DBusiness Daily Update: DTE Energy Buys Isabella Wind Farms in Mid-Michigan, Small Business Group Urges End to Federal Unemployment Supplement, 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.
map of coronavirus cases in Michigan by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of May 11

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.

DTE Energy Buys Isabella Wind Projects in Mid-Michigan
DTE Energy, Michigan’s leading producer of renewable energy, has purchased the Isabella Wind I and II projects in Isabella County, west of Midland, from Apex Clean Energy in Virginia.

The wind farms, totaling 383 MW, are the largest clean energy facilities in the state and in DTE’s portfolio. Apex developed and managed construction of the wind farms, which DTE now will operate.

“With stakeholders at every level — from localities and utilities to power buyers and the statehouse — helping drive the transition to clean energy in the Great Lakes State, Apex and DTE brought to life the largest wind projects in the history of Michigan,” says Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy. “Alongside partners like DTE, we will continue to pioneer the new energy economy, both in Michigan and beyond.”

The Isabella Wind projects will serve commercial and industrial customers — including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and the University of Michigan — which have enrolled in MIGreenPower, DTE’s voluntary renewable energy program.

The Isabella Wind facilities will generate approximately $30 million in tax revenue for the local community, $100 million in landowner payments over the lifetime of the project, more than 350 jobs during construction, up to 20 long-term operations and maintenance positions, and enough clean energy to power the equivalent of 86,000 average U.S. homes.

Small Business Group Urges End to Federal Unemployment Supplement
The National Federation of Independent Business has urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to follow the lead of other states and end participation in the federal supplemental unemployment benefit program that provides an additional $300 a week in benefits through Sept. 4.

The organization referenced its new jobs report that shows a record 44 percent of small business owners report having job openings they could not fill, 22 points higher than the 48-year historical average, and two points higher than the 42 percent figure from March.

April is the third consecutive month with a record-high reading of unfilled job openings among small businesses. NFIB suggested that Michigan’s numbers are probably worse given the longer period of shutdowns and restrictions than the rest of the country.

“It is time to reconsider Michigan’s participation in the federally funded temporary pandemic UI programs that have been extended under the American Rescue Plan Act, and replace them with return to work incentives,” says Charlie Owens state director of NFIB. “Montana, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Iowa have already announced plans to move in that direction as hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, and in Michigan, go begging for workers.”

Owens says small business owners shared their frustrations in trying to hire workers at a recent House Government Operations Committee Hearing and that a shift to incentives, such as the Return to Work Grants proposal included in the appropriations bill HB 4420 would help employers fill vacant job positions and wean people off of reliance on unemployment benefits.

“The return-to-work incentive would provide grants of $1,000 to workers who leave the unemployment system and return to work,” says Owens. The proposal was included in a supplemental appropriations bill, HB 4420. Workers would have to certify that they’ve been employed for at least 80 hours over a four-week period to qualify. The proposal would be funded with $400 million in federal stimulus money.

Owens points out that, according to the Department of Labor guidelines, states are free to terminate their entire agreement for the extended federal pandemic unemployment programs, or only specific provisions of the agreement, with 30 days’ written notice if it chooses to no longer administer the programs.

“It’s time to get Michigan back to work,” says Owens.

Detroit Pistons Partner with Martin Lawrence for New Merchandise
The Detroit Pistons and actor Martin Lawrence have launched a Martin-themed line of Pistons merchandise.

Nearly 30 years after the “Martin” show premiered with the city of Detroit as the backdrop, Lawrence and the Pistons have reunited for this limited-edition collaboration showcasing Lawrence’s love for the city in which the TV hit took place. The line will be available this May 14 exclusively on Pistons313shop.com.

Items include jerseys, hats, shorts, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and more. From the “Martin” intro text to widely quoted lines and scenes from the show, this merchandise collection blends together the look and feel of the “Martin” show with Detroit Pistons basketball.

“Detroit has always shown me so much love and always shows up for me,” says Lawrence. “From stand-up tours to fans on the street Detroit has felt like home. It’s an honor to be part of something that means so much to me to this many years later.”

Mike Zavodsky, chief business officer for team, says, “With the city of Detroit as the show’s backdrop, ‘Martin’ became must-watch TV in the ‘90s. Martin’s love for the Pistons in the show translated into passion for the team — the fact that he has a ring from the 2004 team is proof of that. We’re thrilled to partner with Martin to introduce a merchandise line that pays homage to both Martin and the show’s Detroit roots.”

