Businesses Proud To Give Back To Community

Businesses Proud To Give Back To Community 1200 600 sccadmin

Southfield City Centre Advisory Board represents the businesses and institutions located in the City Centre. Together they work to promote the economic vitality and quality of life in the city. They also contribute individually through charitable works. “It’s important to the company as a whole to give back to the community that gives so much to us,” explains Brooke McNemar of Etkin Real Estate Solutions. Etkin, owner of Evergreen Atrium and Franklin Center, among other properties, supports Michigan Animal Rescue League, American Diabetes Association, Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Lighthouse, Brilliant Detroit, Zekelman Holocaust Center, Robert A. Schuele Scholarship, and Alzheimer’s Association-Michigan chapter.

Town Center hosts a major, annual fundraising event for the Michigan chapter of Gift of Adoption, a national organization that helps families cover the costs of adopting a child. “Our funding supports the birth mother and legal fees predominately for domestic adoptions but also international adoptions,” says Clarence Gleeson, senior vice president at Transwestern, the management agent for the building. More than 100 Michigan families received assistance last year.

Dürr Systems, a global mechanical and plant engineering firm, has its North American headquarters in the City Centre. The company contributes donations and  volunteer time to United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Forgotten Harvest. Employee teams participate in Mayor Kenson J. Siver’s annual Big Rake, providing fall lawn maintenance for seniors and residents with disabilities. When the Engineering Society of Detroit hosts its Future City competition for middle-school students, Dürr employees volunteer as team mentors and competition judges. The company also supports LTU’s annual designing, building and racing of a small formula-style racing car and offers free robot path trainings to LTU students in their Training Center.

Friends of Southfield Public Arts, the nonprofit organization that supports the goals of Southfield Public Arts Commission, assists with art acquisitions, such as the sculpture that lines the Southfield City Centre Trail, and exhibitions of local artists’ work on display each quarter in the main lobby at City Hall.

LTU donates a range of courses and professional-development opportunities that benefit Southfield high school students and high school and middle school teachers. Most significant is the $85,000, four-year Blue Devil Southfield Scholarship for Southfield high school graduates. LTU students also volunteer for the Big Rake, snow shoveling and working the polls on Election Day. “Southfield is a shining example of the Town and Gown relationship,” says Lisa Kujawa, VP for enrollment management at LTU. “How we come together shows how we – the university and the city – value one another.”

Landscape Architecture Camp Teaches Design, Sustainability

Landscape Architecture Camp Teaches Design, Sustainability 1200 900 sccadmin

City of Southfield Planning Department and Lawrence Technological University (LTU) teamed up this summer to offer metro Detroit high school students an introduction to landscape architecture. The three-day camp welcomed students from seven area high schools, most of whom admitted at the start they knew little about the field. Yet, come the conclusion, their perspectives had changed dramatically. “I was surprised how broad the scope of landscape architecture is,” explained Rachael Andree, a student at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. “It’s basically everything that’s not buildings.”

Students were instantly immersed in the practice of landscape architecture with a charge to create a teen park at Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve off 10 Mile Road in Southfield. This involved analyzing the site, including assessing opportunities and constraints; developing a schematic design to illustrate the concept or “big idea;” and creating a design development plan necessary for construction. The goal? To enhance community wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Overall, the camp aimed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the landscape architecture field. It was sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Southfield City Centre. Professionals from area firms eagerly participated, including Bob Ford, Landscape Architects & Planners; Mark Hieber, HED; Joane Slusky, Juno Solutions; Kyle Verseman, Landscape Forms; Chad Brintnall, Lauren Leighty and Tom Mroz all of SmithGroup; Architect Beverly Hannah Jones, Artist Hubert Massey, and Delores Flagg, chair of Southfield Arts Commission. Leading the effort were members of Southfield’s Planning Department: Terry Croad, director of planning; Souzan Hanna, sustainability planner; and Sarah Mulally, assistant city planner.

For the students, it was learning by exposure. Instructors facilitated walking tours of LTU, Southfield City Centre and downtown Detroit. In Detroit, students were exposed to examples of large-scale landscape architecture projects, including Detroit RiverWalk and Capitol Park. These designs “gave me inspiration for our presentation boards and widened my scope, my perception of landscape architecture,” said Jacob Akinbode, a student at University High School.

