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Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and Port Authority announce partnership

Earlier this month, The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority announced a formal partnership to develop a suite of economic development programs that will support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for commercial and industrial properties throughout Hamilton County. The partnership will allow businesses to access the latest tools to help plan and finance energy improvements.
 
The programs are set up to provide services throughout the entire project process to enable property owners to invest in energy efficiency improvements, driving down operating costs and freeing up capital for further reinvestment or expansion.
 
"We are thrilled to be able to partner with the Port Authority to bring new energy financing tools to regional businesses,” says Andy Holzhauser, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance. “The Energy Alliance has worked diligently over the past three years to develop an infrastructure that has supported over $20M of investment in energy efficiency in almost 50 commercial buildings across the region. Connecting with the Port's financing expertise will ensure property owners have a strong team to drive wide-scale adoption of these services."
 
"The Energy Alliance is a great partner in this effort to renew value in our region's building stock through greater energy efficiency," says Susan Thomas, Vice President of Public Finance for the Port Authority. "Our agencies bring different areas of expertise to this program. By working in tandem, we create a comprehensive solution for the building owner—from initial assessment to innovative financing to performance metrics.
 
"During some of our initial site visits, we are seeing companies that are paying monthly energy bills totaling five, and even six figures," Thomas says. "These are inefficient properties that house vital business operations. Through this new program, we can drive savings and sustainability, which are good for the bottom line."

Holzhauser says a more sustainable region will not only improve the environment, but also the local economy through increased business productivity, higher property values, and the creation and retention of local jobs.
 
"This partnership will make this possible on a large scale throughout Hamilton County," he says. One of the team's first priorities will be rolling out GC-PACE, a tool to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy investments through voluntary tax assessments, thereby enabling access to low-cost, extended term capital. 

To find out more, visit The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance's website here.

Cincinnati Water Works announces UV disinfection treatment facility

The City of Cincinnati and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) began operations this month of a $30 million state-of-the-art ultraviolet (UV) disinfection treatment facility. GCWW is now the largest water utility in North America to use UV disinfection following sand filtration and granular activated carbon (GAC) absorption.
 
The 19,600-square-foot UV facility located at GCWW’s Richard Miller Treatment Plant on Kellogg Avenue will further enhance water quality and protect against microorganisms such as cryptosporidium.
 
"Cincinnati’s renowned water is about to get even cleaner," says Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. "Investing in water technology not only produces safe drinking water, it can yield multiple benefits including cleaner air and a healthier community."
 
"This is a very important day in the City of Cincinnati," says Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. "This UV disinfection treatment facility is greatly needed to address the changing conditions of the Ohio River and maintain compliance with the next round of US EPA Safe Drinking Water Regulations. The addition of UV disinfection will provide a state-of-the-art multi-barrier treatment process to enhance our water quality and further protect the public’s health."
 
GCWW began working with national and international scientists and water technology experts in the early 2000s to determine the best available technology to enhance the utility’s water treatment system.
 
"Our mission is to provide customers within our regional communities a plentiful supply of the highest quality water and excellent services," says Tony Parrott, Joint Utility Director for GCWW and the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. "We are excited to launch this new innovative treatment so that we can continue to provide the highest quality water possible."

By Michael Sarason


OTR Malice Ball offers Halloween fun for a good cause

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce will host its inaugural Malice Ball: OTR Brewers’ Masquerade on Saturday, October 26 from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. in Over-the-Rhine.

Cost for the Ball is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Admission includes one drink ticket and free parking shuttle service from Washington Park and Mercer Garages.

Proceeds will benefit the Over-the-Rhine Chamber’s Business First Grant Program. Businesses that are selected through the Business First Grant Program’s competitive process are awarded a matching grant of up to $20,000 for tenant improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment. The program also works to create a support network for the new business, and offers ongoing mentoring for the three-year duration of the program.

The program is designed to support retail, neighborhood services, large employers who hire from within OTR, Women/Minority Business Enterprises, and those that locate in an area that is compatible with the tenanting strategy for the neighborhood.
 
The entertainment lineup for the Ball includes music from DJ Matt Joy, dancing, a spooky photo booth, makeup, styling and masquerade masks by MUJO Studio, and a popup Thriller performance from Pones Inc.. Bartenders from Bakersfield and Japp’s will be serving up drinks.

