COVID-19 Update: APACC to Host Virtual East-West Business Connection March 3, BioLife Plasma Services Expanding into Ypsilanti and Livonia, 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.
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map of Michigan coronavirus cases by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Feb. 4

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.

APACC to Host Virtual East-West Business Connection Conference March 3
The Asia Pacific American Chamber of Commerce in Clawson is presenting its 18th annual East-West Business Connection as a virtual event March 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Titled “Disruptions: Opportunities for Growth,” the conference typically attracts nearly 350 attendees including more than 50 corporate buyers who will meet virtually with minority business owners for specific procurement needs. Visit here to see a complete list of buyers and their commodities.

The keynote speaker will be Laura Huang, author of “Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage.”

Other highlights include:

  • Meet the Buyer Showcase.
  • One-on-one business connection networking.
  • Virtual exhibit booths.
  • APACC’s Minority Business Advocate Award (nominate someone here).

For more information and to register, visit here.

BioLife Plasma Services Expanding into Ypsilanti and Livonia
BioLife Plasma Services has opened a new location at 3731 Carpenter Rd. in Ypsilanti, the company’s seventh plasma donation center in Michigan and it’s second in southeast Michigan.

The center will collect standard plasma that is processed into a wide variety of therapeutics for the thousands of patients around the world with rare, life-threatening diseases, such as immunodeficiency disorders, hemophilia, and hereditary angioedema. This center will also bring 70 new jobs to the region.

BioLife also plans to open a center in Livonia on Feb. 13.

Vaccine Optimism Boosts Citizens Business Conditions Index
Optimism fueled by COVID-19 vaccine announcements and increased election certainty caused the national Citizens Business Conditions Index to show a second consecutive quarter of gains.

The national index rose modestly to 61.4 in the final quarter of 2020, up from 61.2 at the end of the third quarter, showing a continuing rebound after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic put downward pressure on the index earlier in 2020.

The index in Michigan rose from 55.1 in the third quarter to 56.4 by the end of the fourth quarter, the highest index number since Citizens started the measurements in 2012.

Some sectors continued to fare better than others, with this quarter’s report showing strength in the financial and energy sectors.

“The fourth quarter was a real turning point,” says Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens. “With the vaccine news and a clear outcome for the presidential election, we saw a lot more confidence about the future among business leaders. The manufacturing sector has been strong and the overall economy has shown resiliency since the middle of the second quarter last year.

“The first quarter of 2021 has already seen major news events in Washington, D.C. and retail trading volatility shaking Wall Street,” adds Bedikian. “As our M&A Outlook also recently noted, we are seeing a healthy environment for corporate deal-making spurred by the vaccine rollout and anticipated tax policy changes.”

The Index is derived from a number of underlying components, many of which improved during the fourth quarter.

  • The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Index rose sharply for the quarter, helping to buoy the Citizens Index, while the Non-Manufacturing Index dipped.
  • Employment increased overall during the fourth quarter despite a disappointing jobs report for December. Wage growth was flat.
  • Proprietary measures of business activity in the fourth quarter among Citizens’ more than 7,000 clients across the United States were down slightly.

The index draws from public information and proprietary corporate data to establish a unique view of business conditions across the country. An index value greater than 50 indicates expansion and points to positive business activity for the next quarter.

Proposal N Neighborhood Improvement Project Gets Final Green Light, Sells $175M in Bonds
The city of Detroit’s project to rehab 8,000 vacant homes and demolish another 8,000 got its first infusion of funds last week as the city sold the first $175 million in bonds of a planned $250 million neighborhood improvement effort. In November, more than 70 percent of Detroit voters approved letting the city sell the bonds.

The bond funds will allow the city to begin the process of stabilizing and securing thousands of vacant Land Bank properties until they can be sold for rehab and demolishing houses that can’t be saved. The city plans to go to the market again next year to sell additional Prop N bonds.

Interest among investors has been strong as there were more than $3.4 billion in orders for the $175 million bond sale.

“The incredibly strong interest in these bonds is a direct reflection of investor’s confidence in Detroit’s strong financial management and that starts with our Office of Chief Financial Officer,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “CFO Jay Rising, Chief Deputy CFOs Tanya Stoudemire and John Naglick, and their entire team have done a tremendous job managing the city’s finances to put us in a strong position, now and for the future.”

