COVID-19 Update: Virtual Venture Capital Event to Highlight 2020 Success Stories Dec. 10, Flagstar Bank Picks Startups for MortgageTech Accelerator Program, 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 coronavirus cases in Michigan by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Dec. 1

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.

Virtual Venture Capital Event to Highlight 2020 Success Stories Dec. 10
The Michigan Venture Capital Association will highlight Michigan success stories during its virtual Year in Review event Dec. 10 from 3:30-5 p.m.

“This was a challenging year for all, but amidst the pandemic, there are success stories we want to highlight that have been positive influences within the investment and innovation arena in Michigan,” says Ara Topouzian, executive director of MVCA. “Our event will not only give us the opportunity to share some of our members great news – a successful exit or investment but will allow our members to virtually network following our presentation.”

Each year, MVCA gathers for an annual awards banquet that draws close to 400 attendees throughout the state. Due to the pandemic, that was postponed until 2021.

MVCA currently is gathering positive stories from members that occurred in Michigan this past year. Whether it involves companies within an investment firm’s portfolio or information about a company that was able to provide services to aid in COVID-19 efforts, MVCA plans to share good news with event attendees and preview the upcoming year.

A Year in Review is free to MVCA members and $50 for non-members. Each attendee will receive a $25 coupon to be used for food or drinks at a local establishment of their choice. For more information and to register, visit here. For more information on the MVCA, visit here.

Flagstar Bank Picks Startups for MortgageTech Accelerator Program
Flagstar Bank in Troy has introduced the second cohort of startups to participate in the Flagstar MortgageTech Accelerator program: Home Lending Pal of Miami, Fla., Stavvy of Boston, and RealKey of San Francisco.

Home Lending Pal uses chatbots, machine learning, and blockchain to help first-time homebuyers through the home research and buying process.

Stavvy is a venture-backed financial technology company that designs platforms to manage security risk, eliminate fragmentation, and increase speed and transparency in real estate transactions.

RealKey is a provider of digital mortgage technologies that enable bank and non-bank mortgage loan originators (MLOs) to streamline the mortgage processing experience for borrowers.

The Flagstar MortgageTech Accelerator focuses on startups active in developing technology solutions for the mortgage industry. It is the first and only accelerator program in the United States exclusively dedicated to mortgage technology.

The online program was designed by Flagstar Bank, the sixth largest bank mortgage originator in the country. This is the second round of startups to participate in the program since its launch in 2019.

In seeking applicants for the mortgage accelerator, Flagstar looked for companies working on breakthroughs in all facets of the mortgage business, including mortgage origination, processing, marketing, servicing, compliance, sales, underwriting, credit, and quality assessment. Among the criteria for selection were company progress and prospects for growth.

“With the pandemic accelerating innovation in the mortgage industry, the timing could not be better for a program that introduces new paradigms and tech solutions for old processes,” says Courtney Thompson, head of default mortgage at Flagstar. “The outcomes of this program make our industry stronger and position Flagstar to continue to provide technology-enabled products to our customers.

“We’re fortunate to be working alongside these three impressive, high-quality fintech startups,” says Erin Hennessy, director of digital strategies for Flagstar Bank and leader of the accelerator program. “Each business receives a curated acceleration roadmap, which we help facilitate and support during this important growth phase.”

The program will end Feb. 4, 2021.

Partnership to Help Prepare Detroit Students for High-tech Jobs
MiSTEM Network has partnered with Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) and Eastern Michigan University (EMU) to offer an opportunity for students to take college-level GIS courses.

“The MiSTEM Network works to ensure that students all across Michigan have access to inspiring STEM learning opportunities that not only spark creativity but help them cultivate skills for the jobs of tomorrow,” says Megan Schrauben, executive director of the MiSTEM Network. “These are the partnerships we hope to model and grow so students gain the necessary skills to explore career options, and employers can find the qualified STEM talent they need to fill critical job openings across our state.”

These classes provide hands-on experiences and problem-solving abilities that give high school students the skills and certifications needed for entry level positions in the emerging field of Geospatial Technologies.

The new partnership builds on the success of the Geospatial Technologies Talent Consortium (GTTC) working to build a geospatial information system talent pipeline by offering courses to prepare students for technical certification and professional internships in GIS, which can start them on their path to a future career.

“The consortium efforts and the collaboration on this internship opportunity highlights the vital need for state-wide partnerships to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers,” says Greg Johnson, director of the Wayne Regional STEM Network (MiSTEM Region 3). “The team continues to overcome the challenges produced by the pandemic and push the needle forward to help students explore STEM education and careers.”

Students enrolled in GIS courses are exposed to data visualization and spatial analysis skills to help them analyze and assess real-world problems. They are utilized across all economic sectors including autonomous vehicle infrastructure, emergency preparedness, environmental science including climate change modeling, urban planning, and more.

