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.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Buildings Go Blue and Yellow to Support Ukraine
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Renaissance Center Towers and headquarter building in Greektown have been lit in blue and yellow in support of Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The lights are a joint effort with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which has lit several other Detroit landmarks in the country’s national colors.
Employee contributions also are being accepted for relief efforts to the following organizations:
- International Medical Corps for health care and supplies.
- UNICEF USA for children’s health care and nutrition of refugees.
- International Committee of the Red Cross for humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan stands with the people of Ukraine,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BVBSM. “As a multi-business enterprise serving members and customers in all 50 states, we join our fellow corporate citizens in supporting Ukraine during this crisis.”
The buildings will continue their nighttime tributes through Friday.
Boys & Girls Clubs Keeps DE&I Pledge with the Appointment of Females to Board
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan has maintained its commitment to strategically curating a diverse, notable board of directors — specifically by increasing the number of female leaders.
BGCSM board leadership now boast 56 percent minorities, 48 percent female with majority women of color, amplifying importance of representation at the highest level within the nonprofit sector.
As the first minority female board chair for the organization, DeMello-Johnson recalls three years ago when she was one of two female board members out of 30, present at the quarterly board meetings.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” she says. “This was not merely coincidental but deliberately intentional in our desire to recruit diverse and inclusive perspectives, expertise, and passions to accelerate the mission of BGCSM that enables our youth to become Career, Start-Up and Homeowner Ready.”
The organization has been able to tap into women that are game-changers in their own right, with a common goal of youth development, work-force training, and entrepreneurship in Detroit.
“I’m appreciative of our Board Chair Jennifer Demello-Johnson and all our female board members for stepping up to lead BGCSM,” says Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of BGCSM. “Their influence and expertise in education, business, technology, real estate development and government relations, will ensure BGCSM meets its mission of building an ecosystem, which not only transforms young people’s lives, but the communities they live in through economic mobility.”
Today the organization will highlight its #LadiesThatLead on social media to amplify the female BGCSM board members during International Women’s Day.
Female board members include:
- Alisha Bell, chair of the Wayne County Commission, District 7
- Sylvia Santana, Detroit, District 3
- Sonya Mays, Develop Detroit, president and CEO
- Tosha Tabron, Kresge Foundation, Social Investment Officer
- Angelique Peterson-Maybury, Detroit Public Schools Community District Board president
- Tonya Adair, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, chief people, equity, and engagement officer
- Jacqueline Howard, Ally Financial, senior director of corporate citizenship
- Rajoielle Register, Sysco, vice president of marketing
- Erika Swilley, Detroit Pistons, vice president, community, and social responsibility
- Pattie Dykstra, Logicalis, Account Executive
- Sue Nine, Women’s Association, co-chair
- Jennifer DeMello-Johnson, Amerisure Insurance, vice president of agency services
To see the full list of the 2022 BGCSM board members, visit here.
Aerostar Manufacturing in Romulus Expands, Adds 62 Jobs
Computer numerical control (CNC) machining provider Aerostar Manufacturing is expanding its operations in Romulus, where it will create up to 62 jobs for Michigan workers.
The expansion is expected to generate a total capital investment of $8.6 million, supported by a $200,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen for the project over competing sites in Georgia and Indiana.
Aerostar Manufacturing specializes in CNC machining and assembly for the automotive, heavy truck, defense, aerospace, and other key industries and markets. The company currently has 131 employees in Michigan.
Aerostar says it plans to establish a new manufacturing facility in Romulus for light to medium manufacturing, CNC machining, assembly, and other related industrial activities.
“After a careful analysis, we decided to expand our operations in the state of Michigan vis-a-vis states of Georgia or Indiana,” says Lalit Goel, CEO of Aerostar Manufacturing CEO. “We are thankful to Michigan Economic Development Corp., Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corp., and the city of Romulus in helping us navigate every step of the application process to obtain various state and local benefits.
“In the end it wasn’t just the dollars and cents, but many intangibles like manufacturing infrastructure, trained workforce, and being close to many world class existing and potential customers in Michigan that tipped the scale in Michigan’s favor.”
Aerostar is a minority owned business and more than 50 percent of its workforce is from minority or underrepresented communities. The company promotes from within through on-the-job and external training. In addition, Aerostar assists employees with childcare or wraparound services by collaborating with partnerships and nonprofits. Individuals interested in careers with Aerostar should visit here.
