DBusiness Daily Update: Detroit ACE Partners with U-D Mercy School of Law to Offer Legal Advice to Artists, 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.
Detroit ACE is partnering with University of Detroit Mercy School of Law on a new Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic to assist local creatives with legal issues. // Courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit ACE is partnering with University of Detroit Mercy School of Law on a new Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic to assist local creatives with legal issues. // Courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy

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.

Detroit ACE Partners with U-D Mercy School of Law to Offer Legal Advice to Artists

The City of Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) is partnering with University of Detroit Mercy School of Law on a new Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic to support local creatives.

From murals to music and more, the Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic seeks to enhance the cultural richness of Detroit by providing pro bono legal services to creatives, including musicians, independent filmmakers, writers, artists, and photographers. The clinic, combined with existing patent and trademark clinical programs, provides students with access to a comprehensive intellectual property law practice experience.

“This clinic will fill a gap that artists need,” says Melissa Eckhause, assistant professor of law at U-D Mercy and the clinic’s director. “Michigan lost its only pro bono arts and entertainment law organization in 2019. The clinic seeks to empower artists by educating them about their legal rights and advocating on their behalf. It’s about preserving space for creatives to be expressive and ensuring our local creatives are not being taken advantage of and that they receive fair compensation for their creative property, which historically has disproportionally impacted women and minorities.”

Eckhause has more than a decade of experience representing music and film producers, Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, entertainment professionals, and professional athletes.

In addition to the legal services, the clinic also is partnering with Detroit ACE on special workshops and programs designed to help creatives protect their products and performances. It continues Detroit ACE’s commitment to treat members of the city’s creative workforce as small businesses. Detroit ACE offered a year of free entrepreneurship and business training last year thanks to the Kresge Foundation.

Matt Bower, a partner with Varnum LLP and a member of the firm’s corporate and intellectual property practice groups, is co-director of the clinic. He has extensive experience in a broad range of intellectual property matters including copyright protection and licensing, publicity rights, publishing, public art, and fair use.

Among the services the clinic will teach are: filing copyright registrations, preparing clearance reports and fair use analyses, drafting and commenting on music agreements, writing personal services agreements, securing location agreements and image releases and advising on defamation and publicity matters.

For more information, visit here.

Sawa Credit Partners with Ann Arbor’s Homepoint to Improve Borrower Financial Health

Sawa Credit Inc., an Oakland, Calif.-based community platform helping underserved borrowers build financial health, has formed a new partnership with Homepoint in Ann Arbor, the nation’s second-largest wholesale mortgage lender, to launch the first-ever community platform for mortgage holders.

“Inflation and elevated interest rates have impacted consumers everywhere, especially people who were already on the bubble of being able to buy a home and make payments consistently,” says Phil Shoemaker, president of originations at Homepoint. “Sawa’s commitment to supporting and protecting responsible homeowners aligns well with Homepoint’s efforts to promote financially healthy, happy homeownership throughout the country.”

Consisting of more than 200 people across the U.S., the community is a representative sample that is grouped into pods based on common interests including hobbies, geography, occupation, and age bracket. In each pod, participants are able to contribute to a community pot that other members can tap to increase people’s capacity to withstand financial shock. The platform, driven by behavioral science, has been developed in collaboration with Common Cents Lab, the financial research lab of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University.

“For too long, people have been unfairly judged based on credit score, which is an outdated way of judging an individual borrower’s creditworthiness,” says Charles Phillips, CEO at Sawa. “But when you leverage the power of community, a person’s capacity to pay their revolving debts is enhanced by the group multiple times over.

“We are pleased to partner with Homepoint — the leader in looking after borrowers and helping mortgage holders — and are grateful to Common Cents Lab for embarking on this journey with us as we show the industry that the group is a better bet than the individual.”

For more information, visit here.

2022 Black Footwear Forum Attracts 500+ Industry Leaders to Detroit

The 2022 Black Footwear Forum (BFF), conducted Sept. 16-18 at Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC) in partnership with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), welcomed more than 500 Black footwear industry leaders and aspiring professionals to in Detroit.

