Thursday, January 28, 2016

Roush, Embassy Title earn Chamber's 2016 business of year awards

Mendelson's, Mama Mia's garner enhancement awards
Jack Roush started an engine-building operation in Livonia 40 years ago to compete in auto racing.

Over his hall-of-fame career in the sport, his teams won 7 championships in auto racing's leading circuits, but his company's racing innovations expanded into other breakthroughs for all kinds of vehicles. 

Roush has grown into a worldwide operation that's developed propane-powered vehicles, military vehicles, theme-park ride systems, autonomous Google cars, prototype helicopters and fuel systems for rockets - just to name a few. Roush, which employs more than 1,000 people at 16 facilities in Livonia, has received national and state honors in recent years for its outreach to hire military veterans.

The company's latest honor is this year's selection as the Livonia Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Large Business of the Year.

The Chamber also announced that Embassy Title Agency is the 2016 Outstanding Small Business of the Year; Mendelson's Professional Building and Mama Mia's Restaurantwill earn Community Enhancement Awards; and Emily Bauman from AdviCoach of Michigan  is the chamber's ambassador of the year. All will be honored at the 12th annual Leadership and Award Celebration to be held at Laurel Manor on Thursday, Feb. 11.

"The companies each have a compelling story of perseverance and growth, while being an important part of the Livonia community," said Chamber President Dan West.

Roush operates 28 facilities in southeast Michigan, others facilities and testing centers around the world, and collectively employs 4,300. Steve Sciatto, the company's executive vice president and long-time Livonia resident, said the company is looking to hire more people as Roush is in need of welders, fabricators, designers, technicians and engineers.

"What you see from Roush is just the tip of the iceberg," said Sciatto, who has worked at Roush for 34 years. "Not many people realize how much more we do below the surface. We take a customer's idea and other technologies, and integrate them into a real product."

Roush has long supported education initiatives in Livonia, including the Livonia Robotics Team. The company's extraordinary efforts to hire more than 200 military veterans over the last two years earned Roush the 2015 large business supplier of the year from Disabled American Veterans.

Outstanding Small Business honoree Embassy Title Agency is located on Farmington Road north of Five Mile Road. Owner Kate McCarty grew the company from about 30 transactions a month in 2008 - in the midst of the real estate bust - to some 200 transactions a month in 2015. She credits her personal relationships, work ethic, positive spirit, talented team, and community involvement for Embassy Title's emergence which includes an expansion this year.

"I give 100% of myself to all the people we help," McCarty said. "I seem to have an ability to bring out the best in people to grow our company. Our foundation has always been that we should help people the best we can."

McCarty was forced into entrepreneurship in 2005 when she suddenly lost her office manager job at a title company that folded. She had no personal savings but had a book of business that inspired her to start her own operation. With an infectious energy highlighted her favorite catch phrase: "Love baby love," she developed key real estate connections that gradually directed more closings to Embassy Title.

"We had to work hard to build our relationships with people, and then we always took care of them," McCarty said. "We always tried to make it more about relationships than business."

She worked seven days a week most of the time since she opened Embassy Title, taking her first trip in 15 years last year when she joined her daughter and grandchildren in a trip to Disney World.

After overcoming some personal struggles, she always focused on giving back to the community - even when her business was not as successful. She provided financial and mentoring support to domestic violence victims in the First Step program. She also contributes to the Livonia Family YMCA, Toys for Tots, schools and other nonprofit groups.

"I can't believe I was selected for this," McCarty said about earning the small business honor.

Mendelson's Professional Building and Mama Mia's Restaurant will receive this year's Community Enhancement Award, which honors Livonia companies that invest in a construction project that makes a visible difference in the community.

Mendelson Kornblum Orthopedic and Spine Specialists invested $13 million to redevelop a long-dormant site on the corner of Five Mile and Levan Roads. Dr. Herbert Mendelson started his practice in the 1960s and operated at various Livonia locations through the years, most recently on the campus of St. Mary Mercy Hospital.

CEO Mike Beaubien said the company needed more room and looked at various sites in and around Livonia for several years before deciding on the spot last occupied by Frank's Nursey and Crafts.