According to research done by the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market information, the skills gained from these courses will lead to high-demand, high-wage careers. Several of these jobs land on Michigan’s “Hot 50 Jobs through 2028,” such as computer and information systems managers, computer systems analysts, and computer user support specialists, which directly utilize the skill set gained through these courses.

Upon successful completion of the courses, students will be placed in internships with local businesses to give them the hands-on experience in the field.

Employers interested in hiring an intern from this program are encouraged to contact Educational Data Systems Inc. at xvaughan@edsisolutions.com or KNewton@edsisolutions.com.

For more information, visit here.

In Related News: Eastern Michigan University and Henry Ford College are partnering to offer EMU scholarships to frontline workers who complete their HFC associate degree and pursue a bachelor’s degree at the Ypsilanti university.

The partnership is an extension of HFC’s participation in the state of Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Futures for Frontliners scholarship program, which pays for frontline workers to earn a tuition-free degree from a local community college. The application period for that program closes Dec. 31.

The partnership also is a natural fit given EMU and HFC’s long-standing relationship and more than 40 articulation agreements currently in place, including a recently established pathway for students who have earned an associate nursing degree at Henry Ford College to transfer their credits to Eastern.

“Our frontline workers put themselves at risk to serve Michigan citizens during a pandemic,” says Russ Kavalhuna, president of HFC. “Now we are putting them at the forefront by supporting their futures. This new partnership between Henry Ford College and Eastern Michigan University is an exciting opportunity for front liners to extend their education even further. It will maximize their investment in themselves as they seek new or advanced careers.”

For more information, visit here.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Trinity Health, Meijer to Offer Free Flu Shots Dec. 4
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Trinity Health, and Meijer Pharmacy are offering free drive-thru flu vaccinations at the SAY Detroit Clinic in Highland Park (211 Glendale) from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4. Gleaners Community Food Bank also will be onsite to distribute food to those in need.

Clinic details include:

  • Vaccines are available for attendees ages 5 and up.
  • Flu vaccinations are free with insurance plans or free in partnership with the state of Michigan and Meijer Pharmacy.

Priority Health Extends $0 Cost Sharing for COVID-19 Treatment, Commits to $0 Cost Sharing Vaccine Coverage
Priority Health in Grand Rapids announced that it will continue to waive all copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for medically necessary treatment of COVID-19 through March 31, 2021.

This means that all of the company’s nearly 1 million members across fully funded commercial, individual, Medicaid, and Medicare plans can get the treatment they need for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket health insurance costs. Covered treatment may be inpatient or outpatient from an in-network provider.

Priority Health also announced that it will offer $0 cost share coverage for the COVID-19 vaccine once it is made available to the public. Priority Health will also continue to waive all cost sharing for Medicare Advantage members for in-person and telehealth primary care visits through March 31, 2021.

“Throughout this pandemic our main focus has always been, and will continue to be, the health and safety of our members,” says Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health. “We are not out of the woods yet with COVID-19, and that is why we will continue to make sure our members have access to the health care they need, when they need it, without having to worry about cost. We will get through this together.”

Patients must have a confirmed primary COVID-19 diagnosis and be receiving evidence-based care for treatment to be fully covered. Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider to determine eligibility for testing. Priority Health is encouraging members to use virtual care whenever possible, to prevent further spread of the virus and help avoid overwhelming health care providers and facilities.

For more information on Priority Health and ongoing efforts surrounding COVID-19, visit here.

Grand Rapids’ Angstrom Technology Acquired by New York Firm
Angstrom Technology, a manufacturer of modular cleanrooms in Grand Rapids, has been acquired by ASGARD Partners & Co., a New York-based private equity firm. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Angstrom designs, builds, and services fully customizable modular cleanrooms for the aerospace, defense, technology, pharmaceutical, automotive, health care, and industrial end markets. It completes turnkey and built-to-spec projects that give customers control over airborne and surface particulates to manufacture, test, and assemble products in a safe and clean environment.

“We are excited to partner with Angstrom’s management team, which has an outstanding track record of delivering high quality cleanroom solutions to its customers,” says Karan Rai, managing partner at ASGARD Partners & Co. “The company’s reputation for quality and customer service is a testament to its culture of excellence. We look forward to helping accelerate the growth of Angstrom’s brand and service offering across North America and beyond.”

The existing Angstrom management team will continue to lead the company following the transaction.

“We are looking forward to partnering with ASGARD as we embark on an exciting new chapter of our story,” Matt Isard, president of Angstrom. “This investment will help Angstrom continue to deliver innovative cleanroom solutions, further build out our partner ecosystem, and explore strategic acquisitions to accelerate our growth.”

Crowdfunding Campaign Launched for Chandler Park Skatepark in Detroit
Chandler Park in Detroit will soon gain a state-of-the-art skatepark through a new crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Chandler Park Conservancy. The campaign is being offered through the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by Jan. 29, 2021, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details and to donate, visit here.