Huntington Bank Unveils Huntington Tower Signage
Detroit’s Huntington Bank has unveiled new signage on Huntington Tower.
The announcement was made as the bank says it expects to welcome its colleagues back to the building at 2025 Woodward Ave. with a phased in return to work this summer, based on CDC and safety guidelines.
The number of returning Huntington employees depends, the company says, on completion of floors and how many colleagues are full-time in the office, hybrid, or permanent remote roles.
KeyBank Announces Support for Humanitarian Efforts for Ukraine
KeyBank has announced several steps it is taking to support humanitarian efforts currently underway for the people of Ukraine.
KeyBank Foundation will give a $100,000 grant to the American Red Cross to support its efforts to provide food, water, and other essential items and services to the people of Ukraine. The Red Cross has teams on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries helping families and working to repair vital infrastructure, support health facilities with medicines and equipment, and support families with food and hygiene items. KeyBank Foundation also will make a $50,000 grant to UNICEF for its work supporting children and families impacted by the war in Ukraine.
KeyBank also is launching a special 1:1 employee matching gift program through KeyBank Foundation that will help amplify and raise the collective voice of teammates in support of Ukraine. As part of this program, KeyBank Foundation will prove a dollar-for-dollar match for all employees up to $5,000, for several organizations supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, including Americares, CARE, Project Hope, Save the Children, and World Central Kitchen.
“Over the past week, we have witnessed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with both shock and deep concern,” says Chris Gorman, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp. “The remarkable resilience of the Ukrainian people has been a source of inspiration for me and for the entire world. Together, we have a longstanding tradition of supporting communities near and far, especially in times like these. This is one of the many reasons I am proud to be part of the Key team.”
Comerica Bank Crowns Detroit’s Biggest Sports Fan
Comerica Bank has announced the winner of its second annual Detroit’s Biggest Fan contest, Gary Campioni of Flint.
Campioni receives the title of Detroit’s Biggest Fan and an overall grand prize package valued at $15,000, which includes two season tickets to the Detroit Lions 2022 home games.
The announcement concludes a year-long celebration and search for the Motor City’s most passionate sports fans. All year, fans have sharing photos of their sport-watching experience and submitting via DetroitsBiggestFan.com on why they are Detroit’s Biggest Fan.
Campioni competed in the final round against Detroit Red Wings Biggest Fan Rosemary Nicholson of Brownstown, and Detroit Tigers Biggest Fan, Matt Bengle of West Bloomfield. All three team finalists received a prize package including upgrades and makeovers to their respective sports caves.
“Throughout the contest, Gary represented everything the Detroit’s Biggest Fan Contest is meant to be — a celebration of the spirit and loyalty of the world’s greatest fans,” says Jim Weber, executive vice president and chief experience officer for Comerica. “He wears his passion on his sleeve and, oh yeah, his love for the Lions is unquestionable. He’s the kind of fan that makes this city such a special place to cheer on your favorite team.”
Known by his fan persona “Macho Mane,” Campioni prides himself as a member of the self-proclaimed “Blue Mane Group,” a group of five men who attend every Detroit Lions game.
“It comes down to believing in our team and having the same heart we see on the field and on the sidelines — the Lion Heart,” he says. “Even though the Lions have been the underdog a lot, it’s in those moments that you have to dig a little deeper and cheer a little louder, because our time will come.”
One of Campioni’s most special sports memories was taking his boys to their first Lions game and watching it through their eyes. He also lists Barry Sanders and Herman Moore as his favorite former Lions and T.J. Hockenson and Head Coach Dan Campbell as his favorite current Lions.
Comerica’s Detroit’s Biggest Fan will continue in 2022, and fans can participate by visiting here.
Birmingham Shopping District Supports Local Businesses via Consumer Initiatives
The Birmingham Shopping District is supporting local businesses in a variety of ways through partnerships and campaigns.
Recently, the Birmingham Shopping District was selected as a recipient of the Consumers Energy “Our Town” program, a dollar-for-dollar match program for the purchase of downtown district gift cards. The BSD received $10,000 from Consumers Energy to match purchases of “Birmingham Bucks” e-gift cards purchased through the Birmingham Shopping District. During the promotional period, shoppers that purchased a $10, $25 or $50 e-gift card were given a $10, $25 or $50 e-gift card free!
“The program was widely received by the community with hundreds of e-gift cards sold and distributed in just a few days,” says Sean Kammer, executive director of BSD. “This program not only benefits the consumer, but also our local businesses, as Birmingham Bucks e-gift cards keep dollars within the community and can be used at over 70 restaurants and retailers in the district.”
