Automation Alley Survey Predicts Strong Growth For Region’s Tech Sector

TROY — Automation Alley forecasts economic growth for Southeast Michigan technology companies in 2016 — and predicts the region will outperform even Silicon Valley in many key areas, including revenue, R&D investment and hiring.

These findings and more were released in Automation Alley’s 2016 Technology Industry Report.

Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, surveyed top senior technology executives in both Southeast Michigan and Silicon Valley. Almost all Southeast Michigan tech executives predict revenue growth (99 percent) this year and 25 percent of those predict more than a 15 percent increase.

And, Southeast Michigan trumps Silicon Valley when it comes to return on investment and cost of living for its employees. A vast majority of Southeast Michigan executives (83 percent) believe technology companies can have greater return on investment doing business in metro Detroit while only 69 percent of their Silicon Valley counterparts believe the same to be true about the Valley. And, cost of living for employees in Southeast Michigan is far superior to Silicon Valley. For example, median housing prices are 412 percent higher in San Jose than in metro Detroit.

“As Michigan’s leading technology business association, Automation Alley publishes the Technology Industry Report to increase awareness of Southeast Michigan as a leading center for tech talent, innovation and opportunity in America,” said Ken Rogers, Automation Alley executive director. “These results make a statement that this region competes favorably with the Silicon Valleys of the world. No need to get on a plane, take a train, and head for a better technology center than what we have right here in Southeast Michigan. We compete with the best and brightest in America. We encourage the region’s leaders and influencers, as well as companies and individuals, to tout these new findings. Use the data to recruit. Tell that college grad that they have a tech future right here. Use this report as a tool to further attract talent and investment to our region.”

Automation Alley’s 2016 Technology Industry Report key findings include:

Southeast Michigan technology leaders are optimistic about 2016 growth
* 99 percent in Southeast Michigan project revenue growth in 2016
* 83 percent in Southeast Michigan expect an increase in their company’s R&D spending
* 82 percent in Southeast Michigan plan to hire more talent in 2016

Southeast Michigan is a better place for technology professionals to build their careers than Silicon Valley.
* 74 percent in Southeast Michigan believe the area has a comparatively lower cost of living compared to 48 percent in Silicon Valley
* 81 percent in Southeast Michigan agree this region provides more networking opportunities than other metro areas compared to 77 percent in Silicon Valley
* 85 percent in Southeast Michigan believe this region has leading academic institutions for self-advancement compared to only 68 percent in Silicon Valley

Michigan technology leaders believe this region is a better place to build a technology company than Silicon Valley.
* 74 percent in Southeast Michigan believe it is easier for technology companies to retain talent in this region compared to 67 percent in Silicon Valley
* 83 percent in Southeast Michigan agree that technology companies can have greater return on investment in the metro area compared to 69 percent in Silicon Valley
* 68 percent in Southeast Michigan agreed that technology companies can benefit from the lower cost of capital in the metro area compared to 60 percent in Silicon Valley

For more information about Automation Alley, visit or contact Automation Alley at (800) 427-5100 or

Founded in 1999, Automation Alley has nearly 1,000 tech-focused members in business, education and government. It connects business with talent, resources and funding to accelerate innovation and fuel Southeast Michigan’s economy. It focuses its efforts in five areas: advanced manufacturing, defense, entrepreneurship, international business and talent development.

The online survey was completed by 150 senior executives who are currently working in the technology industry in both Southeast Michigan and Silicon Valley between Nov. 19-14, The respondents were recruited through the Research Now online survey panel. For this study, a senior executive is defined as a professional who has a manager or above job title.

Supporting data for the report, along with employment projections for 2016, were provided by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group. In addition to assessing data for the Southeast Michigan region, the report looked at data for five U.S. metropolitan regions that are widely considered to be among the nation’s leading technology hubs: San Jose, Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Austin.

Six Michigan Hospitals Among Truven’s Top 100 Nationwide

ANN ARBOR — The Ann Arbor health care information firm Truven Health Analytics has released its annual study identifying the 100 top hospitals in the United States based on their overall organizational performance.

The study found that the top performing hospitals in the country were able to improve outcomes while reducing overall expense per patient.

This was the first time in the study’s 23-year history that a notable trend toward reduced expense per patient was observed among the majority of top-performing hospitals.

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Disher Gets MEDC Grant For Expansion

ANN ARBOR — Disher Corp., a product development and business consulting firm, has received a $200,000 Michigan Business Development Program grant in suport of a $1.4 million that is planned to create 42 jobs at its Ann Arbor and Zeeland offices.

The grant will be used for hiring, space and training. Ann Arbor Spark has also offered support to the project in the form of staff time, resources and connections.

The grant “will enable us to expand our mission to ‘Make a Positive Difference’ in the communities we work, live and serve,” said Jeff Disher, founder and President.  “We believe our company and the work we do should be meaningful and have a lasting impact. The mission is the foundation of our company culture and everything we do. With the help of this grant we will be able to bring in and train more employee-owners who embody our mission and will serve our growing customers even better.”

Individuals interested in career opportunities with Disher should visit Open positions include CATIA designer, software developer, electronics engineer, lean leader, quality engineer, project manager, industrial designer, controls engineer, tooling supervisor, manufacturing engineer and more.

Disher is a product development, talent attraction and consulting firm. The company’s 130-plus design and engineering experts partner with organizations around the world to help their products look good and work well. Since 2000, Disher has helped hundreds of manufacturers, suppliers and independent inventors successfully discover, design, engineer and manufacture high impact products.

