COVID-19 Update: Venture Capital Group Supports Entrepreneurs During Pandemic, 48.5% Say Business Outlook Has Worsened During Pandemic, 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 Sept. 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.

Venture Capital Group Supports Entrepreneurs During Pandemic
The Michigan Venture Capital Association has been working to assist entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit trade association that advocates for Michigan’s entrepreneurial and investment community recognized the need to be proactive early on in helping the ecosystem work through the challenges created by the health crisis.

MVCA’s Board of Directors created a task force led by Adrian Fortino, managing director of Mercury Fund, that looked at different avenues for providing meaningful assistance to the startup community.

“As an engaged community organization, the MVCA was compelled to support our state as best we could in such difficult crises through the expertise and resources of our members,” says Fortino. “We will continue to commit time and money from our membership in the future as well.”

The action plan began soon after Michigan was quarantined, and it included an ongoing webinar series. The first webinar focused on a panel of investors discussing how this current crisis will affect venture-backed startups and how MVCA members can best prepare their portfolio companies to weather the storm.

Due to the overwhelming response to the first webinar, MVCA launched a series of ongoing webinars about topics related to diversity, talent, outside capital invested in Michigan, and other resources for the startup community.

“Our webinars have been insightful and popular amongst the community,” says Ara Topouzian, executive director of MVCA. “Each one has been designed to engage the ecosystem and provoke ongoing dialogues and connections.”

In addition, MVCA focused on assisting several non-profit organizations with raising funds and promoting their causes throughout the Michigan ecosystem. Charities such as Feed the Frontlines of Detroit, the COVID Guard Fund, and A2 Helps.

In May, MVCA began to partner with different Michigan SmartZone organizations by offering MVCA investor members the opportunity to volunteer office hours for the purpose of offering advice to entrepreneurs. Organizations such as TechTown (Detroit) and StartGarden (Grand Rapids) have already seen positive outcomes for their startup founders.

MVCA is currently adding more virtual content for the remainder of the year. For more information and an archive of webinar videos, visit here.

ASE Survey: 48.5% Say Business Outlook Has Worsened During Pandemic
Nearly half (48.5 percent) of businesses responding to a survey by the Livonia-based ASE indicate that their future business outlook has “worsened moderately” as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Nearly a quarter (23.1 percent) indicated it had “worsened significantly.”

The results are part of two surveys tracking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by ASE, Michigan’s largest employer association.

Other highlights from the surveys include:

  • Hiring expectations in the next six to 12 months has been curtailed significantly due to the current economic climate.
  • Nearly a quarter have frozen hiring, and nearly 40 percent expect to decrease hiring compared to the previous six months.
  • Nearly half 47.8 percent of the sample implemented layoffs since the pandemic started.
  • Wages and pay increases have also been impacted.
  • Nearly 40 percent of organizations have delayed merit increases.
  • Slightly more than a third have frozen workforce salaries.

There is still much uncertainty around when employees will return to their physical workplaces.  Nearly half 45.8 percent have not set a specific date or are unsure when employees will return.  Slightly more than 10 percent suggest that a return to work will occur in the first quarter of 2021.

There had been concerns about the use of vacation in the second half of the year due to Michigan’s Stay Safe, Stay Home order. Most organizations 77.1 percent, however, have not made changes to their vacation/PTO plans.

Given safety concerns, ASE says employers now must be cognizant of employees off-work behavior, particularly around travel. More than 40 percent of employers, however, do not require or mandate quarantining for personal domestic travel. Roughly a quarter of employers require their employees to quarantine for recent domestic air travel or travel to certain states or areas.

“From the beginning, the impact of the pandemic on employers has been significant and in constant flux,” says Mary E. Corrado, president and CEO of ASE. “And in many ways, the human resource function has led the way in tackling these challenges.”

For more information, visit here.

Michigan Counties with Highest and Lowest Poverty Rates
Isabella County in mid-Michigan has the highest poverty rate in the state and Genesee County, which includes Flint, has the lowest poverty rate in Michigan, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Isabella County’s poverty rate is 26.5 percent, which is 76.8 percent above the state average. The Lake County (between Traverse City and Grand Rapids) poverty rate is 23.8 percent, 58.8 percent above the state average. Mid-Michigan’s Clare County’s poverty rate is 23.5 percent, 56.3 percent above the state average.

Genesee County’s poverty rate is 5.6 percent, 62.6 percent below the state average. Emmet County in northeast Michigan has a poverty rate of 6.2 percent, 58.3 percent below Michigan’s average. Lapeer County, east of Flint, is 43.5 percent below the state average with an 8.5 percent poverty rate.

Other state poverty statistics include:

  • Overall state poverty rate: 15 percent (1,457,008 people)
  • Child poverty rate: 20.8 percent (448,912 people)
  • Asian American: 14.3 percent (42,493 people)
  • Black Americans: 30.1 percent (397,762 people)
  • Hispanic/Latin Americans: 22.7 percent (110,015 people)
  • Native Americans/Alaskans: 22.2 percent (11,430 people)
  • White Americans: 11.4 percent (840,601 people)

In 2019, the poverty threshold for one person under the age of 65 was an annual income of $13,300; the threshold for a family of five with three kids was an annual income of $30,510.

