COVID-19 Update: FTA Sending $22.5M to Michigan for Bus Infrastructure, Commerce Department Invests in Battle Creek Incubator, Grobbel and Buddy’s Pizza Hiring, 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 Aug. 13

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.

Federal Government: FTA to Send $22.5M to Michigan to Revitalize Bus Infrastructure
The Federal Transit Agency has awarded almost $22.5 million to Michigan transportation authorities to enhance bus service in several areas of the state.

The award is part of $464 million in transit infrastructure grants nationwide to improve the safety and reliability of America’s bus systems and enhance mobility for transit riders. A total of 96 projects in 49 states and territories are set to receive funding from FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program.

In Michigan, the state Department of Transportation will receive $13,380,000 for the construction of a new headquarters and transfer station for Bay Area Transportation Authority, which provides transit service in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties. The project is in conjunction with the Traverse City Housing Commission, which is developing affordable workforce housing on an adjacent site.

MDOT also will receive $4,924,382 to purchase transit vehicles for rural transit agencies across the state. The new vehicles will allow the agencies to replace aging vehicles and expand their fleets, resulting in enhanced safety and service reliability for riders.

Bus riders in Big Rapids, Gladwin County, Ogemaw County, and those dependent on the Roscommon County Transportation Authority will benefit from the $2,365,600 grant MDOT is getting from FTA for facility rehabilitation projects.

Lansing’s Capital Area Transportation Authority will receive $1,824,416 to rehabilitate its bus terminal in downtown Lansing.

“Millions of Americans rely on public transportation to access health care, jobs, and other vital services,” says K. Jane Williams, deputy administrator of FTA. “During this unprecedented time, we need to ensure access and mobility for the riders who depend on our nation’s bus systems.”

Federal Government: Commerce Department Invests $2M in Battle Creek Incubator
The U.S. Commerce Department announced Thursday that it is awarding a $2 million grant to Battle Creek Unlimited to develop a food processing incubator to serve the region’s food processing firms. The grant, to be matched with $2 million in local funding, is expected to create more than 100 jobs and generate $8 million in private investment.

“The Battle Creek Unlimited Southwest Michigan Accelerator Kitchen will provide the expertise needed to support the region’s critical food manufacturing and restaurant industries,” says Wilbur Ross, secretary of Commerce.

Dana Gartzke, acting assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development, says, “Battle Creek Unlimited, in partnership with St. Philip Parish, will create an accelerator food production hub in a historic building that will service two early stage food production companies. The Battle Creek Unlimited Southwest Michigan Accelerator Kitchen will provide the area’s high-growth food processors with a facility that will enable product testing and provide the workforce training necessary to spur the regional economy.”

Eastern Market’s Grobbel to Hire 150 New Employees
A Detroit food producer since 1883, E.W. Grobbel Sons Inc. says it wants to fill more than 150 immediate employment positions for production workers in Detroit to meet supply and demand across the country and support the growth of the company.

With starting compensation ranging from $14 to $20 per hour, accepted applicants can participate in roles ranging from palletizing and loading to meat cutting and sanitization. Though some experience is preferred, it is not required, and the position offers growth opportunities for qualified employees. The position offers health and financial benefits for full-time employees.

“The foundation of our organization is centered around growing and developing each of our employees, personally and professionally, while producing premium quality food products,” says Jason Grobbel, president of E.W. Grobbel Sons and a fourth-generation Detroit family business owner. “Our company culture supports the growth of our employees by developing individual career paths that lead to opportunities for promotion from within. We look forward to bringing aboard new employees to help us continue to meet the high standards our customers have loved for generations.”

To help ensure a safe work environment, production worker shifts have staggered starts and all employees are screened prior to each shift. Workers are required to wear masks and are distanced according to health guidelines, with barriers providing additional protections.

For more information and to submit an application, visit here.

In Related News: Buddy’s Pizza is hosting a company-wide career fair at all of its full-service locations, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 24. This event also will include hiring for the company’s newest location in Troy, opening this fall.

The company is hiring for all positions including managers, servers, back of the house, and more. Those who attend the career fair will participate in a three-step hiring process:

  • Station One: Filling out an application
  • Station Two: Restaurant tour
  • Station Three: Final interview (Hiring for new Troy location will take place at the Buddy’s Pizza restaurant located in Auburn Hills.)

The event will take place with strict social distancing guidelines in place. Attendees are required to wear masks for the duration of the event.

For more information, visit here.

Comcast Launches Internet Essentials Partnership Program for Start of Academic Year
Comcast on Thursday announced a new initiative – the Internet Essentials Partnership Program – for cities, schools, and nonprofits to connect large numbers of low-income K-12 students to the Internet at home.

