COVID-19 Update: Workforce Collaborative Awarded $10M for Advanced Training, J.D. Power Founder and Namesake Dies, 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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chart of daily Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Workforce Collaborative Awarded $10M for Workforce Cybersecurity, Automation Training
The Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and Workforce Intelligence Network have been awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to invest in workforce training in robotics, automation, and cybersecurity.

The funding is a portion of a larger $145 million award from the department distributed to workforce programs nationwide.

“The Building an Industry Infinity Supply Chain $10 million grant supports four more years of robotics and automation training, the Michigan Alliance for Greater Mobility Advancement collaborative, a regional push on cybersecurity training, a transportation collaborative with MDOT, and delivery of transportation-related training programs,” says Michele Economou Ureste, executive director of WIN. “The use of innovative training strategies and training delivery methods will upskill individuals in the region to succeed in middle- and high-skilled 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.

Since it was founded, WIN has brought in more than $160 million in grant funding to various organizations throughout southeast Michigan.

J.D. Power Founder and Namesake Dies
James David “Dave” Power III, founder and retired chairman of J.D. Power in Troy, passed away last weekend at the age of 89.

Dubbed “Mr. Quality” by Motor Trend magazine, Power was widely credited with transforming the auto industry by channeling detailed customer experience data into practical insights and critical intelligence that changed everything from manufacturing to marketing.

He founded the company that bears his name in 1968 with his wife, Julie, and together they built J.D. Power into one of the world’s most recognizable brands. With customer feedback often seen as less important by companies who provided products or services, Power was motivated to bring attention to the “Voice of the Customer.”

“The world has lost a true pioneer and we have lost a visionary spirit that has continued to inspire, inform, and galvanize our company’s growth for over 50 years,” said Dave Habiger, president and CEO of J.D. Power. “Those who were lucky enough to have worked closely with Dave remember a larger-than-life creative presence who encouraged constant innovation and close collaboration with a relentless focus on the values of independence, integrity, and quality.”

Over the years, data and analytic insights enabled quality improvements across every major automotive manufacturer. As J.D. Power studies began to detect nascent industry trends and critical quality flaws, the industry began to embrace the company’s data as a source of industry intelligence, and a key component to product strategy. That recognition was memorialized in 1992 when Power received the Automotive Hall of Fame’s Distinguished Service Citation, which is awarded each year to the industry’s most accomplished leaders.

In the years that followed, Power successfully diversified the business, expanding into the financial services, health care, home, insurance, technology, media and telecom, travel and hospitality, and utilities industries. Building on Power’s foundation of experiential data and analytics, J.D. Power now is a global leader in the use of big data, artificial intelligence, and algorithmic modeling to understand consumer behavior.

Power stepped back from day-to-day leadership of the company in 2005 but continued to stay involved in an advisory capacity for many years.

“Even after his retirement, Dave’s indomitable presence was felt throughout our business, both through the many lives he touched personally and the strong foundation of uncompromising values of independence and integrity he built for our amazing company,” says Habiger. “He will be deeply missed by all of us, but his spirit will live on in the work we will carry forward each day.”

Technology is Helping Olympia Entertainment with Reopening
Olympia Entertainment is working with New York-based Janam Technologies to deploy contactless ticketing and venue access at Little Caesars Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.

Janam’s GT1 mobile pedestal delivers rapid and contactless access control for sports, performing arts, and live entertainment venues. Its plug-and-play design transforms Janam’s handheld ticket scanners into contactless, self-service mobile pedestals that help venue operators promote safe social distancing, take advantage of advanced digital ticketing technology, and save cost.

By enabling guests to self-scan their paper or digital tickets, GT1 provides a tap-and-go experience that eases congestion, moves fans quickly into the venue, and complies with state and local health and safety regulations for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re eager to safely and efficiently welcome Detroiters back to our venues,” says Tim Padgett, vice president of venue operations at Olympia Entertainment. “We appreciate the partnership with Janam and look forward to the enhancements this technology will provide to our fans and guests.”

