COVID-19 Update: GM 1Q Sales Down 7%, Small Business Relief Available, Carhartt Shifts Production to PPE, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
map of Michigan COVID-19 cases from Bridge
Courtesy of Bridge, as of March 31

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

General Motors Co. in Detroit today announced it delivered 618,335 vehicles in the first quarter of 2020, a decrease of about 7 percent compared to a year ago. The industry experienced significant declines in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“In this uncertain and challenging time, GM and our strong network of dealers are here to help, offering concierge service, providing courtesy transportation to customers in need and offering home delivery where permissible,” says Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations for GM.

In many areas with stay-at-home orders, dealer service operations are considered essential and can remain open to address crucial vehicle needs for essential service providers like first responders, healthcare workers, and food supply and delivery workers.

Safety remains the company’s top priority. “Customers who need to purchase a new vehicle can use GM’s Shop. Click. Drive. program, which allows them to browse inventory, choose a vehicle, customize their payment, and schedule delivery at home where available,” says McNeil.

To further assist, GM has enabled OnStar Crisis Assist services for all connected vehicle owners, as well as complimentary in-vehicle data for all Wi-Fi-equipped vehicles.

Inventory at the end of the first quarter was 668,443 units, down about 18 percent from a year ago.

For full details on how GM is responding to the COVID-19 crisis, visit here.

Small Business Relief
To safeguard Detroit small businesses during these tough economic times, city of Detroit, Detroit City Council, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. announced $3.1 million in emergency cash will be available to small businesses. Starting today businesses can apply for the Detroit Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Fund online to help pay utilities, rent, payroll, and other expenses during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. The new program, which builds on the previously announced state effort, will provide grants up to $10,000 to help Detroit small businesses survive the economic impact of COVID-19, with the first checks to be sent by April 10.

These emergency funds come from a combination of the Michigan Small Business Relief Grant Program, Casino Development Funds, and reprogrammed funds from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Please see the attached program executive summary for more information and a photo of the Council meeting for use. Pierre Batton, DEGC Vice President of Small Business Services, is available for interviews.

The goal is to deploy these emergency funds to qualifying businesses as quickly as possible and protect the progress that has been made over the last decade in building Detroit’s small business community.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Update
The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel will suspend the planned weekly overnight closures in April related to its ongoing renovation project and will remain open 24/7 to essential traffic.

The tunnel had been scheduled to close between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. on April 16, April 23, and April 30 as part of a $22 million renovation project under way.

Travelers can get real-time tunnel updates and traffic information here.

Medical Supplies
Dearborn work attire manufacturer Carhartt on April 6 will begin producing 50,000 medical gowns, and on April 20, the company will begin manufacturing 2.5 million masks. Production of these items will continue as long as necessary.

“Serving and answering the call during times of need has always been an integral part of Carhartt’s history and it’s why consumers have trusted us to have their back for more than 130 years,” says Mark Valade, CEO of Carhartt. “We are humbled and honored to help all the essential workers serving and protecting us right now.”

Associates from Carhartt’s manufacturing facilities have volunteered to produce these items and the company will continue to compensate them for their contribution to the effort to support the nation’s need for medical personal protective equipment.

The company is working closely with local health authorities and following recommended protocols to ensure a safe work environment for employees. This includes implementing social distancing protocols, limiting the number of employees, and increasing sanitation measures within facilities to ensure the health and well-being of team members.

For more information and updates on Carhartt’s response to COVID-19, visit here.

Real Estate
Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) released its first quarter 2020 industrial trends data for the Detroit region on Tuesday, which showed the industrial vacancy rate held steady at 4.0 percent during the first quarter of 2020. New construction completions accounted for nearly half of the quarter’s 780,000 square feet of overall absorption. Most submarkets continued to see falling vacancies and quick re-leasing time.

Construction was also robust; more than 605,000 square feet of construction was completed, and another 4.6 million square feet is underway. Though first quarter data indicated a continuation of the Detroit industrial market’s strong performance, in the current economic and health situation of COVID-19, real estate perspectives are speculative and will continue to evolve over days, weeks, and months. Along with other economic factors, the halt in automobile and automotive part production caused by COVID-19 poses a financial burden for suppliers and connected companies down the line.

“After 10 years in expansion mode, the Detroit industrial market may experience some challenges as we move forward,” says Fred Liesveld, managing director of NKF’s Detroit office. “However, the performance of the industrial market during the first quarter in terms of positive absorption and construction activity illustrated the underlying strength of metro Detroit’s manufacturing and logistics sectors.”

John DeGroot, research director of NKF’s Detroit office, adds, “Looking ahead, there are thirteen major industrial firms scheduled to move into new build-to-suit developments totaling over two million square feet in the coming months. In addition, eight speculative developments are scheduled to be completed in the coming months that will add 2.4 million square feet of new supply or a potential 60 basis point vacancy rate increase of to the market.”

For the full report, visit here.

