COVID-19 Update: Michigan Residents Will Have Access to Ambetter Health Insurance, Adient Sells Automotive Fabrics Business, 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 Oct. 3

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 Residents Will Have Access to Ambetter Health Insurance
Beginning Nov. 1, Michigan residents will be able to access Ambetter Health Insurance as a result of the merger between Detroit’s Meridian Health and Missouri’s Centene Corp., which offers Ambetter Health Insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

As part of this consolidation, Meridian Choice members will become part of Ambetter from Meridian.

“Our members’ health remains our highest priority, and they can expect the same affordable, quality health insurance from us under our new name,” says Sean Kendall, president and CEO of the Meridian Plan for Michigan. “As Ambetter from Meridian, we’re building upon our commitment to care and customer service by leveraging the Ambetter resources that millions of people rely upon across the country.”

Michigan residents will begin to see Ambetter from Meridian replace the previous Meridian Choice name across various channels, including the community and online. The previous Meridian Choice plan will no longer be listed on the Health Insurance Marketplace. That said, current Meridian Choice members will be able to continue using their coverage until the end of the year, and during open enrollment they can renew their coverage for next year with Ambetter from Meridian.

Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 15, 2020. This is the only opportunity for individuals and families to shop for health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, unless they qualify for special enrollment. Michigan residents interested in learning more about Ambetter from Meridian or enrolling in a health plan during the open enrollment period can visit here.

Adient Sells Automotive Fabrics Business
Plymouth-based automotive seating supplier Adient has closed the sale of its automotive fabrics manufacturing business, including its lamination business, to Sage Automotive Interiors in Southfield.

Adient says the sale aligns its continuing strategy of focusing on its core, high-volume seating business. Cash proceeds received from the sale totaled approximately $175 million.

The company has approximately 80,000 employees working in 220 manufacturing/assembly plants in 34 countries. It supplies more than 23 million vehicles every year.

DAV and RecruitMilitary to Host Job Fair for Veterans Oct. 6
DAV and RecruitMilitary will host the Central Region Virtual Career Fair for Veterans Oct. 6 from noon to 3 p.m. This free virtual event is open to all members of the military community, past and present, as well as military spouses and dependents.

RecruitMilitary’s virtual events are technologically enhanced to provide personal interaction among job candidates and employers who target veterans for employment in large groups, small groups and one-one-one formats. For more information and to register, visit here.

Industries such as distribution, supply chain, logistics, e-commerce, data storage/broadband, pharmaceuticals, and select retail are just a few of the areas of business that are hiring.

Direct Marketing Association Hosts Online Learning Oct. 8
The Direct Marketing Association of Detroit is hosting an online learning opportunity Oct. 8 from noon to 1 p.m. featuring Garrin Kapecki, president of FuelPop Marketing, and Joe Carte, strategic accounts executive of Specialty Print Communications.

“I think marketers that attend our October virtual event might be surprised by a couple of things,” says Cristina Cecchetti, president of the Direct Marketing Association of Detroit. “First of all, we consider direct marketing to be more than just physical mail. It is that one-to-one personalized touchpoint that you have with a customer. Second, the technology around print and mail marketing has innovated tremendously, not only in how print is produced but how it ties together the online and offline worlds.”

It’s not business as usual for marketers in metro Detroit, or for the city’s chapter of the Direct Marketing Association. For one thing, the events it usually hosts have gone online due to the pandemic. For another, it’s working hard to help its members and friends navigate the challenges of the COVID economy. And it’s got a question for them: when was the last time you considered direct mail marketing? You know, a print piece, in the mail?

This is the first event DMAD has hosted since its May online event with Casey Hurbis, Quicken Loans’ chief marketing officer.

For more information and to register for the event, visit here.

WSU Joins Detroit Regional Talent Compact Addressing Education COVID-19 Disruption
Wayne State University in Detroit has joined partners in government, business, education, and philanthropy by signing on to the Detroit Regional Talent Compact, an effort led by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative. It is a 10-year roadmap for rebuilding the workforce talent pipeline in southeast Michigan.

“This agreement moves Wayne State University forward in our steadfast commitment to the citizens of Detroit and their postsecondary credential attainment goals,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “Wayne State pledges to continue to be part of the solution of driving degree attainment in the Detroit region, and with the help of our partners, we can rebuild a robust talent pipeline to fuel 21st century workforce needs.”

More than 35 statewide and regional partners have adopted the shared goals to increase postsecondary degree attainment to 60 percent and reduce the racial equity gap by half by 2030. Each partner has created an individual action plan to achieve these goals. The compact represents a new level of collaboration in this critical area.

