Monthly Archives: September 2012

Apple shortage leaves local businesses hanging

Autumn. It’s a time for apple picking, cider and donuts. This season, however, crop may be harder to come by.
A unreasonably warm winter followed by April’s frost took a toll on many apple trees, creating a shortage of the fruit in southeast Michigan. Consequently, orchards and other local companies have been forced to find alternatives to tradition and raise prices.
The orchards of Blakes Farms took a hit from the poor weather. Seventy percent of their apple crops were lost, despite the help of warming fans, forcing the orchard to seek other sources. The orchard hasn’t seen a shortage this bad since their opening in 1946, according to family member Andrew Blake.
Reaching out to farms from the west side of the state as well as other states, including Missouri and West Virginia, Blakes supplemented the apples they had with crops from other farms.
While there are still a lot of apples available and U-Pick remains an option, some of the picking is more limited and apple prices went up by about 25 percent.
“We want people to know we still have everything from previous years,” Blake said. “We’ve still got the apples and the cider, it was just a little more work this year.”
To counteract the apple issues, Blakes added more entertainment at their three locations, including jumping pillows, corn mazes, haunted hayrides and the Zombie Paintball Safari, according to Blake.
He said one of the best lessons from the experience was the importance of diversifying and growing other facets within the business.
Another place to pick up some fall fruits, Yates Cider Mill, gets their apples from local growers. According to co-owner Mike Titus, the mill had to find alternatives after the spring frost killed about 85 percent of their suppliers’ crops.
Networking to receive apples from other areas of Michigan and southern states, Yates has had different varieties of apples this season and eliminated the “bag your own” option. The import led to a price increase in apples and cider. According to Titus, however, the variety and earliness of the crop has led to early cider, as well as different kinds of apples to choose from.
“We have to look at the positive side,” Titus said. “In August, we offered a free half dozen donuts when people bought a dozen donuts and a gallon of cider, to supplement the rise in prices. Overall, it’s been a good start to the season. We still have a variety of Michigan apples.”
Local grocers and businesses have also been impacted by the frost.
In an article for Patch, Dale Hollandsworth, consumer communications spokesperson for Kroger, stated they will still have apples and cider for sale, though there will be less Michigan apple products, as well as a rise in price.
Biggby Coffee, who offers caramel apple cider this time of the year, was also impacted by the loss.
Due to the shortage, costs have doubled for Biggby to purchase apples for cider, so the individual stores have raised the prices on these beverages. While the drink will still be available, Biggby is promoting other autumn-inspired items as well, including drinks like the S’More latte, according to Biggby Public Relations Assistant Katie Koerner.
“We knew as a company that the caramel apple cider is one of the customer favorites,” Koerner said. “We wanted to make our customers happy and still offer it, even though prices are going up.”

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‘Call to lead,’ Anne Doyle speaks at women’s luncheon

On Sept. 12, Auburn Hills councilwoman Anne Doyle visited Meadow Brook Hall and Gardens as guest speaker for the Auburn Hills Chamber-sponsored Women’s Leadership Luncheon. The afternoon included networking and a light lunch provided by Meadow Brook. Doyle spoke and answered questions about the future of women’s leadership, citing her book, “Powering Up!”

The event began with Auburn Hills Chamber Executive Director Denise Asker introducing Doyle and other speakers. Gently used women’s business apparel was collected at registration for the Rochester Area Neighborhood Clothes Closet.

According to Asker, this was the first Chamber-hosted luncheon to have more than 200 people in attendance. Joe Romeo of Embassy Capital, the event sponsor, gave a short speech at the event’s commencement.

Doyle started off discussing the “Call to Lead,” relaying the significance of the luncheon being held in the home of Matilda Dodge, one of the first female Oakland pioneers.

“If you have ever heard the call to leadership, even if it’s a tiny whisper right now, I hope you will listen,” Doyle said. “Because no one is going to invite you, or me, to the leadership dance. We have to invite ourselves and we have to start inviting other women.”

She also said U.S. women won 62 percent of the gold medals in the Olympics, and she discussed the first woman being admitted to Augusta National Golf Club as examples of women’s progress.

Doyle focused on how far women have come as a generation, but also stressed they still need to move up as leaders.