Guests are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes and compete for a chance to win an overnight stay at 21C Museum Hotel. Other prizes include a VIP table, bottle of vodka and glasses at The Cabaret, and tickets to the Cincinnati Museum Center. Costumes are not required.
 
Light snacks will be provided by Bakersfield, Holtman’s Donuts, The Lackman, Lucy Blue Pizza, and Ollie’s Trolley.

By Sarah Whitman

BlackbookHR's Sense software named top product for HR in 2013

Local startup company BlackbookHR announced that its cloud-based software, Sense, has been named one of the Top Products for HR in 2013 by Human Resource Executive. Human Resource Executive, one of the most trusted magazines in the industry, has been holding this competition for 25 years.
 
“It’s a real honor for us,” says Chris Ostoich, Founder and CEO of Blackbhook HR. “An award like this gives us instant credibility; I’m fairly certain we’ll be able to leverage it to create new customer opportunities.”
 
Sense is a platform that gathers instant insights about employee engagement and provides valuable data to improve engagement, retention and culture.
 
“It draws on more than a decade of research by Dr. Brooks Holtom at Georgetown University on talent engagement, individual retention and attrition drivers, and employee flight risk,” Ostoich says.
 
The innovative software goes above and beyond what’s currently on the market and, in some cases, turns it totally on its head.
 
“We take the idea of the traditional employee satisfaction or engagement survey and we smash it,” Ostoich says. “Measuring and tracking employee engagement is one of the best ways to prevent voluntary turnover—but the way we've been addressing it is wrong.”
 
Sense is able to communicate with employees over the course of a year, rather than gathering feedback all at once, and layers in several factors such as “outside the workplace” aspects like connection to the community and number and depth of friendships to develop its analysis.
 
Blackbook was founded in 2008 with the mission of simply helping companies and communities retain their top talent. Since then, it has developed a broad list of clients that includes companies like Macy’s, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Florida International University,and the Miami Foundation. Ostoich credits Cincinnati as an ideal location to grow the business.
 
“We have one of the best early-stage investment communities in the nation … and it’s only getting better,” he says. “A couple of years ago, the issue was the lack of capital available in the post-seed, pre-venture stage. So the city and its corporate partners came together and built Cintrifuse to solve the problem. That’s what I love about this place; we’re doers and we’re humble about it.”
 
By Mike Sarason

Graeter's offers free ice cream to customers who try its new personalized gift card kiosks

This month, Graeter's, a local favorite ice cream shop and one of Cincinnati’s flagship brands, unveiled new technology that has begun to be implemented in select stores. A new self-service kiosk gives anyone the ability to make their gift cards memorable by personalizing them with a timely message. Messages are about the same length as a tweet and are printed right on the gift card.
 
“This is really cool technology,” said Chip Graeter, fourth-generation owner. “These touchscreen kiosks give our guests another great option for a gift and should enhance their in-store experience.”
 
To introduce fans to the new kiosks, Graeter’s is giving a free single-dip of ice cream in a sugar cone to customers who purchase a personalized gift card through Sweetest Day, Saturday, October 19.
 
“So far, our guests have been extremely excited about the new technology,” says Nick Whitney, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Graeter’s. “The process has proved to be simple, even for those who aren’t technologically savvy.”
 
The Connectnow patent pending gift card technology is a product of Openmotion LLC, a Cincinnati-based company.
 
“We are excited to have Graeter’s as a partner for our gift card kiosk service,” says Rob Deubell, President of Openmotion. “Cincinnatians love Graeter’s and love to give it as a gift. Our kiosks will allow consumers to add their own personal touch and make their gift cards more memorable.”
 
“Rob from Openmotion approached us to be the first organization to test this brand-new technology because our target demographics match beautifully,” Whitney says. “Once he showed us his vision and how easy it would be for us to implement, it was an easy decision to move forward.”
 
Whitney and the folks at Graeter’s are aware of the challenge of preserving all of the qualities that consumers love about an age-old brand, while still bringing it into the 21st Century.
 
“We have been a traditional ice cream shop since 1870 and always struggle with how technology should be incorporated into our stores without taking away from our 143-year heritage,” Whitney says. “If the overwhelming positive feedback we have received continues, we may look at some other interactive tools in the future like digital menu boards, tablets that can give nutritional information and more.” 
 