"We needed more space but we really wanted to stay in Livonia because this has been our home for so many years," Beaubien said. "We wanted a first-class building that will serve this community for a long time."

They constructed a two-story, 43,000-square-foot building that complimented the new construction across the street at St. Mary Mercy Hospital. In addition to the Mendelson Kornblum practice, the new building houses outpatient surgery and bariatric care facilities for St. Mary Mercy, MRI center for Instant Imagining, and Lakes Urgent Care.  

Dr. Herbert Mendelson's sons, David, Jeffery, Stephen, and daughter-in-law Alice are among the practice's 14 doctors. Beaubien said he needed to add 70 positions to adequately staff the new, larger Livonia location. The practice also has two facilities in Warren and with a total of 225 employees, and plans to add at least three more doctors this year.

Beaubien said the company is honored to be selected for this honor.

"I realized how visible the project is to the community," he said. "It's nice to see the hard work we put in and focus on the details are recognized publicly."

Mama Mia's Restaurant has been a fixture on Plymouth Road near Inkster Road for 63 years. Brothers John and Chris Vardouniotis acquired the property in November 1976, and with the help of their families, Mama Mia's grew into a popular stop for Italian dishes featuring a variety of homemade sauces and pastas.

The family also controls the Mama Mia's location on Beech Daly Road near Grand River Avenue in Redford.

The family invested more than $160,000 last year to revamp the restaurant's exterior to provide a uniform look for the 140-seat restaurant and 225-seat banquet hall that were constructed separately. Other renovations last year included new carpeting and appliances for the kitchen and bar area.

"We will continue to work on some other interior projects," said John Vardounoitis, who turned 80 in December. "The family wants to keep it, so I put some money into it so they can keep it going."

He is on a winter break in Florida, but he plans to return to Livonia in the spring and resume working at 7:30 a.m. each day at the restaurant. John's wife, Catherine; daughters Nancy and Margie; and grandchildren Paul, Katerina, Dominic, and Yanni all work at the restaurant.

"I've always told my grandchildren that whatever you do in life, you should be happy doing it," he said. "It makes me proud to see so many from the family who want to stay involved with the restaurant."

He added he attributes the restaurant's success to fair and consistent service and meals, and the Livonia community.

"I'm very proud to be part of Livonia," Vardounoitis said. "It is one of the best cities in Michigan and I enjoy being here."

Madonna University was selected as the second annual recipient of the Livonia Greenleaf Award. Developed by the City of Livonia's Greenleaf Commission on Sustainability, the panel aims to reward those Livonia businesses that implement strategies that place equal importance on environmental quality, economic prosperity, and social equity. Madonna's Franciscan Center, completed in 2009, became the city's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building.

The Livonia Chamber's Ambassador of the Year, Emily Bauman is honored as the chamber's leading volunteer.  She supported chamber members at ribbon-cutting celebrations, welcomed new businesses to the Chamber and referred other prospective new members throughout 2

As a business coach for AdviCoach of Michigan, Bauman works with business owners, specifically family-owned, to help take them to the next level.

"What we like to do is help the owners really get back to why they started the business and rebuild that passion," said Bauman. "I have met new people and built relationships and having those connections have been great personally and businesswise."

She credits the Livonia Chamber for helping her meet many people when she was still new to the area. Bauman was raised in New York and lived in Colorado most of her professional life.

Bauman and her husband of nearly 20 years, Bill, have three children and they belong to St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Livonia. She's also a member of the Livonia Civic Chorus.

The business award winners were nominated by Livonia Chamber of Commerce members and community leaders and selected by an anonymous committee who evaluates the nominations.

Also at the Leadership and Awards Celebration, teachers of the year for the Livonia and Clarenceville school districts will be honored, and The Livonia Observer will present its Outstanding Youth and Livonia First Citizen Awards.