AAM Named as Axle Supplier for Additional GM Pickup Production
American Axle & Manufacturing in Detroit has been named the sole supplier of front and rear pickup axles for production at General Motors Co’s Oshawa, Canada assembly facility. Oshawa will restart production of the pickup trucks later this year.

This new business is in addition to AAM’s current supply of front and rear axles to GM’s full-size pickup assembly facilities in Indiana, Michigan, and Mexico.

“This additional sourcing continues to leverage AAM’s strategic partnership with GM having supported their full-size light truck program with durable, efficient, and lightweight drivelines for many decades,” says David C. Dauch, chairman and CEO of AAM. “This is a critical part of our business and integral to our two-pronged approach to support both internal combustion and battery electric/hybrid vehicles with the industry’s leading driveline technology.”

State Launches $2M Modular Housing Program to Create Affordable Builds
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority has launched a $2 million MSHDA MOD program following the success of a 2019 modular home construction pilot project.

The program is designed to help Michigan communities attract and retain new businesses, talent, and homebuyers by creating affordable new construction housing using modular build/modified technology homes.

Through this program, MSHDA is awarding up to $200,000 per recipient to aid in the construction, marketing, and sale of a modular home that can serve as a catalyst to encourage new construction of affordable homes within the community. The activities financed include model delivery, taxes, site preparation, on-site finishing, and related construction costs.

By leveraging modular housing builds, the program offers communities a practical workforce housing solution by reducing the timeline for typical single-family home construction allowing housing to be made available for immediate occupancy.

“Aligning with MSHDA’s ongoing mission to ensure quality affordable housing is available to all Michigan residents, we are very excited to launch our organization’s latest MOD program- positioned to help expedite single-family housing development,” says Tonya Young, neighborhood enhancement team manager at MSHDA. “The program uses alternative strategies to help meet workforce housing demands statewide and attract homebuyers to Michigan communities.”

MSHDA MOD program funding is available for use towards single-family modular construction opportunities, single-family modified technology/techniques, and small-scale multi-unit modular construction options.

Funding submissions for the program are limited to eligible nonprofit agencies (501c3), local units of government, and limited dividend housing associations in areas that are primarily residential and low to moderate income.

Electronic submissions will be accepted through June 1. For more information, visit here.

GreenPath Financial Wellness Launches Interactive Learning Lab Resource
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a Farmington Hills nonprofit that provides financial counseling and education, recently launched the GreenPath Learning Lab, a free, self-paced online learning portal designed to improve an individual’s overall financial health.

This resource can be found here.

The Learning Lab resource provides people with a range of educational experiences to help them manage money more effectively. Using a simple log-on to access, individuals can engage in hands-on “choose your own adventure”-style learning activities on spending and budgeting, forbearance, and other financial topics.

Accessible at any time, the Learning Lab can help reduce anxiety associated with seeking financial help. The educational tool allows users to connect directly with a GreenPath expert for one-on-one personal assistance. Applied learnings can be used to help individuals build financial healthy habits over time.

New York Firm Acquires Bloomfield Hills’ Mackinac Partners

Accordion, a New York private equity-focused financial consulting and technology firm, today announced that it has acquired Bloomfield Hills’ Mackinac Partners, a financial advisory, restructuring, and operational turnaround firm.

The Mackinac acquisition will enable Accordion to provide current and potential clients stabilization and turnaround services critical to navigating economic uncertainty and industry disruption. It also expands Accordion’s reach beyond its current portfolio of more than 200 fund sponsors and their portfolio companies, into the broader private capital marketplace.

“We believe the need for experienced turnaround, restructuring, and interim management expertise is no longer as cyclical as it’s been in the past,” says Nick Leopard, founder and CEO of Accordion. “Value creation and value stabilization now go hand-in-hand during economic curves of every size and shape, and companies need to be well-positioned to respond to industry disruption and transformation.”

Mackinac’s expertise in managing complex financial restructurings, business turnarounds, and providing interim management services will enhance Accordion’s existing performance improvement practice and its additional service areas: operational and technical accounting, strategic financial planning and analysis, transaction execution, and public company readiness.

Jim Weissenborn, Mackinac’s founder, will remain its managing partner and serve as president of Accordion’s turnaround and restructuring practice.

“They say deals where everyone wins are a rare breed. This one seems the rarest,” Weissenborn says. “It’s a win for our clients and their management teams who now have expertise at their disposal beyond the red turnaround phase into the yellow and green of value creation and growth acceleration. It’s a win for Accordion’s clients who are experiencing a period of disruption in their growth trajectory. It’s a win for our team who is joining a company with a unique culture, focused on a better way to work in finance.”

