Leaders & Innovators
Jim Prokes is co-founder, president, and CEO of MIPRO Consulting LLC in Milford. MIPRO is a consultancy specializing in the implementation, upgrading, and optimization of Oracle’s PeopleSoft applications. Prokes provides strategic direction and drives growth for the firm while overseeing the day-to-day operations. Under his leadership, the company has reported a three-year revenue growth of 118 percent, increasing from $6.8 million in 2009 to $14.9 million in 2012, earning MIPRO a place on the Inc. 5000. Now with about 100 employees, MIPRO has been named a Metropolitan Detroit 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For each of its eight years in existence. The company also has been named a Cool Places to Work in Michigan by Crain’s Detroit Business. Prior to founding MIPRO in 2005, Prokes launched and successfully managed several entrepreneurial endeavors. Previously, he was CFO of Ferrous Processing & Trading, a firm that generated more than $340 million in annual revenue. He received his bachelor’s degree from Lawrence Technological University and his master’s degree in accounting from Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration.
CARL ERICKSON is co-founder and president of Atomic Object in Grand Rapids. Erickson oversees operations and client engagements at Atomic Object, which creates custom web, mobile, and embedded software products. He is also the interim CTO of ReapSo; board member and co-founder of Blue Medora; and board member and investor at Varsity News Network. Under his leadership, Atomic Object has grown from three developers to a 45-person team of designers, developers, and support staff. In September, Atomic Object acquired Ann Arbor software development firm SRT Solutions. It also opened an office in Detroit. With $5.5 million in revenue and an average growth rate of 25 percent, Atomic Object was named to Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 three times. The firm has been recognized as one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch by the Edward Lowe Foundation, presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business, and received the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility. The creation of Atomic Object followed the failure of a dot-com- era software startup where Erickson was vice president of development. Prior to that, he was a professor of computer science at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) for 10 years. He also was a part-time industrial lecturer at Uppsala University in Sweden and served on the board of the Swedish American Heritage Society for more than six years, part of that time as president. He is a board member of the West Michigan-based Grand Angels, and serves as a member and advisor for GVSU’s CIS advisory board and Business Ethics Center. Erickson received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University and master’s and doctoral degrees in computer engineering from Michigan State University. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
NEETU SETH: Founder and CEO of NITS Solutions in Farmington Hills. NITS Solutions provides custom technology; marketing services such as direct mail, surveys and sales calls; and data-management services to Fortune 500 clients. The company began in staffing services and expanded into data analysis to meet customer demands. Since its inception in 2009, NITS Solutions has increased revenue significantly, projecting up to $2 million this year from $850,000 in 2012 and $400,000 in 2011. The company also has added several employees as it continues its rapid growth. Under Seth’s leadership, NITS Solutions recently has been named one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. Previously, Seth held positions in e-banking services at ADP and Citigroup. She received her bachelor’s degree from Guru Nanek Dev University in India and her MBA from Eastern Michigan University. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders. (Note: Leaders & Innovators will be on hiatus for the next two weeks due to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and will return Tuesday, Jan. 7.)
Claudine George: CEO and Managing Member of ICONMA LLC in Troy. George oversees the activities of the overall business and promotes diversity initiatives for the staffing, consulting, and managed project services company. George began her career as an IT consultant to the automotive industry. While working at a major OEM, she founded her first company, which matched engineering and IT consultants and clients. Subsequently, George formed ICONMA, which has more than 1,700 employees throughout 25 national and international locations. Starting with staffing services, George has expanded ICONMA into additional service areas, including managed services, which provides web and mobile application development and testing services. Under her leadership, ICONMA has been named to the Inc. 5000 for six consecutive years, with $109.7 million in revenue for 2012, a three-year growth of 106 percent. The company has been recognized as one of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies in North America sponsored by the New York-based Women Presidents’ Organization and the small-business division of American Express, as well as a Corp! magazine economic bright spot. George was named an Ernst & Young LLP Entrepreneur of the Year in the staffing and support services category. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
SUSAN MOSEY: President of Midtown Detroit, Inc. in Detroit. Mosey has led the University Cultural Center Association, newly reconstituted as Midtown Detroit, for 24 years. Midtown Detroit is responsible for community development, marketing, public space maintenance, security services, real estate and small-business development, and arts programming within Detroit’s University Cultural Center and New Center districts – an area now known as Midtown. Projects undertaken by the organization under her direction include public improvements, and residential and commercial real estate development and management. The organization also produces a number of signature arts events for the district, including Art X Detroit, DLECTRICITY and Noel Night. Since 2000, Midtown Detroit, Inc. has raised more than $60 million in direct support for a variety of initiatives, including the restoration and conversion of six historic homes into a boutique hotel, the Inn on Ferry Street, and a façade matching grant program which has provided more than $1 million to local business owners. Midtown Detroit recently received the Urban Land Institute’s Global Award for Excellence, the real estate industry’s most prestigious honor, for the TechTown Living Room, an initiative of nonprofit urban development. Currently, Midtown Detroit’s neighborhood redevelopment initiatives include the creation of a walkable arts district and renovation of numerous historic structures for market-rate and mixed-income housing. Most recently, the organization is administering the national Living Cities Integration Initiative, providing commercial debt and low-interest loans, mixed-use development, and charter school financing. Mosey has been awarded the inaugural Mariam C. Noland Award for Nonprofit Leadership by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and named by Crain’s Detroit Business as a Newsmaker of the Year and one of the Women to Watch, and by MLive as one of 13 Michiganders to Watch in 2013. She received her bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
