COVID-19 Update: Detroit Unemployment Rate Drops, City Casino Revenue Falls 65% Through July, 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
Courtesy of Bridge, as of August 11

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.

U-M Survey: Detroit Unemployment Rate Drops but 1 in 5 Face Financial Trouble
More Detroiters have returned to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but one in five city residents continue to have difficulty affording basic necessities and worry more hardship is ahead, according to a survey by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Survey responses indicate Detroit’s unemployment rate dropped from 48 percent in May and June to 38 percent in late July. One-quarter of Detroiters in the labor force say they remain unemployed due to layoffs and business closures resulting from the pandemic.

“The drop in unemployment is to be expected as more businesses reopen, but not everyone is benefitting equally as jobs return,” says Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the faculty research leads for the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, of which there have been four since the start of the pandemic. “The survey data show Black residents and people with low incomes and less education are more likely to remain out of work and more likely to have seen their hours cut if they are working.”

Among those who remain out of work, one-quarter say they had to stop working because of family or personal obligations resulting from the pandemic. This is especially true of low-income workers, one-third of whom say they’re not currently working due to family obligations, compared to just 4 percent of higher-income residents.

Roughly one in five Detroiters say they are in financial trouble right now, according to the survey results, and 35 percent say they would be unable to cover an emergency $400 expense based on their current financial situation.

As a result, some Detroiters are struggling to afford basic necessities. More than half of residents (56 percent) are uncertain if they will be able to afford the food they need in the coming month and 43 percent say they have skipped or only partially paid one bill or more in the last month.

Some families report having already experienced service disruptions. In the last year, one in eight households have had their phone or internet services shut off, and the majority of these shut-offs (73 percent) occurred during the pandemic, according to the survey.

“Families with kids are more likely to experience these service interruptions than other residents,” said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M who analyzed the DMACS COVID-19 survey data. “Given how important internet service is for the ability to work from home and for remote learning, eliminating disparities in internet access and disruptions in service is critical to ensuring equal opportunity to learn and stay safe, especially as the new school year approaches.”

To view the full report of survey results, visit here.

Detroit Casinos’ Revenue Falls 65% Through July
Detroit’s three commercial casinos’ aggregate revenue fell 65 percent year-over-year through July due to being closed from March 16 through July because of COVID-19-related public health concerns. The casinos were allowed to reopen Aug. 5.

MGM Grand Detroit reported year-to-date revenue of $126.5 million through July 2020, $240.3 million less than during the same period in 2019 for a 65.5 percent decrease. Motor City Casino’s $102.6 million was $188.6 million less than a year ago for a 64.8 percent drop. Greektown Casino reported $70.1 million in revenue, $196.4 million less than last year, a 64.3 percent reduction.

Through July 31, the three casinos paid $24.2 million in gaming taxes to the state of Michigan compared with $69.2 million for the same period last year.

The three Detroit casinos reported submitting $35.6 million to the city of Detroit in wagering taxes and development agreement payments through July 31. They paid $101.7 million to the city during the same seven-month period last year.

For the month ended June 30, fantasy contest operators reported total adjusted revenues of $488,050 and paid taxes of $40,996 to the state of Michigan.

Year-to-date through June 30, fantasy contest operators reported aggregate adjusted revenues of $4,052,669 and paid $340,424 in taxes to the state.

Stellex Capital Management Opens Ann Arbor Office and Hires Two Executives
Stellex Capital Management, a middle-market private equity firm with offices in New York and London, has opened an office in Ann Arbor and hired two executives to staff that facility.

Shankar Kiru serves as managing director and Andrew P. Arton is director of the new Stellex office that opened Aug. 1.

“As a result of our long-established ties in the automotive industry and in the Detroit area, we are excited about the opening of our new office in Ann Arbor,” says Michael Stewart, managing partner of Stellex. “As we continue to look at investment opportunities with a focus on industrial manufacturing and service businesses and a particular emphasis on the automotive sector, we believe in expanding our local presence where we see opportunities that can add value for our investors.”

Since its inception in 2014, Stellex says it has built strong relationships within the Detroit deal community and has invested in local businesses. The opening of its Ann Arbor office represents, according to the company, a logical extension of its commitment to the region.

List of Health Care Job Openings Growing Amid Pandemic
The health care division of Troy employment consulting firm ICONMA says it has seen a rapid increase in health care job openings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“Our health care partners list is growing, and almost all of them are seeing an increased demand for health care professionals of all kinds, especially in hospitals and emergency rooms,” says Nick Mirabile, director of health care services and solutions at ICONMA. “Registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, traveling nurses, and lab technicians are just a few of the positions with increased demand.”