Additionally, the BSD recently launched Spread Joy Birmingham, an ongoing campaign intended to brighten the day of shoppers and visitors through random acts of kindness, surprise giveaways, including Birmingham Bucks e-gift cards, and more throughout the district.
Each year, the BSD hosts a variety of community events, including the annual Farmers Market, Outdoor Movie Nights, Winter Markt, and more, creating traditions and a strong sense of place for the downtown. The Spread Joy Birmingham campaign was created as an extension of these activities, adding to downtown Birmingham’s welcoming and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
“The Spread Joy Birmingham campaign has allowed us to highlight our community-focused spirit and the welcoming nature of our downtown,” says Jaimi Brook, operations and events manager for BSD. “We want everyone who visits our events, parks and businesses to leave feeling better than when they arrived,” “We look forward to the continuation of this campaign.”
For more information, visit here.
Grand Traverse Pie Co. Shares the Goodness of Pi Day
In honor of Pi Day, March 14 (3.14), a day noted by math enthusiasts around the world, the Grand Traverse Pie Co. will be celebrating by serving a free slice of Michigan ABC Crumb Pie (apples, blueberries, and cherries) with any purchase.
Grand Traverse Pie Co. says it always features Michigan products in every pie. This year’s free pie slices are made with Montmorency Cherries, Rubel Blueberries, Northern Spy Apples, and Michigan sugar and flour. About 1.5 million pounds of these Michigan apples, blueberries, cherries, sugar, and flour go into Grand Traverse Pie Co.’s pies every year.
“Pie is part of America’s desire for comfort food,” says Mike Busley, co-founder of Grand Traverse Pie Co. “Not just pie that meets every sweet tooth’s desire, but also chicken pot pies along with quiche are served up for comfort all year long too. We’re honored to share the goodness of comfort each and every day through all sorts of pie. Any way you slice it, pie is America’s comfort food.”
Visit gtpie.com to find out more about Pi Day and locations celebrating this year’s mathematical holiday.
Forbes Michigan Fashion Media Summit Slated for March 24-25
The fifth annual Michigan Fashion Media Summit is scheduled to take place March 24-25 virtually and in person at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The event’s launch party will take place at 6 p.m. March 24 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
The summit will include industry-defining speakers, sponsorships, and networking opportunities with some of the top names in fashion and retail.
One of the event’s keynote speakers is Shona Pinnock, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Louis Vuitton North America. Throughout the day, several speaker panels will cover a diverse area of topics from the creator economy, to NFTs, to an entire panel dedicated to the production of a launch. The event’s newly rendered hybrid platform is designed to allow it to greatly expand its reach to a far greater audience spanning country wide.
Michigan Children’s Author Anita Pazner Launches New Book
Michigan author Anita Pazner has written her first children’s book based on the Topsy-Turvy Bus. The bus travels around the country teaching communities the importance of taking care of the earth and creating a better, cleaner, healthier world.
The book is based on the real Topsy-Turvy Bus owned by Hazon, the largest religious environmental agency in North America. The Topsy-Turvy bus is the product of Hazon Detroit — a Jewish lab of sustainability that focuses on educating people and using the oddity to promote environmental awareness and conservation.
And the Topsy-Turvy bus runs on solar power and vegetable oil. The bus brings that awareness about recycling, gardening, and water. The organization Hazon believes it has an obligation to care for the environment and to educate people about how they too can care for the world and that is their mission.
The idea was first inspired by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which said the world is upside down. To honor that sentiment, they built a bus to reflect and raise awareness about the world’s randomness. The Topsy Turvy Bus, running is a bio-fueled environment, is a schoolhouse on wheels.
Mariners’ Church of Detroit to Celebrate Annual ‘Blessing of the Fleet’
Mariners’ Church of Detroit will host its 58th annual “Blessing of the Fleet” service at 3 p.m. on March 13. This tradition has served thousands of sailors throughout the years to launch a safe and successful seafaring season.
Metro Detroiters, Michiganders, and boaters from all over the Midwest are invited to bring their burgees, colors, pennants, and pennons to Mariners’ Church for a special seafarers’ blessing. This year’s service also will be livestreamed on YouTube making it more accessible to professional and recreational boaters from across the region.
