COVID-19 Update: Michigan Small Business Group Says 2021 Recovery Runs Through Main Street, Loves Furniture Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, 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. 7

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 Small Business Group Says 2021 Recovery Runs Through Main Street
National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s leading small business organization, has announced its top priorities for the 2021 legislative session.

“The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most difficult years for small business in more than half a century,” says Charles Owens, Michigan state director of NFIB. “In 2021, the road to recovery for Michigan goes through Main Street and no one has more ability to lead an economic recovery than Michigan’s small business owners.”

Owens said that in almost every recession or downturn, small business has always been the economic “shock absorber,” being the last to lay off employees and the first to hire during economic cycles. “While the circumstances in 2020 were certainly unprecedented, the resiliency and resolve of the small business owner is time tested,” he says.

The organization’s Main Street Agenda for 2021 includes efforts to restore the role of the legislature in policy making and governance. Owens said that the Michigan Supreme Court made it clear with their recent decision halting the Governor’s abuse of the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 that the balance of power in the governance of our state is one of the hallmarks of our system of representative government that must be respected.

“No state agency should have the power to close an entire segment of the economy without legislative oversight,” says Owens. “The continuation of the governor’s closure orders through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the harassment of small business through other state agencies must end.”

Other items on the Main Street Agenda include efforts to shore up the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to mitigate payroll tax increases, working to assure small business equity in any road funding proposal, guarding against attempts to raise small business taxes to bail out government budgets, seeking license fee waivers for business forced to close, and moving the Line 5 pipeline project forward.

To view NFIB’s full 2021 agenda, visit here.

Loves Furniture Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Loves Furniture, which has been trying to fill the retail gap resulting from Art Van Furniture’s March 2020 bankruptcy, itself filed for Chapter 11 protection on Jan. 6.

The news was reported by multiple media outlets including the furniture industry trade publication FurnitureToday.

The company filed its petition in the Southern District for the Eastern District of Michigan, listing estimate assets of $10 million to $50 million and a similar amount of liabilities spread over up to as many as 200 creditors.

The filing comes on the heels of Southern Motion and its Fusion Furniture stationary upholstery subsidiary suing the company for breach of contract due to unpaid bills.

Loves Furniture was founded on April 2, 2020, by its sole director Jeff Love. On May 8, 2020, it acquired the inventory and assets of 27 Art Van stores purchased from the Chapter 7 estates of Art Van Furniture LLC, according to its filing. These stores were located in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, and Maryland.

In its filing, the company said, “The Board of Directors has considered all relevant factors including, but not limited to the continuing pandemic, government restrictions on business operations, the need for additional operational financing, the demands of certain creditors, including the assertion of liens against the company’s inventory, the need for an orderly process at locations that are expected to close and the ability to restructure locations that the company wishes to continue to operate.”

AGS Automotive Systems Expanding in Sterling Heights
With support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, Toronto-based AGS Automotive Systems, a full-service automotive supplier is entering the autonomous vehicle space in the U.S. through an expansion at its campus in Sterling Heights.

The project is expected to generate a total private investment of $5 million and create high-paying, high-skilled 100 jobs, resulting in an $850,000 Michigan Business Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in other locations.

The positions being created will include engineers, craftsmen, and operators with pay that is above average for the county, and also allow for promotion from within.

“AGS Automotive Systems’ expansion in Sterling Heights will drive new advancements in future mobility and underscores the strength of the talent in the state’s advanced auto manufacturing and mobility sectors,” says Josh Hundt, chief business development officer and executive vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “This investment reinforces Michigan’s reputation as the global center of the automotive industry, and we’re pleased to work with our local partners to support the expansion.”

The company has been awarded a new contract from one of its key customers, which will serve as the platform for the company’s entry into a high-tech segment of the impact assembly business. AGS plans to add capacity in several of its key processes within the existing footprint of its facility in Sterling Heights, while integrating increased levels of autonomous vehicle technology into its products.