ICONMA says it now offers a COVID-19 medical screening service, which is available to all businesses resuming in person operations.

“Our medical screening service helps companies provide a secure workplace for employees and visitors,” Mirabile says. “The extra layer of security could be the difference between an outbreak or a smooth transition back into the office.”

For more information, visit here.

Automation Alley Creates Program to Address Response to Future Disruptions
Automation Alley has created the Personal Protective Equipment Resilience Grant Program to address the need to move companies in Macomb and Oakland counties into the digital manufacturing age of Industry 4.0 as fast as possible to help improve the region’s manufacturing agility and response to future disruptions.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly reshaping and accelerating the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector. As businesses are forced to change and adapt, they are finding new ways to get the job done during these uncertain times—and Industry 4.0 technologies are leading the way.

Manufacturers accepted into the program will receive:

  • Guidance on how to transform from legacy operations to digital manufacturing.
  • An Industry 4.0 assessment outlining where their business stands today and what digital opportunities best fit their needs.
  • Connections and introductions to vendors and applied research that can help them along their path to Industry 4.0.
  • A financial investment will be granted to purchase Industry 4.0 and digital technologies.

To qualify, companies must be a small or medium sized manufacturer in Oakland or Macomb County.

A virtual information session for Macomb County companies will take place on Aug. 26 at 11 a.m.

For more information on the program and the virtual information session, visit here.

Goldfish Swim School Hosts Contact-free School Supply Drive for Teachers
Troy-based Goldfish Swim School has launched the From Backstrokes to Back-to-School community school supply drive benefiting teachers nationwide.

On average, teachers spend $500 out of their own pockets to help bring much needed school supplies into their classrooms. Throughout August and September, participating Goldfish Swim Schools are encouraging members and nonmembers to contribute to the school supply drive. Those who donate will be entered into a raffle to win various prizes from their local swim school such as free lessons, jump start clinics, snacks, swag, and more.

Participating locations will be collecting a full list of school supplies that will be sanitized and donated to local elementary schools.

“We understand first-hand how challenging it has been to navigate the pandemic while continuing to educate children through our swims lessons and programs that help to build life skills both in and out of the water,” says Chris McCuiston, co-founder and CEO of Goldfish Swim School.

“Teachers have so much on their plates right now as they prepare to safely reopen their classrooms this fall, the last thing they should have to worry about is paying out of their own pockets for classroom school supplies. Our community has been such a tremendous support to us throughout these trying times, this is just another small way we can all rallying together, united on the importance of child enrichment, as we aim to make a positive impact this back-to-school season.”

For more information, visit here.

Annual Garden Party on Belle Isle Goes Digital to Support Conservatory
The annual Garden Party on Belle Isle to benefit the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and Gardens, which usually takes place at the conservatory, this year will be a virtual event on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. due to COVID-19 concerns.

This year, the event will be a virtual tour of the conservatory led by Jeremy Kemp, head horticulturist. Online donations are being accepted here. Lotus, Koi, and Water Lily level donations made by Sept. 10 will be recognized during the program.

“The pandemic has changed our approach to party planning from onsite to online,” says Robin Heller, co-chair of the event. “While we can’t be together, this gives us a chance to highlight the impact made by donations to date and the needs that still exist. We hope everyone will enjoy our virtual tour of the conservatory and grounds and learn something new.”

Since 2006, the in-person event has attracted 600 patrons each year and has raised funds for the winterization of the lily pond, repairs to the garden stairways and paths, and plant identification signage.

The impact of COVID-19 on the event industry have affected the facility beyond the cancellation of the garden party. The conservatory is a popular venue for weddings, which provide a prime source of revenue to maintain the aging Albert Khan designed structure. Additionally, with the facility being closed to the public the donation box does not receive contributions from weekend visitors.

For more information, visit here.

EMU to Utilize New Technology for Student Dining Amid COVID-19
Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has invested in new technologies and services for its campus dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

New technologies that will be integrated into EMU’s campus dining in the fall include:

  • Transact Mobile Ordering, an app that allows students to order and pay from their mobile device will be used in nearly all dining locations on campus so students can order food ahead and skip the line.
  • MRD5, or contactless payment devices, will be placed at all registers so guests can swipe their own campus cards to pay, decreasing interaction/touching of cards.
  • OZZI, a reusable container vending machine, will be installed at The Commons.

