DBusiness Daily Update: Lawrence Tech Wins Fourth Collegiate Autonomous Vehicle Title, Pistons Rookie Bey Named Sunday Grand Marshal for Grand Prix, 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.
As judges (in yellow shirts) monitor the competition, the LTU Self-Drive Challenge car, prepares for a run. // Courtesy of Lawrence Tech
As judges (in yellow shirts) monitor the competition, the LTU Self-Drive Challenge car, prepares for a run. // Courtesy of Lawrence Tech

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 Wins Fourth Straight Collegiate Autonomous Vehicle Title

Lawrence Technological University took first place in the IGVC Self-Drive Challenge, which took place June 4-7 at Oakland University in Rochester. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Southfield school.

In the competition, teams were asked to design, fabricate, and program a self-driving system for a Polaris GEM two-seat electric car. The car had to maneuver around a road course laid out on an OU parking lot, avoiding obstacles and stopping for stop signs, all with no driver input.

The United States Military Academy took second place in the event, followed by the University of Detroit-Mercy, and Kettering University in third and fourth. Also competing were Bob Jones University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and Old Dominion University.

The LTU team also won a special prize for being the first car to pass five qualifying tests.

“This project is a great opportunity for LTU students to have research experience for autonomous vehicle technologies,” says C.J. Chung, faculty advisor for the team. “We have already published one journal and three peer reviewed conference papers directly from this project.”

LTU finished fourth in the Auto-Nav Challenge, in which saw teams design, build, and program small cart-like vehicles that had to maneuver around obstacles on a road course.

Pistons Rookie Saddiq Bey Named Sunday Grand Marshal for Grand Prix

Saddiq Bey, a standout rookie for the Detroit Pistons, will be the Sunday grand marshal for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, June 13.

Bey will participate in pre-race and post-race ceremonies for the second Chevrolet Dual in Detroit NTT IndyCar SERIES race (Sunday at noon on NBC) on the Belle Isle Park street circuit.

“It’s an honor to be the grand marshall for the Detroit Grand Prix,” says Bey. “The city has such a rich history within the sports and car industries and I’m excited to be a part of this incredible event on Belle Isle.”

Bey was drafted by the Pistons in the first round (No. 19 overall) of the 2020 NBA Draft after two years at Villanova University. In his rookie season with the Pistons, Bey became one of the team’s building blocks for the future with his play on both ends of the court. He set a Pistons rookie record and led all NBA rookies with 175 three-point field goals on the year.

“We are excited to welcome one of the Detroit Pistons brightest young stars and one of the top rookies in the NBA with Saddiq Bey serving as our grand marshal for Sunday at the Grand Prix,” says Michael Montri, president of the Detroit Grand Prix. “Saddiq will help us get everything started as we celebrate the final day of what we know will be a memorable weekend on Belle Isle.”

Tickets for the 2021 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix are on sale now. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.DetroitGP.com.

Troy’s Electric Last Mile to Merge with Florida Company

Electric Last Mile Inc., a Troy-based commercial electric vehicle company focused on creating efficient, connected, and customized last-mile solutions, is planning to merge with Forum Merger III Corp. of Delray Beach, Fla.

A virtual special meeting is scheduled for June 24 to approve the pending business combination.

If the proposals at the special meeting are approved, the parties anticipate that the business combination will close and trading of the combined entity will commence on NASDAQ shortly thereafter, subject to the satisfaction or waiver (as applicable) of all other closing conditions.

Forum stockholders can exercise their votes online, via telephone or by mail. Forum stockholders who need assistance voting or have questions regarding the special meeting may contact Forum’s proxy solicitor, Morrow Sodali, at 877-787-9239 or by email to FIII.info@investor.morrowsodali.com.

Kresge Foundation Awards $2.1M in Grants to Boost Vaccination Efforts

The Kresge Foundation has awarded $2.1 million in grant funding to organizations in Detroit and across the country to further support COVID-19 response and recovery activities, boost vaccination rates and address health disparities.

Included in this total are $822,773 in new one-year grants to 18 local health departments that participated in Kresge’s Emerging Leaders in Public Health program.

