COVID-19 Update: $6M Gift to Launch Diversity Initiatives at U-M Ross, Feds Invest $3.8M in State’s Response to Virus, 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.
Coronavirus map
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Stephen Ross, Jeff Blau Give $6M to Launch Diversity Initiatives at U-M Ross

Stephen M. Ross and Jeff T. Blau have committed $6 million to help the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor further its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The gift supports a spectrum of initiatives designed to attract, recruit, support, and offer innovative learning and work experiences for students from underrepresented backgrounds in real estate business and investing.

Ross, chairman and founder of Related Cos. in New York, grew up in metro Detroit and is a nephew of the late Detroit industrialist Max Fisher. Blau is CEO of the company. Both men are U-M alumni and are engaged volunteers for, and donors to, Michigan Ross and the university.

The Blau Initiative for Diversity in Real Estate and Infrastructure will have four components targeted at students from underrepresented backgrounds: sparking student interest in business and investing prior to attending U-M; attracting and recruiting students to U-M and Ross by making it more affordable; offering students learning experiences in real estate and investing; and providing internships for experiences in real estate and investing.

The Related Scholars Fund will provide scholarships to attract and support students from diverse environments who are underrepresented in business leadership, including students from low-income backgrounds, who are interested in pursuing careers in investing and/or real estate through Michigan Ross.

“I’ve been in real estate for more than 50 years and have a unique opportunity and obligation to foster more diversity in our industry,” Ross says. “The Ross School is an ideal partner in this work.”

Blau says, “I hope it proves useful in getting more students from diverse backgrounds interested and involved in the fields of real estate and infrastructure investing.”

The Blau Initiative will support the Related Scholars Fund and many other programs, including a new Michigan Ross Investing Academy, the Blau Career Development Series, and the Blau Internship Program, which will support internship opportunities at Related Companies. The Blau Career Development Series will include activities such as company visits, career mentorship opportunities, and professional development workshops.

Commerce Department Invests $3.8M in CARES Act Funding to Boost Michigan’s Response to COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Commerce is awarding $3.8 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants to 10 EDA Economic Development Districts across Michigan to update economic development plans and fortify programs to assist communities in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These investments come at a crucial time to help Michigan’s and our nation’s economy come roaring back and provide hard-working Americans with new opportunities,” says Dana Gartzke, acting assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “We are pleased to make these investments in Michigan’s EDA Economic Development Districts to help them prevent, prepare, and respond to coronavirus.”

The EDA investments announced are:

  • Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission in Escanaba ($400,000).
  • Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission in Sault Ste. Marie ($400,000).
  • East Michigan Council of Governments in Saginaw ($400,000).
  • Northeast Michigan Council of Governments in Gaylord ($400,000).
  • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments in Traverse City ($400,000).
  • Southwestern Michigan Commission in Benton Harbor ($400,000).
  • Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region Commission in Hancock ($400,000).
  • Region 2 Planning Commission in Jackson ($351,183).
  • West Michigan Regional Planning Commission in Grand Rapids ($250,000).

Mopec Now Offering Ready-to-ship Personal Protective Equipment

Mopec, a Madison Heights-based supplier of pathology, anatomy, mortuary, and necropsy equipment, now is offering personal protective equipment.

The in-stock and ready-to-ship PPE offering includes FDA- and CE-compliant products such as full-length face shields, three-ply and KN95 masks, no-contact infrared thermometers and hand sanitizer.

The PPE products are the latest addition to the Mopec product line in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“It is crucial we continue to prioritize the health and safety of workers in the health care industry, as well as those working in medical examiners offices and funeral homes,” says Jay Troger, CEO of Mopec. “We’re continuing to draw on our experience and relationships in the industry to address the increasing demands of our customers and help ensure they have the products they need.”

Mopec’s PPE offerings are just one aspect of the company’s Guardian Systems line of COVID-19 preparation and response products.

To learn more about Mopec’s available products, visit here.

Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit Gets $4M Gift for Pediatric Emergency Department

Jon B. Cotton, founder and CEO of ApexHealth Inc., has contributed $4 million to help build a dedicated pediatric emergency department at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit to better meet family needs and enhance the patient care experience.

The separate pediatric emergency department will have its own waiting room and provide greater privacy, comfort, and convenience for patients and their families.

Cotton’s donation is the lead gift in a $17.2 million capital campaign to support a major surgical and pediatric services expansion and renovation project at the hospital.

The total cost for the project is $58.2 million. Ascension is providing $41 million in capital funding. Philanthropic gifts, including Cotton’s contribution, will fund the remaining portion.

In recognition of Cotton’s gift, the pediatric emergency department will be named for his mother, Shery L. Cotton.

“My mother is dedicated to making sure every child has the opportunity to live the most-healthy and most-fulfilling life from birth, and she has a strong desire to support her local community and its health care institutions,” Cotton says.

To learn more about the expansion project or how to make a gift, call Lisa Pinkowski at 313-343-7581.

COVID-19 Forces Small and Minority-owned Businesses to Undergo Digital Transformation

Small businesses have found that not only is the digital transformation of their companies vital to their future, but in a COVID world the demand from business buyers has increased dramatically.

