club, focused on the needs of the youth in our area and recently started her own non-profit organization, Angel Life Development, helping the needy develop life-transforming skills.  Her goal in life is to make a positive difference in this world and leave a legacy that her family can continue to carry on into the next generation. The Chamber is lucky to have such a passionate volunteer and recognized

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