COVID-19 Update: $20M Donation Leads to New Name for EMU College, DEGC Distributes $4M+ in Grants to Small Businesses, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Feb. 18

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

$20M Donation Leads to New Name for EMU College of Engineering and Technology
Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has renamed its College of Engineering and Technology in recognition of $20 million in contributions over the past 15 months by GameAbove, an alumni group.

The EMU Board of Regents approved the new name — GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology — at its regular meeting yesterday. The new name will become effective March 1.

“The College of Engineering and Technology has a strong reputation,” says Keith J. Stone, a member of the GameAbove Advisory Board. “It will soon be making waves at a national level with the addition of several new engineering programs and a particular focus on emerging technologies such as cybersecurity for connected and autonomous vehicles and select aviation specialties. We strive to have these selected programs recognized nationally as the absolute best in the country, making Eastern Michigan incredibly attractive to students for decades to come.”

GameAbove is a team that includes a diverse group of individuals of various ages and backgrounds, including accomplished entrepreneurs, businesspeople, athletic hall of famers and select EMU coaches, all of whom are graduates of the school.

The group’s partnership with the university and its philanthropy are far-reaching, including gifts for faculty support, broad student support, and athletics.

“We are extremely proud and gratified to honor the singular contributions of GameAbove with the renaming of our outstanding College of Engineering and Technology,” says James Smith, president of EMU. “GameAbove’s extraordinary $20 million in support to the university, over a 15-month period of time, represents the largest gift portfolio received in Eastern Michigan University’s 171-year history.

“GameAbove’s partnership with the university signifies a truly historic commitment that will be transformative in our efforts to provide world-class experiences in engineering, technology, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, drone technology, gaming, aviation, and many other related careers. We greatly value GameAbove’s exceptional support of Eastern Michigan University students and faculty.”

GameAbove’s latest commitment of more than $5 million in support of the College of Engineering and Technology includes funding state-of the-art supplies, equipment, and program upgrades for the newly renovated building, covering operating expenditures, supporting student recruitment and enrollment efforts and more.

GameAbove’s overall support of Eastern includes the following major efforts over the past 15 months:

  • $2 million to faculty-led research and special projects.
  • Established a Students Matter Most initiative to provide financial resources for students, including learning clubs, intramural sports, student government and student organization priorities, solutions for student homelessness and housing insecurity, among other near-term needs.
  • Partnered with the EMU Foundation at the start of the pandemic shutdown on a matching campaign, together raising more than $100,000 for the Student Emergency Fund that was able to immediately assist and support students in need.
  • $2 million for EMU April 2020 graduates and incoming 2020 fall semester first-year students, providing $600 per graduate and $400 to each incoming first-year student without obligations or restrictions regarding eligibility or use.
  • Funded efforts to help EMU students, faculty, and staff purchase tools and supplies to make masks, gowns, and other PPE for nurses, doctors, and staff at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital.

Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Distributes $4M+ in Grants to Small Businesses
The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. is distributing $4.06 million in aid to 375 Detroit small businesses as part of the MEDC’s Michigan Small Business Survival Program. This brings the total in grants administered by DEGC to Detroit businesses to $15 million since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Grants of up to $20,000 are being awarded to businesses that have faced a significant financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. More than 90 percent of the grants are being awarded to minority- or women-owned businesses in Detroit.

“Issuing these grants reflects the importance of protecting small businesses as economic drivers in the city of Detroit,” says Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of DEGC. “This latest effort will have one of the fastest turnaround times of previous grants, getting much needed assistance into the hands of small business owners by the end of this month. COVID-19 numbers are improving, and we are encouraged by the vaccine distribution, but restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, neighborhood bars, and other businesses are still suffering from lost revenue.”

Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund Jan. 14, the state of Michigan allocated $55 million to implement the Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program to support the needs of Michigan businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the Gatherings and Mask Order. Funds are being distributed across 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations covering all 83 counties in the state. DEGC was again selected as the EDO representing the city of Detroit.

The Survival Grant application period ran from Jan. 19-22. DEGC will distribute all funds by Feb. 28. Businesses that have been fully closed are eligible for grants of up to $20,000; businesses that have been partially closed are eligible for grants of up to $15,000. Funds may be used to assist with payroll, rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and other similar expenses.

“Our small businesses continue to feel the economic impact of COVID-19,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “We are all very thankful that Detroit was awarded $4 million in grants, which is the largest single-city award in the state. The greatest percentage of Detroit’s grants will be directed to minority- and women-owned small businesses that have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.”