Brembo Brakes Features on Mustang Mach-E GT and GT Performance Edition
Plymouth Township premium brake supplier Brembo’s Flexira fixed aluminum brake calipers will be on the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and GT Performance Edition.

Brembo also supplies Flexira calipers for the battery powered Ford Mustang Mach-E. The new GT Performance Edition brake system will be distinguished by iconic Brembo red calipers with the Brembo logo.

The Flexira caliper is specially engineered to fit vehicles with smaller wheel profiles, such as compact cars and SUVs (particularly EVs) for improved rolling resistance. The caliper is designed for use in tight spaces while maintaining the high performance and functionality.

The brake system works in concert with the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition’s MagneRide damping system contributing to excellent stopping power, reduced rolling resistance for increased range, and a comfortable driving experience.

“We are glad to collaborate with Ford Motor Co. on the next Mustang Mach-E model,” says Dan Sandberg, president and CEO of Brembo North America. “The all-aluminum red Brembo Flexira caliper will show nicely through the Mach-E’s impressive 20-inch machined-face aluminum wheels.”

Cannabis Retailer New Standard Announces Three Provisioning Centers in West Michigan
Cannabis retailer New Standard announces three provisioning centers on the west side of Michigan.

Park Place Provisionary, Edmore Provisionary, and Exit 9 Provisionary will be re-branding in the coming weeks as New Standard locations continuing the company’s growth in Michigan.

New Standard, co-founded by business leaders from across the state, opened its first cannabis provisioning center in April of 2020 in Hazel Park. Deemed an essential business, New Standard is one of few cannabis retailers to successfully launch during Michigan’s pandemic stay-at-home orders.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our New Standard family,” says Howard Luckoff, co-founder and CEO of New Standard. “These three locations, founded by Greg Maki, have wonderful longstanding reputations and have paved the way for cannabis in the state of Michigan. The faces you see in these stores will remain the same, our co-founders and New Standard teams look forward to meeting the communities and sharing the New Standard experience with them.

Maki and the current leadership team will be joining the New Standard family.”

For more information, visit here.

Olga’s Kitchen Looking to Hire 300 Employees for 25 Locations
Olga’s Kitchen is hiring 300 full- and part-time workers for open positions at its 25 locations across the state through May 30. Available roles include servers, cooks, supervisors, assistant managers, and general managers.

Interested individuals can text OLGA to 25000 or visit olgas.com to apply. Every Wednesday from 2:30-4:30 p.m. the brand also hosts open interviews at all locations. Employees hired this month will receive a $200 signing bonus.

Detroit City Distillery Unveils Limited-edition Summer Rum
Detroit City Distillery, an independent craft distiller of small-batch artisanal spirits, will bring back its limited-edition spirit Summer Rum, made in collaboration with some of Detroit’s best bartenders.

As the name suggests, Summer Rum is only available for the summer and will be available from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend at the distillery, local bars, and liquor stores.

Summer Rum is a blend of rums from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is distilled from sugar cane. The nose is full of Jamaican aromatics with ripe banana, pineapple, and clove. The light rose gold body has a creamy mouthfeel full of Caribbean fruit notes like papaya, guava, mangos, and coconut. The finish offers hints of lime, toffee, and French Indie spice.

Summer Rum bottles are $25 at select liquor stores. Customers also can purchase at DCD’s Tasting Room or order online at detroitcitydistillery.com for in-person pick up. Summer Rum will be available at liquor stores and the Tasting Room starting the week of May 24.

A Summer Rum Street Party will take place at the Detroit City Distillery Tasting Room (2462 Riopelle St. in Eastern Market) on May 30 from noon to 9 p.m.

Detroit Historical Society Seeks Metro Detroiters’ Oral Histories
As part of its award-winning Detroit 67 Project, the Detroit Historical Society launched an oral history project to collect more than 500 firsthand accounts of the summer of 1967, the largest archive ever assembled on the topic. Now, the society has expanded its oral history efforts with two ongoing projects.

For Neighborhoods: Where Detroit Lives, the society seeks current and former Detroit residents, as well as business owners and employees, to record their experiences in different areas the city. As the city changes, these personal stories will ensure that the character of Detroit’s many enclaves is preserved. The project is supported by Michigan Humanities and PNC Bank.