MIKE JENNINGS is CEO of Secure-24 in Southfield. Secure-24 provides managed IT operations, enterprise resource planning application hosting, and cloud computing services with data centers in Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona. With more than 25 years of experience in information systems, business development, finance, and manufacturing, Jennings has led the firm’s growth to more than 170 clients in a variety of industries, including government and education. During the past year, Secure-24’s work force has grown 71 percent to more than 340 employees, mostly in Michigan. The company plans to implement numerous IT training certifications for its employees after receiving the Challenge Fund Award through Automation Alley’s technical talent development program. Secure-24 gives back to the community through monthly fundraisers, blood drives, charity dinners, and other events to groups such as Gleaners, Angels of Hope, and the American Red Cross. The company has been designated by Computerworld as one of the 2013 Best Places to Work in IT. Last year, it was named one of Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Secure-24 also is on CRN’s 500 Top Solution Provider list. Previously, Jennings was the co-founder, chief technology officer, and senior vice president of business development at Appshop. He also founded the IT services company InfoSolutions and was a principal at Simplify, an Oracle ERP consulting company. Jennings’ experience includes positions with El Dorado Ventures, United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney, and SimulTrans. He also has held senior finance positions as a CFO and controller. He studied network management and engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz. Read the complete profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
SCOTT FOSTER is president of Wellco in Royal Oak. Wellco provides ROI and appraisal systems to fix corporate wellness programs and measurably improve organizational health costs and conditions. It also provides corporate wellness programs, speaking, and consulting services. In the past year, Wellco’s revenue has increased by 30 percent and staff has increased by 14 percent. The company has worked with such organizations as Home Depot, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, and the United Auto Workers. Under Foster’s leadership, Wellco has been recognized as one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch by the Edward Lowe Foundation, Corp! magazine’s Best of Michigan Business, and one of Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots and Entrepreneurs of Distinction. Prior to founding the company in 1996, Foster was a cardiology manager with St. John Providence Health System. He is a certified health promotion director from the Cooper Clinic and a certified Lipid Clinic facilitator from Chicago’s Midwest Heart Specialists. Foster is a speaking faculty member for Merck, consultant to the state of Michigan, chairman of the Michigan Wellness Council, and columnist for Corp! magazine. He received his bachelor’s degree in health science from Central Michigan University. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
Aaron Chernow is CEO of Brightwing in Troy. Brightwing offers staffing, recruiting, training, and development for companies to create workplace environments where employees thrive. The company has branch offices in Dallas and Weston, Fla. Chernow drives the strategic direction and operational performance of the firm. Previously, he was chief operating officer of Brightwing and was vice president at MEC Personnel Consultants. Brightwing was named to the Inc. 5,000 after marking a three-year revenue growth of 85 percent, increasing from $20 million in 2009 to $37.1 million in 2012. The company also added 140 jobs during that period. Under his leadership, Brightwing has been named a Top Small Company Workplace, by Inc. magazine, a Cool Place to Work by Crain’s Detroit Business, a 101 Best and Brightest Company to Work For by the Michigan Business and Professional Association and Corp! magazine, and a Best Place to Work by the Dallas Business Journal. Chernow also serves as vice chairman of the board of directors for Jewish Vocational Service Detroit. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Michigan and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Detroit Mercy. Read the complete profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.
Greg Cavey is founder and lab manager at Launch MI Lab in Kalamazoo. Launch MI Lab is a laboratory for life science startups, located at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center. It has more than 2,300 square feet of secure wet lab space and access to equipment, including mass spectrometry systems, centrifuges, autoclaves, flow cytometers, a variety of microscopes, incubator, lyophilizer, upright freezer, and standard lab supplies and tools. Under his leadership, the lab has helped companies such as Metabolic Solutions Development Co., which earlier this year published data on a new drug target it has identified for improving the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The company contracted with Launch MI Lab to help define the proteins involved and their mechanism of action. Cavey, a biochemist and experienced research investigator, founded Launch MI Lab after more than 20 years in proteomics, mass spectrometry, and lab management. Previously, he was a research investigator at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, where he established and directed the Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics for eight years. Earlier, he was a group leader in the Upjohn Co.’s Control Biotechnology Unit where he supervised a protein chemistry lab. Following Upjohn’s merger with Pharmacia, Cavey moved to human health discovery research where he established a proteomics operation that provided mass spectrometry support for biologists and protein chemists. Cavey currently provides mass spectrometry services and counsel for Southwest Michigan Innovation Center clients as well as for local, regional, and national research companies, universities, and colleges. He was named to the Association of Biomedical Resource Facilities Protein Sequencing Group to evaluate the use of mass spectrometry to determine the amino terminal sequence of proteins due to the growing popularity of mass spectrometry in biology and chemistry labs globally. Cavey received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Michigan State University.
Jason Vazzano is president, CEO and co-founder of Vectorform in Royal Oak. Vectorform is a digital experience studio that develops digital products and experiences with a focus on mobile and emerging technology solutions. The company has a history of developing emerging technology. In 2008 Microsoft hired Vectorform to help develop the first version of the multi-touch Surface application. Vectorform also did some early work on Xbox Kinect. More recently, the firm developed Toolbox for Windows 8, which has more than 850,000 downloads and is the No. 1 productivity app on the Windows Store. Vectorform works with such brands as BMW, American Express, Disney, and Red Bull. Vazzano has established the decade–old company as a leader in emerging strategy, design, and technology solutions. He manages five offices in Seattle, Detroit, New York, Munich, and Hyderabad. Previously Vazzano worked for DaimlerChrysler as a business analyst. He was recognized by DBusiness magazine in 2013 as one of the Top 30 in Their 30s. Vazzano serves on the board of Crossroads for Youth, a nonprofit organization that focuses on giving children the tools and skills required to lead productive and happy lives. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and information systems from the University of Detroit Mercy. Read the full profile at http://www.ltu.edu/leaders.