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LSI Industries carves out territory in advanced lighting

LSI Industries doesn't want you to light a candle or curse the darkness. Rather, it wants to illuminate the world in an energy-efficient way.

Founded in 1976 in a 1,200-square-foot facility, the Cincinnati-based company began with four employees determined to provide good lighting for service stations. Today, the company employs 1,400 at 14 facilities in the U.S. and Canada and specializes in solid-state LED (light-emitting diode) technology for indoor and outdoor lighting and graphics. 

LSI combines integrated technology, design, and manufacturing to supply lighting fixtures and graphics elements for applications in the commercial, retail and specialty niche markets. Its major markets are in commercial/industrial lighting, petroleum/convenience store, multi-site retail (including automobile dealerships, restaurants and national retail accounts), sports and entertainment.

LEDs, generally, are considered superior to traditional lighting because they generate less heat, fewer greenhouse gases, and last longer. LSI's award-winning, flagship technology is called SmartTec; it's used in a product line called Crossover.

"In less than three years, over 100,000 and growing Crossover LED fixtures have been installed in both new construction and retrofit applications, reducing energy consumption by 40% – 80% (depending upon the Crossover fixture) when compared to the traditional lamp alternatives," according to the company.

Source: LIS Industries
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


Tallmadge startup focuses on fiberglass motorcycle parts

Motorcycle enthusiast/aspiring entrepreneur Gary Green – who has worked in manufacturing for 35 years – combined his love of bikes and ambitions for business when Access-O-Ride Technology, opened in Tallmadge recently.

Green had developed a way to manufacture durable fiberglass parts, but needed help to launch his business. He found it last fall when, after hearing a talk at a library, he learned about JumpStart, a Cleveland-based non-profit organization that provides resources to promising early-stage companies.

Darrin Redus, president of JumpStart Inclusion Advisors, which focuses on minority and women-owned businesses, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Johnny Hutton, helped Green get involved with The JumpStart Launch100 Initiative, a collaboration of their group and the Ohio Department of Development Minority Business Enterprise Division. Launch100 is a statewide program to create a pipeline of 100 high potential minority and inner-city based businesses in Ohio over the next five years.

Redus found that AORT "has a patented, scalable product and a team with the right background and know-how to lead it through the growth process." He and Hutton helped Green develop an investor plan and funding strategy that enabled him to enter the market he'd identified.

Green said his JumpStart mentors helped him "round the rough edges" of plans and presentations to get better results. He said AORT and JumpStart learned "to trust each other's judgment."

AORT has begun making saddlebags and fenders already with six employees. Green hopes to hire up to 50 and eventually move into the automotive and marine segments.

Source: JumpStart
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


Sandridge Foods breaks new ground in advanced food safety technology

A lunch meat business started from the trunk of Vincent Sandridge's car in 1960 has grown into one of the nation's leading fresh food providers.

Today, Sandridge Food Corp., with both food service and retail operations, is continuing to grow -- it added 64 jobs in the last year and 35 jobs since May -- and employment now stands at 469, says Mary Vaccaro, senior marketing manager for the Medina-based company.

The company's most recent job additions are at least partly due to Sandridge's first-in-industry application of a technology called high pressure processing -- a heatless technique that eliminates pathogens from Sandridge's salads, soups and other packaged foods.

Here's how it works. Food is packaged in a flexible container and loaded into a high-pressure chamber filled with cold water. The chamber is pressurized to between 58,000 and 87,000 pounds per square inch. Because the pressure is transmitted evenly, the food keeps its shape -- and because no heat is used, the flavor and other characteristics of the food are maintained while destroying harmful bacteria.

"High pressure processing is not a new technology, but it's new in our arena," Vaccaro says. "We have found that although food safety is number one, there are these residual benefits that come out of high pressure processing in our industry. It really intensifies flavors. And it extends the usable shelf life for many of our products, and that's also an advantage to our customers."

Sandridge remains a family-run business. While Vincent Sandridge is no longer alive, his sons Mark and Michael serve as CEO and senior director of food service sales, respectively, Vaccaro says. Mark Sandridge's sons Jordan and Dane also work for the company, she notes.

Source: Mary Vaccaro, Sandridge Foods
Writer: Gene Monteith

Techmetals’ manpower runs on brain power

At Techmetals in Dayton, investment in human resources is as important as investment in capital resources.

The 41-year-old industrial and commercial metal finishing company emphasizes employee learning for everyone, from new hires to veterans, says Phillip Brockman, director of business development and engineering.