The Leadership and Awards Celebration is sponsored by Bright House Business Solutions, Livonia Chrysler Jeep, AlphaUSA, St. Mary Mercy Hospital and Madonna University. Tickets are available at $25 each. Admission includes a strolling dinner and soft drinks. A cash bar will be available. To reserve tickets, call the Livonia Chamber office at 734.427.2122, or via e-mail at

Thursday, January 14, 2016

ZF moving headquarters from Northville to Livonia

By David Veselenak, O&E Media
Add one more company moving its global headquarters to Livonia. This time, it’s a company that already has a strong presence in the city.
ZF North American, based in Northville, announced during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week it plans on moving east to Livonia. ZF Group bought the former Livonia-based TRW about a year ago for more than $12 billion.
The auto parts supplier, which focuses on drive line and chassis technology, as well as autonomous driving technologies, will move into the former TRW headquarters, 12001 Tech Center Dr., in Livonia.
The move will allow employees who work closely with others in similar divisions the opportunity to be closer to one another, said Bryan Johnson, head of corporate communications for ZF North America.
“We’re going to name the Livonia location the headquarters for the region for the global group,” said Johnson, a Canton resident. “It really provides us with the opportunity to bring certain areas of the business together.
“In Livonia, we already had a global operation, so we had a good infrastructure in place for that. And in Northville, it was more of a regional group.”
A transition team will evaluate needs over the next six months and it could take 18-24 months to completely transition from the Northville site to Livonia.
The Livonia office has about 1,200 employees, while the Northville office has about 400; both have employees coming from across the region. No new construction or building enhancements are expected to the current Livonia office to accommodate the move.
The Northville facility will continue to be used, mostly as a sales and engineering facility. The number of employees at each location is not expected to change immediately, though it could in the future with more hiring planned for the company.
“Once we can move out of the corporate people, we already have open positions,” Johnson said. “We’re hiring at both locations.”
The company is the latest in the past year to move its headquarters to Livonia. Taylor-based Masco Corp. announced last summer it would move its world headquarters to Livonia in a brand-new building at Schoolcraft College. That project broke ground in the fall and is expected to wrap up work sometime this year.
John Wilkerson, a senior communications manager with ZF TRW, said with the company being in Livonia since 1993, it has built a strong report with many local entities, including local government and education.
“We have a really good relationship with the school system in Livonia, with the city,” said Wilkerson, who said he formerly sat on the Livonia Chamber of Commerce board. “It’s been an excellent place to work. It has a great location in the metro area, very centrally located. It’s been a really good relationship and it’s something we certainly want to continue.” | 734-678-6728 Twitter: @DavidVeselenak

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Free Seminar for Small Businesses at Wayne State University

Free seminar for small businesses: Government Contracting 101

Owners of small businesses are invited to join Wayne State University’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for a free seminar about getting involved in the field of government contracting.

The federal government purchases more than $500 billion in goods and services each year, and the State of Michigan uses more than 1,000 multiyear contracts. Learn how to get in on the action by attending Government Contracting 101.

Participants will learn how to become successful contractors and what services and resources are available to help small businesses with the government market.

Opportunities within both federal and state programs will be covered in the three-hour session. 

Participants will learn how to:
·         Classify products and services
·         Apply for small business programs
·         Find opportunities in specific product areas
·         Identify different types of solicitations
·         Master the bid process
·         Register as a state vendor
·         Market products and services
·         Use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Jan. 27; March 23; May 18; and June 22 on the Wayne State campus in Suite 3101 of the Maccabees Building, 5057 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 48202.

PTAC is a grant-funded service providing eligible business clients with the marketing and technical assistance needed to sell goods and services to the federal government, particularly the Department of Defense. In the last year, Wayne State’s PTAC worked with more than 270 local companies who have obtained contracts worth more than $40 million.