 By Mike Sarason

CincyTech invests in Mason-based Cloud Takeoff

CincyTech, a public-private venture development organization focused on funding high-tech startups in Southwest Ohio, has invested $300,000 in Cloud Takeoff, a Mason, Ohio-based company that offers an easy and powerful cloud-based tool for contractors in commercial construction.
 
Cloud Takeoff was named one of the construction industry's Top New Products for 2013 by Constructech Magazine. Cloud Takeoff provides construction estimating (or "takeoff") software coupled with the ability to share digital blueprint plans and  collaborate in real time. The initial target market is contractors and material suppliers who desire an easier way to estimate, share and collaborate online without having to download plans.
 
The CincyTech investment will allow Cloud Takeoff to accelerate product development, including solutions for all types of  mobile devices. Cloud Takeoff also plans to expand product integrations with plan rooms and content providers around the globe.
 
“Our mission is to drive talent and capital into high-potential technology companies in Southwest Ohio,” says CincyTech President Bob Coy. “We believe that Cloud Takeoff has the potential to create high-quality jobs and returns for investors.”
 
"CincyTech was attracted to an experienced management team, led by Phil Ogilby, a seasoned entrepreneur," says CincyTech Entrepreneur-in-Residence Douglas Groh. "Moreover, Cloud Takeoff has already developed a basic version of the product that is gaining traction in the marketplace. The investment and support provided by CincyTech will enable Cloud Takeoff to more quickly build features and functions that greatly enhance the user experience. This, in turn, should accelerate customer adoption."
 
Truly a family affair, Cloud Takeoff was founded by Phil Ogilby along with his wife, Jane Baysore, and his son Justin. Phil and Justin created a successful estimating software program called Buildware Pro in the 1990s before founding iSqFt construction bidding software. Initially focused on the development of takeoff and estimating software for the commercial roofing and sheet metal industry, iSqFt is now the construction industry's leading online preconstruction management service.
 
To learn more about Cloud Takeoff, visit their website here.

By Mike Sarason


Local entrepreneurs partner with Xavier to launch tech and creative skills classes

As the past few years have seen Cincinnati’s nascent startup-scene begin to take off, there has been a concurrent need to find talent that can bolster and augment this scene. Enter Revved, a partnership between Xavier University and a few stalwart local entrepreneurs aimed at harvesting just this type of talent.
 
Revved offers 5-to-10-week courses (depending on the topic) held at Xavier University that teach the latest in tech and creative skills, including coding and design. Classes are held twice a week during the evening and cater not only to professionals looking to break into the field, but also to Xavier students and faculty.
 
“The goal of Revved is to help supply growing businesses and startups in Cincinnati with the talented individuals that are in high demand,” says Michael Bergman, one of the organizers of the program and founder and CEO of his own business, REPP. “We want these individuals to strengthen their skills sets to make themselves and their organizations succeed in the new digital economy.”
 
In addition to Bergman, Revved was organized by Charlie Key, of local startup Modulus, and Adam Daniel, also of REPP. The three entrepreneurs reached out to Sean Rhiney, Director of the James and Delrose Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning at Xavier to make the program come to life. David Mengel, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also came on board to manage the program.
 
Revved not only gives the participants valuable skills, but it also emphasizes project-based learning so students have real-world exposure, provides direct access to the leaders of the local startup community and therefore valuable networking opportunities, and provides an avenue for local professionals to give back to the Cincinnati community.
 
“What this is really about is creating a framework,” Bergman says. “We depend on community professionals who want to share their knowledge and skill set.”
 
Thus far, instructors for the courses have come from an array of local small businesses geared toward the digital realm. The first course was held in the summer of 2013, with the second starting this week. The next courses will begin in January of 2014 and will be taught by professionals at Ample and Epipheo.

To learn more about the program, visit the Revved website. If you're interested in teaching, email info@revved.co

By Mike Sarason


Fifth Third Bank launches new branch concept

In what seems to be a growing trend among banks, Fifth Third Bank has made some changes to its Carew Tower location, dubbing it a “micro branch." The branch has been scaled down, gone are the bank tellers, and an increased amount of the process has been automated.
 
“This is the way customers want to interact with us,” says Kevin Sullivan, Fifth Third’s head of distribution strategy.
 
While the tellers aren’t there to interact with customers, the Carew Tower location is still staffed by two personal bankers. Employees greet customers at the door and can help them throughout the entire visit whether it’s for a transaction, to open a new account or for other needs. The shift is designed to free the employee from having to manage a cash drawer and allow for a more consultative conversation.
 