Within the first two weeks, newcomers are required to perform some physical labor and read technical data. The tasks help Techmetals determine important characteristics about the person, such as whether they can read and follow directions, and if they're a "self-starter." The tasks also help the company evaluate the person's communication skills.

Everyone gets training in Steven Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," which emphasizes things like being proactive, planning, and understanding; and the FranklinCovey planner system, which assists time management and organization.

But that's not all. Other company-sponsored courses cover things like chemistry, math, blueprint reading, project management, supervision, safety, and the importance of a drug-free workplace.

Each employee gets $2,000 a year for outside learning, too, typically used at places such as Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton. Brockman says the company spent $24,000 last year for sales training. One employee underwent $7,000 of computer training. Many employees also earn the credential Certified Electro Finisher – "it's like a degree in plating," he says.

And when a company class is held on a Saturday, off-duty employees get paid to be there.

A former COO is the continuous improvement director; he teaches many of the classes. And there are two on-site training facilities. The 2009 total for all this learning was over $125,000, excluding the continuous improvement director's salary.

Why, in an era of economic upheaval, does Techmetals still budget for these things?

"It helps establish our culture," Brockman says. "…And it helps us all use the same nomenclature and procedures."

It doesn't hurt retention, either, he says. Current employment is about 125. Average tenure is 18 years.

Source: Phillip Brockman, Techmetals
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


Predicting chance of power outages energizes Exacter's growth

An electric utility's biggest bane, John Lauletta says, is the power outage. It makes sense that if utilities could predict outages -- or at least when parts of the system were about to fail -- they'd jump at the chance.

Enter Exacter, which over the past four years has grown rapidly by helping to predict how and where overhead power distribution systems might fail.

Lauletta, Exacter's CEO, says the company began to gel in 2004, when he and fellow utilities veteran Larry Anderson (Exacter's vice president of international business) "started talking about this idea of predictive technologies. We started our work with the Ohio State University High Voltage Laboratory, and we opened our company on July 1, 2006."

Today, Exacter has 100 utility customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and the U.K.

In a nutshell, here's Exacter's approach: As a vehicle drives along the distribution route at regular speeds, a patented sensor in the car detects radio emissions from damaged components. Exacter sends a person into the field to confirm which component is damaged or failing. A digital photograph is taken, latitude and longitude confirmed, and reported to the utility so the problem can be fixed.

While there are other methods for finding bad components, none is as accurate, fast or as comprehensive as the method Exacter uses, Lauletta says.

Lauletta says another growing service for Exacter is helping utilities understand the feasibility of laying "smartgrid" networks over their distribution lines.

Exacter has received support from the Ohio TechAngel Funds and the Ohio Third Frontier Innovation Ohio Loan Fund. Last year, the company received Outstanding Startup and Outstanding Service awards from TechColumbus, and, more recently, a statewide professional engineering award for innovation for small companies.

Source: John Lauletta, Exacter
Writer: Gene Monteith


Global Neighbor wants to zap your dandelions -- but in an environmentally friendly way

Global Neighbor has struck a chord with dandelion haters who want to kill the buggers in an environmentally friendly way.

Jon Jackson, president of the Dayton-based company, reports that by the end of the year he expects to sell his 1,000th unit of the NaturZap, a device that kills broadleaf weeds without chemicals.

The company was formed in 2003, and in 2006 piloted the NaturCut, an energy-efficient, battery-operated, shear-cut lawn mower. While Global Neighbor is still working on a cost-competitive design for the NaturCut, gardeners seem to have found a new friend in the AC-driven NaturZap, which was rolled out in 2008.

The device works with a combination of high heat -- which damages the root system -- and natural processes that introduce fungus into the damaged root.

That's good news for consumers like Jackson, who says his lab/pit bull mix gets a rash every time it encounters a chemically treated lawn.

NaturZap is sold primarily through online organic gardening outlets and is on back order, Jackson says. While the product is currently manufactured overseas, he intends to move production to Tipp City as volumes increase. Jackson also hopes to increase his number of employees from one -- himself -- to three next year.

Jackson is working on a souped-up, battery driven NaturZap. But he hasn't given up on the NaturCut's technology -- in fact, he hopes to springboard off of both products to create "a lawn care solution that has zero environmental impact," he says. "We envision something that is self propelled or you push through the lawn. It cuts the grass, it kills the weeds, it applies an organic fertilizer, all under computer control."

