DBusiness Daily Update: 123NET in Southfield Partners to Help Close Detroit’s Digital Divide, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
high speed internet equality concept animation
123NET is partnering with the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) and Grace in Action Collectives (GIAC) to bring high-speed, low-cost internet to an underserved Detroit neighborhood. // Stock photo

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

123NET in Southfield Partners to Help Close Detroit’s Digital Divide

Southfield-based 123NET, Michigan’s largest local fiber internet provider, is partnering with the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) and Grace in Action Collectives (GIAC) to bring high-speed, low-cost internet to an underserved Detroit neighborhood as part of Project Overcome.

The one-year project aims to create long-term sustainable infrastructure for digital services to a neighborhood between Junction Street and Michigan Avenue in southwest Detroit. In addition to network development, 123NET assists with educational training for local digital stewards who help demystify technology by teaching and connecting residents to the internet.

“123NET is proud to be part of the team that includes public and private entities working alongside of community groups to help combat the social, financial, and other inequities that have contributed to the global digital divide,” says Dan Irvin, president and CEO of 123NET. “The pandemic only heightened the need as dedicated high-speed internet became an even more essential ingredient to daily life.”

DCTP was selected as a Project Overcome grant recipient in March 2021 by U.S. Ignite. The grant provided awards to seven communities in a $2.7 million effort designed to connect the unconnected through novel broadband technology solutions. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) conceived of the project and provided $2.25 million in funding, and Schmidt Futures provided an additional $450,000. U.S. Ignite managed the selection process and oversees these projects along with multiple efforts to connect the benefits of emerging technology with some of the community’s most challenging needs.

Detroit has historically been one of the least connected cities in America, with some estimates suggesting that about 40 percent of city residents lack efficient and affordable home internet access. 123NET says it is committed to strengthening neighborhoods through its participation in community collaborations designed to improve connectivity and make internet service more widely available.

For more information, visit 123.NET.

Phoenix Innovate in Troy Acquires Indiana’s One Point to Increase Capability

Troy-based Phoenix Innovate has made an all-asset purchase of One Point of Anderson, Ind. designed to integrate the strengths of both companies with a focus toward creating a new standard for effective marketing solutions.

The leadership and staff of One Point will remain and adds 40 employees increasing Phoenix Innovate’s roster of employees to 93.

Phoenix Innovate, provides research-driven, data-led custom marketing solutions for clients in the health care, nonprofit, education, and OEM industries. It says it recognized an opportunity to add One Point’s marketing channel optimization and execution solutions to benefit its current and future clientele.

“We are excited to couple the strengths of both organizations to create data-driven, tailored marketing solutions, market channel optimization and software applications for our current and future clients,” says Kirk Vercnocke, CEO of Phoenix Innovate. “In the ever-changing world of marketing, optimizing the marketing tactics and channels used by our clients is an important factor in maximizing their ROI. We look forward to combining our innovation-focused cultures and talented team members to help clients reap the benefits of our joint service offerings.”

One Point and Phoenix Innovate will operate from both offices in Michigan and Indiana, with leadership focused in the Michigan location.

WirelessCar in Detroit Wins ‘Connected Car Product of the Year’

Detroit-based WirelessCar has been awarded the Connected Car Product of the Year by IoT Breakthrough, a market intelligence organization in California, for its Smart EV Routing.

WirelessCar’s Smart EV Routing is an API product that is fueled by connected car data, as well as data from numerous external sources. The API enables electric car manufacturers to bring high quality in-vehicle routing experiences into vehicle infotainment systems as well as integrating EV routing into web and mobile companion applications. By providing a routing experience specifically tailored for the needs of the electric vehicle driver, Smart EV Routing aims to reduce both charge and range anxiety.

The product uses a variety of parameters, such as real-time dynamic vehicle data and other environmental data combined with intelligent routing algorithms in order to plan and optimize the best possible route for an EV driver. Smart EV Routing is a dynamic digital tool that provides peace of mind to the driver so that he/she can be confident about reaching the destination on long-distance journeys.