The Survival grant is the third COVID-19 financial relief program administered by DEGC in partnership with the MEDC to help small businesses during the pandemic. The first was the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, which launched in March 2020 and awarded $800,000 to Detroit-based businesses. It was combined with additional dollars from the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit (EDC) for a total of $4 million distributed to over 740 Detroit small businesses. The second financial relief program was the Michigan Small Business Restart Program, which ran from July to August 2020 and provided $7.25 million in aid to more than 900 Detroit small businesses.

A list and map of Detroit Small Business Survival Program grant recipients are located here. A grant program overview including eligibility requirements is located here.

Chevrolet Makes TikTok Debut with Music Video Featuring Silverado and Breland
The Chevrolet brand of Detroit’s General Motors Co. today released a rebooted music video of the hit song, “My Truck,” written and performed by the platinum-selling artist Breland.

Marking the brand’s TikTok debut, “My Truck” features revamped song lyrics highlighting the Chevy Trucks lineup and dynamic visuals that feature Silverado in a starring role.

The “My Truck” music video is viewable now on Chevrolet’s new TikTok profile, which just launched this month. Chevrolet is one of only a few automotive brands with a channel on TikTok and plans to reach new audiences through the platform.

“Chevy is a brand that loves celebrating trucks and the people who own them,” says Steven Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “Breland’s song, ‘My Truck’ is so exciting because it is a great representation of why truck customers love their vehicles — they offer a source of adventure, fun and capability. The reboot of ‘My Truck’ will definitely be a new anthem for Chevy Truck customers.”

While filming the music video, Chevrolet leveraged three distinct locations across Nashville, Tenn. These backdrops highlight the beauty of the city and also represent the diversity of truck customers. Within the video, Chevrolet pairs each location with unique Chevrolet Silverado trims, including the Silverado LT Trail Boss, Silverado LT Trail Boss Midnight Edition, and Silverado Custom, showcasing the variety of models available for all types of owners.

“Chevy was the perfect collaborator to breathe new life into ‘My Truck’ because they truly understand what makes truck culture so special,” said Breland. “They appreciate that truck enthusiasts are getting younger and more diverse, and that insight was the inspiration for the original version of the song. Coming to the table with that shared perspective made the collaborative process of rewriting ‘My Truck’ so much fun.”

To find more information about the “My Truck” video collaboration and behind-the-scenes footage, watch this video.

Michigan Online Gaming Launch is Biggest in U.S. History
The debut of online sports betting and casino gaming in Michigan marks the most successful legal iGaming launch in U.S. history with more than $115 million in revenue during January.

Ten mobile sportsbooks and eight online casinos launched in the Great Lakes State on Jan. 22.

The eight mobile casinos combined to bring in more than $27.5 million, making the most successful first month for an online casino launch in the legal U.S. market, according to

The Michigan Gaming Control Board January figures cover a 10-day period from Jan. 22-31. February will mark the first full month of operations for Michigan’s iGaming industry.

“The simultaneous launch of all of the different platforms really boosted revenue numbers out of the gate,” says Geoff Fisk, head analyst at “Michigan came out with the most coordinated iGaming launch we’ve seen in the U.S. The synchronized start date really allowed the online gaming brands to build anticipation for the launch.

“Michigan will emerge as one of the biggest legal online gambling markets in the US. The mobile iGaming products performed exceptionally well in the first few days of business, as the January revenue figures show.”

Fisk adds that the gaming industry has high expectations for the state’s iGaming market but the state “could very well surpass all projections in 2021.”

For more information, visit here.

GreenPath Helps COVID-19 Affected Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a Farmington Hills-based national nonprofit that provides financial counseling and debt management services and its affiliate, Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF), helped 19,500 borrowers experiencing COVID-19 and other related financial hardship avoid foreclosure in 2020.

“HPF has a long-standing track record of providing trusted housing counseling,” says Rod McGinniss, senior vice president of business development at HPF. “We’ve helped 9 million distressed borrowers since the 2008 housing crisis. Our 995HOPE hotline and website provide much-needed resources to help people not confident they can resume payments once forbearance ends to understand their options, avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes.”

Low-to-moderate income homeowners and Black and Hispanic households are disproportionately likely to face greater hardship. Between August and November 2020, nearly 12,000 homeowners HPF counseled had an income level below 80 percent of the area median income. Most of the 8,700 homeowners of color HPF counseled were experiencing higher rates of mortgage distress. An Urban Institute study found that 19 percent of Black households and 15 percent of Hispanic households were not caught up on mortgage payments (compared to 9.8 percent of total households surveyed).