“Here in the United States, where there’s this perception that women are already leading, and talking about women’s progress is really old news, the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that we have been stalled for well over a decade,” Doyle said.

According to Doyle, women need to support one another, rather than compete, to help one another continue to be successful as leaders.

OU alum Betsy Critchfield of Hay There, a social media consultant and management services company for small businesses, attended the luncheon with company creator Emily Hay. Hay There works with many companies including Gardner White and an Ann Arbor-based farm stand charity group and also helped Anne in the promotion of her book.

“I like the generational differences in ‘Powering Up,’” Critchfield said. “They were very true and accurate.”

Doyle discussed her classification of women, which was broken into three groups by generation: “The Pioneering Interlopers,” “The Influential Insiders” and “The I’ll-Do-It-My-Way-Innovators.” She said these women can learn from one another to learn and grow as leaders, though it is up to women to step up and make things happen.

“Change may be inevitable but I know positive social change does not just happen,” Doyle said. “It requires leaders to make it happen- people who have vision to imagine how things can be better, people encouraged to challenge and change the status quo, people with tenacity, who hang in there and persevere when things get tough, because they always do.”

Meadow Brook Hall sings along

The Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong, filmed by Status Creative Co-Founders Jeff Barrett and Rob Bliss, premiered during Sunday’s Detroit Lions football game at halftime. The video featured stops in 50 Michigan cities, with groups of local residents singing “Good Time,” a song by Owl City.

“Michigan really is a good time,” Barrett said. “[Good Time] is a fun, vibrant ong that matches the energy of the state.”

After their success with the “Grand Rapids Lip Dub,” the two wanted to take the

Courtesy of Shannon O’Berski

idea and recognize the entire state. When Barrett and Bliss contacted Pure Michigan about making the video, they agreed, on the condition that the two traveled across the state in just one week, visiting 50 cities on the way. Status Creative did just that.

“I always wanted to do something that showed off our state and I felt this was the most natural way to express it,” Bliss said. “The song and video show how much Michigan has to offer.”

With “no sleep and a fast car,” the two completed the trip and filming from Aug. 19 through 26, according to Bliss. After six weeks of planning, Status Creative teamed with local convention and visitor bureaus each place they went, making the production process run smoothly with most places set and ready to film when they arrived.

The plans allotted an hour to each location, according to Barrett. Visiting everywhere from Mackinac Island to Detroit and even Frankenmuth, one of the team’s stops was close to home.

Part of the video features Meadow Brook Hall, with people dressed in black tie apparel, holding champagne glasses at a dinner party and singing along. Shannon O’Berski, marketing and communications manager for Meadow Brook Hall, played a big role in the planning and execution.

After being contacted by Bliss about participating, O’Berski became project manager and sought out local talent, including staff and many members of the community. Emerald City Designs provided décor for the mansion room, while President Tuxedo of Rochester dressed the participants.

The day of filming, everyone arrived at 8 a.m., and though it was a little overwhelming at times, everyone was very enthusiastic, according to O’Berski. Bliss and Barrett had a vision in mind and finished filming in about an hour.

“It was exciting to be a part of the Pure Michigan Campaign,” O’Berski said. “Rob and Jeff were great to work with. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from both the community and people involved.”

It was Barrett’s first time visiting the mansion and he liked what he saw.

“It was so cool to visit Meadow Brook,” Barrett said. “Rolling up the driveway and stepping into the mansion is like walking into a period film. It’s in a nice area and was one of the coolest experiences of our project; I definitely want to go back sometime.”

The video has already reached over 150,000 views as of Monday, Sept. 10 and was recognized by many people, including the original artist, Owl City, who tweeted, “I LOVE YOU MICHIGAN,” sharing a link to the video and attributing it to the Pure Michigan campaign.

“We really just wanted to show how diverse Michigan is,” Barrett said. “This video shows almost all of the state. When people ask where you’re from, this gives a deeper background than just pointing at your hand.”

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Inc. magazine touts Rochester businesses

Despite the economic recession, 144 Michigan companies, including 89 from the Detroit area, have been named among the fastest growing companies by Inc, a magazine dedicated to entrepreneurs and business owners. The magazine celebrates 5,000 companies and includes Rochester Hills businesses DGE, TTi Global and Aleva Stores.

