Maria LaLonde

Recruiting and Development Leader, Bizdom

Maria LaLonde-editedMaria LaLonde is the recruiting and development leader for Bizdom, a startup accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch, fund and grow innovative web and tech-based startups in Detroit and Cleveland.  Her role is to raise awareness about Bizdom in the community and vet candidates for its accelerator.  She also advocates for the startup community, mentors and connects entrepreneurs to available resources.

LaLonde is a serial entrepreneur who has founded businesses in the recruiting, automotive and real estate industries.  She has a bachelor’s degree in communication from Michigan State University.

Eric Larson

President and CEO, Larson Realty Group

Eric_LarsonEric Larson is president and CEO of Larson Realty Group, a privately owned company based out of Bloomfield Hills. He is also the former co-managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services LLC, and still collaborates with the Detroit-based full service real estate firm specializing in the purchasing, leasing, development and managing of commercial space.

Larson also served as non-executive president for Olympia Development of Michigan. In addition, Larson has founded, and is serving as the president of the Community Investment Support Fund (CISF) which is a Michigan nonprofit corporation. The primary purpose of CISF is to promote economic development and the creation of wealth and job opportunities in low-income communities.

Saundra Little

Founding Partner, Centric Design Studio

Saundra Little-editedSaundra Little is a founding partner of Centric Design Studio, an architecture firm that merges architecture and graphic design practices to bolster sustainable urban revitalization in post-industrial cities like Detroit.

An eco-centric architect with more than 14 years of experience in architecture, graphic design and project management, Little has focused on sustainability, community planning, project energy assessments, urban design and merging architectural and graphic design in her practice. Most recently she has been pioneering a holistic restructuring of their firms design process to embrace building information modeling (BIM) and sustainability.

Little served as president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in Detroit from 2010-2012, fostering communications and fellowship among minority architects. She has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in architecture, both from Lawrence Technological University.

Christy McDonald

MiWeek Anchor, Detroit Public Television

Christy McDonald-editChristy McDonald is the anchor and moderator of MiWeek, a weekly news and political analysis show on WTVS – Detroit’s PBS. McDonald also anchors WTVS special coverage including the Mackinac Policy Conference and the Great Lakes Conference.  She has appeared on PBS NewsHour several times reporting on Detroit’s financial crisis.

As an Emmy award-winning anchor and reporter, McDonald connected with Detroit viewers for 10 years on WXYZ-TV on the big stories, from 9/11 in New York to political corruption in the city of Detroit.  She has also received reporting honors from the Associated Press and Michigan Association of Broadcasters for anchoring and breaking news coverage.

McDonald has a bachelor’s degree in political philosophy from Michigan State University’s James Madison College.

Kurt Metzger

Mayor, Pleasant Ridge; Director Emeritus, Data Driven Detroit

Kurt Metzger-editedKurt Metzger is the director emeritus at Data Driven Detroit (D3), a group that’s mission is to provide accessible high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making that will strengthen communities in Southeast Michigan. Funded by the Skillman and Kresge Foundations, D3’s charge is to develop a “centralized” data repository that will facilitate a variety of research, education and service programs designed to improve the understanding of population and housing patterns in metropolitan Detroit and urban America.

Prior to his role at D3, Metzger spent 15 years with the U.S. Census Bureau in the Detroit Regional Office. He also served as a senior research analyst with the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University and the research director for United Way in Detroit.

Spencer Olinek

Business Development Manager, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation

Spencer Olinek-editedSpencer Olinek is a business development manager with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). In his role, he oversees the DEGC’s convening of the Detroit Business Support Network (DBSN) as well as the Network’s steering committee.

In addition to the DBSN, Olinek has worked on projects including 7.2 SQ MI, an ongoing project to capture and report on Greater Downtown Detroit, the progress that has been achieved, and the ongoing needs for the included neighborhoods. He has also spent time working on DEGC legislative and policy, and downtown strategy efforts.

Olinek has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan.

Bill Pulte

Chairman, Detroit Blight Authority

Bill PulteBill Pulte serves as the Chairman of the Detroit Blight Authority, a Michigan non-profit corporation focused on neighborhood stabilization through mass trash and debris clearing within Detroit’s 135 square miles. Dedicated to fighting blight in a more efficient manner, the group greatly reduced the cost of tearing a down an abandoned home to less than $5,000.

Pulte is the CEO of Pulte Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused exclusively on building products, and Chairman of the Board of Carstin Brands, a Pulte Capital portfolio company and one of the largest kitchen and bath countertop manufacturers in the United States. Prior to starting Pulte Capital Partners, he worked as an investment professional at two middle market private equity firms.

A graduate of Northwestern University, Pulte has served as president of the Northwestern University Club of Detroit and on the board of both the Northwestern University Alumni Association board and The Community House in Birmingham, Michigan. He was recently named to the Forbes “30 Under 30,” a list of 450 “young game-changers in 15 industries who are changing the world.”

Enroll by Dec. 23 for health coverage to begin on Jan. 1!

Consumers who intend to buy individual health insurance coverage (i.e., coverage not through an employer) have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1.  This extension was made in response to technical problems experienced by those initially using the website, which is also known as the Marketplace.  This deadline also applies to businesses obtaining coverage effective Jan. 1 through the federal SHOP Marketplace.  Dec. 15 was the original deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

In order to be enrolled in a health plan, the first month’s premium must be paid on time.  The deadline to submit the first month’s premium payment for coverage beginning Jan. 1 was recently extended to Jan. 10. For more information on this extension, click here. Always be sure to check with your prospective insurance companies about your payment due date.