While the Carew Tower bank is the first location to adopt the micro branch format, Fifth Third expects to have about 20 micro locations throughout its 12-state footprint by the end of 2014 (the Cincinnati-based company currently operates more than 1,300 branches).
 
Meanwhile, if customers do need assistance with a more complex transaction, the Fountain Square location still provides the traditional teller experience just a block away.
 
Fifth Third Senior PR Manager Stephanie Honan notes that, “as technology and customer demands change, we continue to review our branch design.”
 
“Although customers continue to migrate to mobile, online and ATM banking to service their accounts, our branches continue to play an important role in terms of sales, service and interactions with our customers,” she adds. 
 
Currently, there are 20 other branches Fifth Third has classified as “heavily automated," but only the Carew Tower has been designated as a micro branch. They plan to monitor each location closely to understand how customers prefer to interact. 

By Michael Sarason

Cincinnati State awarded $2.75 million manufacturing training grant

Cincinnati State received a $2.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand its ability to provide manufacturing careers.
 
The grant will be used to establish the Greater Cincinnati Manufacturing Careers Accelerator (GCMCA). The accelerator will help provide regional manufacturers with a pool of potential employees trained in welding and CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) operations.
 
“We’ve been talking with our industry partners—and listening carefully,” says Cincinnati State President O’dell M. Owens. “This grant will help us not only add to our offerings in areas of particular interest to manufacturers, it will help us expand our reach by providing students with cutting-edge workforce education.”
 
In addition, the GCMA will involve a collaboration between Cincinnati State’s Center for Innovative Technologies (an academic division housing engineering, computing and high-tech programs) and its Evendale-based Workforce Development Center, which provides customized workforce training to employers as well as short-term, retail training programs for individuals.
 
Dr. Dennis Ulrich, Vice President for Workforce Development at Cincinnati State, said the grant will also allow the college to upgrade its CNC lab with the purchase of six CNC Certification trainers. These systems not only offer comprehensive hands-on training on the mills, but also allow for authentic part programming and operation simulation. Online exercises and homework can be assigned to help reinforce the material, allowing for effective classroom laboratory instruction without sacrificing the important hands-on aspect of CNC training.
 
“This is important, because it cuts the cost of training, while accelerating learning,” Dr. Ulrich says. “And accelerating learning, we’ve discovered, encourages retention.”
 
The grant is part of the third round of the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Training (TAACCCT) training grants. This marks the second time that Cincinnati State has received a TAACCCT grant. In 2011, it was named the lead college in a $19.6 million Round 1 grant to manage a national Health Pathways Consortium that helps prepare individuals for careers in the health care industry.
 
The new grant will began Oct.1, 2013 and will run through Sept. 30, 2017.

By Michael Sarason

SparkPeople makes tracking health and fitness easier than ever

Last week, SparkPeople, the largest online weight-loss and fitness community, debuted the Spark Activity Tracker (or Spark for short) at Health 2.0, a health conference for cutting-edge innovation. The Cincinnati-based company teamed with Fitlinx, a provider of wireless health and wellness technology that motivates people to live actively and improve their well-being,
 
SparkPeople, founded in 2001, counts more than 15 million registered members. By introducing the Spark, the goal is to give users a comprehensive program and device to help them reach healthy living goals. While Fitlinx has traditionally marketed its products through corporate wellness partners, the partnership with SparkPeople will allow the technology to reach a much wider audience for the first time.
 
The Spark is made to easily attach to a pocket, belt, shoe or bra, and tracks daily steps, calories burned, activity minutes and distance covered. The Spark also combines these features with SparkPeople’s free resources, tools, recipes and community in an effort to give the user a complete program for healthy living, all in one place.
 
“We at SparkPeople want to provide clients with accessible, easy ways to improve their health,” says SparkPeople CEO and founder, Chris Downie. “Members of the SparkPeople movement now have the opportunity to better their lives with an affordable, convenient way to track their health.”
 
In addition to tracking time, distance, steps and more, the activity tracker also detects and captures info from indoor fitness equipment including bikes, elliptical machines and treadmills, is waterproof, and can be used to set fitness goals and view progress. The Spark is now available online at Sparkpeople and Amazon.