“We are honored to be recognized by the IoT Breakthrough community for our Smart EV Routing product,” says Martin Rosell, CEO of WirelessCar. “The product is agnostic in the sense that it allows car makers to use whatever content providers they want for their specific solutions regarding map data, traffic data, charging infrastructure, weather data and forecasts, and more.

“Independently of the car manufacturer’s strategy, we believe that Smart EV Routing will help to drive EV adoption, education, and clearly and proactively address consumer uncertainties and complexities that arise when driving an EV. We believe this can be a clear brand statement itself, which can support a car manufacturer’s brand building and positioning within the EV segment.”

For more information, visit here.

Henry Ford Health Commits $1M to Jumpstart Nova

Henry Ford Health System has committed $1 million to become a limited partner in the launch of Jumpstart Nova, a $55 million venture fund that will invest in Black-led and founded health care businesses.

“Jumpstart Nova not only provides the funding historically unavailable through traditional venture investment channels, it also connects us to a fund manager with a deep commitment to Black-owned businesses with high potential for success,” says Robin Damschroder, executive vice president and CFO for Henry Ford.

In addition to financial backing, Jumpstart Nova, the newest fund of Nashville-based Jumpstart Health Investors, provides mentorship, institutional introductions, and relationship-building to companies in its portfolio to help accelerate their growth, chances of success and impact on equity in health care and community health.

Joining Henry Ford in investing and as strategic health care partners: Eli Lilly and Co., HCA Healthcare, Cardinal Health, Atrium Health, LHC Group, Meharry Medical College, and American Hospital Association. In addition, Jumpstart Nova launched with partners Bank of America, Pinnacle Financial Partners, First Bank, Ingram Industries, and Vanderbilt University.

“It’s clear that innovative thinking, intentional action, and a strong commitment are needed when it comes to changing access to venture capital and funding, says Damschroder. “We hope others will join us in supporting first-time, Black, minority and women venture fund managers who in turn support minority-owned healthcare businesses.”

Henry Ford intends to become a limited partner in additional funds led by first-time minority and women managers. Adding an emerging fund manager to Henry Ford’s strategic venture investment portfolio updates Henry Ford’s existing criteria and is an additional way to think about meaningful change as Henry Ford continues to step up its commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) strategy.

Pocketnest Reaches Nearly $2M in Funding with Reseda Group

Pocketnest, the Detroit-based female-founded financial wellness platform, announced its latest institutional investor, Reseda Group, a wholly owned Credit Union Service Organization of MSU Federal Credit Union, for its seed round co-led by The Impact Seat and ID Ventures.

Since 2020, the fintech has experienced:

  • 156 percent growth in enterprise customers, at a 15 percent monthly growth rate.
  • 115 percent increase in users, at a 14 percent monthly growth rate.
  • 63 percent increase in user engagement, at a 25 percent monthly growth rate.

“Reseda Group is proud to partner with Pocketnest,” says Ben Maxim, CTO of Reseda Group and vice president of digital strategy and innovation for MSUFCU. “We invest in dynamic companies — like Pocketnest — that strive to create a better member experience and change how people think about personal finance. Pocketnest makes financial wellness attainable to all our members, from those with $100 to $100,000. We’re excited to be part of their story.”

Pocketnest closes this round on the heels of graduating the prestigious Google for Startups Accelerator, launching an employee wellness platform, and being named one of the world’s most innovative startups.

Pocketnest licenses its platform to financial institutions to generate qualified leads and boost cross-sell opportunities. It also licenses to employee wellness programs to boost recruitment, productivity, and retention. Built on behavioral science and psychology, Pocketnest coaches users through 10 themes of financial wellness and helps them keep their plan up to date — in three minutes a week.

New Economic Development Program Guidelines Create Opportunity for Economic Growth

The Michigan Strategic Fund has approved guidelines for two new programs — the Strategic Site Readiness Program (SSRP) and the Critical Industry Program (CIP) — that will provide the Michigan Economic Development Corp. with competitive and flexible economic development tools to secure transformational business retention and attraction projects and provide an opportunity for growth across Michigan.