Ohio Minority-owned Business Acquires Detroit’s Guidepoint Systems
MFSS Holdings in Toledo, Ohio, has acquired Guidepoint Systems, a Detroit-based supplier of vehicle telematics and software as a service (SaaS) for automotive OEMs, new and pre-owned vehicle dealerships, and commercial fleet managers, throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Following the close of the transaction, Guidepoint established a new executive office in Toledo and plans to maintain its corporate headquarters in Madison Heights. Guidepoint also operates locations in Fort Worth, Texas and Guadalajara, Mexico.

MFSS Holdings is a certified minority business enterprise owned by Samuel Spencer, a finance and operations executive and former investment banker who supported the Morgan Stanley Chicago Office coverage of the telematics/connected car industry.

Spencer will serve as president and CEO of Guidepoint Systems, working with the telematics firm’s existing management team to expand the company’s work with global OEMs, dealerships, insurance companies, automotive financing companies and commercial fleet managers, among others.

“Guidepoint is a pioneer and innovator in the vehicle telematics business,” says Spencer. “Over the past two decades, the company’s executive team has worked to put Guidepoint in a unique position to serve OEMs, dealerships, fleets and drivers with vehicle-centric, internet of things technology and solutions that go far beyond tracking. I look forward to working with this talented team to strengthen our value proposition and tap into the growing $10+ billion telematics market in North America.”

Guidepoint was founded in 1999 as an aftermarket supplier of GPS tracking and stolen vehicle recovery solutions sold by car dealers. Today, the firm specializes in collecting vehicle, driver, and environmental data that can be optimized by customers in a variety of applications including asset-management services for dealerships and fleets, as well concierge and safety services for vehicle owners to eliminate cost and mitigate financial risk.

“Collecting, synthesizing, and producing business intelligence that improves the bottom line from vehicle data has become a kind of Holy Grail for automakers and fleet managers, but it comes with a number of challenges because of the complex and proprietary nature of automotive networks,” Spencer says. “Our engineering and product-development team continues to build on our track record of supplying OEM-level data solutions that integrate hardware, firmware, dynamic API, cellular networks, and emerging CAN FD technology.”

Phase II of Oakland County Restaurant Relief Program Begins in Troy
Phase II of the Oakland County Restaurant Relief Program using $3 million from the county’s general fund has begun for eligible businesses in Troy.

The city of Troy is coordinating with the Troy Chamber of Commerce on this initiative.

Phase II will provide cities, villages and townships with products and funding that can be used for a broad range of support for dine-in restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Eligible products for acquisition and reimbursement include tents, igloos/domes and greenhouses, outdoor propane heaters and propane refill programs, plastic A-frame sidewalk signs, outdoor tables and seating, building materials, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and supplies, and other related products and labor.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on Feb. 1. Reimbursement will be allowed for eligible costs of products, labor, services, and fees incurred from Oct. 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021. For more information, visit here.

Detroit Small Businesses Are Big Winners in NFL Playoffs Bet
Michigan-based cannabis accessory brand Ooze bet $420,420 on Sunday’s NFL playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, and the wager will go directly to support small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic.

Greektown Casino-Hotel matched the $420,420 bet as well as all first-time wagers made through the Barstool Sportsbook.

“We made this huge wager because it is truly a win-win situation for us,” says George Sinishtaj, a partner in Ooze. “We see the amount of $420,420 as directly supporting the small businesses who have struggled throughout the pandemic and are right in our backyard. We are heartened and humbled to support Michigan businesses.”

Sinishtaj, a former professional gambler, made a bet of $420,420 on the Bills on Friday at Greektown Casino-Hotel’s Barstool Sportsbook in Detroit. Although the Chiefs defeated the Bills, Greektown still matched Sinishtaj’s wager — the single largest bet ever placed at the casino.

“We were astounded when George approached us about coming in to make the bet,” says John Drake, vice president and general manager of Greektown Casino-Hotel. “His desire to help local Detroit and Michigan business owners who haven’t fared well during this time is admirable and we jumped at the chance to support his bet and The Barstool Fund.”