Students were divided into two teams and told to come up with a name for their landscape design firm. Then, on the final day, each team pitched its design to several instructors who served as their client audience. “I was surprised how much time and effort it takes to make a park,” concluded Katelyn Fletcher, a student at South Lyon High School. “Everything is thought out and designed.”

Michigan Economic Development Corporation Grant Opportunity

Michigan Economic Development Corporation Grant Opportunity southfieldcc_3ik8d2

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is offering a grant opportunity to specific businesses hardest hit by the recent closures. The application period for small businesses seeking grants will begin on Tuesday, December 15.

The Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative is intended to meet the urgent need of Michigan businesses including restaurants and bars, lodging providers, live event venues and movie theaters, conference and meeting facilities, indoor recreation facilities, and gyms and fitness centers. The grants under the program will support those businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce and may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, or utility expenses.

The program will provide a total of $10 million for the state to one or more qualified grant administrators, who will administer and allocate grants of up to $15,000 each to eligible businesses around the state. Funds will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

To qualify for grant support, businesses must meet a number of criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Being a business in one of the targeted industries;
  • Identifying a need for payroll, rent, or mortgage payments, and/or utility expenses necessary to continue or restart business operations;
  • Having at least two employees (including the owner) but fewer than 50;
  • Additional eligibility requirements can be found on


Marelli Establishes its North American Headquarters in the Southfield City Centre

Marelli Establishes its North American Headquarters in the Southfield City Centre southfieldcc_3ik8d2

When Magneti Marelli and Calsonic Kansei came together in 2019 under the new name Marelli, they brought together 62,000 employees around the globe to form one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. And Marelli has chosen the Southfield City Centre for its new North American headquarters.

For its new home, the company has selected 26555 Northwestern Highway, the former Federal-Mogul building. In 225,000 square feet of the three-story building that sits on the corner of Lahser Road and the Lodge Freeway, Marelli will create workspace for 450 employees with room to grow, says Lisa Van Giesen, head of marketing and communications, North America, for Marelli Holding USA LLC.

Separately, Magneti Marelli and Calsonic Kansei each had a presence in southeast Michigan and were looking for a location to bring together several hundred employees under one roof. It’s not an easy task to find the perfect building that blends ample space and convenience of location, but it’s an important step forward for the company, says Van Giesen. The move will relocate employees from three locations in Auburn Hills and Farmington Hills.

“Having everyone under one roof will go a long way in terms of integration, will drive collaboration and cohesiveness, and it’s great for morale,” Van Giesen says.

The current plan is for employees to begin to move in mid-February 2021, and move-in will be complete by spring, 2021. Prior to this, the building will undergo extensive renovation which will change the iconic midcentury exterior of the building. “We want to bring the building up to date with a look that is more current and will take us into the future,” Van Giesen says.

Interior renovations will provide amenities that some employees don’t currently have in their workplaces, including a cafeteria, fitness room and indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. About 100,000 square feet will be used for R&D activities for several automotive business units, and there will be conference rooms and an auditorium for larger gatherings.

“We are really happy to be able to move in and preserve certain elements of the building, paying homage to its architectural history, but also making it our own, branding it with the Marelli name and having it be our home for the foreseeable future,” Van Giesen says.

The Southfield City Centre location, with easy access to major freeways, is an attractive feature of the new Marelli building.

“While it’s important for us to be in close proximity to our automotive clients, it’s just as important to ease the transition for our employees,” said Gene Spektor, Marelli’s senior vice president of sales and business development North America, in a statement about the move. “Our new location will have minimal impact on the average commute, and will provide employees with a modern, open and collaborative work environment.”

To that end, Van Giesen has developed an internal communications campaign to provide information to employees about the building, its amenities and its wider surroundings to better acquaint everyone with Southfield and the Southfield City Centre. “This is a great introduction for our employees to Southfield. Many won’t be familiar with it and one of the goals of our campaign is to make employees feel at home when we move in,” she says.

While the move may be incremental due to the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Van Giesen plans to conduct tours to give employees a sneak peek as to how the space will look once renovation is complete.

With the goal of soon becoming official members of the Southfield business community, Marelli is excited to bring commerce to the already bustling business center corridor. “We plan to plant roots here, and are looking at ways to get involved with the city to provide support. In fact, Gene Spektor was recently sworn in as a City Centre Advisory Board Member,” Van Giesen says.

