Environmental, diversity issues focus of Troy forum March 2

By Mike Scott

Legal News

The struggle by area businesses and law firms to find new revenue and growth opportunities in Michigan has been well chronicled in recent years. Now an upcoming seminar hosted by the Business Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan will review two issues that should create such business opportunities that have been so difficult to find over the past two years.

The impact of "green" technologies and options that are available for minority and women entrepreneurs will each be featured as part of a Small Business Forum held by the State Bar of Michigan's Business Law Section held on Tuesday, March 2, at the Columbia Center in Troy.

Both topics will be covered as part of an informative, but high-level discussion open to lawyers, business professionals, and other community leaders.

Arcadio (Kayo) Ramirez, a technology business consultant in alternative energy for the Michigan Small Business Technology Development Center and a board member of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and Michigan Wind Institute, will speak on how law firms and their clients can take advantage of "green" investment opportunities. Cynthia Grubbs from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will discuss issues related to diversity and minority and women-owned businesses.

The topics were selected because while there is a significant amount of discussion about them, many lawyers may not fully understand how they could impact their respective practices, said Douglas Toering, a partner with Grassi & Toering PLC in Troy. Toering is a Section member and chairs the Small Business Forum committee.

"They are topics that both members of the (Business Law) Section and non-members alike are going to be interested in," Toering said. "The impact on law firms and our clients can be significant--we all should be looking at ways to take advantage of the revenue and growth potential."

Past topics covered by the dection's Small Business Forum have included how business can succeed in a down economy, a variety of technology-related topics, finance options with banks, identifying and assisting distressed companies and more. Forums have been held all around the state. Cynthia Umphrey, a partner with Kemp Klein Law Firm in Troy, had chaired the Small Business Forum committee from its inception through 2009.

Ramirez plans to outline some of the opportunities available to both lawyers and businesses in finding new business relating to "green" technologies, along with the advantages of using such strategies as part of everyday business operations.

"As a state we are taking the lead in not only the development but the implementation of environmentally-friendly and sustainable technologies," Ramirez said. "The state has and is continuing to make a concerted effort to attract new investment in this industry to Michigan and there are opportunities for law firms to take advantage."

One of the most notable opportunities for Michigan is to leverage its manufacturing knowledge and know-how, Ramirez said.

"It gives us an opportunity to offer super efficient ways to manufacture and manage wind power. For example there's a need to make wind power more efficient and we have a knowledge base here to do that very effectively."

Diversity is less of a "new" issue than environmentally sustainable technologies, but there are advantages for businesses that are owned by women and minorities, Grubbs said. As more new entrepreneurs with such demographic backgrounds enter the market, the opportunity for consultation services and advice can be significant for law firms, she added.

One thing that businesses can be certain of is that the State of Michigan is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial environment that will strengthen and diversify our economy, Grubbs said.

"While minority and women-owned businesses may face unique challenges in getting started and managing growth, there have never been more resources and services offered at the state and national level to empower entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and succeed," Grubbs said.

Some of the main goals of the Forum events are to increase the involvement of smaller firms, create a bridge between business attorneys and the small business community, and provide resources and networking opportunities between business lawyers and other providers of professional service. Many of the topics that are covered by Small Business Forum events are selected based on their relevance for both lawyers and small business owners and entrepreneurs, Toering said.

"It's an informal example of continuing education that has worked very well in the past," Toering said. "We are fortunate to be able to attract some dynamic speakers on topics that affect us. The business world continues to evolve and this is one way for us to keep up with national and international trends.

"One thing we do know is that alternative energy is here and it is here to stay."

The Small Business Forum, established by the Business Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan in 2006, specifically caters to business owners, attorneys, accountants, and other professionals who work with closely held businesses. The Forum hosts three to four educational events throughout the year.

Every event includes a networking portion to mingle with other business professionals. For questions about the Forum, contact Toering at dltoering@aol.com or (248) 269-2027.

A limited number of tickets remain and the registration fee is $25.

Visit http://www.michbar.org/ business/calendar.cfm to sign up or for more information.

Published: Thu, Feb 11, 2010