Nearly 3 million homeowners were behind on mortgage payments by the end of December 2020, a 79 percent year-over-year increase. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates there are 2.6 million U.S. households in forbearance plans. Approximately 600,000 of those plans may expire at the end of March.

“We encourage borrowers not to rely on moratorium extensions,” McGinniss adds. “The sooner they prepare to resume mortgage payments, the better. Now is a good time for any borrower concerned or stressed about making their mortgage payments to reach out for support and make a plan.”

Meijer on Track to Complete Flashfood Waste Reduction Program Rollout to All Stores
After COVID-19 caused delays in rolling out its Flashfood food waste reduction program to all its stores across the Midwest in 2020, Meijer is on track to complete implementation this year.

While also cutting down on in-store food waste, the initiative allows customers to purchase food nearing its sell-by date — like meat, produce, seafood, deli, and bakery products — at up to 50 percent off on the Flashfood app, and then pick them up at Meijer stores.

“Minimizing in-store food waste is the right thing to do for our communities and our customers,” says Don Sanderson, group vice president of foods at Meijer. “We’re pleased to expand our relationship with Flashfood throughout our footprint and offer this opportunity to all our customers.”

The retailer launched the app-based pilot program in November 2019 at a handful of Meijer supercenters in metro Detroit. After reducing in-store food waste by 10 percent, Meijer opted to expand the offering to all its stores across the Midwest. To date, an estimated 240 Meijer supercenters have Flashfood.

Flashfood is a Canadian-based company that allows retailers to upload surplus close-dated foods to their app where items are available for purchase at a deep discount. Customers go to the app, select a Meijer store, choose the items they want to purchase and pay for them directly on the app at up to 50 percent off. Then, they go in store to pick up their items and confirm their order with customer service. The purchased food is stored in a refrigerator or storage rack located in the front of the story until picked up by the customer.

Two Roncelli Projects Reach LEED Green Building Status
Sterling Heights construction services company Roncelli Inc. announced that two of its projects — Beacon Park in Detroit and the Wayne County Airport Authority Berry Administration Building in Romulus — received LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Roncelli was a partner member of the Tooles-Roncelli team that provided construction services for Beacon Park’s construction. The team transformed a vacant 1.5-acre lot into a public park on the western edge of Detroit’s downtown business district. Beacon Park, which includes the Lumen restaurant, is triangular shaped and borders Grand River Avenue, Plaza Drive, and Fort Street.

An open commons area and a central lawn were built for recreational sports and relaxation, incorporating a rolling stage for entertainment. The restaurant was constructed with a bar and rooftop dining display with panoramic views of the nearby buildings. LED fixtures provided illumination throughout the interior and exterior, using only 50 percent of electricity as conventional lighting. Low-flow faucets reduce water usage by an estimated 35 percent. The sustainable, green roof space conserves and collects runoff water, repurposing it for the park’s trees, grass, and plants.

The Wayne County Airport Authority Berry Administration Building at Metro Airport is a new 85,636-square-foot, four-story structure constructed immediately adjacent to the existing North Terminal Facility.

The steel-framed structure exterior combines a horizontally installed metal sandwich panel on cold-formed metal framing and ribbon windows. The roof has a jet fuel resistant PVC membrane with a skylight over the feature stairs. Interior finishes complement the open office concept plan with resilient and hard tile floor coverings, acoustical ceilings, wall coverings, and custom panel wall treatments in select areas such as the lobby and conference rooms. The building serves as the headquarters for the Airport Authority’s administrative personnel.

The facility was built to meet LEED certification to align with the WCAA’s “Green Initiative.”

Blackmer Launches New Mobile App Designed to Simplify and Enhance User Experience
Blackmer, a Grand Rapids-based pump and compressor manufacturer, has launched the Blackmer+ mobile app designed to help save time and money by offering users support and assistance with efficient maintenance management for Blackmer products.

The new app is available to download free on iOS and Android-powered smartphones and tablets.

“More than ever, customers are looking to lower operational costs and improve process efficiency,” says Kyle Hicks, product manager at Blackmer. “Timely maintenance on pumps and compressors can have a huge impact on achieving this goal. Not only does the new Blackmer+ app put all the information users need about their Blackmer pumps and compressors right at their fingertips, but it also makes taking care of Blackmer products as easy as a click of a button.”

The new app features a user interface and accessible dashboards that provide instant access to pump information. Users will be able to:

  • Register any Blackmer pump or compressor with one-click by simply scanning or entering a serial number.
  • Connect to Blackmer factory support directly for all product information and questions.
  • Manage maintenance intervals for Blackmer equipment with calendar and email reminders.
  • Access Blackmer product documentation, including IOMs, part lists, specifications, performance curves, and more.
  • Create personalized notes for all Blackmer equipment.