The Southfield City Centre extends a warm welcome, and excitement about sharing its summer concert and food truck series known as Eat To The Beat, the business-focused Southfield CommUNITY Cup Challenge as well as other community-building events that take place here.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Marelli employees to the Southfield City Centre and introducing Marelli employees to all the great and convenient amenities here,” says Rochelle Freeman, business and economic development director with the City of Southfield. “We hope they enjoy the newly expanded Southfield City Centre trail network and bike-share system and take full advantage of walking and biking opportunities to get out into the community to see what is here.”

Small Business Restart Recovery Grant Applications Open

Small Business Restart Recovery Grant Applications Open southfieldcc_3ik8d2

The Michigan Small Business Restart Program application will be live starting Wednesday, July 15 at and run through Wednesday, August 5. Funds can be used as working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.

To qualify for grant support, businesses must meet the following criteria, based on statutory requirements for the program:

  • Is a business or nonprofit that can demonstrate it is affected by the COVID-19 emergency
  • Needs working capital to support eligible expenses
  • Demonstrates an income loss as result of the COVID-19 emergency
  • Has not received a grant through the Michigan Strategic Fund’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program. Businesses who have received support through other COVID-19 relief programs, including the Michigan Small Business Relief Program loans, are eligible to apply for Restart grants.

Additionally, at least 30 percent of the funds awarded under the program must be provided to women-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned eligible businesses. The MEDC anticipates that more than 5,000 businesses across the state will benefit from this program.


Small Business Assistance Opportunities

Small Business Assistance Opportunities southfieldcc_3ik8d2

Are you a small business owner in Oakland County experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak? You could be eligible for a stabilization grant or loan! Visit to check your eligibility, choose which program is right for you, and apply online by noon on April 6, 2020.

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Award-Winning MAXPRO Leverages Centrepolis Accelerator Expertise

Award-Winning MAXPRO Leverages Centrepolis Accelerator Expertise southfieldcc_3ik8d2

When Nezar Akeel officially became an entrepreneur, he had what many fellow entrepreneurs didn’t have. He had age and experience. A lot of experience.

At 52, Akeel has the solid foundation of a well-established corporate career in engineering management. This experience gave him the chance to test out new ideas and concepts much like an entrepreneur would. “I was responsible for new ventures and new relationships within an often global setting, which helped a lot,” says Akeel. “So I’m not the typical young kid working on an idea with nothing to lose.”

His career experience contributed to his success as he launched MAXPRO, an all-in-one smart gym system that is topping best-of lists. In October 2019, MAXPRO won the “Best of Innovation” award for health and fitness for CES 2020, and Akeel received the award in Las Vegas in January 2020.

The decision to connect with the Southfield City Centre-based Centrepolis Accelerator was highly beneficial to getting MAXPRO to market, Akeel says.

As a small manufacturer and hardware entrepreneur organization, the Centrepolis Accelerator is a perfect fit for Akeel’s MAXPRO, which is a manufactured product with smart connectivity. Akeel felt this match from the first time he connected with Centrepolis Accelerator director Dan Radomski.

“We met at a Centrepolis Accelerator hardware development seminar in Detroit, and Dan understood the concept right away. I went to an additional workshop on lean design where I connected with other entrepreneurs and saw the support infrastructure and services that are available for entrepreneurs who are past idea phase,” says Akeel. “It was really the beginning of me connecting with the Southeast Michigan entrepreneurial world.”

As he was being mentored by younger entrepreneurs, Akeel recognized how much he could learn through these connections, including techniques for leveraging funding.

“The Centrepolis Accelerator helped me write a grant to the Business Accelerator Fund at Michigan Small Business Development Center, which has a high-tech grant and my product qualified,” Akeel says. “I ended up getting $25,000 in support just at the right time in the development process.” Centrepolis Accelerator connected Akeel to other resources, including crowdfunding, legal services, design, development and supply sources.

Throughout the process, Akeel has participated in multiple pitch competitions and match meetings and has learned the art of describing the value of his product for the investor audience. These experiences have resulted in financial support and ongoing conversations.

With his engineering background, Akeel says the ease of speaking a “common language” was a welcome benefit of working with the Centrepolis Accelerator. The rich manufacturing knowledge available at and through the Centrepolis Accelerator meant Akeel didn’t need to spend a lot of time explaining what his product does and how it fit into the connected hardware marketplace.