The company has benefited from a $12,500 Third Frontier grant through the Dayton Development Coalition, resulting in matching funds from private sources.

Source: Jon Jackson, Global Neighbor
Writer: Gene Monteith


Akron's Ayalogic gives voice to video gamers

In the old days, real-time video game communications consisted of screaming at a buddy for messing up your high-scoring Super Mario Bros. game. These days, says Ayalogic president Mike Rojas, the phrase "in-game communication" has an entirely different meaning.

"Today's online games are incredibly complex, requiring multiple people working together in a synchronized fashion to complete a desired goal," Rojas explains. "That is very difficult to do while sending text or instant messages back and forth to each other."

Ayalogic, which is headquartered in Akron, develops voice communication products for the video game industry that allow players to communicate while playing online games. The firm's Green-Ear product is embedded into games by their developers, facilitating real-time player communication using VoIP. The tool's flexibility makes it ideal for player groups of any size to quickly and easily connect during play. This makes it ideal for large-scale game tournaments that can consist of literally hundreds of players scattered across the globe.

The company also offers a free version for players to download and use with friends.

Rojas, a former NEC executive with more than eight patents and almost 30 years of software experience, founded the company in 2002.

Ayalogic employs eight people currently, but likely will add more development professionals in the near future to cultivate new features.

Source: Mike Rojas, Ayalogic
Writer: Douglas Trattner

Anthrotech taking stock of soldiers’ dimensions

Using tools as low-tech as a tape measure and calipers, and as high-tech as a 3D body scanner, Anthrotech  of Yellow Springs is compiling data about the physical characteristics of U.S. military personnel. The goal is to ensure optimal fitting of everything from clothing to tank interiors to office spaces.

The company received a three-year, $6.1 million contract for quantifying body sizes last fall. As a result, it recently hired and trained 21 new fulltime employees, all skilled technicians, to conduct the measurements. "They're already out in the field," says Dr. Bruce Bradtmiller, president.

The 3D scans enable analysis of a range of features of the personnel's head, body and feet.

The 60-year-old company previously had five fulltime and six part-time employees. It temporarily used extra space in Yellow Springs for training purposes but no capital expansion is expected.

Bradtmiller says Anthrotech performed a major study of body data for the Marines in 1966, and a similar one for the Army in '87-88, with pilot study in '07-'08.

"People do change over time," Bradtmiller says.

So does the makeup of the military, as more reserve and National Guard officers are activated, and as more women take on a wider range of roles.

Other users of the kinds of measurements Anthrotech performs – these "anthropometric surveys" – include, for example, makers of diapers, prosthetic limbs, eyewear, cars and trucks, safety equipment, furniture and apparel.

Anthrotech's roots are with Antioch College; the company originally was called the Anthropology Research Project.

Source: Dr. Bruce Bradtmiller, Anthrotech
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


M.O.M.'s intuition: a metal stamper that could revolutionize the industry

Does a metal stamping tool with the potential to revolutionize an industry sound ambitious? Maybe. Is it possible? Absolutely.

That's exactly what the founders of M.O.M. Tools have in mind for the metal fabrication business.

M.O.M. (Men of Miami) Tools was established in 2003 by two Miami University graduates, Anthony Lockhart and John Collier. The pair created a patented "Dual-Head" punch for the metal fabrication and fastener industries, with the idea to improve productivity and reduce tooling, maintenance and scrap expenses.

With their innovative product, Collier and Lockhart believe the industry can be revived — with jobs that will stay in Ohio.

Lockhart says the Cleveland-based company found a niche, offering a product that has a longer life and better quality of a "punched" hole than the current tools on the market.

Typically, when a hole is punched through metal, it wants to close itself. The entire process takes "just a milli-fraction of a second," not visible to the naked eye. M.O.M. Tools' Dual-Head system has two cutting mechanisms and a groove to catch excess "flow." And the tool can last up to 15 times longer then conventional tools on the market.

"We want to revolutionize the metal stamping industry," Lockhart says. "Hopefully, by our efforts, we can retain some of the business in this country."

That type of innovation is bound to attract some attention. The Great Lakes Innovation & Development Enterprise (GLIDE) grant program awarded the company $25,000.

"Our goal is to continue to add jobs and continue to grow," Lockhart says. "And these are not minimum wage jobs by any stretch of the imagination."

Source: Anthony Lockhart, M.O.M. Tools
Writer: Colin McEwen

Parsley Hollow: When life gives you lemons, make pet shampoo

When life gives you lemons, make shampoo. That seems to be the motto of Gay and Buz Fifer, a Wooster couple working to take their pet care company to the next level by focusing on a line of all-natural products.