“The State of Education report we released last December was alarming, and COVID-19 will only make things worse if we don’t take action to increase the highly skilled talent in our region,” says Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “These times call for a new strategy and unprecedented collaboration. The Detroit Regional Talent Compact is a blueprint to create a more robust and inclusive talent pipeline to drive economic growth as we navigate the impact of the pandemic in the decade that follows.”

Businesses and other organizations looking to become a Detroit Regional Talent Compact partner can visit here.

New Energy Equity Completes Solar Project in Muskegon Heights
New Energy Equity of Maryland has collaborated with Muskegon’s Chart House Energy to complete the first phase of a 645-kilowatt system in the city of Muskegon Heights.

New Energy Equity’s role in this project is to provide the upfront financing and oversee the installation of the solar array, allowing the city to pay no upfront costs on the project. NEE will continue to work with CHE and the city to develop at least five solar projects. In addition to the new jobs and clean energy this 645-kilowatt system will provide, the city anticipates an offset of nearly 50 percent of their current electric consumption.

“New Energy Equity is excited to expand our footprint to the state of Michigan,” says Matt Hankey, president and CEO of NEE. “We are thrilled to partner with the city of Muskegon Heights to provide a solar project at no upfront cost, allowing the city to allocate funds to other initiatives while also investing in a cleaner future for their community.”

This project will expand to include the roofs of a filtration plant, city hall, and other municipal buildings throughout the city.

“New Energy Equity’s involvement in this project has led to a prosperous partnership between our organizations and has led to many opportunities within the municipalities that surround Muskegon Heights,” says Jon Ledsworth, community development director at CHE. “We look forward to working together with NEE to make our state’s municipalities’ renewable energy desires and initiatives a reality.”

Edmunds: Average Down Payments for New Vehicles Rise in Q3
The average down payment for a new vehicle climbed to $4,457 in the third quarter, compared to $3,891 last quarter and $4,045 a year ago, according to Edmunds, a popular automotive research site with an office in Detroit.

Edmunds data also shows that the average transaction price for new vehicles also rose in the third quarter. Edmunds estimates that the ATP in Q3 climbed to $39,303, compared to $38,893 last quarter and $37,207 in Q3 of 2019.

Due to increases in average down payments and average transaction prices for new vehicles, Edmunds data shows that average loan terms and monthly payments decreased slightly in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. The average annual percentage rate for new vehicles hit 4.6 percent in Q3 compared to 4.2 percent in Q2.

“It’s clear that consumers who are purchasing vehicles right now are feeling quite secure in their financial position despite the pandemic,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “The discouraging unemployment numbers we’re seeing across the country likely aren’t reflective of the Americans in the new car market. New-car shoppers are putting down more money and taking advantage of continued low interest rates to upsize either to bigger vehicles or vehicles with more amenities.”

Edmunds analysts note that some of these trends are trickling down into the used market as well. Edmunds data shows that the average down payment for a used vehicle also rose in the third quarter, climbing to $3,306 compared to $2,937 in the second quarter and $2,636 a year ago.

“These affluent car shoppers are also making the shift to used vehicles,” says Caldwell. “This could be due to supply shortages in the new market, or because some of these consumers are looking to be slightly more financially conservative with their vehicle purchase given the current economic environment.”

Phoenix Theatres Announces Reopening Date of Oct. 9
Farmington Hills-based Phoenix Theatres says it will reopen its facilities on Oct. 9, in line with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent executive order.

“Our management group has spent the past six months working on developing a comprehensive plan with the help of the National Association of Theatre Owners and their epidemiologist, Dr. Daniel Z. Uslan of U.C.L.A., and CDC guidance to carefully reopen our theatres,” says Cory Jacobson, owner of Phoenix Theatres. “They developed the CinemaSafe guidelines that our company will be following.”

To take the challenge away from implementing social distancing, Phoenix Theatres installed a new reserved seating program in its computer system that allows guests to select their seat in advance either on its web site or newly developed mobile app. The computer will automatically remove two seats between each pair sold, creating a checkerboard style pattern. With the extra wide spacing that’s a natural result of the wide and comfortable reclining seats, there will easily be six feet of separation between guests to safely social distance while watching a film.

“Prior to our reopening, we will be meeting with a small specialized training group to individually work with every employee in the company,” says Sheena Hohman, director of employee training and development. “This will ensure a complete understanding of the importance of following our CinemaSafe established guidelines for operations. By providing our employees with the tools and training necessary we can establish a safe movie-going environment for our employees and guests.”

