DBusiness Daily Update: Kona Ice Truck Franchise Expands in Michigan, 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.
A Kona Shaved Ice truck with a long, waiting line.
Local entrepreneurs Sheena and Leonard Plocharczyk are opening a Kona Ice Truck franchise in Ypsilanti, which will serve the area unique shaved ice and donate a portion of its proceeds to local school groups, teams, and community organizations. // Courtesy of Kona Ice

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.

Kona Ice Truck Brings Shaved Ice to Ypsilanti

Kona Ice, the Florence, Ky.-based shaved-ice truck franchising company, is expanding its service to Ypsilanti, Milan, Saline, Dundee, Tecumseh, Adrian, and Monroe through local entrepreneurs Sheena and Leonard Plocharczyk.“The communities’ first taste of our cool treats and colorful truck will keep them coming back for more,” says Sheena Plocharczyk. “It will only be a matter of time before our Kona truck captures the hearts, minds and taste buds of the locals we serve at community events.”

Kona Ice trucks are noted for their colorful designs, relaxing tropical music, and shaved ice dispensed through the Flavorwave, an interactive dispensing system where customers select from one or more of the ten tastes on the machine, or order from the additional 20-plus flavors and 500 available combinations.

“After finding out how much Kona Ice gives back to the community, we were sold,” says Leonard Plocharczyk. “We are looking forward to becoming a community staple by participating in many events, like school and local athletic events.”

The Plocharczyk’s will continue the mobile franchise’s tradition of donating thousands of dollars each year to local school groups, teams, and community organizations. As they book events with these groups, the Plocharczyk’s pledge to give back a percentage of the proceeds from each event. Nationwide, Kona Ice has donated more than $82 million to community-based organizations since its launch in June 2007.

Aside from fundraisers, the food truck will make stops throughout the area, including fairs, festivals, and corporate events. To learn more about Kona Ice of Ypsilanti, contact Sheena and Leonard Plocharczyk at sheenahp@kona-ice.com or by phone at (734) 635-3565.

Big Sean, Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan Host Third Annual Detroit’s On Now Weekend

The third annual Detroit’s On Now (DON) Weekend, presented by multi-platinum artist and philanthropist Big Sean’s Sean Anderson Foundation and hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan (BGCSM), will take place Saturday, August 28 and Sunday, August 29 at the Lloyd H. Diehl Boys and Girls Club and Robert C. Valade Park in Detroit.“This past year and a half has been challenging for everyone. I’m glad we can bring D.O.N. Weekend back and celebrate the people who make this city great,” says Big Sean. “With all the hurdles Detroit has faced during the pandemic, it’s so important to bring the city together in a positive way.”

The rapper, a BGCSM alumni, will unveil the Sean Anderson Foundation Production Studio, part of the new ‘Reimagined Club,’ which will work to ensure Detroit youth have the tools and skills to become career, start-up, and homeowner ready before leaving the clubs at 18. Alongside the content and production studio, the space will feature updated buildouts of Ponyride co-working space for area entrepreneurs, computer lab, art gallery, 3D and laser printers, and a retail pop-up shop.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan is proud to be the anchor partner bringing DON Weekend to Detroit neighborhoods,” says Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of BGCSM. “On behalf of the youth and families of Detroit, we want to thank Myra and Sean for their continued support and love for the city.”

The weekend celebrates Detroit artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, families, and long-standing institutions that are the backbone of the city. Along with the special unveiling of the SAF Studio, there will be a community block party and ‘Occupy the Corner’ led by Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield.

The weekend’s events were made possible by presenting sponsors Duo, Detroit Pistons, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mercy Primary Care Center, Foot Locker, Fratarcangeli Wealth Management, The Mullick Foundation and TKG Business Management LLC.

Event tickets are limited due to COVID precautions but free to the public. BGCSM continues to be a safe space for youth, families, and the community amid the current pandemic. Strict safety measures will be actively enforced during weekend activities.

U-M Economic Forecast Shows Detroit Pandemic Recovery Ahead of State

The City of Detroit’s economic recovery from the pandemic is making good progress and is ahead of the state employment, unemployment, and wage trends and projections according to a University of Michigan Economic Forecast.

The study, which looks at data through June of 2021, showed unemployment among Detroiters has already recovered to approximately 3 percent below its pre-pandemic level. The unemployment rate spiked to more than 38 percent in May of 2020 and averaged 22 percent for a year. So far in 2021, the rate has average 9.9 percent and registered 8.5 percent in June.

The pace of recovery is supported by several large development projects such as the Stellantis Mack Avenue plant expansion, the Gordie Howe International Bridge Project, and a new Amazon distribution center under construction at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds.

“The mayor has a clear strategy, which is to attract major employers that will put Detroiters to work, and this study reflects some of our initial success in those efforts,” says Nicole Sherard-Freeman, Mayor Mike Duggan’s group executive for jobs, the economy, and Detroit at work.  “As the study suggests, we expect our numbers to get even stronger as Amazon and other projects come online and begin hiring more Detroiters.”