Peas and Carrots Hospitality’s local restaurants (Beau’s, Como’s, Social, and MEX) will offer boxes of fresh produce available to purchase for $10 per box, with a 50 percent discount given to Peas and Carrots employees.

Partnering with La Grasso Produce of Detroit, the boxes will be full of an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies. As per the new carryout norm, the boxes will be available curbside at each restaurant.

All gratuities collected from carry out orders goes into an employee fund paid directly to staff. 10 percent of all gift cards purchased also goes to the employee fund. Produce boxes and curbside-pick up can be ordered by calling the restaurants.

Andiamo’s restaurants are offering brunch and dinner carry out packages for Easter.

Orders must be placed in increments of four by Wednesday April 8 and be picked up Saturday April 11 between noon and 8 p.m. Brunch orders are $24.75 per person and dinner packages are $38 per person. Each package after the initial four are discounted by 10 percent.

For menu details and to order, visit here.

The Michigan Israel Business Accelerator in Detroit on Tuesday reported three Coronavirus measures in Israel under development. Last week, the MIBA said more than 150 programmers, software developers, and innovators from both Israel and  the United States virtually gathered to participate in HackCorona, a hack-a-thon aiming to find solutions to address coronavirus challenges. Among the latest developments: Soapy has developed an antiviral soap for automatic hand-washing stations. The plant-based ingredient kills the Coronavirus. It is already used in several countries. Sonovia and Argaman develop hospital linens and antimicrobial polyester-cotton fabric for chemotherapy patients that could potentially be made into face masks that may not only block the Coronavirus but actually kill it.

On Israel’s northern border in the city of Kiryat Shemona, is the Migal Galilee Research Institute that has spent the past four years developing a vaccine against the Coronavirus in poultry. They are now working towards adapting the vaccine for human use.

Medical Education
Rosh Review, a Detroit-based medical education and technology company, is offering its web-based, distance learning tools for iOS and Android platforms free to help medical professionals continue their education at home. The offer runs through May 1.

“History teaches us that we can get through difficult times by leaning on community,” says Dr.  Adam Rosh, founder of Rosh Review. “Universities and colleges across the country quickly sent students and residents home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Faculty members have been scrambling to provide distance learning tools to keep their students on track. We’ve received hundreds of faculty requests in the past few weeks, asking us to help them set up online learning tools for their programs. Offering these online learning tools for free was the right thing to do during this stressful time.”

Online tools available from Rosh include:

  • Thousands of vignette-style board review questions with comprehensive explanations
  • Custom teaching images
  • Digital flashcards
  • Practice exams to evaluate student and resident performance
  • Program dashboards to track, analyze, and interact with students and residents

Any program director, clerkship director, faculty member, or designated institutional official needing distance learning tools can get free access here.

The Kroger Family of Cos. announced that it will provide all hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy, and call center associates with a Hero Bonus – a $2 premium above their standard base rate of pay, applied to hours worked March 29 through April 18. The premium will be disbursed weekly to ensure associates have access to additional cash.

This announcement follows and is in addition to Kroger’s previous commitment shared on March 21, which provided a one-time bonus to frontline associates, which pays out on April 3.

“Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the frontlines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” says Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger. “The Hero Bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates but also to the more than 30,000 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks and those who will soon join the Kroger Family of Companies.”

Detroit food producer E.W. Grobbel Sons Inc. today will donate an entire 53-foot tractor-trailer filled with 40,000 pounds of frozen corned beef to Forgotten Harvest to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts. The contents of the truck include the same take-home flat corned beef briskets sold in grocery stores, along with Grobbel’s corned beef hash.

“In tough times, those with the least tend to get hurt the most,” says Jason Grobbel, president of E.W. Grobbel Sons. “That’s why we want to do what we can, as a business that has been in this community for nearly 150 years, to help fill the need for hungry neighbors in metro Detroit.”

For more information on Forgotten Harvest’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit here.

Michigan Opera Theatre has launched a digital programming campaign to provide daily opera and dance content to the community during social distancing. “MOT at Home” will use its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media accounts to distribute programming, which will include performances, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and more.

“During this time of social distancing, Michigan Opera Theatre seeks to serve and remain connected with our loyal supporters who value our shared love of opera, dance and other performing arts,” says Wayne S. Brown, president and CEO of MOT. “Although we are unable at the moment to provide live performances for you in the Detroit Opera House, we hope the digital performances and informative content of ‘MOT at Home’ may be a source of inspiration, comfort and hope.”

“MOT at Home” is supported by Cadillac. More information is available here.

State Accepting Monetary Donations
The state of Michigan has launched the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative to accept monetary donations to support critical services.

Funds will be distributed through the State Emergency Operations Center established process, based on critical needs. Donations will be allocated to provide food and water, education support for children, and other essential activities as needs are identified.

Donating to the Michigan COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative will help leverage federal resources, including FEMA funds, that require a match. Donations of any size can be made by credit or debit card.

A secure online donation with the Michigan Department of Treasury can be made by visiting here and clicking donations.

More information from the state on the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

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