These programs are part of a package of legislation signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Dec. 20, 2021, which will help Michigan support long-term job creation and economic growth in communities throughout the state. The legislation was passed by the Michigan Legislature with bipartisan support and collaboration from labor leaders, economic development agencies, and various business groups.

“These powerful new tools will support our ability to attract highly competitive projects that will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, back our small businesses and generate billions of dollars in investment in communities throughout the state,” says Whitmer. “Thanks to the collaboration of business, legislative, economic development, and community leaders, our state will be in a better position to win huge, transformational projects and compete effectively for every dollar and every job for decades to come.”

The Critical Industry Program will empower Michigan to make investments critical to closing deals, create and preserve qualified jobs, and bring significant capital investment into Michigan by providing qualified businesses with grants, loans, or other economic assistance.

The Strategic Site Readiness program also will provide grants, loans, and other economic assistance for the purpose of creating investment-ready sites to attract and promote investment in the state, helping ensure an increased inventory of sites to support both current and future projects.

Together, these programs will be funded through the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, with initial funding appropriated at $1 billion. Among the guidelines approved is the requirement that any and all projects supported by these programs will require approval from the MSF Board, consistent with all MSF project recommendations and ensuring continued transparency and accountability of public funds. Upon MSF approval for projects through either Strategic Site Readiness Program or the Critical Industry Program, the process for legislative transfer of actual funds through the SOAR Fund will be initiated.

Additionally, as with other developments supported by the MSF, these projects will be required to meet certain performance milestones. If a project does not meet those, the state will be able to recuperate the funds in response and repurpose those funds in support of future projects.

“Taken together, these programs will be absolutely vital for ensuring both businesses currently operating in our state –– and new companies considering Michigan –– need not look to invest anywhere else in North America but Michigan as they look to grow and expand,” says Quentin L. Messer Jr., CEO of the MEDC and president of the MSF. “These programs highlight how are positioning Michigan for large-scale investments that accelerate growth in high-paying jobs, retain large customers for our small businesses, and remain at the center of technological change for decades to come.”

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Enrolls in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program

DTE Energy and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel announced that the tunnel has enrolled in DTE’s MIGreenPower program, which enables DTE electricity customers to attribute more of their energy use to the company’s wind and solar parks, accelerating the development of new clean energy projects.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel has enrolled at 10 percent with a goal of increasing its enrollment to 100 percent by 2030. The tunnel’s current enrollment has the environmental benefit equivalent to avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions from 356,212 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is operated by American Roads, a transportation infrastructure company that recently launched an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiative. As part of this initiative, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel has implemented a recycling program, as well as employee and customer education programs around best practices for reducing, reusing, and recycling.

“All of American Roads, including our team at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, is highly dedicated to our new ESG initiatives,” says Kyle Krukowski, director of internal audit and financial planning for the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. “We’re proud of the recent sustainability initiatives we’ve completed, and excited for others that are in progress. We’re ahead of the industry in terms of reducing our carbon footprint and being an environmentally friendly company, and MIGreenPower is a significant part of that.”

Supporters Raise $1.3M+ for JARC’s Programs and Services

Bloomfield Hills-based JARC, a nonprofit agency that serves individuals with developmental disabilities, announced that its fall fundraising campaign netted more than $1.3 million.

The funds raised will be used toward aiding people with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments at 80 different locations in metro Detroit. Assistance is provided by JARC to individuals who live independently with minor needs, to those in group homes of which some residents have complex medical needs and those who require 24/7 staffing.

“Like many organizations, the pandemic presented JARC with a unique set of circumstances relative to how we best serve people with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments,” says Shaindle Braunstein, CEO of JARC. “The financial support JARC received from the community and businesses has been vital to enhancing and continuing the programs and services we provide JARC’s persons served.”

For more information, visit here.