Parsley Hollow, which began selling its products in 2005, grew from an all-too-common circumstance in today's economy: Both she and her husband had been laid off from their jobs.

"I'm 63, Buz is 65, we had good careers, we had good jobs, we have good resumes, but nobody wants to hire people who are our age," Gay says. "And so we started a business."

Gay says that before Parsley Hollow sold its first product, she already had been "making these organic, all natural products for my own animals, which had skin problems." One day, she asked her vet if he thought she could make something that might be as effective as the expensive stuff sold commercially. "And he said 'yeah, I think you could.'"

In fact, that vet carried the Parsley Hollow line until his recent retirement, the Fifers say.

Today, the company sells six products, all of which the Fifers say differ from most mainstream pet products because they are "completely all natural and organic." Additionally, each product includes a natural antibacterial agent, Gay says.

The company has some celebrity endorsements, including legendary Miami Dolphins running back Larry Csonka and country artist Kasey Lansdale. Three veterinarians, 10 specialty pet stores and 12 groceries are actively selling the products, Buz says.

While an economic downturn has affected sales, the Fifers say they are negotiating a national deal that could put their products on shelves nationally -- though under a different name -- late this year.

Sources: Gay and Buz Fifer, Parsley Hollow
Writer: Gene Monteith


Athens-based Sunpower shoots for the stars with super-efficient engine technology

Athens-based Sunpower soon could see its super-efficient engine technology blast into the heavens though a partnership with NASA.

Sunpower founder William Beale, a former Ohio University professor, developed Sunpower's signature Stirling engine – a free-piston Stirling engine that will run for 100,000 hours without stopping – that's been the basis for the company's cryo-coolers, engines and compressors. Beale developed the technology in the 1970s, but it's been refined over decades.

Sunpower's cryocoolers have long cooled down highly sensitive sensors, including medical devices, nuclear material detection devices and their engines have been developed for solar, biomass, diesel, and natural gas generators. But recently the company has set its sights higher, into space to be exact, through a partnership with NASA that will launch Sunpower technology into deep space.

"When we started, this technology had just been invented, now we have commercial cryocoolers products and engines designed for space applications," company CEO and president Mark Schweizer said. "Our engineering services today are all around NASA. Going forward we're developing engines for terrestrial applications (solar power generation and critical remote power) for commercial customers."

Under the joint sponsorship of NASA and the Department of Energy, Sunpower is helping developed a high-efficiency Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (or ASRG) for future NASA Space Science and Exploration missions.

Sunpower is developing two Advanced Stirling Convertors (ASCs), operating at a hot-end temperature of 650 degrees Celsius for the ASRG. It's a joint project, along with Lockheed Martin and the NASA Glenn Research Center  of Cleveland.

The company's work with NASA has fueled expansion. Sunpower has grown 32 percent in the last two years, and now employs 71. Many of the employees are engineers and technicians, many who have been recruited from Ohio University and nearby Hocking College respectively.

Source: Mark Schweizer, Sunpower
Writer: Feoshia Henderson


Akron's InSeT Systems bringing high-tech safety to mining industry

Remember the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia in 2006? The mine collapsed and a dozen people died when rescuers could not locate them in time.

The folks at InSeT Systems remember the incident well; and their goal is to make sure that never happens again.

The Akron-based company is fine-tuning its Inertial Sensor Tracking System, which uses inertial technology to provide the most accurate location data available underground. The device will also work any other places GPS can't reach (think outerspace and underwater).

The mining industry got a push toward additional safety standards in 2006 with the passage of the MINER Act, requiring mining companies to wirelessly track where all of their employees are at all times.

Jay Breeding, InSeT's chief operations officer, says the founders of the company knew that no such technology existed on the market.

They got a $400,000 loan from JumpStart and began the work. InSeT later received loans from the state and a grant from the Ohio Coal Development Office for $330,000.

With a product developed, InSeT will now begin large-scale testing. What better place to test than the largest underground mine in Ohio?

"We're very optimistic about this test," Breeding says.

He adds there are plans to add as many as 50 jobs by the end of 2012 -- not including subcontractors. Four people, including Breeding, are currently employed with InSeT.

"We had to start from scratch but we know we've got superior technology," he says, adding that the company recently took home a 2010 NorTech Innovation Award. "We'll hang the gold star on our door when someone gets to go home who otherwise wouldn't have."

