COVID-19 Update: Michigan Organizations Receive U.S. Labor Department Grants, State Launches $1.5M Ad Campaign to Inform Citizens About COVID-19 Vaccine, 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 Jan. 19

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.

Michigan Organizations Receive U.S. Labor Department Grants
Two Michigan organizations have received grants in the U.S. Department of Labor’s $145 million H-1B One Workforce Grant Program to invest in training for key sectors of the U.S. economy.

The Southeast Michigan Community Alliance in Taylor received $10 million and Grand Rapids Community College was given $9,816,563. They will use the investment to focus on upskilling the current workforce and training the workforce of the future for critical industries such as IT, advanced manufacturing, and transportation.

Grantees will use training strategies and training delivery methods to provide individuals in their communities with the skills necessary to succeed in middle- and high-skilled H-1B occupations. Training models will include a broad range of classroom and on-the-job training, customized training, incumbent worker training, Registered Apprenticeship Programs, and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is challenging communities to think as ‘One Workforce,’” says John Pallasch, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. “In a post-coronavirus world, it is critical that local organizations think as one instead of independent parts of a process. Our goal is to create seamless community partnerships to build career pathways for local job seekers to enter middle- to high-skilled occupations in cyber security, advanced manufacturing and transportation.”

State Launches $1.5M Ad Campaign to Inform Citizens About COVID-19 Vaccine
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has launched a $1.5 million statewide paid media campaign to inform Michiganders about the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in response to research about attitudes toward the vaccine and to address vaccine hesitancy among Michigan residents.

MDHHS says it is committed to accelerating vaccine delivery as its works to reach its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders over age 16 as quickly as possible with the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is currently available to health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, Michiganders over age 65, preK-12, day care staff, and other essential frontline workers.

The campaign was developed after conducting a statewide survey and six focus groups among key target audiences. It includes television, connected TV, radio, streaming audio, YouTube, search, print in minority publications, social media, and digital media.

Digital ads with specific messaging and targeting parameters also were developed to connect with the state’s vaccine hesitant segments.

According to research, 66 percent of Michiganders are likely or very likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine and 34 percent would like to get it as soon as possible. There are disparities, however, when it comes to who is likely to get the vaccine with 47 percent of white Michiganders very likely to get the vaccine versus 25 percent of black Michiganders.

Top reasons for not getting the vaccine as soon as possible include concerns about side effects (67 percent); not wanting to feel like a test subject (66 percent); needing to know more about its safety (65 percent); wanting to learn more about how the vaccine performs over time (62 percent); needing to know more about its effectiveness (61 percent); and concerns about politicians pushing out the vaccine before it’s safe (58 percent).

In Related News: Oakland University’s Centers for Civic Engagement, Religious Understanding, and Public Humanities are organizing a panel of experts to discuss the key factors to secure a successful vaccination campaign. The “COVID-19 Vaccination: Access, Awareness, and Acceptance” panel is scheduled for Jan. 25 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

The moderator for the event will be Mark Navin, professor and chair of OU’s Philosophy Department. The panel includes:

  • Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Russell Faust, medical director for Oakland County.
  • Nicholas Gilpin, chief medical officer at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe.
  • Derrick McDonald, pastor of Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.

“We are all eager to end the COVID pandemic, and we’ve known for a while that widespread vaccination was our best chance,” says Navin. “It shouldn’t be surprising that we’re going to have to do some work to help people decide that COVID vaccines are right for them. Helping to build acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial because most of our other vaccines are given to young children and those vaccines have been given millions of times over many decades, but the COVID vaccines are new, and they use novel technologies.”

There is no charge to attend, but registration is required here.

State Transportation Grant to Support 2,200 New Jobs at GM’s Factory ZERO in Detroit
The Michigan Department of Transportation has awarded a state transportation economic development grant that will support 2,200 new jobs in the city of Detroit. The grant will help fund infrastructure improvements related to General Motors Co.’s Factory ZERO plant that straddles the Detroit-Hamtramck border.

“General Motors appreciates the support from MDOT and the city of Detroit for these much-needed road improvements,” says Jim Quick, plant director at Factory ZERO, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center. “Factory ZERO is an important piece of our journey to an all-electric future and these road improvements will greatly help our employees and the community as we prepare to build electric trucks and the Cruise Origin.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says, “This strategic investment from the state will help the city upgrade the road infrastructure around GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which will create 2,200 new jobs at a plant that was once expected to close. Instead, it will produce the vehicles of the future and provide tremendous opportunity for hundreds more Detroiters to join our city’s growing middle class. I’m deeply appreciative to the state and GM for their commitment to this project and their investment in our city.”

GM recently announced that 40 percent of its U.S. entries will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025. Factory ZERO is a key part of GM’s transition to electric vehicles and will be the launchpad for GM’s multi-brand electric vehicle strategy. The company’s largest investment in any plant in its history, GM is investing $2.2 billion in Factory ZERO, reconfiguring it to an all-electric vehicle assembly plant.