For minority-owned small businesses, which are growing 10 times faster than non-minority businesses, future growth, and survival during a pandemic is dependent on eCommerce marketplace capabilities and integration to eProcurement platforms

“Only 2 percent of minority businesses have gross receipts of a million or more and they just don’t have the scale to transform digitally on their own,” says Henry Childs, former national director for the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency who now is founder and CEO of the Minority Wealth Commission in Washington, D.C. “Large cap companies went through their digital transformation five years ago. When COVID hit, they were ready and increased their market shares in a matter of months.”

Childs has been working with Auburn Hills-based ePS to help assist small minority-owned companies to move to the world of eMarketplace technology, using a $2.5 million ePS backed funding program.

“It’s critical for these minority small businesses to get technical assistance on how to do this,” adds Childs. “ePS has a great track record with a national scope and they basically coach you up and help those companies which have never entered the digital space.”

Since 2010, ePS has provided solutions for small businesses to compete in the public sector and private sector corporate space. The company’s fully-automated solutions for custom eMarketplace store fronts, integration to Amazon Business, and integrations to all third party eProcurement platforms has become the playbook for ePS’ minority-owned small business customers.

“Within the last few months, ePS has launched 50 small businesses, including six African-American owned companies in their digital transformation,” says David Saroli, founder and CEO of ePS. “In the midst of COVID, the demand for our solutions has grown exponentially. For instance, we’ve been able to transition 40 new small business sellers to an Amazon Business platform and 10 more onto their own private eCommerce Marketplace.”

Saroli sees ePS’ role in digital transformation continuing to grow amidst and post-COVID, which is changing the way all small businesses operate. “Because of COVID, standard eCommerce storefronts are effectively finished for B2B. Unless small and minority-owned companies find a true digital transformation through their own eMarketplace or sell on marketplaces such as Amazon Business, they just can’t compete in the new online B2B world. We’re going to be very busy for the foreseeable future.”


Dykema, MICHauto, and The Right Place will share the results of a survey the organizations conducted with automotive industry businesses and professionals to better understand the challenges they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic during a webinar on Aug. 13 from 11-11:45 a.m.

The webinar will highlight the pandemic impact and discuss how COVID-19 will shape the future of the automotive industry. Topics to be addressed include the short- and long-term U.S. economic outlook, government stimulus programs, supply chain disruptions, the impact of COVID-19 on automotive operations and revenues, and the forecast for the future.

To register, visit here. Please contact Sarah Minjoe at with questions.

COVID-19 Food Assistance for 350,000 Michigan Families Extended Through August

Approximately 350,000 Michigan families will continue to have access to additional food assistance benefits during August as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“COVID-19 and its impact on the economy of the nation and state has made it more difficult for many Michigan families to pay for nutritious food,” says Lewis Roubal, chief deputy director of opportunity for MDHHS. “The department wants to provide additional assistance to help them through this health care and economic emergency.”

Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card by Aug. 30, with payments beginning for some households on Thursday, Aug. 20. Additional benefits will be loaded onto Bridge Cards as a separate payment from the assistance provided earlier in the month.

Recipients do not need to re-apply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card by visiting here or calling 888-678-8914.

Detroit Pistons to Host Virtual 5K to Benefit PeacePlacers International

The Detroit Pistons, as part of the Pistons Fit program, will host a week-long virtual 5K run Aug. 24-30 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting PeacePlayers International, a nonprofit organization that uses basketball to unite and educate children and their communities.

Participants can complete the 5K anywhere and can choose to walk or run outdoors or on a treadmill. They will log their times on the Nike Run app and submit a photo of their time via social media. Registration, which includes a ticket to a future Pistons home game and team swag, is $29 and can be accomplished here.

“The virtual 5K run is a healthy and safe way for our organization to continue to engage the community in health and wellness activities this summer,” says Erika Swilley, vice president of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons. “We are grateful for the continued support of partners as we look for new, creative opportunities to host events that help us stay connected to the community, even amid COVID-19.”

Little Caesars to Open First Stores in Colombia

Detroit-based Little Caesars Pizza, the third largest pizza chain in the world, is planning to open its first restaurants in Bogotá, Colombia this month.

The brand currently operates in 27 countries and territories, including in Peru and Chile in South America.

“As we continue to expand our global footprint, we are thrilled to bring Little Caesars Pizza to Colombia,” says Paula Vissing, senior vice president of international for Little Caesars. “The pizza market is expected to grow nearly 20 percent in Latin America over the next several years, and Colombia represents a very important new market for us in the region.”

Over the past several years, Little Caesars has increased its international presence by opening restaurants in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Canada, the Caribbean, and Asia Pacific.  In 2019, Little Caesars opened in Spain, India, and Barbados.

Chateau Grand Traverse Releases Brand New Apparel Line

The Chateau Grand Traverse winery in Traverse City is launching a new apparel line, which is available in its Old Mission Peninsula tasting room and online.

“We’re happy to now offer guests a much larger variety of apparel both in store and online,” says Megan Molloy, marketing coordinator at Chateau Grand Traverse. “This line is all about light, comfortable, and stylish clothing that can easily transition from a day on the wine trail to evenings by the fire or on the bay.”

The winery’s new clothing features custom imagery from around the winery, vineyards, and Old Mission Peninsula, as well as new logos and designs. New pieces include vintage crewnecks, short and long sleeve t-shirts, dry-fit quarter-zips, cardigans, hats, and more.