Currently, contracts for the first 1,380 demolition properties are before City Council awaiting approval.  All seven companies selected through the city’s procurement process to perform the work are Detroit headquartered and five of those companies are black-owned.  More than 51 percent of the employees doing the demolition work for all seven companies will be verified residents of the city of Detroit.

The city issued a mix of taxable and tax-exempt bonds that will be immediately spent as the first installment on Proposal N programs. More than 60 institutional investors placed orders on the bonds last week, many of which were repeat investors that purchased the city’s 2020 and 2018 bonds demonstrating their continued support and interest in the city, according to Rising.

That level of interest allowed the city to achieve a much lower interest rate than it had initially expected and will translate to much lower repayment costs over time for Detroit taxpayers.

“Investors took notice of Detroit’s steady progress in building financial strength and swiftly responding to the pandemic driven revenue shortfalls,” says Rising. “They saw that while the COVID-19 crisis may have slowed this positive trend, it did not reverse it.”

The strong market and demand for Detroit bonds allowed the city to secure a 3.36 percent interest rate, significantly less than city officials had initially anticipated and 1.28 percentage points less than the interest rate received by the city on its last general obligation bond issue in October 2020.  Detroit marketed these bonds with the “Social Bond” designation to attract Environmental, Social, and Governance focused investors that are interested in financing socially beneficial projects.

In bringing Detroit’s outlook to “Stable” two weeks ago, Standard & Poors referenced the city’s strong fiscal management and the vision behind Proposal N: “We view the passage [of the $250 million Proposal N] as significant in that it will further a key component of the administration’s long-term vision for strengthening the tax base and do so with a dedicated debt millage as opposed to funding through reserves or the operating budget.”

This is the third time since 2018 that Detroit sold municipal bonds backed solely on the city’s ability to repay. During the prior 20 years, the city could only sell bonds that were either backed by the state of Michigan or with insurance to the bondholder, which added to the cost for the city.

Le’Host Hair and Wigs Introduces Wig Care Products
Le’Host Hair and Wigs in Ferndale has released its new wig care product line to 300 Walmart stores across the United States.

The products include:

Unlock Hair Detangler — a proprietary formula that detangles with a hydration formula that protects and conditions the cuticle.

Wrap and Set Foaming Lotion — fast-drying, non-flaking, hydrating, and alcohol-free.

Protect and Shine Laminate — provides shine, protects, and seals the cuticle, keeps hair silky and manageable.

Healthy Edge Smoother — non-greasy, flake-free, and colorless, provides a soft touchable hold while nourishing edges. With Jojoba Oil, it will moisturize, thicken, strengthen, and rapidly increase hair growth.

“We are delighted to serve the masses by making our products available for public consumption and are thrilled Walmart is the perfect partner to provide their trusted brand name and platform to do so,” says Haith Johnson, co-owner of Le’Host Hair and Wigs. “Our own clients were giving us their need for the product for the consumer from the beginning, and it was only a matter of time, testing and the right partners to get it to the public.”

Johnson and her husband, Henry, say they saw a need in the marketplace lacking products for the care of natural hair, weaves, and wig units.

“We strongly anticipate our products to fly off the shelves,” says Henry Johnson. “We are confident that we are providing the right solutions at the right time for our customers.

The Johnsons also are dedicated to community service, by partnering with the American Cancer Society as a designated wig bank, distributing free wigs to cancer survivors. They have seen clients suffer medical conditions after returning from military service and work with the Veterans of America.

Michigan Receives $741M in Federal Food Assistance Funding
Approximately 810,000 Michigan children whose access to nutritious school meals has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive $741.6 million in assistance benefits that their families can use to pay for food at stores or online.

Students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 are eligible if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school and in-person learning is not available at their school or is not available on a full-time basis. Pandemic-EBT will provide another way for students who do not have in-person classes to access food — along with Michigan Department of Education programs that provide meals to students at mobile and stationary locations.

Families will receive an estimated $127.53 monthly for each eligible child who has no in-person classes and attends a school that is fully virtual and about $77.06 for each eligible child who attends a school with a hybrid schedule of in-person and remote learning. Monthly benefits will vary based on the number of school days in each month.

Benefits are retroactive to September and will be paid through June. Payments will be paid automatically, so families do not need to apply to receive the assistance. Households that already receive food assistance will receive the Pandemic-EBT payments on their Bridge Cards. Families that do not already receive food assistance will receive Pandemic-EBT cards in the mail that they can use to purchase food.

Payments are expected to begin in late March. MDHHS is working in partnership with the MDE to collect information from local school districts that’s needed to issue the benefits.