Source: Jay Breeding, InSeT Systems
Writer: Colin McEwen


Shawnee State to 20th Century Fox: "We've got your animators"

A new generation of animators has a new tool to learn the craft -- one nurtured on the banks of the Ohio River and seemingly straight out of "Avatar."

On Feb. 19, Shawnee State University in Portsmouth dedicated and officially opened its new Motion Capture Lab, a state-of-the-art facility that is one of only two such programs in the state (the other is at Ohio State University).

The lab is designed specifically for those pursuing a bachelor of science in digital simulation and gaming arts, or a bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in gaming and simulation arts, says Carl Hilgarth, professor and department chair, Engineering Technologies.

To turn motion into an animated character, students wear a special suit covered in light-emitting diodes (LEDs), Hilgarth says. The movements, when fed through a software program, allow students to create a three-dimensional model of that character, eliminating the need to draw separate frames to create animated sequences.

Hilgarth sees applications not just for movies, but for physical therapy (to compare a patient's movement against a standard), athletic training (is my golf swing up to par?), and medical training (how do you get a patient into a wheelchair?)

"We would also be able to capture the strength or force by which you grip parts -- and so we can do training videos and very precisely as far as how you put parts together, how you have to grip parts . . . it has unlimited possibilities."

Use of the lab will begin in earnest in the fall, when it is completely fitted with new computers and software, Hilgarth says. Meanwhile, Shawnee State continues to carve out a niche for itself in digital interactive media: some 80 freshmen enroll in the engineering component alone every year, Hilgarth says.

Source: Carl Hilgarth, Shawnee State University
Writer: Gene Monteith


SciTech aims for tech-savvy synergies -- all under one roof

Science and Technology Campus Corp., the state-of-the-art research and office complex at The Ohio State University, is counting on creative synergy, investing in an $7.3 million ElectroScience lab and wireless communication building that housing university researchers and private tech-savvy firms under one roof.

The innovative 40,000-square-foot Wireless Communication Building allows for quick collaboration, making the research-to-commercialization process more dynamic and smooth, says SciTech President Doug Aschenbach.

"A lot of research ideas really do begin in a brainstorming process where people will be talking at lunch. There is a creative process that works better if people are together than if people are working by phone 1,000 miles away," Aschenbach says.

SciTech, a non-profit that partners with state, local and university partners to attract high-tech companies to its research park, is the developer of the Wireless Communication Building. The OSU ElectroScience Lab will occupy half of the new building. SciTech hasn't announced any official private clients yet, but said the companies in the ElectroScience field, like aviation companies, are targeted tenants.

"In many cases (researchers and private industry) are already collaborating. It makes the process more efficient if someone can walk down the hall and talk to the person conducting research on their behalf," Aschenbach says.

The building is expected to be ready for occupancy late this year.

Source: SciTech President Doug Aschenbach
Writer: Feoshia Henderson


Willoughby firm saves pilots the trouble of scraping

Ice on your car's windshield is a seasonal nuisance, removed with elbow grease and a plastic scraper. Ice on an airplane is much more serious. It'll stop you cold. Gravity is such a downer.

Willoughby-based Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems, helps general aviation and commuter aircraft (such as Cessna 350/400 planes) with the ThermaWing system. The system is lightweight (46 pounds), covers a large surface area and sheds ice fast. All the pilot has to do is activate a switch. The system monitors the outside air temperature and controls itself. A flexible, electrically conductive, graphite foil attached to a wing's leading edge makes an instant temperature rise. The ice melts then goes away due to aerodynamic force. It's quick, and cleaner than liquid de-icing products.

Development began around 1999 and took off via a NASA Small Business Innovative Research grant. Kelly's great innovation  was adapting graphite heating element materials used in other high temperature applications to de-icing an aircraft.

ThermaWing installations began in 2006. Today, system maintenance can be performed not just at the 14-person site in Lake County near Cleveland, but also in Oregon, New York, Alabama (parent company Kelly Aerospace is based in Montgomery) and in Germany. The company plans to make the system available for a wider range of aircraft. Also a result of the research grant, the company has had success with product integration and certification of high-output alternators and DC-powered air conditioning.

Demand for ThermaWing has been steady, spokeswoman Michelle Beckmann says. And she points out that in aviation, due to thin air at higher altitudes, ice is a year-round hazard. (Take heart, fellow auto owners. Our de-icing needs are only seasonal.)

Source: Michelle Beckmann, Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

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