Altair Software To Manage Workload for NCAR’s Supercomputing System

TROY — The Troy software and engineering technology developer Altair announced that its high performance computing workload management software, PBS Professional, will be installed as the workload manager for the new supercomputing system destined for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

NCAR is a federal government research and development center devoted to research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences.

PBS Professional was included as part of an SGI contract to provide NCAR with an ICE XA supercomputer. The SGI high-performance computer will be a 5.34-petaflop system — meaning it has the ability to perform 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second. The new system will also be three times as energy efficient as its predecessor.

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Visteon Sales Jump 25%

VAN BUREN TWP. — The auto electronics supplier Visteon Corp. reported strong sales for 2015, with total revenue for the year rising 25 percent to $3.25 billion.

The company reported net income of $2.284 billion or $52.63 a share, compared to a loss of $295 million or $6.44 a share in 2014. The company massively restructured during the year, selling off its climate control and auto interiors businesses and focusing on auto cockpit electronics and software. It reported net income of $2.286 billion on its discontinued operations for the year.

For the fourth quarter revenue was $809 million, up from $788 million a year earlier. Net income was $21 million or 52 cents a share, vs. a loss of $138 million or $3.12 a share a year earlier.

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MPG Reports Record Net Sales

SOUTHFIELD — The auto supplier Metaldyne Performance Group Inc. (NYSE: MPG) reported net income of $125.8 million or $1.80 a share for 2015, up from $72.9 million or $1.06 a share a year earlier. Revenue was $3.05 billion, up from $2.72 billion a year earlier.

For the fourth quarter, net income was $20.7 million or 29 cents a share, up from $10.3 million or 15 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2014. Revenue was $735.3 million, down from $762.2 million a year earlier. The company said the decline was caused by the effect of metals prices and foreign sales being translated into a stronger U.S. dollar. Without those effects, sales would have been $783.8 million, up 2.8 percent.

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$1.7M+ Real Estate Gift To Support MSU Engineering

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University’s ability to advance the fields of chemical engineering and materials science will be enhanced with a real estate gift appraised at $1.725 million which will subsequently be sold to support the College of Engineering.

An endowed faculty position and scholarship will be created through the gift from Craig A. Rogerson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Chemtura, a Philadelphia-based specialty chemical company. He is a 1979 chemical engineering graduate of MSU.

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2016 Michigan Robotics Day Coming To Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR — Michigan Robotics Day will be held Tuesday, April 5 at the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex.

The event will feature a technical keynote from Dr. Wolfram Burgard, professor of computer science at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and leader of the research lab for autonomous intelligent systems.

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Michigan Tech Alum Donates $250K For Electrical Engineering Scholarships

HOUGHTON — David Brule Sr., an alumnus and longtime supporter of Michigan Technological University, has donated $250,000 to support student scholarships in electrical engineering.  Scholarships totaling $50,000 will be awarded each year for five years.

The scholarships are designed to promote the study of electrical power engineering.  Recipients of these scholarships will be designated as Systems Control Scholars, in recognition of Brule’s Iron Mountain-based company, Systems Control Inc.

The first recipients have been chosen and will be honored at a luncheon on campus on Thursday, Feb. 25. They are Ester Buhl, Lauren Clark, Dustin Hanes, Zachary Jensen, Jonathan Schulz, Casey Strom and Troy Johnston, all electrical engineering majors.

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U-M Center for Entrepreneurship, Mcity Launch Pilot On Driverless Cars

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the UM Mobility Transformation Center, is launching the pilot of TechLab at Mcity, a new opportunity for collaboration among university research, advanced transportation startups and student innovators.

TechLab is designed to create unique educational opportunities and accelerate the success of participating companies. The uses UM engineering talent and the new Mcity autonomous vehicle test center to drive connected and driverless innovation closer to

TechLab is intended to replicate many of the attributes of startup incubators with a heavy emphasis on student intern learning experiences — allowing students to witness first-hand how a lab innovation becomes a company, which in turn equips them with the knowledge and skills of how product development takes place in the real world.

“By creating a structure that allows startup companies from around the globe to access top-flight talent and resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them, we believe we have hit upon a model that will create a winning opportunity for all involved,” said Thomas Frank, executive director of the UM College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Unleashing the passion of students and the drive of new companies — think of the opportunities,” added Volker Sick, UM associate vice president for research, natural sciences and engineering. “We are uniquely positioned to launch this incubator experience around new mobility ideas by leveraging the educational strengths and expertise of the CFE and MTC.”

TechLab’s pilot program launches with Zendrive, a fast-growing Bay Area startup that recently announced $13.5 million in Series A funding. Zendrive’s technology taps mobile sensors to measure driver safety through actions like acceleration, braking, swerving and phone use, among many others.

Founded by Google and Facebook veterans, Zendrive uses artificial intelligence algorithms and billions of data points to analyze sensor data and return actionable insights for fleets and drivers. Because it’s software-based, managing and scaling within any number of vehicles is flexible, simple and affordable.

Zendrive CEO Jonathan Matus said UM students and staff, “paired with its unrivaled connected-car and autonomous-vehicle testing ground at Mcity, is the ideal environment for us to shape the next generation of safety technologies. Collaborating with Michigan
allows us to explore what is possible in the future of transportation.”