Hope Network Center for Autism expands to Metro Detroit with Livonia Location
Hope Network Center for Autism, one of the largest providers of autism services for Michigan residents, will expand its services to southeastern Michigan with its fifth and newest Michigan location in Livonia. It is currently accepting appointments for assessments.

Scheduled to fully open by spring 2021, depending in large part on pandemic related regulations, the Center for Autism-Livonia will be in Madonna University’s Performing Arts, Athletics, and Academic Center (formerly Ladywood High School), which now is being renovated. Assessments for children with autism are conducted in Livonia and onsite services are expected to begin for as many as 100 learners once fully operational. Services are available in Livonia, at client homes, or by telehealth appointments.

For more information, visit here.

Motown Records to Relaunch Black Forum Label
The Black Forum label — founded by Berry Gordy and the Motown Corp. in 1971 — will relaunch in 2021, providing a platform to a new generation of writers, thinkers, and poets.

In addition to newly recorded releases, Black Forum will reissue six of the historic albums that established its legacy, beginning with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” on Feb. 26.

“As we navigate our way through unprecedented times, racial, and social tensions are at a high,” says Ethiopia Habtemariam, president of Motown Records, “we felt an urgent need to reactivate Black Forum in order to provide information alongside inspiration. The label provided a clear-cut reflection of who America was at the time of civil unrest in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now, we look to extend and expound on the original principles and purpose of Black Forum.”

The move comes as part of a collaboration with Motown Museum in Detroit, the home of Hitsville U.S.A. — a cultural institution that serves as the storyteller and heritage keeper of Motown Records’ legacy for millions of fans around the world.

“We are delighted to collaborate with our partner Motown Records for the relaunch of this iconic label and the yearlong programming around Black Forum,” says Robin Terry, chairwoman of the Motown Museum. “Storytelling, education, and the power of shared experience is a vital part of Motown Museum’s DNA. The rich heritage of the Black Forum label has long been an important chapter in the continuing story of Motown.”

In addition to King, Black Forum also gave other notable spoken word artists of the time a platform. In three years, the label released albums by Stokely Carmichael, Langston Hughes and Margaret Danner, Wallace Terry, Ossie Davis, and others. All will be re-released in the coming months.

The relaunched Black Forum also should spark candid conversations to mold and inspire the next generation of “game changers” via podcasts, Black Community Forums, Motown Museum events and programs, and digital initiatives.

Plum Market and Vosges Haut-Chocolat Launch Signature Chocolate Bar Collection
Plum Market announced that its Signature Crafted Chocolate Bar collection is now available for purchase in all Plum Market locations.

Plum Market collaborated with Chicago’s Vosges Haut-Chocolat on a new small-batch chocolate line that will be sold exclusively through the retailer.

“We’re really excited about this project,” says Tiffany Barnes, director of floral, gift, and specialty candy for Plum Market. “Vosges is so well known for their craft, quality, and inspired flavor combinations, which makes them an excellent partner for this collaboration. We’ve hand selected exotic ingredients like tart Montmorency Cherries, toasty Sri Lankan Coconut, and crunchy Ghananian Cacao Nibs, and paired them with Vosges’ signature Dark and Milk Chocolate blends. The result achieves daring flavor profiles that will appeal to a variety of palates.”

Petersons Conducting Online Auction to Benefit Treatment Center for Girls in Texas
Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson and his wife, Ashley, are partnering with former Houston Texans star Chester Pitts and his wife, Latoya, to raise money for Carson Parke, a Houston-based residential treatment center for foster teen girls.

Through their A & A Peterson Family Foundation, the Petersons will be auctioning off gowns and sports memorabilia with all proceed going to Chester’s Carson Parke. Gowns were donated by Ashley Peterson, Tootsies of Houston, custom designer Johanna Alba, Rachel Bregman, wife of Houston Astros star Alex Bregman, and many more.

The auction started Feb. 5 and will run through Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. CST with the goal of raising a $50,000 to build a new kitchen for Carson Parke.

“Our family was blown away at the work Chester and his wife Latoya have done, pouring their heart and soul into in creating a safe place for teenage girls in foster care through Carson Parke,” said the Petersons in a joint statement. “It’s our hope through Gowns for Girls we are able to raise $50,000 to build a new commercial grade kitchen for their facility while hosting an auction know both fans of fashion and football will love.”

To bid on items or to make a donation, visit here.

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