DBusiness Daily Update: Lawrence Tech Renames Center for Innovative Materials Research, 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.
Nabil Grace, dean of the LTU College of Engineering, speaks to the audience at the dedication of the building that bears his name. // Courtesy of LTU
Nabil Grace, dean of the LTU College of Engineering, speaks to the audience at the dedication of the building that bears his name. // Courtesy of LTU

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.

Lawrence Tech Renames Center for Innovative Materials Research

Lawrence Technological University in Southfield has renamed its materials research lab as the Nabil Grace Center for Innovative Materials Research in the southeast corner of LTU’s campus.

Named after the university’s engineering dean, a researcher dedicated to improving the lifespan of bridges and other crucial structures, the building has become a world-leading infrastructure laboratory under his watch.

This center was developed and overseen by Grace, who was instrumental in its construction and operation.

“The Innovative Materials Research Center here at LTU is one of this nation’s, and the world’s, largest and most comprehensive infrastructure laboratories,” says Douglas Ebert, chair of the LTU Board of Trustees. “The prolific research that Dr. Grace leads here is resulting in massive improvements in the durability, life, safety, and ultimately the cost of transportation-related infrastructure, particularly highway bridges.

“He’s received dozens of federal, state, and private research grants and contracts totaling nearly $28 million. And along the way his work has attracted new industry and pathways to opportunity and success right here in Michigan.”

Completed in 2008, LTU’s CIMR is a 7,200-square-foot research facility with a 30-foot interior height. It has a 25-ton crane to accommodate testing of structural components up to 100 feet long under various types of loads up to one million pounds. It also features a large-scale fire chamber with dynamic and static loading capabilities that can test structural components in temperatures up to 2,400°F, conditions like those of the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack — the event that inspired the Grace CIMR’s construction.

CIMR also houses an environmental chamber spacious enough for a large vehicle, which can simulate harsh weather conditions such as high wind, freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures of minus 80°F, or dry heat up to 180°F. Also in the CIMR are small environmental chambers that measure the performance of materials when subjected to pulling, twisting, and repeated loads, and a chamber that can subject materials to a variety of forces at temperatures ranging from minus 80°F to 600°F.

“It is rare indeed that a person who is still active as a faculty member, researcher, and administrator has a building named after him,” says Virinder Moudgil, president of LTU. “This speaks a volume of the credentials and contributions and the person he is, a good citizen of the university, of the community, a person who has personally contributed to the economic growth of the region, who is right in front of the infrastructure that is being discussed nationally and locally.”

Detroit Land Bank Sells 20,000th Side Lot to Detroit Homeowner

Detroit residents have proven just how popular the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s (DLBA) Side Lot program is, buying more than 20,000 parcels of vacant land through the DLBA since 2014.

Sold for just $100 each, side lots are a way to restore land ownership, eliminate blight, and make neighborhoods safer and more attractive. Since launching in 2014, the program remains an exclusive benefit to Detroit homeowners and the most affordable access point for vacant land.

“The Detroit Land Bank Authority has sold more side lots than any other land bank in the country, the success of this program is really unprecedented,” says Saskia Thompson, executive director of the DLBA. “With 20,153 total side lot sales and an average area of just over 4,078 square feet per lot, the DLBA’s side lot sales total nearly 1,887 acres or 3 square miles of land – that’s the size of the city of Highland Park.”

Each side lot returns an estimated $50 to the city’s tax rolls annually. With more than 20,000 now on the books, that is an estimated $1 million in tax revenue this year alone. More than 10,000 side lots currently are listed for sale through the DLBA, and new listings are added every month based on inquiries from Detroiters. That means there is still a lot of opportunity for residents to invest in their communities and transform blighted, vacant parcels into green space.

Residents can purchase side lots online, through the DLBA’s buildingdetroit.org website.

The side lot program caters exclusively to Detroit homeowners. Buyers must own an occupied home adjacent to the side lot. Side lots can be to the left, right, or rear of the house. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Own a house that shares a property line with the side lot.
  • Be current on property taxes or in compliance with a tax payment plan.
  • No outstanding blight tickets.
  • $100 payment and completed application.

Michigan Celebrating Computer Science Education Week with STEM Awareness

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed Dec. 6-12 as Computer Science Education Week in Michigan, with a call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers and partners in the field.

This week also recognizes Michigan’s growing need for highly skilled workers in computer science career fields.

According to the 2021 State of Computer Science Education report, there were almost 15,000 open computing jobs, which is more than 2.6 times the state average demand rate and an average salary of over $80,000, yet there were only 2,467 graduates in computer science in 2018. Through 2024, Michigan is expected to grow more than 270,670 IT/computer science jobs, an estimated $20.8 billion in wage growth.

“We are constantly evaluating how we can better prepare our students for the jobs of the future,” says Whitmer. “As we work on better attracting and retaining our talent right here in Michigan, a focus on filling computer science and other STEM jobs will be critical. Creating a diverse pipeline of students with computer science skills is critical to our state’s economic future.”

Earlier this year, The Michigan Economic Development Corp. invested $1.5 million in placing Michigan STEM college students in internships at start-ups across Michigan. The program is facing tremendous demand and can be scaled up over the next three years to address this skills gap.

“Advancing computer science and other STEM opportunities is inextricably linked to Michigan’s commitment to building a more prosperous, equitable economy,” says Quentin Messer, CEO of the MEDC. “As Michigan continues to build a world-class talent pool and foster a competitive business climate, we need to ensure that our students have the opportunity to grow the skills needed to fill these critical job openings right here in Michigan.”

Michigan employers can join the effort to prepare today’s students by partnering with local schools to expand student learning and provide real-life experience and insight into these careers by:

  • Providing role models so students can see themselves in the field.
  • Providing hands-on experiences so students can better understand what computer science is all about.
  • Providing work-based apprenticeships and internships through career and technical education programs and high school courses.
  • Volunteering with organizations that support student growth in computer science learning and careers.
  • Providing work-based educator externships or learning experiences about their industry.

To learn more about Computer Science Education Week, visit hourofcode.com for activities to get students excited about computer science. For more information about state programs, visit here.