Called BFF Homecoming 2022, attendees, executives, industry leaders and the community of Detroit gathered for a three-day free event with celebrations, conversations, and networking as BFF continues to highlight, strengthen, and support Black professionals globally in the footwear industry.

“We called this year’s event ‘Homecoming’ because BFF is our moment to come together to reconnect, celebrate, educate, inspire, and just appreciate the Black geniuses who run this industry,” says D’Wayne Edwards, founder and president of PLC. “Every year, the BFF grows, not only in attendance but in cultural and industry significance. This year we gathered the most influential group of creatives, leaders, and aspiring future leaders of any conference to date.”

Among the highlights of BFF Homecoming 2022 were:

  • A conversation with Terrance Floyd, the brother of the late George Floyd.
  • A panel hosted by James Whitner, the American fashion entrepreneur, owner of streetwear boutiques Social Status, A Ma Maniere, and A.P.B.; and featuring April Walker, fashion icon, creator, author, educator; along with American sports analyst and former professional basketball player Jalen Rose.
  • Blacklights Awards were presented to selected industry experts, including women’s advocate and sneaker strategist and Jazerai Allen-Lord; retail icon James Whitner; YouTube phenomenon Jacques Slade; community-builder Rick Williams; author and Katalyst Kevin Carroll; industry pioneer and footwear design legend Wilson Smith.
  • Portia Blount, VP of Apparel for Reebok, and Jazerai Allen-Lord hosted the Sisters in Sole Women’s Brunch for more than 75+ Black women to celebrate the many significant women in the footwear industry.
  • A Kids Company About hosted a panel discussion for more than 200 students at University Prep Elementary School that featured award winning designer, entrepreneur and educator, Jason Mayden.
  • Stockx created a lounge as an extension of BFF in downtown Detroit, highlighted by the KICKS Magazine tribute to Black designers who graced its covers for the last 25 years, and who created kicks for NBA players for the last three decades. Champion also powered a live art showcase and panel discussion with Detroit artists.

HAP’s Medicare Advantage HMO Earns 4.5-star Rating; PPO Earns Four Stars

Detroit-based Health Alliance Plan (HAP) earned 4.5 stars (out of 5) for its Medicare Advantage HMO from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its Medicare Advantage PPO earned four stars.

CMS uses star ratings to measure the experiences Medicare beneficiaries have with their health plans to help consumers make informed decisions as they’re choosing a Medicare Advantage plan for the coming year.

With these ratings, HAP becomes the only Michigan-based insurer to consistently achieve 4.5 stars for its Medicare HMO plan the last three years in a row, as well as the only Michigan-based insurer to achieve four stars or higher for both HMO and PPO Medicare plans each of the past four years.

“HAP has proven to be the most consistent high-performing health plan in Michigan,” says Dr. Michael Genord, president and CEO of HAP. “HAP is committed to providing our members with an exceptional customer experience – every single time. These ratings are a testament to the efforts we make to put our members at the center of all we do.”

All health plans that offer Medicare coverage are evaluated by CMS based on quality, service, and member satisfaction.  Ratings are based on a five-star scale and are released every October to help Medicare beneficiaries select a health plan for the following calendar year. A plan must earn at least four stars to qualify for a quality bonus payment from CMS.  These bonus payments are invested back into member benefits and programs.

TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of Applebee’s

It has been 10 years since TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants (TSFR), based in Livonia, has added Applebee’s locations across Michigan to its restaurant portfolio.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary, TSFR will host an Applebee’s gift card giveaway this week. Ten loyalty members will be chosen from each restaurant to win $100 gift cards. For a chance to win, fans need to be enrolled in Applebee’s loyalty program or simply scan the QR code at their table when dining in.

Beginning today, guests can dine in or carryout at any TSFR Applebee’s locations to join the celebration. They also can save on Applebee’s limited time wing deal — order any Applebee’s handcrafted burger and add a plate of five boneless wings for $1 more.

“For 10 years TSFR has been leading the way in supporting the community and bringing families together in our restaurants,” says Mark Schostak, executive chairman of TSFR. “We are excited to celebrate this milestone with our guests and continue our commitment to positively impacting the neighborhoods we serve.”