WIT to Host Great Lakes Digital Transformation Summit
Registration is now open for the second annual Great Lakes Digital Transformation Summit hosted by WIT Inc. in Troy. This year’s event will take place virtually Sept. 22-24.

The event is designed to connect IT professionals with peers, learn about the latest software innovations, and hear success stories from industry leaders to help them capitalize on key digital transformation topics.

It will offer two-hours of live content each day from practitioners and experts in the fields of industry topics including business process automation, analytics automation, real-time data streaming, and cloud implementation. A keynote speaker will open each day’s event, followed by sponsored sessions that will feature case studies using the latest technology.

For more information and to register, visit here.

Detroit Riverfront Needs Funds to Ensure Safety and Security
Detroit Riverfront is raising funds via a campaign called #BeingTogetherApart to maintain safety and security along the Riverwalk and the Dequindre Cut since the COVID-19 pandemic has increased visitors to these areas.

Officials say there has been a 40 percent increase in attendance along the Dequidre Cut and 20 percent over the whole Riverwalk in 2020.

The fundraiser is a celebration of the role the Detroit Riverfront plays in peoples’ lives, designed to provide new ways the community can experience the riverfront, all while #BeingApartTogether. Supporters will receive a package curated in partnership with Detroit’s City Bird, filled with limited-edition riverfront items, locally sourced gifts, and activities for outdoor fun.

Supporters of #BeingApartTogether will make possible a special broadcast of performances by local artists along the Detroit Riverfront on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. designed to bring the riverfront safely to peoples’ homes.

For more information and to participate, visit here.

LTU Centrepolis Events for Entrepreneurs and Inventors
The Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield is planning and promoting several events focused on helping entrepreneurs, small businesses, and inventors. They include:

Manufacturing Day Pitch Event Day: Oct. 2, 2-4:30 p.m. featuring 10 hardware and advanced manufacturing technology companies. Prizes of more than $30,000 will be awarded. Visit here to register.

Startup of the Year Summit and Finals: Nov. 9-10, apply here by Sept. 15.

Industry 4.0 Accelerator Program: The program will utilize a $1.3 million fund provided by Automation Alley to support client funding and industry demo or product development partnership projects.  Applications are open now on a rolling basis. Visit here for more information and here to apply.

Climate Hardware Tech Start-Ups: Programs support climate tech startups from prototype to production. Apply here.

Luminate Startup Accelerator for Optics, Photonics, and Imaging: A six-month intensive accelerator program located in Rochester, N.Y., the imaging capital of the world. Visit here for more information.

Challenge America: Connecting veterans and service members and their families to resources and solutions. Visit here for more information.

American-made Challenges: Program incentivizes the nation’s entrepreneurs to strengthen American leadership in solar and water energy innovation and domestic manufacturing. Visit here for more information and to apply.

Life Directions to Host Virtual Gala Sept. 19
Life Directions, a nonprofit violence preventive program, is hosting a Virtual Spark of Hope Tribute Gala on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

The evening will be a celebration of Detroit’s youth and be emceed by Lila Lazarus, Zoom panel discussions, a performance by the Detroit Youth Choir, and sponsor recognition.

Viewers have the opportunity to donate during the program. To register, visit here. Visit here to view a video on the work of Life Directions.

Skeet Shooters to Raise Funds for At-risk Children
Child Safe Michigan, a Royal Oak-based affiliate of Judson Center, is hosting its annual Pull! for Kids fundraiser on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Detroit Gun Club in Walled Lake.  New COVID-19 precautions will be implemented to ensure that social distancing and CDC safety protocols are followed for the enjoyment of participants.

“Events that support Child Safe Michigan are critical to funding our ongoing child welfare services,” says Lenora Hardy-Foster, president and CEO of the Judson Center. “We are so grateful to our longstanding donors and to those who are just getting to know Child Safe and Judson Center and the many ways that we help keep Michigan children and families safe and healthy.”

The sporting clays tournament benefits Child Safe Michigan programs and services that ensure abused and at-risk children in southeast Michigan continue to have the security and protection they need in order to live healthy and happy lives. Last year, the organization provided foster care services to 110 children, matched 70 mentors and mentees, and helped 26 children find forever homes through adoption.

For more information and to register, visit here. Register by Sept. 18.

Oliver Thomas Corp. to Make Donation to Elementary School in Pontiac
Michigan-based Oliver Thomas Corp. is donating more than 350 backpacks, pencils, pencil cases, and other essential items to students and teachers at Alcott Elementary School in Pontiac on Sept. 18.

Also contributing to the giveaway will be Fifth Third Bank and First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham.

“These are challenging times as it is and going back to school is more complicated than ever,” says Sue Fuller, founder of Oliver Thomas. “By giving these children and their teachers some much needed supplies, it is my hope to make their learning experience a little bit more fun and enjoyable and safe.”