DBusiness Daily Update: Auburn Hills’ Autoliv Expanding Steering Wheel Manufacturing in Mexico, Consumers Energy Introduces New Summer Peak Rate, 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.
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Auburn Hills’ Autoliv Expanding Steering Wheel Manufacturing in Mexico

Auburn Hills-based automotive safety systems suppler Autoliv Inc. says it plans to construct a new steering wheel manufacturing plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

When fully operational, the 322,000-square-foot facility will have the potential to employ up to 3,000 people.

“We are doing this expansion to meet growing customer demand,” says Kevin Fox, president of Autoliv Americas. “This new facility, along with our Matamoros, Mexico facility will allow us to continue to provide world-class support to our customers. This investment will increase capacity, but it will also allow us to optimize our manufacturing processes at both facilities and it will create exciting opportunities for our team members in Mexico.”

Fox adds that the project accelerates the company’s digitalization and automation strategy and will include investment in state-of-the art manufacturing processes.

Construction of the new facility is planned to begin in June of this year and Autoliv expects it to be operational by January 2022. Once completed, capabilities will include armature casting, plastic and polyurethane injection molding, leather preparation and wrapping, final assembly, testing, and development.

Consumers Energy Introduces New Summer Peak Rate

Consumers Energy in Jackson announced that it is giving Michigan households the ability to lower energy bills and take actions to protect the planet with a new standard Summer Peak Rate that will go into effect June 1 for 1.6 million residential electric customers.

The Summer Peak Rate gives customers more control over their energy bills, rewarding them for taking advantage of lower-cost electricity that’s available most of the day. The new approach is part of Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan. If households make small changes now like shifting energy use away from high-demand times, it could eliminate the need to build new power plants.

For most of the year, households will pay a single price for electricity. From June through September, on-peak pricing will be in effect weekdays from 2-7 p.m.

Consumers Energy has sent letters to all of its residential electric customers explaining the new rate’s impact on their bills and offering tips on how to use this new rate to save money. The energy provider will continue sharing information with customers throughout the summer.

“We know we all can take steps to protect the planet, and using less energy during peak times provides us all an opportunity to make a difference,” says Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, vice president for customer experience at Consumers Energy. “By shifting energy use to mornings, nights and weekends when the demand for energy is lower, customers can help lower their bills and make an impact on our clean energy future — helping to keep Michigan beautiful for generations to come.”

For more information, visit here.

Troy’s ELMS Selects Randy Marion Automotive Group as Distribution Partner

Electric Last Mile Inc. in Troy has selected North Carolina’s Randy Marion Automotive Group’s commercial division as its first strategic distribution partner to help execute the launch of the Urban Delivery vehicle.

By partnering with RMA, ELMS believes it can bring the anticipated first Class 1 commercial EV available in the U.S. market to fleet customers of all sizes and geographies across the country.

The agreement between ELMS and RMA also proposes to cover an order of 6,000 Urban Delivery vehicles subject to the finalization of the commercial relationship. This would represent a significant portion of ELMS’ initial launch volume through the first half of 2022 for RMA’s commercial fleet customers.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Randy Marion Automotive Group, one of the largest and most prominent commercial dealers in the country, to combine our anticipated first-to-market Class 1 commercial EV with an established commercial fleet customer network,” says James Taylor, co-founder and CEO of ELMS. “This is really a new and bold approach by Randy Marion to jump the curve on fleet electrification, and a strong validation of our differentiated business model and expected first mover advantage in the Class 1 commercial EV space.”

Randy Marion, founder and CEO of RMA, says, “Our fleet customers are seeking solutions that both address their sustainability goals and also drive their bottom line. After presenting the Urban Delivery, the demand from our customers across the country has been overwhelming, and by working with ELMS, we expect we can deliver them the first Class 1 commercial EV in the U.S. market.”

ELMS further announced that it is working with RMA and several of their long-term fleet customers and others across several industry verticals to initiate trials of the Urban Delivery vehicle. Customers that are scheduled to participate in testing include a California FedEx Delivery Service Provider, a regional plumbing services company, an east coast-based HVAC systems provider, a major university and a southeast produce distributor. ELMS plans to provide more details on customer testing in the near future.

Southfield’s Mars Agency Partners Gets Investment from Denver Firm

 The Mars Agency, a global commerce marketing agency in Southfield, has received a “substantial equity investment” by Denver-based Mountaingate Capital, a middle market private equity firm.

The Mars Agency will continue to operate as an independent agency. The funding will allow the agency to build out capabilities, strengthen its offering, and further the development of the company’s proprietary commerce technology platform, Marilyn.

Founded in 1972, The Mars Agency focuses on shopper conversion, retail intelligence, technology solutions, and being a top place to work.