“My product really was a perfect fit for them,” he says, adding that the Michigan manufacturing ecosystem is a highly suitable place to develop a manufactured product. “In Metro Detroit and in Michigan in general, we have an established infrastructure for hardware and electronics.”

Because MAXPRO is a manufactured hardware product that intersects with the internet-of-things space, the fit was seamless, from both a development and connection perspective.

“The Centrepolis Accelerator was accessible and made themselves known,” Akeel says. “I plugged in and made time to attend their seminars, and that’s all a part of the entrepreneurial initiative.”

Customer-Influenced New Look Brings Southfield City Centre Marriott to Foreground

Customer-Influenced New Look Brings Southfield City Centre Marriott to Foreground southfieldcc_3ik8d2

Customer feedback fueled the design choices for a $14 million interior renovation at the Detroit Marriott Southfield on Northwestern Hwy. in the Southfield City Centre. Phase one of the renovation was completed in May 2018 and updated and refreshed the lobby, all 226 guest rooms, all conference rooms, board room, and ballrooms, according to Rodney Jackson, general manager.

But something was still missing.

“In 2019, I went back to the owners and told them they did a fantastic job with the interiors, but the outside still looked like it did before,” says Jackson. His suggestion sparked a $300,000 exterior update that uplifts the whole property. “We went with a gray color palette, light and dark gray, and it’s been really well received by customers and corporate businesses in the area.”

For the interior renovation, customers offered their top improvements wish list, which included clean, fresh wood tile flooring throughout – including guest rooms – all new lighting and bedding, plus industry standard-exceeding 50-inch smart TVs with internet and Netflix. “If you come to the hotel, you don’t need to bring all of your devices,” says Jackson. “You enter your own Netflix credentials and when you check out, your information is erased. We wanted it to be as close to home as you can possibly make it.”

Improvements at the City Centre’s Marriott live up to the enhanced, pedestrian-friendly feel of the City Centre overall, says Jackson. And with a bikeshare station right in the hotel parking lot, guests can use the shared-use path of the Southfield City Centre Trail to move around the City Centre with ease.

“The bikeshare is so popular. I didn’t realize it was used as much as it is until I watched bikes come and go from the station,” Jackson says. “It’s a lot more popular than I imagined.”

The new modern exterior look coincided with an exterior update of the Courtyard Detroit Southfield property next door, and together they move their corner of the Southfield City Centre forward, Jackson says.

“When we look up and down the street, we don’t fade into the background, especially with Beaumont close by and all the updates they have done to their building,” he says. “We and the Courtyard wanted a more modern look to be more a part of this area, instead of in the background.”

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Southfield Area Chamber Welcomes New Executive Director

Southfield Area Chamber Welcomes New Executive Director southfieldcc_3ik8d2

A meeting with Jason Blanks is an energy-boosting experience. Even a phone conversation is like a shot of espresso, because Blanks, the new executive director of the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, has an incredible amount of energy.

And it’s infectious.

That’s a good thing, because Blanks has hit the ground running with a list of goals and action items. He comes to the Chamber with a rich career history in the public and nonprofit sectors.

“I’ve been in this role for two weeks now, and it has been super rewarding,” says Blanks. “I’ve met so many great people. Everyone is so welcoming.”

In his first two weeks, Blanks has developed a partnership with the Detroit chapter of the Association for Talent Development, a nonprofit professional development organization, to offer training to Southfield Area Chamber members. Courses in engagement with visuals, workforce revolution, and leading in the digital age are some examples that member organizations can benefit from. He’s also gearing up for a one-on-one series to engage with small businesses and offer whatever tools, insight, and direction they may need.

“Our goal is to make sure businesses have the resources to be successful,” Blanks says. “We want to make sure our partners are receiving that individualized service.”

A service-dedicated career

When Blanks was an industrial engineering student at Western Michigan University, he recognized that a career in engineering might not allow him the level of human interaction he enjoyed. “I thought I might be better suited to working in hospitals, so I switched my degree to pre-med.” While completing his degree, Blanks worked full time at Hope Network, assisting individuals with cognitive behavioral issues.