From noon on Jan. 22 to 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 24, Michigan residents had their first-time deposit on the Barstool Sportsbook mobile app matched with a donation to The Barstool Fund provided they wager equal or more than their first-time deposit during the weekend. The Barstool Fund was started to raise money to sustain small businesses around the country that have been hard hit by the ongoing pandemic. In addition, visitors to the retail Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown had their first-time rated wager matched by Greektown Casino with a donation to The Barstool Fund.

Lansing’s Air Lift Co. Acquires Flo AirRide of Oklahoma
Lansing-based air suspension specialist ​Air Lift Co.​ has acquired air tank manufacturer ​Flo AirRide Mfg​. of Oklahoma. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

All business operations will move from Flo AirRide’s Oklahoma facility to Air Lift’s Lansing headquarters. In addition to acquiring Flo Airride, Air Lift Co. will gain the rights to ​Slam’d magazine​, a publication created to build a community of engaged automotive enthusiasts around the world.

“Having Flo AirRide as a part of Air Lift Performance will allow us to develop stronger relationships within the market and also to assist us in establishing Air Lift Performance as the air suspension leader for all categories of lowered vehicles, from supercars to street trucks,” says Kevin Mehigh, president of Air Lift Co. “We can’t wait to see what the future holds for both brands.”

Flo AirRide owner Mike Alexander has joined the Air Lift Performance team as the Air Lift Performance brand manager.

“I’m very excited to take the Flo brand to the next level and to now be official members of the Air Lift Performance family,” Alexander says. “It was important for us to partner with a company that we know, trust, and believe in, and Air Lift Performance fits that profile perfectly. With this partnership, our customers can look forward to their orders being processed quickly, to a full team of engineers that will bring exciting products to the brand and best of all we will be backed by the best customer service team in the air suspension industry.”

Lockton Cos. Expands Michigan Footprint with New Grand Rapids Office
Missouri-based Lockton Cos., one of the world’s largest privately held, independent insurance brokerage firms, is expanding its Michigan presence with a new 6,000-square-foot office in Grand Rapids.

The office will accommodate the firm’s growth projections to hire up to 10 additional employees within the first quarter of 2021.

Since expanding in Michigan in November 2019, Lockton’s team has grown to 50 associates who help clients address employee benefits, leave management, property, workers compensation, business interruption, cybersecurity, general liability, director and officer liability, and more.

To start 2021, Lockton hired Jon Snead, a 30-year insurance and employee benefit industry veteran and Grand Rapids area native, to join the Grand Rapids office as a senior vice president and consultant. He will focus on developing, implementing and managing HR and benefits strategies for businesses in west Michigan.

“Our Grand Rapids-based team will bring global resources and capabilities to west Michigan’s strong business community,” says Elaine Coffman, president of Lockton Michigan. “It’s challenging for existing regional brokers to compete with the size and scale of their global competitors. By recruiting top talent and opening smaller offices in strategic locations, Lockton is able to provide the same level of customer service as a smaller, family owned business. We have been able to recruit top talent and provide clients the global scale resources, such as technology platforms and analytics, and market leverage they need in these complex times.”

Comerica Bank to Host Financial Education Series for Small Business Owners and Students
Comerica Bank is hosting two upcoming virtual events to support its financial education initiatives across southeast Michigan.

On Wednesday, Jan. 27 from noon-1 p.m., Comerica will partner with the Association of Latino Professionals for America Michigan to present “Building Your Financial Future.” The first of three sessions, which continue in February, focuses on individuals looking to build their financial future during COVID-19 pandemic.

This program is part of Comerica’s Business $ense Bootcamps for Michigan Entrepreneurs. February’s workshops will assist small businesses in Michigan that have been impacted by COVID-19.

Comerica also will present an ongoing, virtual event Jan. 25-29 benefiting students from Ypsilanti Community Middle School. Through a partnership with Young Entrepeneurz Solutions, the five-day event will equip students with the education, skills, and resources necessary to pursue entrepreneurship.