“We have an industry-leading track record of passionately innovating and bringing cutting edge solutions forward to our clients and to the market,” Ken Barnett, one of the agency’s owners. “This gives us the financial backing to continue to do that even faster through innovation and acquisition. Fueling our growth allows us to lead, retain and attract the best talent, innovate, and offer the most powerful solutions and ideas to our valued clients globally.”

Autobooks Partners with Bottomline to Support Small Business Growth

Detroit-based fintech firm Autobooks is partnering with Bottomline, a New Hampshire fintech company to deliver essential digital solutions designed to help small businesses.

Bottomline provides technology that makes business payments simple, smart, and secure. Autobooks is an embedded invoicing, payments, and accounting platform for small businesses.

As part of the partnership, Autobooks’ invoicing, receivables, and accounting tools will be combined with Bottomline’s Digital Banking IQ platform, enabling financial institutions to deliver a unified digital experience and a comprehensive suite of integrated payments and cash lifecycle solutions, purpose-built for small businesses.

“The battle for small business primacy is taking place online,” says Steve Robert, CEO of Autobooks. “Autobooks makes it simple for a small business to enroll, send invoices, and quickly accept online payments — directly from the financial institution’s existing digital banking channels. Together with Bottomline, we are helping small businesses improve cashflow and enabling financial institutions to better compete for the next generation of digital customers.”

State Extends SIGMA Partnership with CGI

The state of Michigan has extended its partnership, started earlier this year, with Virginia IT provider CGI for the ongoing transformation of its SIGMA (Statewide Integrated Governmental Management Applications), the state’s enterprise resource planning system.

CGI will continue to enhance SIGMA with capabilities from CGI Advantage, an integrated ERP platform featuring a mobile-first design and hosted on the CGI Advantage Cloud. Under the contract, the SIGMA platform will be transformed with an “intuitive and responsive user experience with seamlessly embedded advanced analytics to facilitate data-driven decision making.”

“Working alongside our dedicated and knowledgeable CGI partners, we have continued to evolve SIGMA as a force for government transformation and long-term savings for the state,” says Ruth Schwartz of the state of Michigan. “In addition to providing a highly effective platform with CGI Advantage, CGI’s deep public sector expertise fosters innovation and collaboration within its large client community.”

SIGMA is used by nearly 50,000 public employees and 200,000 vendors and payees doing business with the state. On a monthly basis, SIGMA issues more than 600,000 on-time payments totalling over $5.2 billion dollars.

Registration Now Open for Automation Alley’s 2021 Technology in Industry Report Reveal

Automation Alley, Michigan’s Troy-based Industry 4.0 knowledge center and a World Economic Forum Advanced Manufacturing Hub for North America, will launch its 2021 Technology in Industry Report digitally on June 22, alongside a virtual panel discussion at 11 a.m.

The panel discussion will feature leaders from industry, academia, and government who will discuss the urgent need for solutions that spur further manufacturing resilience and innovation.

The Technology in Industry Report, which Automation Alley has published for more than a decade, provides a deep dive into Industry 4.0 adoption challenges, opportunities, use cases, and action items for industry leaders. Cases studies in the 2021 report look at technology companies such as Omron, PTC, Verizon, and Comcast, and showcase how each was able to help manufacturers at different levels of Industry 4.0 sophistication implement a variety of digital solutions. Considering the impact COVID-19 has had on the manufacturing world, this report, and the discussions around it, are critical.

“The rapid pace of technological advancement, unprecedented supply chain disruptions, and increased resource constraints are placing added pressure on the global manufacturing ecosystem to create resilient and innovative production systems to remain competitive and achieve sustainable growth,” says Tom Kelly, executive director and CEO of Automation Alley. “The 2021 Tech in Industry Report and the virtual reveal present a platform around which we can hold a solutions-oriented discussion with advocates in the trenches of Industry 4.0.”

The panel discussion will be moderated by Kelly and include:

  • Haley Stevens, U.S. Congresswoman
  • Sherif Marakby, executive vice president of R&D at Magna International Inc.
  • Jeff Hall, senior director of technology and strategic sales at Omron
  • David Schippers, assistant professor of automotive cybersecurity at Walsh College

Attendees to the virtual panel discussion will receive free digital access to the 2021 Technology in Industry Report. To register, visit here.

Community Foundation Grants $200K+ to Local Journalism Projects

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in Detroit announced that seven journalism projects will share a total of more than $200,000 from the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund.

The 2021 grants total $211,850 bringing the total grant program over four years to $1,086,850.

The Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund was launched in March 2017 as a partnership between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The fund, through its grantmaking program, seeks to advance quality journalism while reflecting the perspectives of diverse constituencies including people of color, women and low-income communities.

“With support from our partners, the Detroit Journalism Fund prioritizes promoting diversity and equity in journalism and strengthening engagement between journalists and the community,” says Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “To continue to increase quality, outcomes, and reach of journalism in southeast Michigan, it is essential for the voices of our diverse community to be shared in local news coverage and residents to be involved in the reporting process.”

