DBusiness Daily Update: Diamonds Direct Opens First Michigan Showroom in Troy, 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.
Diamonds Direct has opened its first Michigan showroom in Troy. // Courtesy of Encore Development
Diamonds Direct has opened its first Michigan showroom in Troy. // Courtesy of Encore Development

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.

Diamonds Direct Opens First Michigan Showroom in Troy

Diamonds Direct recently opened its first Michigan showroom and its 26th overall at 1985 West Big Beaver Rd. in Troy, further expanding its footprint in the Midwest region. The company already has outlets in Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, and Missouri.

“We are thrilled to open our first showroom in Michigan,” says Niv Ankawa, regional vice president for Diamonds Direct. “Troy is an amazing community that is underserved in the diamond and bridal category. We are excited to add tremendous value to the local market through our educational process, selection, and legendary service offerings.”

Diamonds Direct says it has an advantage over traditional jewelry stores. With a buying office inside the world diamond exchange in Tel Aviv, it cuts out all middlemen and maintains involvement in the entire lifecycle of a diamond.

Troy store general manager, Jennifer Alter, is a Michigan native who began her career at just 15 years old as a bench jeweler. Now, she is a 36-year veteran of the fine jewelry industry with extensive experience and relationships in the Detroit region. Alter chose to join the Diamonds Direct team in 2021.

“I am thrilled to bring the Diamonds Direct concept to my hometown and be able to share all I’ve come to learn and love about the company with the community I’m so proud to call home,” Alter says.

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Breaks Ground on Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and partners broke ground Tuesday on the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, a 22-acre park located on Detroit’s West Riverfront, marking a major step forward in the conservancy’s goal of completing 5.5 miles of revitalized riverfront.

Ralph Wilson Park is designed to transform the Detroit Riverfront into one of the most beautiful public spaces in the country and is a $75 million investment for the community. The park’s name honors the legacy of the late entrepreneur, veteran, and philanthropist Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and will be completed in 2024.

“We have known for years that this part of the riverfront had tremendous potential, and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation encouraged us to dream big,” says Matt Cullen, chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “Parks like this only happen once in a lifetime. Ralph Wilson Park will rank among the best parks in the country and have a profound impact on neighborhoods, and generations of Detroiters will gather together here and make memories that last a lifetime.”

Partners involved in bringing the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park to fruition include the city of Detroit, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Huron-Clinton Metroparks, Delta Dental of Michigan and DTE Energy Foundation, which announced a $2.5 million gift for the park’s DTE Foundation Hill.

The Ralph Wilson Park will feature a water garden, the William Davidson Sport House, the Delta Dental Play Garden with an array of animal structures, and the DTE Foundation Hill, an expansive lawn for special events.

The William Davidson Sport House will add to the public offerings on the Detroit Riverfront and features a raised canopy and skylight in a multi-use flexible space for a range of programs and events. The William Davidson Foundation granted $10 million in support of the conservancy’s campaign.

Female Franchisee in Detroit Diversifies Portfolio with Pool Scouts

Nora Farhat, owner of a British Swim School location, has started a Pool Scouts service in Detroit. The 110-unit pool cleaning franchise, owned by Buzz Franchise Brands, is Farhat’s second investment under the Buzz umbrella.

She has been running her swim school for seven years and also owns a Mathnasium tutoring center.

“After a few years, I was looking to expand my portfolio,” Farhat says. “I look at things I use myself and try to align it with a brand that provides the service at a high level of quality. We own our own pools as well, so we were seeing a struggle and a cycle of very few players and an unprofessional level of service. People need to be able to rely on the service and prices.”

Farhat says she believes her unit of Pool Scouts will do “great,” if the triumphs she has seen with British Swim School is any indication. She took on that venture after moving back to the U.S. from Abu Dhabi, and even though she didn’t have any experience in the pool business, her background in operations helped make the transition to franchise ownership a successful one. Her British Swim School location is up 70 percent year over year over 2021.

AT&T Launches First Nationwide Location-based Routing to Improve Response to Wireless 911 Calls

AT&T is the first carrier to launch location-based routing to automatically transmit wireless 911 calls to the appropriate 911 call centers on a nationwide basis.

Through this new “Locate Before Route” feature from Intrado, AT&T can quickly and more accurately identify where a wireless 911 call is coming from using device GPS and hybrid information to route the call to the correct 911 call center, also known as public safety answering point or PSAP.