For Detroit Responds: Stories from the Time of COVID-19, the society seeks metro Detroiters’ firsthand experiences with the current pandemic. Whether confronting social, economic, educational, or health challenges, everyone has a story from the past year.

Every story adds perspective and context to Detroit’s history and none are too small to contribute. For more information, visit here. Audio recordings or written stories can be sent through the website. Interested participants may also call 313-833-7912 or email williamw@detroithistorical.org to schedule a one-on-one interview with an oral historian.

Historic Fort Wayne Now Open, Vintage Base Ball Playing May 16
Historic Fort Wayne at the foot of Livernois is now open for the 2021 season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Secured parking is free. Guided tours of the Historic Fort Wayne complex are offered each day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. priced at $5 for adults and free for children under 12. The guided tours will include the Star Fort and barracks built in the 1840s, as well as the Spanish-American War Guard House. Due to limited capacity, advance reservations for weekend tours are required and can be booked here. Masks and social distancing are required for all guests.

The Fort’s regular hours continue each weekend now through Sunday, October 31. Parking and admission are free, except for selected special events.

The season’s special events include:

  • Vintage Base Ball, May 16 at 1 p.m. and Saturday, June 5 at 11 a.m.
  • Civil War Day, June 12-13
  • Colonial Days, June 19-20
  • Vintage Base Ball Day, Saturday, July 24
  • Le Rendez-vous de Detroit, July 31-Aug. 1
  • Sixth Annual Historic Fort Wayne Auto Show, Aug. 15

Canterbury Village Adds Weekend to Flower, Art, Home Improvement Show
The Michigan Flower, Art & Home Improvement Show at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion has added an additional weekend, May 15-16, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Guests are free to shop the area’s largest assortment of beautiful flowers and plants from local farms, learn gardening and landscaping tips, discover new home improvement and gardening products, new building trends, home décor concepts and ideas from hundreds of local professionals.

Also available are fine art and crafts, one-of-kind paintings by local artisans, hand-crafted ceramic pieces, woodwork, sculptures, stained glass artwork, jewelry, and more. Various food and drink options on the outdoor patio, along with live entertainment, activities and demonstrations, and exhibitors are on site as well.

Admission is free with a donation of four cans of non-perishable food items to be donated to a local food pantry. Parking is $5.

For more information, visit www.canterburyvillage.com.

MotorCities National Heritage Area Elects New Officers and Board Members
The MotorCities National Heritage Area Partnership has elected its slate of officers for the next year and added four new members to its board of directors, who each will serve a two-year term.

The new officers are:

  • Chair, Mark Heppner, president & CEO of Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores
  • Vice chair, Sandra Engle, of the UAW’s National Education Department
  • Immediate past chair, Robert Kreipke, historian emeritus of Ford Motor Co.
  • Secretary, Don Nicholson, president of Don Nicholson Enterprises
  • Treasurer, Nancy Thompson of Birmingham

The newly elected board members include:

Sabin Blake, manager of business planning and heritage for General Motors Co.

Carolyn Carter, chief development officer of Wayne County Community College District.

George Etheridge, city planner, historic planner, and policy analyst for the Detroit City Council and Detroit City Planning Commission.

Jay Follis, curator of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners near Kalamazoo.

JVS Human Services Offs Help to Metro Detroit Families Struggling Financially
JVS Human Services in Southfield if offering a financial education program called HarMoney, which provides $1,000 for approved low- to moderate-income local families to be used toward a down payment on a home or for credit repair.

A virtual informational meeting will take place May 24, when local families with a credit score of 620 and below can learn more about the financial assistance program that teaches participants about improving credit, savings, money management, and home ownership.

The program is underwritten by a $50,000 grant from TCF Bank and, when it began in November 2020, was originally only available to Oakland County families. Now, HarMoney has been expanded to include all qualified metro Detroiters and the new program, which has weekly sessions over 12 weeks, will begin on June 7. Upon completion of the program, a $1,000 one-time payment is available for participants to use towards collections, improving credit scores, or for down payment assistance on the purchase of a new home.

“The feedback we have received from participants in the first two programs has been phenomenal, from people who have struggled against many financial barriers to finally getting a grip on their money and improving their credit scores, and ultimately moving on to home ownership,” says Laltsha Cunningham, financial capability supervisor at JVS Human Services. “We have been told that the course is life-changing.”

To learn more about HarMoney or to register for the informational meeting on May 24, contact financialhelp@jvshumanservices.org or 248-223-4422.

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