These investments augment funding the Health Program provided to 25 health departments in October 2020 to secure necessary equipment, staff, and operational resources to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grantees include:

  • Berrien County Health Department, Benton Charter Township, Mich.
  • Brookline Department of Health, Brookline, Mass.
  • Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Champaign, Ill.
  • City of Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Service, Nashua, N.H.
  • City of Pasadena Public Health Department, Pasadena, Calif.
  • Douglas County Health Department, Omaha, Neb.
  • DuPage County Health Department, Wheaton, Ill.
  • Hennepin County Public Health, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Jackson County Health Department, Independence, Mo.
  • Lane County Public Health, Eugene, Ore.
  • Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department, Trinidad, Colo.
  • Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Oklahoma City, Ok.
  • Salt Lake County Health Department, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Southwest District Health, Caldwell, Idaho
  • Seminole County Health Department, Sanford, Fla.
  • Wayne County Health Department, Goldsboro, N.C.
  • Yakima Health District, Yakima, Wash.
  • Yuma County Public Health Services District, Yuma, Ariz.

“These local health departments are using an array of practical and innovative solutions to address immediate needs and integrate long-term measures to address inequities in access, information and services in low-income and BIPOC communities,” says Monica Valdes Lupi, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program.

Also included in this latest round of funding is a $800,000 grant to Health Leads for its Vaccine Equity Cooperative, a two-year national effort to ensure racial equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, build vaccine confidence, improve uptake, and address long-term disparities.

Designed to be a one-stop shop for community health workers and community-based workforces, the cooperative will provide tailored support for the cities of Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, and Fresno, Valdes Lupi says.​

In addition, Kresge has awarded $335,000 to seven community organizations across Detroit leading COVID-19 vaccine outreach and access efforts. Funds will also support the organizations in connecting residents with resources for a variety of basic needs, such as food, housing, and mental health services.

Grantees include Brilliant Detroit, Central Detroit Christian CDC, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance CDC, GenesisHOPE CDC, Detroit Community Health Connection, Eastside Community Network, and Institute for Population Health.

These organizations join 13 others — including ACCESS, Advantage Health Centers, Bridging Communities and Sinai Grace Community Development Corporation — that shared $600,000 in April grants for vaccine support and basic needs in northwest and southwest Detroit that were then the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the city.

Shinola Introduces Sea Creatures Detrola Watch Collection

Shinola in Detroit has introduced the Sea Creatures Detrola, which features a watchband made from 100 percent ocean-bound plastic waste.

Looking to help solve the problem of plastic waste going into the sea, Shinola crafted this watch’s case and strap from #tide ocean material granules and yarn, showing that single-use plastics can have a second life. Just not in the ocean.

Using the materials supplied by #tide, a material recycling company, the Sea Creatures Detrola marks Shinola’s first foray into the world of recycled goods. With a depth rating of 10 ATM, the watch features 40mm ocean-bound-plastic case with a stainless-steel core, Argonite 715 movement, and a bezel insert.

The “squircle” case shape gives the watch its organic, creature-like form, and is completed with a submarine hatch case back and wavey texture on the dial and strap — all design elements inspired by the ocean.  Rather than a traditional watch box, the Sea Creatures Detrola comes in a custom pouch made from recycled felt and ocean-bound plastic, designed with every intent to be repurposed. Enclosed in a hemp paper box, the Sea Creatures Detrola is a sustainable product down to the packaging.

Priced at $450, the Sea Creatures Detrola Collection launched on Shinola.com with a limited run of the sea blue Sea Creature on June 8, followed by four additional colorways dropping June 25 (waitlist available).

Survey Results Highlight Hurdles on the Road to Recovery

A new national survey of small business owners from Goldman Sachs, 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, shows that small businesses across America are open for business but hitting roadblocks at every turn.

While small business owners express optimism about the future, they face difficulties hiring employees and maintaining payroll as operating costs increase. Long-term access to capital and inflation are also pressing concerns for Main Street businesses.

The new survey found that of the 71 percent of small businesses currently hiring, 81 percent are finding it difficult to recruit qualified candidates, citing a limited labor supply, generous unemployment benefits, and high labor costs. At the same time, 83 percent of small business owners report an increase in operating costs in the past few months and 82 percent are concerned about the impact of inflation on their businesses. As a result, almost half of small businesses (48 percent) have had to increase their prices.