“AGS is very excited about its continued growth in Michigan,” says Jeff Szulya, director of U.S. operations for AGS Automotive Systems. “The guidance and support received from the city of Sterling Heights, Macomb County, and the state of Michigan over the years have been instrumental. We value these partnerships and look forward to continued growth and success within the state of Michigan.”

AGS Automotive Systems was established in 1947 and specializes in manufacturing complex automotive metal components. The company supplies automotive OEMs in the U.S. and Canada, and currently employs nearly 500 people in Michigan.

Individuals interested in careers with AGS Automotive should visit here.

City of Detroit Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Activates TFC Center
Starting Monday, the city of Detroit will begin scheduling 20,000 COVID vaccination appointments at the TCF center over the next four weeks, based on anticipated supply of vaccines from the state during that time.

Vaccines will be available to Detroiters over the age of 75.  Any “good neighbor” driver for a 75- year-old who accompanies them to the TCF Center also can get vaccinated.

Mayor Mike Duggan also announced plans to ramp up its vaccinations of the city’s elderly and vulnerable populations, as well as its critical workers, such as police officers and bus drivers.

“Just as Detroit was a national model for accessible and efficient testing, we expect to be a national model for distribution of the COVID vaccine,” says Duggan. “We are going to keep ramping up our vaccinations to the maximum extent the supply allows.”

Here is how Detroit’s three-step approach to expanding access to the vaccine will roll out:

TCF Center Activation. On Monday, the city will activate the call center for scheduling vaccination appointments at the TCF Center for age-eligible residents and essential workers. The first appointments will take place on Wednesday and can be scheduled by calling 313-230-0505 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Detailed information on the TCF Center testing site is available here.

City Essential Workers. Starting today, Detroit police officers and DDOT bus drivers will begin being vaccinated on a strictly voluntary basis. Police officers will be vaccinated precinct-by-precinct at the Detroit Fire Department’s Walter Harris training facility after the end of their shift and will be paid one hour of straight time. DDOT personnel will be vaccinated at their respective DDOT terminal and will be paid for one extra hour after their shift. Vaccinations for DDOT and DPD employees are expected to take about one week.  After DPD and DDOT, other city departments providing essential services will be scheduled for employee vaccinations.

Senior Citizen Buildings and Homeless Shelters. Thursday, the health department vaccinated residents and staff at Boulevard Manor, the only nursing home in the city without an existing vaccination plan through a private provider. Starting next week, the health department, in partnership with Wayne State University medical, nursing, and pharmacy students will begin vaccinating at 60 senior citizen buildings and 29 homeless shelters in the city. Staff will visit two senior buildings and one homeless shelter every day and expect to complete their work at all 89 facilities by the end of February.

Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes Returns for Super Bowl LV
Detroit-based Rocket Mortgage, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, announced entries are open for the second annual Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes — the world’s largest official game of Super Bowl squares.

Those looking to enter the giveaway can now register free at RocketMortgageSquares.com. The sweepstakes is part of Rocket Mortgage’s multi-year partnership with the National Football League.

The inaugural Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares awarded two grand prizes of $500,000 each that could be put toward each winner’s dream home. On top of that, $50,000 was given to 15 individuals — one for every score change.

“The excitement around last year’s Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares eclipsed all expectations,” says Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Mortgage. “Beyond the thrill of the game, the grand prizes were life-changing for our winners.”

Just like last year’s sweepstakes, two lucky winners will be drawn at random and win $500,000 each. Rocket Mortgage will also award $50,000 for each scoring play during Super Bowl LV. That’s every score change whether it’s a touchdown, field goal, extra point, two-point conversion, or safety.

Participants select one of the 100 squares on a 10-by-10 grid. After the entry period closes, each row and column will be assigned a random number between zero and nine. One axis of the grid will represent the last digit of the NFC Champion’s score and the other will align with the last digit of the AFC Champion’s score.

Every time the score changes during Super Bowl LV, airing at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 7 on CBS, a winner will be randomly selected from the pool of entrants on the square that aligns with the last digit of each team’s score.