Blanks graduated and moved back to southeast Michigan to work as a case manager in a grant-funded prisoner reentry initiative at the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, where he would steadily move up the management chain and gain valuable experience and a skill for connecting people to services and resources. At OLHSA, he filled a supervisory role with Head Start, and wrote and facilitated a grant program for the DNR and Department of Justice aimed to provide employment readiness skills to youth between 15 and 18 years old.

“My background switched once I received these grants, and I was able to bring in additional funding to a group of individuals not being served,” Blanks says.

When the grant ended, Blanks transitioned to the City of Detroit where he worked as operations general manager in human resources, managing a $40 million budget and database tracking system. Still, Blanks was able to facilitate a charitable giving campaign with the United Way.

“I still have a heart and passion for giving back to the community,” he says.

An executive director position with the Humane Society of Monroe County gave Blanks his first executive director-level experience and granted him the responsibility of building memberships and bringing dollars into the agency to benefit animals and their community.

“We facilitated about eight charitable campaigns and auctions,” says Blanks. “It was a very unique experience.”

Southfield Area Chamber: a “perfect fit”

When the chance to lead the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce presented itself, Blanks was eager to step in.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I had already worked closely with the chamber in Monroe, and I was interested in this position because I knew I could make a major impact in the city where I live, right in my own community.”

Currently, Blanks is working to learn as much as he can about the business climate in Southfield, including the Southfield City Centre, so he can create specific programming. He’s building on his strong skill of connecting people and building relationships to help grow businesses and resources.

When Blanks isn’t busy building connections, he’s supporting his wife, who works for the State of Michigan, and cheering on their three sons in their extracurricular sporting pursuits of basketball, soccer, and swimming.

Heeding the words of his past career mentors, Blanks has built a philosophy that he applies to both his personal and his business life. “As long as you are working to get the job done, put your all into it,” Blanks says. “And I do that with every aspect of my life.”

Blanks replaces Tanya Markos-Vanno, who left the Chamber in September for a business development role at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Maccabees Undergoes Renovation and Rebrands as The Century

Maccabees Undergoes Renovation and Rebrands as The Century southfieldcc_3ik8d2

A familiar office building in the Southfield City Centre will soon be known by a new name.

The Maccabees Center at 25800 Northwestern Hwy. and Civic Center Drive will rebrand and be revealed as The Century, a name selected through a unique form of focused crowdsourcing, says Thomas Litzler, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Livonia-based Schostak Brothers & Company, which owns the building.

“We came up with the name through employee focus groups and research,” says Litzler. The new name will accompany a new look, with an extensive remodeling project to several key areas of the building planned. “John Hawkinson [project manager] put together a menu of enhancements for us, and concurrent with that, a cross-section of employees came up with a variety of possible names.”

Suggestions included geographic locations, family names, and other more generic options.

“This name became an amalgamation of all of those,” Litzler says.

The Century is an especially fitting name, as Schostak will celebrate 100 years in business in 2020.

Planned renovations will leverage the 360,000-square foot building’s already desirable attributes, making the office center even more attractive to a wide variety of employees. A tenant lounge will offer space for people to gather for informal meetings or to watch television and enjoy snacks. A leasing center will feature a showroom and place for potential tenants to meet with leasing professionals. A fitness center and updated cafe will provide places for tenants to work out, refuel, and relax.

“The building currently has an outdoor courtyard green space with tables, and we will be improving that to create an all-weather deck with outdoor year-round furniture to get more use from the space,” says Litzler.

Parking lot improvements, upgraded HVAC for improved tenant comfort, and a new drop-off dry cleaning service will round out the building’s renovations.

The Century will also feature a bikeshare station, as part of the popular Zagster bikeshare program that connects amenities throughout the Southfield City Centre and provides easy access to heart-healthy activity along the shared-use pathways of the City Centre Trail.

“The bikeshare is a convenient way to get around and to close places without having to drive. People can easily get to the Town Center or to food trucks that are here often,” Litzler says. “It’s a convenient, novel way to get around and get some exercise, too.”

Work has already started on the building, and is scheduled to be completed during the first quarter of 2020. With a new name, and new amenities, The Century will provide tenants and potential tenants with even more reasons to enjoy working in the City Centre, Litzler says.

“With prominent visibility, very easy access to all Detroit markets–from downtown to the western suburbs and Troy–and plenty of free parking and a protected underground deck, The Century really is a full-service building.”