By Billy Craig
Macomb County is the third most populated county in Michigan with a diversified portfolio of successful businesses. Its reputation is built on manufacturing, automotive, and defense. In addition to diversifying into other industries, Macomb continues to be a leader in its established sectors. But what does that success look like in the face of the latest technological advancements?
Beginning my pilgrimage into the digital ecosystem online, I was fortunate enough to discover the Macomb-OU INCubator. In the State of Michigan, this is called a SmartZone and it’s located within the county to support high-tech entrepreneurs on their challenging path to commercialization. The State of Michigan and many local areas do this to support and celebrate future emerging enterprising technology thinkers and help them become the next Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Elon Musk or Ginni Rometty.
Machines, mobile phones, and computers will constantly reshape and redefine how we approach and manage our lives. Machines, robotics, self-driven cars, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing once thought of as fiction are now a reality and increasingly getting smarter with more capabilities. Mobile phones have become a vital part of our daily activities offering powerful tools that you would have seen in a Sci-fi movie not too long ago. The internet’s worldwide connectivity and search functionality have made us a global community think tank. What’s next in technology? Will it be an improvement in what we already have? Will it be brand new? Will it be a disrupter? How will it affect us today and into the future? Is what we are doing locally, competitive on a global scale?
Leading the innovation in the Macomb tech world starts with the Michigan Cyber Range in Sterling Heights at the Macomb-OU INCubator. Assisting cyber security professionals detect, prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks. Velocity Hub created its own destiny for success. “Yet again, Macomb County has positioned itself to be a preferred destination for innovation and technology,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said. “This secure cyber range, the first of its kind in Michigan, will allow businesses to test and validate their connected products. The dynamic relationship between Macomb County, Sterling Heights, and Oakland University continues to produce unique community and economic development opportunities.”
CEO John Swiatek of Coliant Corporation started out by taking a leap of faith in 2002 and left his electrical engineering position at Chrysler to pursue his own projects. With the support of his wife and mom, he literally worked out of his garage to develop a power connector called the Powerlet®, which is now in 74 countries and growing. Most recently he moved out of the Macomb-OU INCubator and into a larger facility. He has also gone on to develop Personal Climate Control Systems with micro-climate wearable technology.
In 1992, the Navy started looking for something to keep sailors thermal comfort in the 40-degree water. With this technology John and his Coliant Corp did what others could not do and came up with a real solution. It’s called Atomic Skin, Inc. He is also breaking new ground with his carbon fiber-structure composite technology. Founded by Coliant, Laystitch, LLC, Automated Laying Machine Technology is evolving into a full-service company setting new standards for state-of-the-art composite manufacturing. It has a global reach with partner offices in Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, Romania, and Switzerland.
You can hear the march of the machines with Clinton Township-based Tweddle Group Inc. Its focus is on connected car software in Detroit and they have quite a momentum pushing forward. Yes… the Macomb effort is also a regional push and Tweddle has moved their 30 employees into a 7,000-square-foot space in the Francis Palms Building in the Foxtown area. Paul Wilbur, Tweddle’s president and CEO says, “There’s a lot of good things happening regarding tech in Detroit and we wanted to be close to others working in that space,” Wilbur also said. “We’re growing pretty fast and it just felt like the right thing to do.”
Located in Mt. Clemens and formed in 2000, eyeWyre Software Studios has a mission to provide high-quality software and hardware development services to clients to help turn their ideas into reality. In 2002, they set out to develop a physics based, 3D robotics and microcontroller simulation package, called Simulation Studio. Being one of the first with an app made available in the Apple App Store, eyeWyre currently specializes in helping clients design and develop their mobile ambitions with games, health and fitness based personal helpers, and standalone utilities. Other efforts include complex business systems connecting to proprietary back office systems in industries that focus on manufacturing, retail, financial, industrial and big-data analytics.
One of the biggest tech leaders in Macomb County, Jimmy Gwizdala is heading up The CoLABorative shared office space in Mt. Clemens. He believes that people work better together and has created an ideal co-working office space for the modern workforce. Always with his finger on the pulse of developing technology, Jimmy is also involved with, Hunch Free, a full-service digital marketing agency helping an impressive list of clients solve complex business problems. It’s a data-driven agency, powered by people doing digital marketing, creative services, development, data science, research and consulting.
Technology changes everything with disruptive thinking and design thinking. Processes that took 90 days in the past now take 30 minutes. 10% improvement in productivity can jump to a 600% productivity improvement. It’s exciting to think of where technology can take us. In my search for tech in Macomb, I found what I was hoping to find; a well-represented community of people evolving and breaking new grounds in technological advancement. These are highly motivated companies and leaders that are not just passionate about technology but ultimately driven to innovate.