DBusiness Daily Update: Cruise Ship Visits to West Michigan Generate $700k in Economic Impact, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Cruise ship docked
The Aerial of Mist docked in Muskegon. // Photo by Evan Clark

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

Cruise Ship Visits to West Michigan Generate $700k in Economic Impact

Cruise passenger spending generated nearly $700,000 in economic impact for west Michigan in 2023, according to Visit Muskegon and the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

In 2023, approximately 2,500 passengers visited Muskegon, spread over 18 visits from three cruise ships: the Pearl Mist (nine), Ocean Navigator (four), and Ponant’s Le Dumont D’Urville (five). Regionally, nearly 25,000 passengers made 800 visits to Great Lakes ports in 2023, an increase of more than 20 percent from last year.

“Collaborating with Visit Muskegon to promote our area as a cruise destination has delivered increased tourism to our city,” says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “The growing economic impact of cruise passengers in Muskegon demonstrates the value of our vibrant community and the opportunities it offers visitors.”

For more information, visit cruisethegreatlakes.com.

Michigan Virtual Selects California-based Video Platform

Michigan Virtual, a nonprofit organization that provides K-12 online learning solutions to improve student success statewide, has selected the YuJa Enterprise Video Platform based in California as an all-in-one solution for video and media creation, hosting, storage and distribution.

Michigan Virtual offers online, at-risk, advanced placement, core, and other courses, as well as professional development courses for educators.

The institution was seeking a video platform that would enable them to curate and manage content in a centralized system. It was using another video platform, but needed enhanced organization, search, and delivery capabilities that also provided enhanced security, permissions, and accessibility.

The Video Platform will provide the institution with learning tools that facilitate the creation of multimedia content. In addition, it is designed to enable Michigan Virtual to enhance teaching and learning with capabilities like lecture capture, auto captioning, video quizzing, and through embedding videos directly into D2L Brightspace, its learning management system. Other built-in tools within YuJa, such as automated production, processing, publishing, and managing of video content, all help streamline workflows and enable course designers and instructors to create engaging learning experiences.

“Michigan Virtual partners with hundreds of districts throughout the state to provide innovative, flexible learning solutions for students of various levels, from at-risk to advanced, and educators,” says Nathan Arora, chief business officer at YuJa Inc. “With such a variety, it’s critical to be able to create and manage content in a way that makes sense for everyone. We’re excited for the institution to have an all-in-one solution to help them meet the needs of diverse learners.”

Andiamo Bistro Now Serving Wine and Beer at Casual Sit-down Italian Bistro

Andiamo Bistro, a casual sit-down Italian bistro in Washington Township, has added wine and beer to its Italian cuisine menu.

The Bistro will be offering two red and two wine options: Andiamo Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Andiamo Cabernet, and Chianti along with several light beer options including Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, Peroni, and Stella Artois.

The menu includes entrée options like pasta dishes, flatbread pizzas, and paninis in addition to an array of salads, soups, sides, and desserts. Nightly specials feature some of Andiamo’s classics.

“We wanted to complement our guest’s dining experience and we are thrilled to now offer them the chance to savor not only some of our delicious signature Andiamo dishes, but delicious wines that will pair beautifully with their meals choices,” says Joe Vicari, president of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group.

In addition to wine sold for in-dining guests, Andiamo Bistro also will be selling wine by the bottle for those who are interested in purchasing carry-out orders.

For more information, visit andiamobistro.com.

Ann Arbor’s Blue Kangaroo Packoutz Celebrates 100th Territory Opening

Blue Kangaroo Packoutz, the Ann Arbor-based contents cleaning and restoration service provider, has opened its 100th franchise territory.

The achievement comes after the brand’s largest graduating franchise classes were hosted last quarter in Ann Arbor. In Q4 alone, Blue Kangaroo Packoutz franchisees launched their services in 31 new territories across the country.

The recent training included hands-on sessions at Belfor Franchise Group’s state-of-the-art facility, where new business owners learn the ins and outs of Blue Kangaroo Packoutz’s intricate, detail-oriented process, from initial assessment to the thorough packback process.

“As the new year begins, I look forward to continuing to fill the national map with Blue Kangaroo Packoutz locations and meeting the wonderful new franchisees that will offer our services in their communities,” says Tim Fagan, president of Blue Kangaroo Packoutz. “Continuing to grow is something that we are always striving for. However, this ongoing growth simply wouldn’t be possible without the continued endeavors of the franchisees who have stayed with us over the years.”

For more information about Blue Kangaroo Packoutz and its services, visit bluekangaroopackoutz.com.

Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest by TechTown Returns in 2024

Comerica Bank and TechTown Detroit are gearing up for the return of the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest, a small business competition that awards $100,000 in startup funding from Comerica Bank to one winning entrepreneur seeking to open a Detroit brick-and-mortar storefront.

The competition, first launched in 2011, bolsters small business development in Detroit and will take place over the next four months, announcing this year’s winning business in the spring.

Entrepreneurs with a retail concept looking to open their first brick-and-mortar location in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park can submit their business plans via the Hatch Detroit website now through noon on Feb. 16.

The small business contest includes two rounds of public voting to determine the Top 10 and Top 4, allowing the community to vote for their favorite business to win the $100,000 grand prize from Comerica Bank as well as a business support package from TechTown Detroit and its partners.

The contest will culminate on May 9 with the annual “Hatch Off” where the Top 4 entrepreneurs present their business plans in front of a panel of expert judges and live audience and the winner is announced.


Jan. 3: Submissions begin

Jan. 18: Informational session

Feb. 16: Submission period ends

April 11: Top 10 announced

April 12-18: Top 10 public voting period

April 22: Top 4 announced

May 1-9: Top 4 voting public voting period and media tour

May 9: Winner announced at Hatch Off

Gesher Human Services Offers Free Women to Work Program

Gesher Human Services in Southfield will be conducting its free Women to Work program for metro Detroit women in January. The program offers women vital skills to gain immediate employment.

It begins with an informational meeting from 9-11 a.m. on Jan. 18 at the organization’s headquarters (29699 Southfield Road) in Southfield.

Classes will take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon beginning Jan. 23, with the opportunity for participants to stay on for the afternoon to take a basic computer class, enhancing the prospect of job opportunities.

Due to the popularity of the program and limited space in the classes, Gesher will conduct additional classes on Mondays and Wednesdays if demand is high. These classes will follow the same class outline and also will be followed by free basic computer classes if required.

For more information, visit geshermi.org/events. To register, contact Judy Richmond at 248-233- 4232 or email jrichmond@geshermi.org.