For several reasons, you may wish to work with an agent or broker in order to find a plan that works for you, your family, and/or your business.  For tips on how to find a trustworthy, and qualified, agent or broker, click here.

Although Dec. 23 is the deadline to sign up for coverage which will begin on Jan. 1, Individual and SHOP Marketplace open enrollment will extend through Mar. 31, 2014.  Those who enroll by this date will not incur Individual Mandate penalties.

Additional related resources:

For the latest health care reform news and information, or to ask a question, visit

Make Detroit the ‘salsa city’

From: The Detroit News

By: Sandy Baruah 

December 20, 2013

When you think of Detroit, you think cars. You think Motown. You think, salsa?

Well, you should. Thirty-one percent of the nation’s fresh salsa is made by Ferndale’s Garden Fresh Gourmet — a little-known fact that highlights the transformative power of small businesses and speaks to the uniquely entrepreneurial spirit in the Detroit region.

That spirit was on full display this week as Garden Fresh Gourmet Vice Chairman Dave Zilko and food entrepreneurs from Detroit’s emerging food economy discussed opportunity, investment and small business growth at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Annual Meeting and Holiday Reception at Eastern Market. The broader conversation about the climate for small business growth will be one of the most important underlying narratives as Detroit emerges from bankruptcy in 2014.

Post-bankruptcy Detroit must be a city where entrepreneurs can access capital and thrive free of obstacles and over-regulation. Like cities across the nation, Detroit relies on small businesses as a determining factor of its economic strength. Cities with successful small businesses grow robustly, cities that don’t, struggle. Small businesses take root in neighborhoods bringing opportunity, investment and jobs to their communities. Successful ones, like Garden Fresh, grow into their home city’s largest employers. While large corporations often dominate the headlines, it is small businesses that drive growth, one job at a time.

There are more than 5,500 small businesses in the city of Detroit. Five percent of those have revenues exceeding $1 million, with nearly 50 percent of them employing between five and 10 employees. The more these small businesses grow, the more investment and jobs are created in the surrounding neighborhood — it’s a virtuous cycle.

As head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) under President George W. Bush, I saw firsthand the economic impact of start-up businesses. I saw the benefits of getting small business growth right, and the missed opportunities as a result of getting it wrong. Detroit’s unique entrepreneurial spirit and legacy of innovative small businesses peaked my interest in working with the Detroit region’s business community. It’s what brought Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs to town with their 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative. It’s why the chamber is ramping up its efforts to support small businesses.

With nearly 90 percent of its membership comprised of small businesses with 50 employees or fewer, the Chamber is working to remove obstacles to growth, such as cumbersome regulations, and increasing access to capital. Our organization is collaborating with impactful organizations such as the SBA and Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, as well as efforts such as the 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative to ensure small business can access the resources needed to achieve sustainable growth. This will remain one of the chamber’s highest priorities in 2014, as we work with legislators to promote policy that supports small business growth.

Sustainable economic growth requires an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can thrive and do what they do best. Small businesses have the unique ability to drive the innovation that can make a Motor City, a Salsa City.

SME Donates Hundreds of Toys through Toy for Tots

A country built on and known for innovation, the United States is now facing its most serious shortage of workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since the 1950s. In manufacturing alone, it is anticipated that there will be 6 million unfilled jobs by 2020. Mindful that a foundation for the future must be put in place today, SME, a nonprofit organization that advances manufacturing, is handing out nearly 600 educational toys to children in the Detroit area this holiday season.

In a national survey of more than 4,000 scientists and graduate students in the fields of chemistry and physics, researchers found that 70% reported they had become interested in science before high school. Additional statistics illustrate a declining interest in math and science as children advance in school.

When offered STEM classes in middle school, nearly 20% of students opt in. However, when STEM curriculum is offered
to high school students, only 14% choose to participate showing that it is critical to inspire and engage children’s natural curiosity early and often.

“We need to engage children sooner and in more robust ways. We cannot count on school alone,” said Dennis Bray, SME 2013 president. “Playtime, in fact, offers an ideal opportunity to encourage kids to have fun with concepts related to STEM. Promoting early connections is vital to later educational and vocational interest in the manufacturing field.”

SME’s educational toy donation also aims to address a shortage of women in the traditionally male-dominated field.

Currently, women make up less than 25% of the U.S. manufacturing industry workforce, 11% of executive officers in manufacturing and only 2% of CEOs.

“Toys, including those we are donating from educational toy leader Fat Brain Toys, make science-based learning exciting and entertaining for both boys and girls,” added Bray. “Opportunities, including in the area of high-tech manufacturing, are only growing. From teachers and students, to parents and organizations such as SME, we all need to put maximum effort toward developing a pipeline of 21st-century workers who know how to make things.”

The toys will also direct children to the website to further explore the importance of making things. This award-winning site is sponsored by the SME Educational Foundation which provides grants and scholarships to inspire, prepare and support children’s interest in STEM fields.

SME is delivering the educational toys this holiday season to area children though the River Rouge Toys for Tots distribution center, located at the Walter White Elementary and Community Resource Center, 550 Eaton, River Rouge. SME’S donation is valued at more than $15,000.

About SME

SME connects all those who are passionate about making things that improve our world. As a nonprofit organization, SME has served practitioners, companies, educators, government and communities across the manufacturing spectrum for more than 80 years. Through its strategic areas of events, media, membership, training and development, and the SME Education Foundation, SME is uniquely dedicated to advancing manufacturing by addressing both knowledge and skill needs for industry. At SME, we are making the future. Together.