GM chose its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center as the location for the center of its electric vehicle strategy, but the surrounding infrastructure was a concern. The roads around the plant are all in poor condition and have reached the end of their service life. GM was concerned that the poor condition of the roads could provide a problem with their just-in-time manufacturing processes. The company was also concerned with the possibility of receiving damaged parts and potential damage to delivery trucks.

Work funded in part with this grant will involve rebuilding and repaving with concrete Mt. Elliott Street from Conant Street to Harper Avenue, Conant Street from Mt. Elliott Street north to the city limit just south of Miller Street, Hamtramck Drive from E. Grand Boulevard north to the Detroit city limit, and E. Grand Boulevard from Trombly Street to Hamtramck Drive.

The total project cost is $11,686,313. The TEDF Category A share of the project is $6,000,000, with the City of Detroit providing $5,686,313 in matching funds. Total participating building costs are $9,109,051. The City of Detroit will provide $2,577,262 for non-building project-related costs. In addition, the City of Detroit will provide $1,262,060 for non-participating work costs for rebuilding sidewalks.

Chevrolet to Team with Walt Disney World to Reveal Bolt EUV and EV Feb. 14
The Chevrolet brand of Detroit’s General Motors Co. is teaming with Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to reveal the all-electric 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Bolt EV on Sunday, Feb. 14.

Chevrolet officials say the partnership with Disney will “show how magic can take place when the imagination is electrified.”

Among the features the Bolt will include when it is revealed will include:

  • Super Cruise hands-free driver assist, the first Chevrolet EV to be so equipped.
  • Bolt EUV brings new energy to driving electric. It will be the first electric vehicle from Chevrolet to offer the Super Cruise† hands-free driver assistance feature.Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance feature, the first Chevrolet EV to be so equipped.
  • Signature lighting including a sequential front turn signal and LED daytime running light.
  • Power Flow Screen on the dashboard.

Park West Gallery Led Way with Online Art Auctions During Pandemic
Park West Gallery in Southfield was one of the first art dealers to pivot to online auctions during the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, there is growing evidence to show that art collectors are enthusiastically embracing online auctions as an appealing and safe alternative to purchasing art in-person.

“We knew collectors would love our new online experience,” says Albert Scaglione, founder and CEO of Park West Gallery. “But what we didn’t anticipate is how quickly that segment of our business would grow.”

Park West reports record sales and attendance at their online auctions. Over the Jan. 15-17 weekend, the gallery sold 1,559 works of art, the largest number of works that Park West has sold during an online auction weekend — breaking its previous record set only two weeks ago on New Year’s weekend.

“There are many benefits of auctioning art online,” says Scaglione. “One of the biggest benefits is the selection you can offer. When we’re auctioning at an event or on a cruise ship, there is a finite amount of art we can fit into the space. But, when we’re online, the variety of art that we can offer to our clients is simply incredible. And we’re taking advantage of that every week.”

One of the highlights of this past weekend was record-breaking sales from two of Park West’s new artists, Ashton Howard and Jon Rattenbury. Howard is a Florida native who has won critical acclaim for his works of Fluid Realism — a technique he invented that captures the light and movement of water in a unique fashion. Rattenbury is known for his “dimensional acrylic” paintings.

The Jan. 15-17 weekend also saw record sales for works by the late great Jean-Claude Picot, the post-impressionist who passed away in August 2020.

“We’ve really seen a huge uptick in our online art auctions in 2021,” says Jordan Sitter, principal auctioneer at Park West. “Art collectors are really responding to this new format.”

This new surge in online art collecting aligns with 2020 research from Barron’s, which noted that the COVID-19 crisis could fundamentally boost online art sales and predicted that the shift to online platforms for art collecting could be “both permanent and transformative.”

Meijer Seeks Midwest-made Products at Upcoming Localization Summit
Grand Rapids-based Meijer announced today that it will host its first virtual Localization Summit, April 1, giving local businesses across the retailer’s six-state footprint the opportunity to showcase their offerings to Meijer merchants virtually.

“We are proud to be a Midwestern retailer and want to carry products that highlight our communities,” says Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Meijer. “Each Meijer store should represent its customers and the community that makes those customers unique. This event gives us the chance to source products from our customers’ hometowns, which makes their shopping experience even more meaningful.”

The event will focus on the following categories:

  • Grocery, including fresh, deli and bakery
  • Baby
  • Beauty and personal care
  • Over-the-counter and wellness

Businesses that manufacture or grow retail-ready products in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin can apply by Friday, Feb. 19 for consideration here.

Once applications for the event are submitted, Meijer teams will review and select the vendors they would like to meet at the virtual summit. Suppliers not chosen for the summit will still be accessible through the RangeMe registration tool and may be reviewed by Meijer merchants again in the future as business needs change.

Local vendors carrying services or products outside of the categories mentioned above are encouraged to submit their information for consideration through the retailer’s prospective vendor page.

Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Group Acquires Advanced Physical Therapy Center
Phoenix Physical Therapy of Pennsylvania has acquired Advanced Physical Therapy Center, which has eight clinics around metro Detroit, to enter the Michigan market.