The events are part of Comerica Bank’s Money $ense Program that address the critical need of teaching sound financial principles to anyone from pre-K to senior citizens, as well as small business owners.

“Providing impactful, adaptive financial education sessions to metro Detroit communities is a major priority and cornerstone for Comerica Bank,” says Linda Nosegbe, southeast Michigan external affairs manager at Comerica Bank. “These programs provide an in-depth resource to students, adults and business owners to assist navigating through important everyday financial decisions.”

Test Alerts Visitor Log Provides COVID-19 Contact Tracing for Restaurants
Troy-based Test Alerts has added a feature called Visitor Log Mode to allow restaurants and other businesses required to maintain contact tracing logs to stay compliant during COVID-19 reopening.

No health screening questions are required, businesses do not have to manage paperwork, and can retrieve data on request from a secure dashboard.

Here is how it works:

  • Each business/location creates and posts a sign at each entrance with a QR Code or Custom Survey Code or PIN.
  • Visitors scan the QR code or enter the PIN on entry using their personal cell phone. They are only asked for a name and best contact method (email or cell).
  • Upon submission, a Green Check is displayed to indicate they have checked in and can be shown on entry.
  • The dashboard will show a daily list of patrons.
  • Visitors or patrons can optionally register their phone to avoid having to enter their name or contact info each time they enter.
  • The app can be used at any Test Alert enabled location with a single registration.

The basic free plan allows any business to try and use the product at no cost.  It is limited to 500 entries per month for up to three locations. At any time, businesses can upgrade to one of the company’s paid tiers to unlock premium features.

For more information, visit here or contact Roy Johnson at rjohnson@testalerts.com.

Canterbury Village Dino Stroll Opening Day to Benefit Ill Children
Canterbury Village in Lake Orion will be hosting Dino Stroll in May, when the village will be transformed into the Mesozoic Era with prehistoric dinosaurs. The opening day of Dino Stroll, May 20, will benefit Jay’s Juniors, the charity started by 100.3 WNIC morning host Jay Towers.

Jay’s Juniors is dedicated to supporting chronically and terminally ill children.

“We are proud to partner with Jay’s Juniors once again to help children and their families,” says Keith Aldridge, owner of Canterbury Village. “With the support of the community, together, we can ensure that all the children within Jay’s program have some additional joy brought to their lives.”

Dino Stroll guests will stroll through this outdoor dinosaur adventure and get up close and personal with almost 100 life-like creatures, reptiles, and life-size dinosaurs, with most standing more than 30 feet tall and spanning 40 feet, including T-rex, velociraptors, and stegosaurus, just to name a few.

The animatronic dinosaurs are created with moving heads, necks, tails, wings, eyes blinking, mouths that open and close, breathing movements, synchronized sounds, spraying water, and many more details that bring them to life.

Guests will become paleontologists and be able study skeletons, fossils, and dinosaur eggs. There will be entertainment by the Dino Band, various roaming characters to encounter during the stroll, and much more.

Dino Stroll will take place May 20-23 and 28-31. Tickets, which are available now here, are $9.99 each with children under 2, active military and veterans free. Parking is $5 and additional services fees will apply.

JVS Human Services to Offer Microsoft Word and Excel for Beginners
JVS Human Services, the Southfield-based human service agency, is offering metro Detroiters with limited computer skills a chance to improve their knowledge and increase their opportunities for employment during the pandemic.

The “Microsoft Word and Excel for Beginners” course begins on Feb. 1 and includes two group classes per week for six weeks, with additional assignments included for enhanced learning outside of class time. The two-hour long classes are conducted online via Zoom with an instructor from the David B. Hermelin ORT Resource Center, the computer skills training center operated by JVS Human Services.

Each six-week program costs $400 and full and partial scholarships are available for qualified applicants. Classes will be offered throughout 2021.

For program details, enrollment forms, and scholarship applications, please contact hermelinort@jvshumanservices.org or call 248-233-4243.

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