This year’s grantees include:

  • Bridging Communities ($10,000) for Urban Aging News.
  • Detroit Educational Television Foundation ($30,000) to produce a weekly, live-streamed town halls and other programs.
  • Detour Media ($46,000) for a program that provides a pilot program to guide publishers of color in building sustainable newsletter products.
  • Michigan Community Resources ($15,000) to partner with the Detroit Free Press to provide media access to Detroit’s grassroots community leaders through office hours and skills-based training.
  • MuchRock Foundation for Outlier Media ($44,725) for the Detroit Documenters program that will provide increased awareness and coverage of public meetings in Detroit.
  • Regents of the University of Michigan ($35,250), in partnership with ARISE Detroit! for Michigan Radio to form a Community Reporting Engagement Council.
  • Tostada Magazine ($25,600) to advance its sustainability strategy through the creation of a quarterly dining guide, newsletter, and membership program.
  • Wayne State University ($50,000) for the Detroit Equity Action Lab to expand partnerships with news outlets to strengthen the freelance journalist ecosystem.

“Community journalism cannot be more important than it is at this very moment,” says Nathaniel Wallace, director Detroit, Knight Foundation. “At Knight we believe that strong journalism is the prerequisite for a strong community. Community voice has to be at the center.”

For more information on the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, visit here.

JVS Human Services’ ‘Savvy Savers Challenge’ Offers Extra Savings

 JVS Human Services in Southfield is launching the 90-day Savvy Savers Challenge with a $5,000 grant from CIBC Bank-USA, offering savers the opportunity to have their savings matched up to $300.

The challenge supports the organization’s recently launched Savvy Savers Club, which meets once a month with the aim of helping educate families on how to start saving money for an emergency fund, major purchases, home down payments, retirement and more.

Participants in the 90-day challenge, which begins May 26, must be eligible and provide bank statements that will be reviewed by JVS Human Services, with any savings over the 90-day period matched by CIBC Bank-USA, up to a sum of $300. To register for the program, visit here.

“So many people tell us they know they need to save, but just don’t know how to do it,” says Laltsha Cunningham, financial capability supervisor at JVS Human Services. “Not having a safety net of money in the bank for emergencies leads to so many difficult situations like foreclosure, which could perhaps have been avoided. In addition, a lack of savings is a huge impediment to home ownership, which is a barrier we are trying to break.”

At Savvy Savers Club meetings, attendees receive tips, tools, and resources for saving through in-depth conversations, fun games and more. Cunningham added that regardless of a person’s income level, there were ways in which savings could always be achieved.

For more information about Savvy Savers Club or the 90-day challenge, call 248-233-4299 or email financialhelp@jvshumanservices.org.

Meadow Brook Summer Programs Include Music, Yoga, Outdoor Tours

Yoga in the Garden, the Concert Series at Meadow Brook, and outdoor estate tours are returning to Meadow Brook Hall on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester.

Yoga in the Garden, taught by registered yoga teacher Shannon Kraegel in the estate’s rock garden, will be conducted at 9 a.m. on July 18, July 25, Aug. 1, and Aug. 15. All levels are welcome. Guests must bring their own yoga mat and water bottle. Tickets are $15 a person. To learn more or register for Yoga in the Garden, visit here.

The Concert Series at the Great Estate will take place in the garden tent and feature a full cash bar from 7-9:30 p.m. and guests are invited to come early and bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds before the show.

The musical lineup includes Ben Sharkey on June 23, Collision Six on July 15, Kimmie Horne on July 29, Dave Bennett on Aug. 12, Athens Creek on Sept. 23, and Parallel Fifth on Oct. 29. Tickets are $30 per person per concert. To learn more or register for the Concert Series at the Great Estate, visit here.

Meadow Brook is offering a collection of guided and self-guided tours from Fridays through Mondays, including:

  • Self-Guided House Tour allows visitors to explore all three levels of the house at their own pace with insight from a new visitor app.
  • Guided House Tour takes visitors on a journey through the main living levels of the historic mansion with a knowledgeable docent guide.
  • Guided Behind-The-Scenes tour takes visitors on a journey to rarely seen areas of Meadow Brook, including staff wings, bathrooms, closets, playrooms and more.
  • Guided Great Estate and Gardens Tour introduces visitors to Meadow Brook’s grounds, gardens, and architecture.

Starting Friday, June 4, all tours will include self-guided touring access to two of the playhouses on the estate grounds — Danny’s Cabin and Knole Cottage, which is known as the “world’s finest dollhouse.” Dates, availability, and ticket prices vary. For more information or to book tickets, visit here.

For more information and updates on guest safety and Meadow Brook’s response to COVID-19, visit here.





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