Service changes also will be incorporated throughout dining areas on campus to ensure proper distancing and health and safety protocols, including:

  • Streamlining menus to increase speed of service.
  • Limiting the amount of seating to allow for distancing.
  • Mapping dining areas for one-way traffic and 6-foot physical distancing.
  • Installing plexiglass barriers at points of sale.
  • Implementing new cleaning techniques and conducting wellness checks for associates upon arrival to work to ensure they are healthy to work on campus.
  • Creating new to-go style menus that will be associate-served and packaged for carryout.

“We’ve worked closely with the university and the university’s Public Health Work Group to ensure we are following all policies and guidelines when we return to campus in the fall, including mandatory face coverings, and proper and frequent hand-washing,” says Allison Duceatt, director of dining services at EMU. “We’re committed to providing a safe, expedient and delicious dining experience to each and every one of our guests.”

The new dining policies are in addition to the changes and safety measures being put in place across the entire EMU campus as part of the EMUSAFE campaign.

Lawrence Tech Forges Articulation Agreement with Ontario’s St. Clair College
Lawrence Technological University in Southfield has signed a new articulation agreement with Ontario’s St. Clair College that will allow graduates of St. Clair’s diploma program in business administration direct entry into LTU’s Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) programs.

“A number of St. Clair architectural technology students have taken advantage of our long-standing articulation agreement with Lawrence Tech to benefit from advanced standing when seeking admission to LTU’s Master of Architecture degree program,” says Patti France, president of St. Clair College. “Now, our business graduates will be able to create the blueprints of the 21st century’s economy by enjoying similar admission into Lawrence Tech’s MBA and IT master’s programs.”

LTU President Virinder Moudgil says the agreement “strengthens our partnership with St. Clair College to produce the business and IT leaders of tomorrow, and is a testament to the continuing international focus of LTU, situated at the busiest trade crossing between the United States and Canada, the Detroit-Windsor region.”

Students interested in taking advantage of the programs should contact Minakhi Jena, director of business programs, College of Business and Information Technology, Lawrence Technological University, at 248 204-3071 or

Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids Launches Return-to-Learn Teacher Support Series
Van Andel Institute for Education in Grand Rapids has launched a new series of virtual workshops to assist K–12 educators in the upcoming school year. This new Return-to-Learn initiative includes three workshops designed to help teachers master tech tips for distance learning and foster student engagement and social emotional learning skills. In doing so, VAI says it hopes to empower both teachers and students to meet the uncertain challenges of the 20–21 school year.

To learn more about the Return-to-Learn Teacher Support Series, including workshop costs and times, visit here.

Design Core Detroit Announces Programming for Detroit Month of Design
Design Core Detroit at the College of Creative Studies will host Detroit Month of Design (MoD) Sept. 1-30 ​in celebration of Detroit’s designation as the first and only UNESCO City of Design in the United States.

More than 175 participants will present over 75 events and special projects. This year’s programming includes talks, tours, exhibitions, workshops, installations, and more.

While much of the programming will take place digitally, ​all in-person events will follow the guidelines for group gatherings set by the state of Michigan to ensure the health and safety of all participants.

“As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Detroit Month of Design, we are proud to see how Detroit’s design community has grown and developed,” says ​Olga Stella​, ​executive director ​of​ Design Core Detroi​t. “In these challenging times, inclusive design will play a vital role in creating the cities, systems, and products that help all people thrive.”

The full schedule for Month of Design is available ​here​.

Clarkston’s Research America Merges with the Natural Marketing Institute
Clarkston market research firm Research America Inc. has merged with Natural Marketing Institute in Pennsylvania.

“We are happy to welcome the institute into the Research America Inc. family,” says Amy Benner, vice president of Research America. “Our shared vision for the health and sustainability consumer makes this merger an exciting opportunity for us and our clients. We are even better positioned to help our B2B and CPG marketers acquire, grow, and retain customers.

“Our institute team members will further complement RAI’s capabilities with additional strategic consulting services, proprietary custom methodologies, syndicated databases, and much more,” Benner says.

Steve French, managing partner of the Natural Marketing Institute, says his organization will continue to operate independently. “The merger will expand our toolkit including access to web panel, telephone and web-based data collection, qualitative facilities and sensory and new product testing labs.”

Research America has personnel in multiple markets and states including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Rochester, N.Y., Cincinnati, Detroit, Orlando, Chicago, Sacramento, Lincoln, Neb., and Charleston, W.Va. The company’s growth has been both organic and through acquisition of 14 boutique research firms in specialized verticals during the past six years.

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