“We’re always excited to celebrate the new boating season and to wish all of our seamen and women safe passage, calm waters and enjoyable journeys,” says Fr. Jeffrey Hubbard, pastor of Mariners’ Church. “The last few years have been challenging but Mariners’ has been a house of prayer for all people, for 180 years and has weathered its share of challenges.
“We hope to have a large audience of in-person and on-line participants join the service, enjoy our incredible professional choir, and receive the blessing for themselves, their boats, crews, passengers and the boating season ahead.”
The Blessing of the Fleet includes the presentation of the Capt. Lewis Ludington Award that commemorates the ongoing work of the International Ship Master’s Association. This year’s award winner is Capt. Roger G. Hewlett, who has been a member of the International Ship Masters’ Association since 1990. His lodge memberships include Twin Ports Lodge #12, Sault Ste. Marie Lodge #22, and presently Port Huron Lodge #2.
Additionally, Capt. Kathleen A. McGraw from Detroit Lodge No. 7 and Mariners’ Church, will read the names of 61 Great Lakes sailors who died in 2021, with the Shipmasters tolling the Octorara Bell in their honor. The Octorara bell came from a ship of the same name, an Iroquois word meaning “long remembered.” It’s the largest bell ever cast of bronze for a Great Lakes ship, and now it serves a singular role: to honor fallen seamen.
Mariners’ Church of Detroit is located at 170 E. Jefferson Ave. at the entrance to the Windsor Tunnel. Free parking is available at the Ford Auditorium Garage.
Zekelman Holocaust Center Hosts ‘Defeating Nazis in Court’ Event
The Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills is hosting an event titled Defeating Nazis in Court – The Charlottesville Trial on March 20 featuring Integrity First for America Executive Director Amy Spitalnick.
There will be two seatings (at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.) of the conversation with Spitalnick regarding the landmark court case and the broader fight against violent white supremacy. Each seating will be followed by a dessert reception.
The event will be moderated by Barbara McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where she teaches courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, data privacy, national security, and civil liberties.
“We are honored to welcome Barbara McQuade to The Zekelman Holocaust Center to moderate this special Member Event,” says Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of the Holocaust Center. “With her experience, Ms. McQuade can provide real insight into the law, and having her in discussion with Amy Spitalnick will make for an insightful look into this case and its long-reaching effects.”
Spitalnick will speak about how neo-Nazis and white supremacists carried out a violent, racist, and antisemitic attack in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. IFA took the organizers to court and won — securing millions of dollars in damages. Spitalnick will lead a conversation on the topic at the Member Thank You Event, providing special insights on the court case and the greater threat of white supremacy.
Membership begins at $50, which includes a year of free museum admission per household, and is tax-deductible. Membership support enables the center to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and the importance of standing up to hatred and antisemitism.
To become a member and register for the program, please call 248-536-9605 by March 15. Current members can register here.
Free Online Textbook Program Has Saved WCC Students $9M Since 2017
Since Fall 2017 when the zero-cost textbook program, officially known as Open Education Resources (OER), was introduced, students at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor have saved nearly $9 million in the college’s 47 courses offering OER.
WCC now offers four entirely no-cost textbook business certificates, and the college is close to offering zero-cost textbook associate degrees, also known as Z Degrees.
OER is a growing movement in higher education and is being highlighted during Open Education Week March 7-11. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the costs of textbooks have increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. Such figures are “staggering and not sustainable,” says Molly Ledermann, professional librarian who leads WCC’s Bailey Library OER faculty cohorts dedicated to the effort.
The cost of purchasing textbooks can range between $300-$500 each semester, depending on the number and types of courses. In some cases, even with WCC’s low tuition of $95 per credit hour for in-district students, a textbook could potentially exceed tuition fees. Nationally, during the 2020-2021 school year, the average cost of books and supplies for students at public two-year colleges was $1,460, according to the College Board.
“It’s no easy feat to develop a quality free online textbook to cover all the content standards for a class,” adds Ledermann. “Faculty members work in cohorts with librarians, developing original content, scouring open resources, mixing and matching graphics and other types of information, and navigating through the issues of attributions and copyrights.”
A leader in this effort among community colleges in the State of Michigan, WCC’s OER program is one of three two-year institutions statewide highlighted by the Michigan OER Network.
“We are committed to providing an excellent education for all students, no matter their socioeconomic background,” says Rose B. Bellanca, president of WCC. “Our growing OER efforts help tremendously with affordability, and students can be assured that the quality and content of the materials is exceptional.”