Advanced has been providing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and sports medicine services for nearly 30 years. The company is known for creating customized rehabilitation programs to get their patients back to work and play as quickly as possible.

Shelley Hanchett now is director of clinic operations overseeing the Advanced clinics as part of the Phoenix regional management team.

“We are thrilled to add Advanced Physical Therapy Center to the Phoenix family,” says Chris Ciatto, CEO of Phoenix. “(Advanced has) successfully navigated the COVID pandemic and was looking for a partner that would allow it to enhance their infrastructure, fuel ongoing growth, and most importantly support its team members and patients. We are confident that the combination of our companies allows us to be better together and poised for continued success.”

RackWare and Vigilant Construct Digital Transformation Platform
RackWare, a California provider of an automated cloud management platform, and Vigilant Technologies in Troy have joined forces to empower medium-size and large corporations as they embrace digital technology.

Vigilant delivers consulting services and works with clients to leverage cloud, automation, and analytics, and streamline business processes. Vigilant also operates in Toronto, Hyderabad, and Chile.

RackWare products offer organizations scalability, agility, and resiliency, a key need for medium and large enterprises.

The partnership combines the companies’ respective strengths to simplify the cloud migration process and enable enterprises to upgrade their platforms in a few clicks.

“RackWare automation has allowed Vigilant to speed up our DR delivery process,” says Santhosh Varatharajan senior manager of Vigilant Technologies.

Virginia Company Acquires Owen Moore Insurance Agency
Owen Moore Insurance Agency, based in Linwood (north of Bay City), has been acquired by the Hilb Group of Virginia.

OMA is a full-service property and casualty agency, providing personal and commercial insurance products and services to individuals and businesses. As a part of the transaction, Randal (Randy) Moore and his team will join the THG’s Midwest region.

“We are pleased to be a part of THG’s vision and focus,” says Moore. “THG’s innovative solutions for our clients will be an added benefit to our mission and culture.”

Ricky Spiro, CEO of THG CEO, says, “The outstanding team of professionals at OMA will contribute significantly to our midwestern footprint.”

Nest to Host Online Workshop for Detroit Artisans and Makers
Bolt EUV brings new energy to driving electric. It will be the first electric vehicle from Chevrolet to offer the Super Cruise† hands-free driver assistance feature.

Bolt EUV brings new energy to driving electric. It will be the first electric vehicle from Chevrolet to offer the Super Cruise† hands-free driver assistance feature.

Bolt EUV brings new energy to driving electric. It will be the first electric vehicle from Chevrolet to offer the Super Cruise† hands-free driver assistance featuHere’s a first look at part of the 2022 Bolt EUV’s signature lighting, featuring a sequential front turn signal and LED daytime running light.Here’s a sneak peek of the Power Flow Screen right from the heart of the all-new Bolt EUV.

Nest to Host Free Online Workshop for Detroit Makers and Artisans
Nest, a Detroit-based nonprofit that works with makers to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion, will host a free, two-day online workshop for Detroit makers from Jan. 28-29.

This online two-day workshop — designed for artisans and hand makers — will provide resources about sales, marketing, networking, and business planning.

“Through Nest’s Makers United program, we create concrete opportunities that may not have already existed for the amazing artisans in my hometown,” says Tracy Reese, a member of Nest’s board of trustees. “I also want to open their eyes to opportunities that were already here that, for some reason, they do not have access to.”

Supported by the Same Sky Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and West Elm, discussions topics during the workshop will include: goal-setting, accessing capital, and marketing for buyers.

Ongoing workshops — along with marketplace activations and local partnerships — stem from the program’s previous analysis of Detroit’s maker landscape in Summer 2020, which provided insight into local maker communities and highlighted the unique challenges artisans face in small business development in the city’s distinct markets.

“Nest’s Makers United program is a multi-stakeholder initiative that connects and strengthens diverse communities of makers across the United States,” says Rebecca van Bergen, founder and executive director of Nest. “We are committed to building a vibrant and inclusive maker population and excited to bring this program to Detroit and invest in being a part of the Detroit makers community.”

To register for the workshop, visit here.

Wayne Metro/GM Cares Debut Food Distribution Shelter System
To enhance Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency’s food and essential items distribution program, a team of engineers from General Motors Co. designed and built a modular system to help make operations more comfortable and efficient in the crucial winter season.

The donation consists of $40,000 worth of equipment and materials, including six lightweight, portable, three-sided 10-by-20-foot tents, a trailer, six heaters, propane tanks, folding tables, and storage bins.

The new system will provide for greater distribution efficiencies aimed at decreasing wait times while sheltering staff and volunteers from Michigan’s winter weather.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne Metro has been distributing food and other essentials to local residents in need in Highland Park, Taylor and Dearborn Heights, serving 400-600 people each week through its CARES Relief and Recovery Services.

The outdoor, drive-through, contactless distributions take place on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at rotating sites:

  • George Washington Carver Academy in Highland Park, first Friday of each month.
  • Wayne County Community College in Taylor, second Friday of each month.
  • Albert the Great Church in Dearborn Heights, third Friday of each month.

For more information, visit here or call 313-388-9700.

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