Since adding Applebee’s to the TSFR family of restaurants, the company has donated

$2.4 million dollars to Muscular Dystrophy Association, JDRF (fighting diabetes campaign), Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Make a Wish, and the TSFR Care Fund.

For more information, visit teamschostak.com.

New Oakland County Legal Program Provides Eviction and Foreclosure Relief  

The Oakland Mediation Center (OMC) in Bloomfield Hills has initiated a new Legal Aid Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention program to help renters and property owners, who may have fallen behind on their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The services are free for people who qualify.

The program, which launched Feb. 1, is part of a joint partnership with Lakeshore Legal Aid and Legal Aid and Defenders Association. Awarded by a county grant, the program helps to provide legal assistance to tenants or homeowners at risk of or subject to eviction or foreclosure. OMC’s legal services department has already assisted 166 individuals in addition to the 989 cases facilitated by mediation services in pretrial hearings. Most cases have been resolved within 30 days.

The benefits of the Legal Aid Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention program include access to justice, legal resources, and education that empowers clients. The program also helps relieve the burden and stress related to the eviction process.

“The pandemic has created so many challenges for people who live in Michigan,” says Charity Burke, executive director of OMC. “Our goal is to keep people in their homes and provide support and resources to residents who would normally not receive them — people whose lives have been affected because of COVID-19’s impact.”

The Legal Aid Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention program is part of a larger program at OMC offering low-cost legal services. For those who do not qualify for free services, rates range from $60 to $145 per hour depending on income, household size, and the complexity of the case. The average cost for most cases is $120 per hour.

To schedule an appointment, renters and homeowners in Michigan must call 248-338-4280 or email legalservices@mediation-omc.org. Requests also can be submitted through the OMC website.

OMC has partnered with 51st Waterford District Court, 52-4th Troy District Court, 52-3rd Rochester Hills District Court, 48th Bloomfield Hills District Court, and Oakland County to execute the Legal Aid Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention program.

Wayne State University Graduation Rate Gains Continue Despite Pandemic

Wayne State University in Detroit has released its new six-year graduation rate, 60.3 percent, an 8 percent increase over last year and more than double that of the low 26 percent rate just over a decade ago.

Gains are particularly significant this year among first-generation (27 percent), low-income (18 percent), and Hispanic students (31 percent).

On the heels of a big increase last year, the Black graduation rate went up another 14 percent this year and is now close to 40 percent — more than five times the rate in 2011.

“I am proud of our overall improvement and that we continue to make significant strides to close the student success equity gap among students of color,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “This work takes a lot of effort and focus, but we’ve shown that it can be done.”

Darryl Gardner, senior director of academic student affairs in the Office of the Provost, says the ongoing success is the result of a change in culture initiated and supported by Wilson to one in which every single student matters.

“This shift has transformed the student experience at Wayne State and led to the university becoming one of the most rapidly improving large public universities in the nation,” Gardner says. “I think it really speaks to the collective hard work of the entire campus.”

Gardner says student success operations have improved steadily each year across the board beginning in 2011, with a $10 million investment that allowed for the hiring of 45 additional academic advisors, improving curriculum in general education courses, increasing support for faculty teaching development, bolstering support for underprepared students, establishing first-year experiences for new students and strengthening financial aid.

In 2019, under the leadership of Associate Provost for Student Success Monica Brockmeyer, the Student Success Operational Excellence (SSOE) office was developed to provide the concentrated effort required to inspire the next wave of innovation and deepen collaboration campus-wide.

“We’ve improved our progress monitoring system so that we can offer students more real-time and just-in-time support, so we’re staging interventions more proactively for students versus reactively,” Gardner says.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, a Student Success Collaborative was quickly formed and managed by the SSOE team to transition many academic support programs and academic advisors to the remote and online environment. Six working groups were created and eventually 25 action teams were launched to work on critical problems facing students. This included teams helping students reach graduation and one looking specifically at policies through an equity lens that could disproportionately impact specific student groups.

In all, more than 150 people across the university engaged in the project and found the approach so effective and rewarding that they were built into student success initiatives moving forward.