“Chandler Park is a regional asset that deserves investment and development to maintain its integrity and use, and this new skatepark will be a fantastic addition that can be enjoyed by the entire community,” says Michele Wildman, senior vice president of community development at MEDC. “We are pleased to bring this space to life and provide resources for this effort through our Public Spaces Community Places program.”

This campaign will complete the skatepark, which is a collaboration of partners including the Tony Hawk Foundation, Find Your Grind, SITE Design Group, Hardcore Skateparks, and the Chandler Park Conservancy. These groups have been working together to create an environmentally safe space for skateboarders, bikers, scooters, and others. The design of the park will be based off of the natural environment found in Chandler Park, and the skatepark will feature terrain designs for traditional and street type style of skateboarding.

The thought process for developing a skatepark also included input from the General Service Department of the city of Detroit, along with residents and local stakeholders. Skateparks build and sustain healthy communities. They also assist in reducing illicit behavior, providing a safe environment for skateboarding, reducing damage to private property, boosting the economy, and benefitting physical and mental health.

“Reimaging spaces and infrastructure that encourage community connection is critical to placemaking and building community wealth,” says Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. “This project fits that bill and we look forward to celebrating with Detroit when this development is added as an enhancement to their public spaces.”

Apprenti to Host Virtual IT/Tech Hiring Event
Apprenti is hosting a virtual IT/Tech talent hiring event titled “How to Attract the Best Tech Talent in Michigan” on Dec. 8 from 2-3 p.m.in 2021.

This event will help employers understand the background and goals of the Apprenti program and prepares them for success in the competitive, talent-hungry tech industry in Michigan.  They also can learn about the training model that industry giants like and Amazon and Microsoft use to create a reliable talent pipeline.

With this program, Apprenti says CEOs and managers can find certified talent for several in-demand occupations, including:

  • Software developer or software analyst
  • IT support professional
  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • IT business analyst
  • Network operations developer
  • CRM/CMS developer
  • Systems administrator
  • Network security administrator
  • Cloud operations specialists
  • Technical sales specialist

For more information, visit here. To register, visit here.

Kalamazoo’s Greenleaf Trust Celebrates Graduating Scholars in Virtual Ceremony
Greenleaf Trust, an independent Michigan-chartered, trust-only bank and wealth management firm in Kalamazoo, celebrated the achievements of six recipients of the Greenleaf Trust Scholarship at Western Michigan University during a recent virtual event.

“We are so proud of this year’s graduating Greenleaf Trust Scholars,” says William D. Johnston, founder and chairman of Greenleaf Trust. “While we would have loved to celebrate their hard work and tremendous accomplishments in person, we will not let our inability to do so stand in the way of giving them the recognition they deserve. These students have faced 2020 with such resiliency, and we congratulate them on their successful college careers and brilliant futures.”

The Greenleaf Trust Scholarship awards 13 scholarships annually to business students studying finance or personal financial planning at WMU’s Haworth College of Business. Students receiving the scholarship must maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 and in doing so receive $12,400 annually for tuition until they graduate, or for up to four years.

Greenleaf Trust also provides opportunities for up to three students to complete an internship at the company. Scholars who are offered the internship have the opportunity to rotate through four divisions of the company: personal trust/wealth management, operations, research and retirement planning. During their internship, they are also provided a mentor who they meet with regularly to receive feedback and coaching.

For more information, visit here.

Meijer Program to Provide 80M Meals to Hungry Neighbors This Year
Grand Rapids-based Meijer announced that, with the help of its customers, the Meijer Simply Give program is on track to provide more than 80 million meals this year.

In recognition of Giving Tuesday, the retailer offered customers the opportunity to turn their $10 Simply Give donation card purchase into $30 for a local food pantry.

“Our customers and team members play a vital role in helping us serve our communities through Simply Give and we are pleased to help them stretch their giving further,” says Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. “While the holidays will undoubtedly look different for our customers this year, we know that one way we can come together is by to supporting our neighbors in need.”

Customers can help stock the shelves of a food pantry in their community by purchasing a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout at their local Meijer now through Jan. 2. At the end of the campaign, the donation cards are then converted into food-only gift cards and given to the store’s partner food pantry to serve those facing food insecurity in that customer’s neighborhood.

On Dec. 1, Giving Tuesday, Meijer double matched any Simply Give cards purchased, effectively tripling a customer’s contribution. The retailer will conduct a second double match day on Dec. 12.

“The holidays are a difficult time for people facing food insecurity and food pantries continue to struggle to keep up with the flood of requests they receive daily, especially given the difficult circumstances many families now face amidst the global pandemic,” says Cathy Cooper, senior director of community partnerships and giving for Meijer. “The Simply Give program is a way for Meijer customers to partner with us and support the food pantries that feed families in need in their own communities. We couldn’t do this without their support.”

For more information, visit here.

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