If fans want to up the excitement and add more opportunities to win this free giveaway, they can share the sweepstakes registration information on their personal Twitter and/or Facebook accounts. Each time a follower or friend signs up with the poster’s unique link, they will receive one bonus square, up to 10 additional spots.

Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4. No purchase necessary. To be eligible, entrants must be 18 years of age or older and the age of majority in their state of residence, and a legal resident of the 50 United States or Washington, D.C.

Meritor Adds Medium-duty Drivelines to Permalube RPL Series Lineup
Troy-based truck component supplier Meritor Inc. has unveiled two new medium-duty drivelines to its Permalube RPL driveline family.

The RPL10 and RPL14 are Meritor’s first medium-duty (Class 6-7) entries in its Permalube RPL driveline lineup and are permanently lubricated, resulting in service-free performance.

The new drivelines are engineered specifically for medium-duty applications, such as refuse, city delivery, transit bus, and school bus. Other benefits include increased uptime and reduced operating costs compared to traditional driveline designs.

RPL10 and RPL14 production begins in January 2021.

Beztak Opens Luxury Senior Living Community All Seasons Ann Arbor
Beztak Cos. of Farmington Hills announced today that its luxury independent senior living community, All Seasons Ann Arbor, has opened for tours and is ready for residents to move in.

This is the sixth All Seasons community for Beztak, with locations in Birmingham, Rochester, and West Bloomfield, along with Oro Valley, Arizona, and Naples, Florida.

Located within minutes of popular attractions such as the University of Michigan and Matthaei Botanical Gardens, All Seasons Ann Arbor has 156 one- and two-bedroom independent living residences and 44 cottages. Every floor plan includes a terrace or patio, high-end finishes, and full-size washers and dryers.

“Quality and innovation are at the heart of everything we do, and All Seasons Ann Arbor is no exception in our pursuit of excellence within our senior living portfolio,” says Sam Beznos, CEO of Beztak.

With more than 1,000 employees across the country, Beztak currently manages close to 34,000 apartments in 16 states and 60 markets nationwide.

Michigan and Illinois Sign Agreement to Fight Invasive Carp
The governors of Illinois and Michigan have agreed to work jointly to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp species.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Gov. JB Pritzker announced an intergovernmental agreement between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) that allows Illinois to use up to $8 million in funds appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan Legislature to support the pre-construction engineering and design (PED) phase of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project.

The state of Illinois also signed a separate PED agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the initial Brandon Road design. The state will serve as the non-federal sponsor, agreeing to help fund design of a portion of the project and to further advance full project design efforts to approximately 30 percent completion.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Ill., is a critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver, and black carp — the invasive Asian carp species of greatest concern — out of the Great Lakes. The Brandon Road project would install layered technologies including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement while allowing barge passage.

“Michigan and Illinois agree on the importance of keeping invasive carp out of the Great Lakes, and natural resources staff from both states have been working together to support the Army Corps’ actions to deter and remove invasive carp in the waterway,” says Dan Eichinger, director of MDNR. “This agreement is the natural progression of our existing partnership as we take steps toward a more permanent solution to prevent this serious threat to the economy and ecology of the Great Lakes.”

For more information about the project, visit here.

Pontiac Institutions and Projects Receive $770K in Grants
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Pontiac Funders Collaborative have bestowed seven grants totaling $770,000 to key Pontiac institutions and three city-wide projects.

Recipients of four grants totaling approximately $100,000 are:

  • City of Pontiac
  • Pontiac School District
  • Oakland University
  • Main Street Pontiac

Three grants totaling nearly $670,000 are assisting projects focused on public spaces, entrepreneurship, and collective impact. Those projects and grantees are:

Friends of the Clinton River Trail: Clinton River Maintenance Trail Project.

Pontiac Community Foundation:  Center for Pontiac Entrepreneurship.

Oakland University/Oakland University Foundation: Pontiac Collective Impact Partnership.

“The Pontiac Funders Collaborative has made great strides in working with local groups and individuals to chart an inclusive and promising future for all members of the Pontiac community,” says Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “We are pleased to support this collaborative initiative and eager to see its impact throughout the city of Pontiac.”

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