With location-based routing, a device can be located and routed within 50 meters of the device location. Prior to this launch, wireless 911 calls were routed based on the location of cell towers, which can cover up to a 10-mile radius. This can cause delays in emergency response, especially when a call is made within PSAP border areas where state, county or city boundaries overlap.

The nationwide rollout has started and is available in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Guam. Additional regions will be rolled out over the next several weeks. The nationwide rollout is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Funding Available to Support Small Manufacturers Statewide Adopt Industry 4.0

Michigan’s small manufacturers looking to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies now are able to apply for grants of up to $25,000 as part of the $3 million Industry 4.0 Technology Implementation Grant program, the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Grants will be reimbursement-based and will cover up to 50 percent of eligible technologies, including additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, automation, and more.

“In order to remain competitive, Michigan will help prepare manufacturers to adopt new and innovative technologies for the future through programs like the Industry 4.0 initiative,” says Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and president and chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund Board. “By supporting local partners and communities through these regional grants, we are strengthening our state’s leadership in advanced manufacturing and the entrepreneurship and jobs this innovative sector supports for years to come.”

In April, six grants were awarded to the following organizations:

  • Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association — $294,118
  • Macomb County — $382,353
  • Manufacturing Growth Alliance — $1,323,529
  • Networks Northwest — $117,647
  • Southwest Michigan First — $294,118
  • The Right Place — $588,235

Grant applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all funds are allocated. To learn more about the requirements of the program and to view the grant application, visit here.

Automotive Hall of Fame to Host Women in Racing Event June 1

The Automotive Hall of Fame (AHF) in Dearborn and Women Shifting Gears are conducting the first Women in Motorsports Symposium, from 4-9 p.m. on June 1 at the Automotive Hall of Fame (21400 Oakwood Blvd.) to support Women in Motorsports North America (WIMNA).

The event will celebrate the history and future of women in motorsports, with film screenings, panel discussions, vehicle displays and an afterglow. All proceeds will benefit WIMNA, which is a nonprofit organization.

Event activities include panel discussions, vehicle displays, and an afterglow sponsored by Hagerty. Activities and participants include:

  • The first theater screening of “Boundless: Betty Skelton” and the first installment of the documentary series “Left Behind.”
  • Pam Miller, producer of FOX NASCAR Cup races.
  • Cindy Sisson, CEO of GSEvents.
  • Lyn St. James, co-founder WIMNA, representative at FIA Women in Motorsports Commission, and 2022 Automotive Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Beth Paretta, co-founder WIMNA and CEO of Paretta Autosports.
  • Taylor Ferns, racecar driver and law student.
  • Laura Wontrop Klauser, sports car racing program manager at General Motors Co.

Tickets range in price from $25-$75 and can be purchased here.

WCCCD and SWCRC Regional Workforce to Host Program Fair for Women May 18

The Regional Workforce Talent Initiative (RWTI), a regional partnership of Wayne County Community College District and the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber, is hosting the Women’s Professional Career & Program Fair.

The free event will take place from 10 a.m.-noon on May 18 at Wayne County Community College District’s Ted Scott Campus (9555 Haggerty Rd.) in Van Buren Township.

“The Career and Program Fair will provide our region with a powerful resource toward overcoming historic employment barriers, and will connect strong women talent with non-traditional career pathways throughout the region,” says Anthony Arminiak, vice chancellor and regional campus president at WCCCD.

Registration is requested for women job seekers who plan to attend the event. A list of participating businesses and confidential registration is located here.

NXG Youth Motorsports Builds Motor City Momentum in Second Year

The Nexgeneracers (NXG) Youth Motorsports program continues to build momentum in the Motor City while creating opportunities and teaching life lessons to inner-city Detroit students through racing.

Following a successful first year of expansion to Detroit with a pilot program in 2021, NXG has expanded its outreach and its presence in the community in 2022, thanks to the continued support from program partner Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

With its new home at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, NXG Detroit already has hosted its first weekend experience for students in 2022 and two additional two-day classes are locked in for this summer, including later this month. In addition, the Detroit-area students that participated in the two inaugural NXG events last year and those that attend the first two weekend classes in 2022 all will be invited to the upcoming Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 4-5, for a behind-the-scenes experience and educational opportunity at their hometown event.

“NXG’s program expansion into Detroit last year was very successful,” says Ken Hayward, vice president and special assistant to the president for Community Relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We look forward to see this year’s cohorts thrive and excel in their program courses. This initiative is a testament to Detroit’s namesake as the Motor City. We also appreciate this opportunity as it helps keep Michigan’s children healthy and active, both on the track and in the classroom.”