The report expects Detroit’s blue-collar industries to grow nearly 25 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels by 2026. Detroit’s poverty rate dropped from 42.3 percent to 30.6 percent, or 77,000 fewer Detroiters in poverty in 2019.

Detroit’s economy is not without its challenges. The study shows we still need to increase the ability of Detroiters who are working to earn enough to support their families. This is something the city addresses through the Detroit at Work program.

“Having this annual Detroit-specific forecast is tremendously helpful in measuring the city’s progress as we work to provide Detroit residents with greater economic opportunity,” says Jay Rising, City of Detroit CFO. “We appreciate our partnership with the University of Michigan, as well as the other institutions that contributed to the study.  This report clearly shows that Detroit is on the right path with the strategies we are implementing.”

The economic forecast was produced by economists at the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, who work in partnership with the City of Detroit and economists at Michigan State and Wayne State universities.

Kettering University Unveils Two New Academic Departments

Kettering University in Flint has announced two new academic departments that are part of the institution’s bright future initiative introduced earlier this year — the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Natural Sciences.

The bright future initiative is a reinvention of academic programs to focus on the university’s core strengths and areas in which it has a strong history and national reputation such as engineering, automotive innovation, and mobility. The program changes aim to revitalize the curricula and infuse innovation and a cross-disciplinary focus into the educational experience of all Kettering students.

The Department of Chemical Engineering will be part of the College of Engineering. The bachelor of science in chemical engineering has been one of Kettering’s fastest growing degree programs since its introduction in 2008. The department will be led by co-interim department head Mary Gilliam and Jonathan Wenzel.

“It is very exciting to have Chemical Engineering join the College of Engineering as a standalone department,” says Craig Hoff, dean of the College of Engineering. “There is tremendous potential to grow the program further and take it to the next level.”

The Department of Natural Sciences will encompass the former departments of chemistry/biochemistry and physics and will offer all the programs previously offered in those departments. Daniel Ludwigsen will serve as the interim department head.

“The creation of the Department of Natural Sciences facilitates interdisciplinary curriculum design in the natural sciences embracing ‘Impact with Inquiry,’ the motto of the College of Sciences and Liberal Arts while also supporting Kettering’s Bright Future,” says Kathryn Svinarich, dean of the College of Sciences and Liberal Arts.

The interim department heads will remain in place while the University conducts national searches to fill the roles.

HAP and MSU Announce Partnership to Improve Senior Health Care

Detroit-based Health Alliance Plan and Michigan State University in East Lansing announced they are joining forces to educate MSU alumni and other Medicare-eligible individuals about HMO and PPO products this fall.

The initiative is one of the first outcomes of the 30-year partnership between Henry Ford Health System and MSU announced in February 2021. HAP’s Medicare Advantage insurance products will be available across 36 HAP service counties. The zero-dollar HMO and PPO plans provide seniors with high-quality health care backed by HAP’s customer service.

“We are delighted to expand the Henry Ford/MSU partnership through this program,” says Dr. Michael Genord, HAP’s president and CEO. “As a Michigan-based insurer, HAP is committed to providing a personalized customer experience, and we’re proud to say that our customer satisfaction consistently scores high marks with our members.

“That was demonstrated yet again when we were recently ranked highest in member satisfaction among commercial health plans in the Michigan region, according to the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study.”

HAP added seven more West Michigan counties – Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren in 2020. The HAP/MSU Health Care partnership will extend HAP’s reach to approximately 100,000 eligible seniors. This includes a portion of the more than 270,000 MSU alumni based in the state of Michigan.

This spring, MSU Health Care announced two initiatives to increase access to care: An affiliation with Everside Health to offer employer sponsored direct primary care and a collaboration with Higi to connect individuals to care through their Smart Health Stations in local supercenter chain and grocery stores.

“The partnership with HAP is critical to our mission to improve the health of our communities,” saus Seth Ciabotti, CEO for MSU Health Care. “Research has shown that lack of insurance is a barrier to receiving timely health screenings and preventive care.  Through the HAP/MSU Health Care partnership exceptional health care and cost-effective insurance opportunities come together to support better health outcomes.”

AT&T Hosts Hiring Event at Two Metro Detroit Locations

As pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire on September 6, AT&T is looking to fill 300 retail sales consultant positions in the Midwest, including in metro Detroit, between now and the end of the year.

The event takes place today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the AT&T Lakeside Store at 13655 Hall Rd. in Shelby Township, and the AT&T Dearborn Store at 2480 S. Telegraph Rd. in Dearborn.

These positions are full- and part-time with a competitive salary and benefits, including, if eligible, medical, and dental coverage, 401(k) plan, tuition reimbursement, and paid time off. AT&T is offering a $1,000 sign-on bonus to those who are hired.

Interested job seekers can click here to learn about the hiring event and jobs in the Detroit area and/or apply online.