The program offers households broadband Internet service for $9.95 per month, the option to purchase a heavily subsidized computer, and multiple options for digital literacy training. Comcast also announced it is giving all Internet Essentials customers its xFi platform, which enables parents to control and manage their children’s WiFi connected devices.

“We’ve seen firsthand that low-cost Internet access is an important part of improving digital equity and creating positive opportunities for low-income students and families,” says Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services. “Through this new partnership program, we are accelerating the efforts of cities, schools, philanthropies, nonprofits, and private citizens to collaborate and open the doors of Internet access for more families in need.”

The new initiative builds on Comcast’s recent announcement that it will continue to offer, through the end of 2020, all new Internet Essentials customers two months of free Internet service and forgive back debt due so more families can apply.

For more information, visit here.

Comcast also says it will convene a series of virtual national and regional summits this fall. Each one will focus on several issues including education, broadband adoption, digital and media literacy and training, and Internet safety. In addition, this fall Comcast will publish its annual Internet Essentials progress report and relaunch its Internet Essentials Partner Portal, to include case studies, research, and links to creative broadband adoption solutions. Resources there will be made free for anyone to access, including other Internet Service Providers and nonprofits.

Clinton Township’s Excel Industrial Electronics Acquired by Pittsburgh’s Benshaw Inc.
Excel Industrial Electronics Inc., a drive system and automation supplier in Clinton Township, has been acquired by Pittsburgh-based Benshaw Inc.

“Connecting Excel’s drive systems capabilities with Benshaw’s global sales organization will enable us to rapidly accelerate our growth,” said Excel’s co-founders Mark and Carol Beck in a statement.

“We have identified Excel as the leading drive systems integrator in the U.S.,” says Pete Morgan, president of Benshaw. “We are proud that they will now be a Benshaw Group company. The acquisition of Excel will enable Benshaw to add PLC/PC systems, networking, and HMI capabilities to our industrial and OEM motor control solutions.”

Benshaw is a supplier of applied motor controls, with operations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Dubai, Korea, and New Zealand.

Detroit Out Loud Returns for Virtual Celebration of Detroit
The Quicken Loans Community Fund is hosting the second Detroit Out Loud, a festival celebrating Detroit, its spirit, and its communities Aug. 22-23, featuring virtual and select outdoor activities.

“Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are transitioning Detroit Out Loud to a digital platform with the goal of creating an amazing, uplifting, virtual fun day for Detroiters and their families,” says Jasmin DeForrest, director of community sponsorships for the Quicken Loans Community Fund. “This free, two-day festival celebrates the essence elements of what makes Detroit unique. Detroit Out Loud is a chance for anyone, regardless of where they call home, to represent their love for Detroit Out Loud and show what the city means to them while practicing safe social distancing measures.”

To combat “virtual content fatigue,” the event will be a hybrid model, mixing online demos and workshops with suggested outdoor activities that encourage families to celebrate safely in their own homes and communities. In celebration of Detroit’s area code, 313 “GO Time Kits” containing family fun items will be mailed to 313 pre-registered virtual attendees, to assist them in their participation in the interactive programming.

Live presentations and activities include:

  • Baking lesson with April Anderson of Good Cakes and Bakes, a Detroit-based bakery.
  • Painting with Detroit-native visual artist Phil Simpson.
  • Gardening tips with Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.
  • Sidewalk chalk art.
  • Kite-flying.
  • Ballroom hustle dancing.
  • A drive-in movie at the Ford Drive-In Theatre in Dearborn.

Dwele, Charity, and Raye Williams will perform for the festival, as well as other local and nationally known performers.

For a full schedule of events and performers, visit here.

Michigan Opera Theatre Establishes Virtual Dance Club
Michigan Opera Theatre has established a virtual dance club, Dance Dialogues, to continue providing dance experiences and education during pandemic social distancing. The program will debut Aug. 18.

Dance Dialogues explores a new performance every month. Members receive a link to watch the performance on their own time, which culminates in a virtual discussion on the third Tuesday of the month, moderated by guest dance experts.

“Many people who are not familiar with dance are sometimes intimidated by the art form, and we aim to change that through a variety of performances and accessible discussion,” says Jon Teeuwissen, artistic advisor for dance at MOT. “Our guest facilitators are renowned dance experts that include dance critics, dance scholars, artistic directors, choreographers, and dancers. Dance Dialogues is a fun, informative club for dance-aficionados and newcomers alike.”

The first discussion, which will take place Aug. 18, will compare and contrast the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Matthew Bourne versions of “Swan Lake.” Upcoming dialogues include Paul Taylor Dance Co., Ballet Hispánico, Merce Cunningham, and “The Nutcracker.”

For more information, a full schedule of discussions and moderators, and to register, visit here.

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