This seminar is free but advance registration is required. Email PTAC Program Manager Abby Cheatham at to reserve your seat, or call 313-577-0132 for details.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Grand time to open expanded Livonia chamber office

We had an amazing turnout Dec. 17 to formally acknowledge the opening of our new office for the Livonia Chamber of Commerce.
Our staff and ambassadors have participated in hundreds of ribbon-cuttings and groundbreaking ceremonies to celebrate new and expanded businesses here in Livonia through the years, but it was strange to organize a grand opening for the Livonia Chamber.
We like to make each grand opening a unique celebration of the risk, work and determination of the business owner. But when it comes to a chamber of commerce, particularly in a community-minded place like Livonia, it is truly an acknowledgment of a healthy business community.
It was a good year-end occasion to acknowledge two significant accomplishments for the chamber in 2015. First, we surpassed 900 members for the first time in more than 20 years. This is a tribute to the resilience and growth of the business community in and around Livonia.
This growth enabled us to move into a nice facility at the Civic Center Office Plaza – with double the space – that allows us to better serve our members and promote the Livonia business community.
In an amazing coincidence, our new office was formerly occupied by the Brashear and Tangora law firm, co-founded by William Brashear, Livonia’s first city attorney and third mayor. He was one of the nine original members of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors when it first met in February 1950. This law firm is now known as Crieighton, McLean and Shea, the chamber’s longest-sustained member.
The Livonia Chamber’s first headquarters was in the Six Mile-Merriman area at the home of Eddie Edgar, a legendary sports writer and Livonia advocate. In the early 1960s, the chamber office moved to a location on Farmington Road, just north of Five Mile, which is currently occupied by a State Farm Insurance office.
For the past dozen years, the Livonia Chamber worked out of an office on the city’s Civic Center campus. It was a challenging time for the chamber when it moved into this space in 2003, so city leaders made affordable arrangements for the Livonia Chamber to re-organize, endure the economic downturn of the last decade, develop better ways to serve the business community and position our organization for the growth we’ve seen so far this decade.
Our move this fall into a bigger space enables us to provide a better clubhouse feel and meeting spaces for our members. Our 21-member board and staff are grateful for the continued support of our organization, which comes from so many people who are fully engaged in the unique community spirit that brings us all together here in Livonia.
Dan West is president and CEO of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at

Friday, November 6, 2015

DFCU Financial Launches Business Banking

At a variety of scheduled events with local chambers of commerce during the month of October, DFCU Financial formerly announced its the launch of Business Banking. Developed to service small businesses with annual revenues of $5 million or less and shaped in collaboration with Michigan entrepreneurs, DFCU Financial Business Banking offers simplified products, best-in-class technology, and financial education and guidance tailored to the specific needs of small business owners.  

“After listening carefully to Michigan small business owners over a nine-month period of focus meetings and extensive market research, DFCU Financial has developed a simplified, consultative approach to business banking to help our business members meet the unique needs of their firms,” said Mark Shobe, president and CEO, DFCU Financial. “Our Business Banking team is highly specialized, and our simplified portfolio of small business-centric products and educational resources offers support, guidance and convenience to small business owners statewide.”

DFCU Financial Business Banking minimizes transaction and loan turnaround times with best-in-class technology, offering a more personal approach than national banks. DFCU Financial’s consultative approach and local experts throughout the state of Michigan expedite loan decisions, and the organization’s online banking platform streamlines payment, payroll and transactional processes.

To better guide small business owners to the right products and services for their needs, DFCU Financial’s highly trained Business Banking experts are qualified to empower small business owners to use current and future financial assets to their advantage.

Educational guidance is available to small business owners and their employees through one-on-one consultations and ongoing educational seminars at branch locations across metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

“The ‘DFCU DNA’ is truly ingrained in our Business Banking practice,” said Lesli Matukaitis, senior vice president, Corporate Banking, DFCU Financial. “We listened carefully to small business owners as we developed our solution and educational offerings, and remain committed to helping our clients take the guesswork out of important financial decisions, helping them attain short- and long-term financing.”

In January 2015, DFCU Financial paid a record-breaking $24 million CASH BACK loyalty reward to its members, the largest payout by any financial institution in Michigan. The largest individual payout was $18,000. Members adding Business Banking to their portfolios may be eligible to receive up to one-half percent (0.50%) CASH BACK on their average yearly business loans and deposit balances from the prior year.

About DFCU Financial
DFCU Financial issues to its clients the largest CASH BACK reward of all credit unions, with more than $181 million issued since 2006. A strong community partner, DFCU Financial continually reinvests in its membership with new branches and financial literacy education for all ages. DFCU Financial currently operates 25 full-service branches in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing. For more information, call 888.336.2700 or visit