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Taking care of business (and one of our own)

Michelle Crumm is your typical Michigan girl. Humble, polite, hard working to a fault.

She also is the smart, organized and aggressive head of Adaptive Materials, an alternative-energy research and development firm with more than $8 million in annual sales and about 60 employees. Not too shabby.

Crumm is a finalist for Entrepreneur magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is the only female candidate in her category as an established entrepreneur. And, more importantly, she is the only representative from the Midwest region.

Check it out, haters: We have successful businesses here. Yeah, you heard me. We know how to get stuff started.

Enough bragging. Crumm is my kind of woman – wonderfully funny, warm and a working mother. She has three children, a genius husband and a business that helps American soldiers do their jobs and stay alive. Nice one, Michelle.

She and her hubby and “partner in crime,” Aaron, co-founded Adaptive Materials a decade ago. The Ann Arbor-based business creates fuel cells mainly – the kind that can power unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles. That is the sort of stuff that helps U.S. soldiers stay out of the line of fire and get home again. (Again, nice!)

“I'm making products I love to make,” Crumm said. “I'm in awe of every dollar than we get from the Department of Defense. We have to be stewards of that money.”

They took little to no outside funding to make it happen. And they really make products that work.

Oh, and did I mention that Crumm also is one of the winners of Ernst & Young L.L.P.'s annual Entrepreneur of the Year awards for the Central Great Lakes region?

“Entrepreneurship in Michigan is so much bigger and better than we give ourselves credit for,” Crumm said. “We can create successful businesses.”

Her friends are backing her up. Fellow entrepreneur Catherine Juon and public relations bud Jenn Cornell (who Crumm describes as her “social media queens”) are tackling an Internet campaign to elicit votes across Michigan.

Many local and national companies and Web sites are linking to the magazine to get more ballots cast. Juon and Cornell both post a link at the bottoms of their emails. There is a whole state rooting for Crumm. It's the least we can do for one of our own.

Sadly, Crumm is thousands of votes behind the other finalists. I admit I'd like to see her win. Not that I'm biased or anything. If you want to vote or view the biographies of the other four fine candidates, check them out here.

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