The 2012 list, featuring 25 industries across the United States, took into account the revenue increases over the past three years of U.S.-based, privately held, for profit and independent companies, according to a release by Inc. The minimum revenue requirement for companies to make the list in 2008 was $100,000, but since 2011 the requirement has changed to $2 million.

Local company DGE, ranked 49 in Detroit, an electrical engineering design and consulting services company, provide to OEMs and auto tier suppliers. Established in 1984, DGE began producing automotive parts, changing their path to the automotive electronics industry in 2004 in order to provide speciality products and services.

This step put them in the right direction towards success, as they made Inc.’s list of the Fastest Growing Companies three times in the past four years.

“It’s important to focus on your strengths, proving to customers that you have a distinguished product they can’t get anywhere else,” said DGE’s COO Stephan Tarnutzer.

According to Tarnutzer, making the list isn’t necessarily the company’s goal, but rather something to make them work harder and achieve more each year; the company’s main goal is providing the products customers are looking for.

Technical Training Inc. Global, formed in 1976, originally focused on technology manuals and training programs. According to their website, the company moved to Rochester Hills in 1984 and has been expanding internationally ever since. Ranked 30 in Detroit, TTi now has offices in China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Europe and the Middle East.

The company applies to the list every year and is proud to receive acknowledgement for their rapid growth. According to TTi Global Marketing Manager Kevin Dever, companies wanting to make the list and become fast-growing should be customer-focused, innovative, trustworthy, adaptable and driven.

“(Growth) provides opportunities for the team to step outside their existing role and reach out and learn new things and develop additional career paths,” Dever said. “Growth is good as long as you can still deliver on customer requirements effectively with the same level of quality.”

Another company making the list, Aleva Stores, ranked 59 in Detroit, has a longer history. Originally formed as American Orthopedic Services in 1957, the company started out with prosthetics manufacturing and medical needs assistance.

Today, the company sells online in addition to in stores. The original store in Pontiac is still open today, with another one opening soon in Rochester.

Inc.’s list contains 5000 companies, 89 of which are located in the metro Detroit area, including the three Rochester companies.

Based on sales, number of employees and business success, the list encourages entrepreneurs to succeed and continue towards further company improvement.

Editorial: West Nile Virus: Epidemic or Case for Concern?

The skies grow cloudy; the air becomes thick. Breathing becomes troublesome. An aircraft has dropped chemicals in the air near your home, in attempt to save the population from a potentially fatal disease.

With 112 confirmed cases of the West Nile Virus as of Aug. 31 in the state of Michigan and three of those leading to death, we are facing an epidemic.

The Center for Disease Control defines outbreaks and epidemics as “more cases of a particular disease than expected in a given area, or among a specific group of people, over a particular period of time.”

While we wouldn’t expect an area to have anyone affected by West Nile, the number of cases isn’t extremely high and usually only leads to flu-like symptoms, according to the Huffington Post. Most people affected by West Nile are age 70 and older, though there are exceptions, according to the CDC.

I’m not making light of the situation. Diseases that spread so easily and are potentially deadly are a serious issue. People should take caution when spending time outside by utilizing bug blocks like sprays and lotions.

But many areas, from Dallas, Texas to Sacramento County, Calif. and even local areas around the state seem to be taking it a little too far.

What started out as on-ground insecticides applied to swampy areas grew to a more widespread application that spreads into the air we breathe. More and more cities are performing aerial spraying and larviciding, which is the process of dropping chemicals from aircrafts in effort to exterminate the bugs.

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Not a bad apple in the bunch: Oakland University goes to Art and Apples Festival

Tents of art, performances by local musicians and an array of homemade apple pies will transform Rochester Park into an artistic festival as Paint Creek Center for the Arts hosts the 47th annual Art and Apples Festival Sept. 7 to 9.

Starting out as one tent and a few Rochester area artists, the fine art fair has grown to over 290 participants displaying and selling their work.

Photographer and Rochester Hills resident James Parker, who sells his work in many art shows, is attending Art and Apples for his sixth year in a row and considers it a fall tradition.

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