By Michael Sarason


Film written, produced and shot in Cincinnati debuts nationwide

Cincinnati-based Rebel Film Productions debuted its newest film, “A Strange Brand of Happy” in more than 40 markets across the United States during the past two weeks. The film is set in Cincinnati, where it was also written, produced, shot and edited in its entirety. Cincinnati-based
 
“We wanted this film to be a love letter to Cincinnati,” says Brad Wise, writer and director of the film. “I spent time living in Boston; whenever I watch a movie set there, I get very excited when I can recognize a location. We wanted that same experience for Cincinnatians.”
 
“A Strange Brand” takes the form of a romantic comedy in which, “an aimless bachelor loses his job and finds himself chasing the same girl as his manipulative ex-boss.”
 
Wise, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program in graphic design, found the inspiration for the story while driving to a college roommate’s wedding on New Year’s Eve 2008. “I liked the idea of a guy in his thirties going through a mid-life crisis and getting help from a wily group of retirees,” Wise says. “That combination of ages and personalities seemed like a fun story to play around with.”
 
Since opening nationwide, including locally at the Kenwood, AMC West Chester and Springdale theaters, the film has already outperformed expectations.
 
“What we're hearing is that people of all walks and faith backgrounds leave the theater happier than when they went in,” Wise says. “That's about as much as I could've asked for. I've been surprised how many people have said they cried at the end.”
 
Rebel Film Productions cites its mission as telling stories that, “spark hope where there is apathy, confusion or despair and spark action where there is inaction.”
 
“This is a story about people you can relate to who are trying to figure life out, even though they don't have all the answers,” Wise says. “When we see and hear stories of friends helping each other ‘find’ themselves, I think that sparks a sense of hope that it could happen in our own lives.”
 
To learn more about “A Strange Brand of Happy” and watch the trailer, click here.
 
By Michael Sarason

Red Hawk Technologies continues growth in Newport

For many, 2008 was a year of downturn and downsizing. For Matt Strippelhoff and Ron Dunlevy, it was a year of new beginnings and growth. In 2008, the two partners, who have now been working together for more than a decade, founded Red Hawk Technologies, which produces sophisticated applications, websites and mobile applications for a variety of B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) clientele.
 
Located in Newport, KY, Red Hawk has thrived despite its genesis in the midst of a down economy. Last year, the company was recognized by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as an Emerging 30 Company. And Red Hawk was recently notified that it will be recognized among the Emerging 30 again this year.
 
“I believe we can attribute our success to our dedication to client service,” Strippelhoff says. “We take care of our clients’ businesses as if they were our own; our client retention rates are exceptional.”
 
Much of Red Hawk’s work is comprised of websites and mobile applications designed to support custom workflows, supporting clients’ sales and service needs. “A lot of the work is done behind the scenes, creating entire portals designed to support specific business interactions with client teams, third-party service providers and applications,” Strippelhoff says.
 
Comb through Red Hawk’s client list and you’ll find some impressive names like Procter & Gamble, Empower Media Marketing, The Kroger Co. and The Ohio State University. “One of my favorite projects we’ve worked on is the viewbook application we created for the Ohio State University,” Strippelhoff says.
 
“The Ohio State University is saving a lot of money with regard to printing and mailing costs, and prospective students are getting the immediate gratification they’re seeking via a custom PDF viewbook. It’s a great example of making things easier for the end user while also benefiting the client.”
 
As technology continues to change at a growing rate, companies like Red Hawk must remain nimble and able not only to meet clients’ needs, but also to innovate. Mobile technology in particular is where much of the growth is happening.
 
“We’re excited about developing more mobile application for our clients. I don’t think there’s any question that we’ll continue to grow in the next year," Strippelhoff says.

By Michael Sarason

Promising University of Cincinnati student research turns coffee waste into biodiesel

In the long running quest to find alternative fuel sources, University of Cincinnati researchers are adding to the pursuit. They're in the early stages of scaling a process that converts coffee grounds into biodiesel.

Graduate student Yang Liu and doctoral student Qingshi Tu have been working on the project for nearly two years. Their research, which involves burning the grounds for energy after a purification process, was recently presented at the American Chemical Society's 246th National Meeting & Exposition in Indianapolis.

"We have three targets. First we extract oil from the coffee grounds, then we dry the waste coffee grounds in a process to filter impurities. Then we burn what's left as a source of energy generation (similar to using biomass)," explains Liu, an environmental engineering student.