To learn more about the Blackmer+ app, visit here.

Black HERStory Month Program Slated for Feb. 22
The Michigan Women’s Commission and Michigan Women Forward will co-host an online Black HERStory Month presentation, “Black HERstory Month: Representation Matters,” from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22.

“Our goal is to uplift the voices of Black Michigan women through a panel of leaders, and I am honored to be one of the five leaders serving on the panel where we will engage in the important conversation about why representation matters in every industry,” says Alexis Dishman, chief lending officer at Michigan Women Forward.

In addition to Dishman, the event features a panel of prominent African-American women leaders including:

  • Rashida Harrison, assistant professor of social relations and policy at Michigan State University.
  • Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief medical executive for the state of Michigan.
  • Faye Alexander Nelson, director of Michigan Programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
  • Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services.

The group will discuss why the representation of Black women matters and identify challenges and solutions in various sectors including government, business, medicine, philanthropy and academia.  There will be opportunities for viewers to ask the panel questions.

“Our panelists will discuss the structural inequities that impact people of color and women in our society, serving as barriers to prevent them from rising to positions of power,” says Nelson. “Lifting up contributions by Black women, like those on this panel, not only helps to  restore images buried in earlier eras, but sharpens our lens on the future. A commitment to racial and gender equity is rooted in that understanding.”

To register for event, visit here.

Deloitte Webinar to Address Proposed New Administration’s Tax Policy Changes
Tax professionals at Deloitte will discuss the implications of President Joe Biden’s proposed tax policy changes and the effect the changes are expected to have on the nation’s business community as well as its economy during a webinar on Monday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Titled “The Tax Implications of a Biden Presidency,” the webinar is part of the chamber’s Restart Michigan Initiative, a series of webinars designed to help businesses enter the restart and recovery phases of the COVID-19 crisis.

The free webinar will feature Jonathan Traub, managing partner and national tax practice leader in Deloitte’s Washington-based tax practice and Todd Baker, managing tax partner-in-charge in Deloitte’s Detroit practice.

The webinar will outline Biden’s planned tax priorities and explore how his administration plans to reshape the current tax code. Topics to be discussed include increases to the corporate tax rate, a “Made in America” tax credit, establishing an offshoring tax penalty, and the expansion of the Social Security payroll tax.

Traub and Baker also will discuss the current fiscal standing of the country and how both chambers of Congress will need to work together to enact new tax policy legislation using the budget reconciliation process. The webinar will be interactive and attendees will be able to ask questions.

To register for the webinar, visit here.

Pontiac’s PC Miracles Achieves 2021 MSP 500 Status
PC Miracles, a Pontiac-based information technology consultancy, has been included in CRN’s 2021 Managed Service Provider 500 list in the Pioneer 250 category.

The list, released annually, recognizes North American solution providers that have demonstrated “innovative and forward-thinking approaches to managed services.” These services help end users improve operational efficiencies and navigate the ongoing complexities of IT solutions, while maximizing their return on IT investments.

The MSP 500 list is divided into three sections. The MSP Pioneer 250 recognizing companies with business models weighted toward managed services and largely focused on the SMB market.

“Technology has two faces. It can bring about more efficiency, success, and profitability for your company, or it can be a nuisance exhausting your resources,” says Dan Izydorek, president of PC Miracles states. “Therefore, businesses throughout Detroit, Troy, Southfield, Auburn Hills, Waterford, Clarkston, Pontiac, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, and Farmington Hills depend on our expertise in the installation and computer network technology support that runs their businesses. We identify technology gaps, business and cybersecurity risks then correct, protect, and monitor our client’s systems.”

Lawrence Tech Earns 2021-22 Military Friendly School designation
Lawrence Technological University in Southfield has earned the 2021-22 Military Friendly School designation from Viqtory, a Coraopolis, Pa.-based company focused on linking the military and employers that want to hire them, and publisher of several military-focused magazines and websites.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the survey, with 747 earning the designation.

“Lawrence Tech offers a special welcome and continuing services for all those who have served our nation in the armed forces, who defend America’s freedom and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” says Virinder Moudgil, president of LTU.

The Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine, and may be found here.

Lawrence Tech offers a 15 percent tuition discount to all active military, inactive, reserve, or retired military. Also, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has designated Lawrence Tech as a “Yellow Ribbon School” for providing up to $5,500 per year in aid to qualified veterans.

For more information about Lawrence Tech’s commitment to attracting and supporting military students, visit here.

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