Modeled after the NXG youth development program in Indianapolis, Ind., that has educated hundreds of urban youth over the last 15 plus years, NXG Detroit offers a two-day course that combines classroom instruction and STEM learning with life skill development and on-track vehicle training in state-of-the-art go-karts on a customed-designed course.

The third NXG Detroit session in 2022 is scheduled for Sept. 10-11 at Cass Tech with an MA 300 session featuring students that participated in April’s MA 200 class. For more information on NXG Youth Motorsports visit here.

DIA Exhibit ‘By Her Hand’ Free for Tri-county Residents May 13-15

The Detroit Institute of Arts is offering free admission to its special exhibition “By Her Hand” for residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties from May 13-15. Reservations are required and can be made here.

“By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800” explores the untold stories of women artists in the male-dominated Italian art world. This exhibition highlights 17 women of this time period, featuring self-portraits, realistic still lifes, scenes of women’s bravery, and meditative religious scenes.

It organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Detroit Women of Comedy Festival Returns to the Stage After Three Year Absence

The Detroit Women of Comedy Festival, an annual celebration of underrepresented voices and diverse perspectives in comedy, is returning to the stage May 20-21, at Ant Hall and The Independent Comedy Club in Hamtramck.

The festival features stand-up, improv, sketch comedy, and podcasts from more than 50 performers hailing from metro Detroit and beyond. It will be the first in-person Detroit Women of Comedy Festival since 2019, though in 2021 the local group of organizers orchestrated a digital festival that drew thousands of viewers over three days of virtual performances.

“After waiting so long to be able to the fest in person, we’re so incredibly excited to gather with this amazing lineup,” says Kate Holmes, producer of the festival. “So many talented people submitted this year, and we’re grateful to be able to shine a light on so many hilarious women and their allies.”

Marcella Arguello is the headliner of the festival. Tickets and the full schedule can be found here.

Buddy’s Pizza Clarkston Grand Opening Benefits Lighthouse MI

When Buddy’s Pizza opened its new Clarkston location last month, it donated $11,000 of its opening day sales to Lighthouse MI, a nonprofit that works to eliminate the homeless situation in Oakland County.

The Clarkston restaurant is the 21st Buddy’s Pizza location to open. The design concept features a layout specifically engineered for the carryout experience, including a grab-and-go station for online orders and a redesigned kitchen optimized for carryout. The new model aims to increase service speeds and enhance the overall guest experience, while still including classic features that make a visit to Buddy’s Pizza special such as decor elements that incorporate the local community of Clarkston.

Buddy’s Pizza also is partnering with the Clarkston Community Schools Therapy Dog Program. Buddy’s Pizza will match all donation sales received through the Buddy Bones program to benefit all Clarkston Community Schools.

Installation of Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out Exhibits is Underway

The Detroit Institute of Arts Inside|Out pieces are being installed in the 26 cities chosen for the 2022 program throughout the month. Each community will display between four and 10 reproductions.

Inside|Out brings high-quality reproductions of masterpieces from the DIA’s collection to outdoor venues throughout metro Detroit. Through this program, the DIA has partnered with more than 100 communities across the region.

Pieces will be on view from May through early November.

Cities and their installation dates include:

  • Holly and Lincoln Park, May 9.
  • Birmingham and River Rouge, May 10.
  • Troy and West Bloomfield, May 11.
  • Centerline and Southfield, May 12.
  • Warren, Farmington, Freedom Hill, and Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, May 16.
  • Hamtramck and Roseville, May 17.
  • Armada and New Baltimore, May 18.
  • Greektown, Macomb Community College, and Canton, May 19.
  • Oakland Community College campuses in Royal Oak, Southfield, and Farmington Hills, and Rouge Park, May 20.
  • Oakland Community College campuses in Highland Lakes and Auburn Hills, May 23.
  • Indian Springs and Wolcott Mill Metroparks, May 23.
  • Oakland County Parks in Leonard and Clarkston, and Willow Metropark in New Boston, May 24.
  • Oakland County Parks in Southfield and Madison Heights, Wayne County Community College campuses in Taylor and Belleville District, and Southfield and Madison Heights, May 25.
  • Wayne County Community College Northwestern, Eastern, and Harper Woods campuses, May 26.