The research is in the proof of concept stage, so it's proven promising in the lab, says Tu, also an environmental engineering student.

"Now we have to see how this will work on a large scale … in the next two years," he says.

The students are working with UC professor Mingming Lu on the process, which began in 2010. The project began small, starting with a five-gallon bucket of grounds from the campus Starbucks.

The project was one of four awarded a $500 UC Invents initiative grant last year. The grant supports campus innovators.

With the magnitude of coffee drinkers in just the U.S., the researchers have plenty of material to experiment with. It's estimated that one million tons of coffee waste is generated in the U.S. alone each year. Most of that sits in landfills.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Scott Belsky kicks off Cincinnati Mercantile Library's new lecture series October 21

Cincinnati's Mercantile Library is reaching into the past with its new 2035 Lecture Series.

The annual series, which kicks off in October, taps forward-looking business leaders to talk about the "future of business, management, design, philosophy, science, and technologies and the ways those will shape the economy of Cincinnati and its region."

"It's a nod to those guys who started up the library," says Mercantile Marketing Manager Chris Messick. "The library was founded in 1835 by young clerks and merchants who were the startup pioneers of their time."

This year's inaugural lecture features creative entrepreneur and best-selling author Scott Belsky who will speak October 21 at 6:30 p.m. downtown at the library. Tickets are $20. You can purchase them here.

Belsky co-founded Behance, a platform that allows creatives to show and share their work online. Adobe acquired the company in 2012, and Belsky is Adobe's vice president of products-community, according to his bio.

His lecture will be based on his book, "Making Ideas Happen," which walks readers through the process of making a creative idea a reality, Messick says.

"We have a lot events where authors speak, but this is something new. A lot of people in the design world use his site to display portfolios online, and we have a lot of activity around marketing and design downtown. I think this will get a lot of interest," Messick says.

The Mercantile is city's oldest library, with a mission "to make a difference through literature and ideas, advancing interest in the written word, and celebrating the best in literary achievement." A diverse group of authors including Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Saul Bellow and Salman Rushdie have spoken at Mercantile events.

The year 2035 marks the Mercantile's 200-year-anniversary, and this lecture series reflects the historic library's mission to remain a relevant part of the city's creative and business community. The library is supported by membership fees, with memberships starting at $55. The library's blog, Stacked, is popular in local literary circles.

Kroger, dunnhumby, and Murray Sinclaire, Jr./Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC are the inaugural sponsors of the 2035 lecture.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.


Independent video game developer Loreful creating role-playing game "Ambrov X"

Creating today's complicated video games definitely isn't child's play.

Aharon Cagle, a marketer turned video game entrepreneur, is leading a 15-person team in creating a new role-playing game, "Ambrov X." He's CEO and founder of Loreful, an independent video game development company launched last fall.

Cagle, who's worked for Brand Populace and EmpowerMedia Marketing, is a passionate gamer who decided to turn that passion into his life's work.

"I hit 40, and I was like, 'I love games so much more than I love marketing.' I'd been a creative marketing director, so I knew I could lead a team of this size. So I wrote the business plan and started Loreful."

Cagle is working with a team of writers, designers, developers, visual arts, voice actor, animators and more to bring life to "Ambrov X."

Much of the team is already in Cincinnati, while others are moving here for the project, Cagle says.

"We're in the process of pulling people here to Cincinnati," he says.

The game garnered exposure during the recent Cincy ComicCon and Cincinnati Comic Expo.

"We have a playable pre-alpha version of the game we've been showing around. It's not necessarily how the game will ultimately look, but it shows the larger vision of what we want to do," Cagle says.

Set for release in early 2015, "Ambrov X" is being developed in partnership with the Science Fiction franchise Sime~Gen. The game is based on the Sime~Gen Universe novels that envision a future where humans have divided into two subspecies: Gens and Simes.

Gens produce a life energy that Simes need to survive. The novels center on the subspecies' struggle for co-existence.

"We're basically taking that story 1,000 years in the future. The humans have learned to live with this genetic catastrophe and are beginning to explore space," Cagle explains.

"Ambrov X" is planned for release on Windows, OS X and Linux through STEAM, a game-distribution platform. The game will be released in five episodes, ranging from three to five hours each.

Loreful is in the midst of a $500,000 Kickstarter campaign to help push development, set to end Oct. 5

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter
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