Working closely with the National Association of Theatre Owners and with the help of its management and employees, the company has established new safety protocols for every aspect of the theatre including:

  • Social distancing guidelines in all the common areas and most importantly in the theatre auditoriums.
  • Each employee will wear masks and other protective equipment.
  • Guests will be required to wear face masks when moving about the theatre.
  • Streamlined transactions at the ticketing and concession stand to further minimize touch points.
  • Using a food-grade disinfectant spray on all seats that removes 99.99 percent of all viruses on surfaces within 30 seconds.
  • Each seat will be labeled with a “clean and sanitized” sticker to verify the cleaning procedure between showings has taken place.
  • Using this disinfectant spray on high touch points throughout the building including the restrooms and concession areas.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will also be provided for customer use throughout the theatre.

Phoenix Theatres currently operates 10 screens at Laurel Park Place in Livonia, 10 screens at the Mall of Monroe in Monroe, four at State-Wayne, as well as theaters in Iowa and Massachusetts. For more information, visit here.

EntryPoint Now Accepting Submissions for 2020 Midwest Shop Local Gift Guide
EntryPoint, a nonprofit research institution based in Ann Arbor, is calling for submissions from Midwest-based, small business owners to be included in the digital 2020 Midwest Shop Local Gift Guide.

EntryPoint will select 20 of these small businesses to be featured in a special edition of its live steam series, The Cackle. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 11 at 11:59 p.m.

The Cackle is a weekly live stream series that reaches 2,500 people per episode. The series features entrepreneurs who make a positive impact in their community.

EntryPoint says it is looking for Midwest-based companies with fewer than 25 employees and produce a product or service people can purchase online for the holidays. All small businesses from any sector or industry are encouraged to submit the form to be listed in the holiday gift guide. Selected business owners will have the opportunity to talk about one or two products they make and will be selling during the holiday season.

“Many small businesses rely on the revenue from the holiday season to support their business during slower periods of the year,” says Emily Heintz, founder and managing director of EntryPoint. “Due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s more important than ever for communities to shop local, so small businesses are not forced to close by New Year’s Day.”

For more information, visit here.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Announces Strategic Restructuring to Accelerate Transformation
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has announced a strategic restructuring to accelerate its digital transformation and align its cost structure with its digital first, connected strategy. These steps will further streamline operations and better enable HMH to support teachers and students with digital first, connected solutions that drive successful outcomes in remote, face-to-face and hybrid learning environments.

This strategic restructuring is the result of HMH’s ongoing value innovation analysis. The Company first introduced this framework at its October 2019 Investor Update to drive its strategic priorities and has continued to operationalize it through the course of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift in education to digital learning technologies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has cemented the central role of technology within the K–12 space,” says Jack Lynch, president and CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “As districts embrace new remote learning formats and rely more heavily on digital solutions than ever before, HMH is well-positioned to be a holistic partner in delivering successful outcomes and supporting educators and the students they serve.”

The company’s restructuring includes both labor-related and non-labor expense reductions. The labor-related reductions involve organizational changes resulting in a 22 percent reduction of HMH’s workforce, including positions eliminated as part of the previously announced Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program and net of newly created positions to support HMH’s digital first operations.

Non-labor reductions include a reduction of manufacturing costs as the business shifts from print to digital offerings, a reduction in service delivery costs as a greater proportion of services are offered virtually, and a streamlining of back office costs as legacy systems and print-centric processes are retired. These steps are intended to further simplify HMH’s business model while delivering increased value to customers, teachers, students, and shareholders.

Cranbrook Joins Museums for All Program
Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills has joined Museums for All, a program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Association of Children’s Museums to encourage people of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum-going habits.

The program supports those receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and/or the Women Infants and Children Program, allowing them to receive free general admission to Cranbrook Art Museum, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and on regular public tours of Cranbrook House (when the manor reopens). Visitors can receive admission with the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer and/or WIC card, and a valid form of photo ID. Cranbrook’s Museums for All admission rates apply to the cardholder, their children, and up to three adults.

Similar free and reduced admission is available to eligible members of the public at more than 500 museums, science centers, botanical gardens, zoos, and more across the country. Museums for All is part of Cranbrook’s commitment to seek, include, and welcome all audiences.

Andiamo’s Golf Outing Raises $25,000 for Metro Detroit Charities
The Joe Vicari Restaurant announced that its 25th Annual Andiamo Charity Golf Outing, which took place at the Detroit Golf Club, has raised $45,000 for donations to Gleaners Community Food Bank, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Variety the Children’s Charity, and Conductive Education Center of Metro Detroit and Boys, and Girls Club of Troy.

“The annual Andiamo Golf Classic is an important event that over the years has helped elevate the issue of hunger in our community,” says Gerry Brisson, president and CEO of Gleaners Community Food Bank. “Especially now, families in southeast Detroit are faced with a myriad of challenges. We’re extremely grateful for our long-standing relationship with Andiamo, and their continued support helps us provide healthy, nutritious food for those that need it most.”