Annual Rouge River Cleanup Set for May 21

The city of Southfield will host the 52nd Annual Rouge River Cleanup on Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m.-noon. The event is a half-day cleanup and celebration of the city’s continued commitment to the restoration and revitalization of the Rouge River.

The general public is invited to participate; however advance registration is required for logjam removal by emailing bsiedlaczek@cityofsouthfield.com by May 20.

“The Rouge River, which encompasses 126 miles of urban waterway, runs through 48 communities in southeastern Michigan, providing flood relief and rural serenity,” says Brandy Siedlaczek, storm water manager for Southfield. “The cleanup helps protect this valuable natural resource by removing impediments that block the flow of water — allowing the river to flow freely and heal itself along with affording local residential, education, and business communities the opportunity to work together to improve the environment.”

An additional volunteer event also will take place May 21 at Berberian Woods in Southfield to remove invasive plants and weeding from 9 a.m.-noon at the end of Streamwood (walk down two-track lane and cross the bridge).

Call Siedlaczek at 248-796-4806 for more information.

EMU Baseball Players Sign NIL Deal with Detroit Fintech Startup TiiCKER

Four Eastern Michigan University baseball players — Shane Easter, Zach Fruit, Mason Marquis, and Glenn Miller — have signed a name, image, and likeness (NIL) agreements with Detroit-based TiiCKER, a Fintech startup.

The athletes will receive the merchandise and personal branding opportunities in exchange for social media promotions, public appearances, and other similar responsibilities.

TiiCKER’s NIL Program is focused on non-revenue sports like baseball, track and field, and swimming, the college sport of TiiCKER Founder Jeff Lambert, as these athletes train and compete equally and at the highest level, but with little fanfare. These athletes mirror the often-overlooked investors in the stock market, which is the focus of TiiCKER and its business model to give perks and rewards to all investors.

“Underdog stories have the power to inspire others for decades, and as a startup, we understand the dynamics of both the overlooked and the everyday competitor,” says Lambert. “Having these athletes on board is a win-win — it allows them an opportunity to work and experience real-life business and marketing, while also receiving the support they need to monetize their personal brand. They have a bright future ahead, and we’re proud to kick off our ‘Everyday Athletes of TiiCKER’ NIL Program with these EMU studs.”

TiiCKER sponsorship is open to eligible student-athletes at any NCAA Division I university. With the ability to reach more than 176,000 student-athletes across 24 sports and 350 schools, the program offers athletes of all genders an opportunity to become paid affiliate brand ambassadors. Launching in phases over the next 12 months, the program will begin with local underdog teams and scale nationwide by 2023.

“We are excited to create a partnership with TiiCKER and Jeff Lambert, who is a proven winner and former student-athlete himself,” says Eric Roof, head baseball coach at EMU. “He understands the role of a D1 athlete and how determination and discipline can shape you into successful employees and future businesspeople. Add in that TiiCKER is headquartered in Detroit, and it makes the opportunity for our guys that much more meaningful and exciting.”

Burns & Wilcox Brand Ambassador Max Homa Wins Wells Fargo Championship

Max Homa, a brand ambassador for Burns & Wilcox, a Farmington Hills-based wholesale insurance brokerage and underwriting firm, won last weekend’s Wells Fargo Championship in Potomac, Md.

The win marks Homa’s fourth career PGA Tour victory and the second time he earned the Wells Fargo trophy. This is also his second win since joining Team Burns & Wilcox in early 2021.

“I am thankful to partner with Team Burns & Wilcox and for their ongoing support as we both continue to make game-changing strides and impact as champions in our fields,” says Homa. “This accomplishment is incredibly rewarding, and I am certainly motivated to carry the momentum, energy and focus throughout the season, on and off the course.”

Burns & Wilcox currently sponsors three PGA Tour players: Homa, seven-time winner Webb Simpson, and six-time winner Jimmy Walker.

Red Cross Says Blood Donations Needed Ahead of Summer

The American Red Cross says it typically sees a decline in donors during the summer months, which can impact patient care and that it’s important that donors make an appointment to give now before heading out for summer activities to help maintain a stable blood supply in the coming months.

In thanks for helping boost the blood supply, all who come to give through May 19, will receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice and will also be automatically entered to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps eight. Details are available at rcblood.org/camper. Those who come to give May 20-31 will receive a 20-ounce Red Cross aluminum water bottle and customizable sticker set, while supplies last.

To schedule an appointment to donate blood, platelets or plasma, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).