Other key insights from the June survey include:

  • 44 percent are still struggling financially due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • 67 percent now believe that the United States is moving in the right direction.
  • 61 percent support of the American Jobs Plan.
  • 60 percent support of the American Families Plan.
  • Fewer than 50 percent believe the legislation will help their business.
  • 82 percent of small business owners who received a second PPP loan expect to exhaust their PPP loan funding by the end of July.
  • 24 percent are very confident they will be able to maintain payroll if no further government relief is provided.
  • 93 percent support Congress re-evaluating the SBA loan terms so that hard-hit small businesses can access capital.
  • 88 percent support increasing opportunities for small businesses through the federal procurement process.
  • 93 percent call on state and local governments to prioritize contracts for small businesses as part of the proposed package.

“Small businesses are the engine of the economy and need continued support from our policymakers to make a full recovery,” says Jill Bommarito, founder and CEO of Ethel’s Baking Co. and member of the 10,000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council. “Today’s survey shows that Washington must act now to address hurdles on the road to recovery, including rising operating costs, access to capital, and labor shortages.”

Applications Open for Fifth Annual Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day

Applications are open for Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day, the company’s fifth annual entrepreneurial competition and the largest of its kind in the Midwest.

Applicants can submit now through June 18th at DetroitDemoDay.com.

In order to ensure the application is as accessible as possible, Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day is simplifying the process. This year, applicants will submit a video pitch.

“Throughout history, some our greatest innovations have been birthed in times of crisis,” says James Feagin, director of entrepreneurship of the Rocket Community Fund. “The pandemic highlighted great inequities that have existed for too long in our society, including how small businesses are funded. Over the past four years, Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day has consistently provided some of the most accessible, founder-friendly capital, and we’re excited to invest in the next wave of Detroit ideas.”

Those interested in applying to Detroit Demo Day will be classified in one of four categories: Start, Pivot, Scale, or Youth. The first three of these categories are based on the company’s revenue, total capital raised, and plans for continued operations and growth. The Youth category is new as of this year’s competition and designed to spotlight entrepreneurs 8 to 18 years of age.

Applicants must be a for-profit business with a product or service that has shown substantial traction or is available for sale. Additionally, the business cannot have exceeded $2 million in annual revenue or raised more than $1 million in capital. To be eligible, companies must be based in Detroit or committed to relocating into the city.

Fifteen businesses will win funding from the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day. Winners will be selected by a panel of diverse and accomplished national entrepreneurs and judged on the same criteria as their online applications.

UWM Announces Mortgage Brokers Contest to Ring the Bell at New York Stock Exchange

UWM Holdings Corp. in Pontiac has launched a contest to bring independent mortgage brokers to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange alongside UWM president and CEO, Mat Ishbia in celebration of National Mortgage Brokers Day.

Independent mortgage brokers can enter by sharing stories about helping borrowers on the submission page. Winners will be announced in early July 2021.

“Independent mortgage brokers are easier, faster, and less expensive than any alternative,” says Ishbia. “We’re bringing some great mortgage brokers to this iconic stage and sharing their stories to educate consumers that mortgage brokers they are the best place to get a mortgage, period.”

National Mortgage Brokers Day is an annual celebration of independent mortgage brokers across the country, created by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) and celebrated each year on July 18.

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 25.

In Related News: The Detroit Pistons and UWM are launching the Home Lottery Sweepstakes, a contest that will provide residents of metro Detroit the opportunity to win up to $100,000 toward a home mortgage courtesy of UWM.

Fans will be able to enter the sweepstakes by scanning a QR code at select locations across the city that will feature renderings of the Pistons jersey with the new UWM patch. Additionally, fans can enter to win by visiting here.

Locations of the Pistons jerseys with the QR code to join include:

Pistons Performance Center (6201 2nd Avenue; Detroit)

Little Caesars Arena (2645 Woodward Ave.; Detroit)

Twelve Oaks Mall (27500 Novi Road; Novi)

Partridge Creek (17420 Hall Road; Clinton Township)

Dunham’s Troy (1285 Coolidge Highway; Troy)

Jabs Gym (2501 Russell St.; Detroit)

Submissions for the Home Lottery Sweepstakes will be accepted through June 17, with the six finalists being selected and notified on June 18. The six finalists will then be invited to the Detroit Pistons Draft Lottery party, taking place on June 22, where they will each be given a “lottery pick” of 1-6 by UWM President and CEO Mat Ishbia.

As the Detroit Pistons learn which lottery selection they will have in the 2021 NBA Draft (guaranteed to be 1 – 6), the individual with the corresponding lottery number will be selected as the winner of the Home Lottery Sweepstakes. The five finalists who did not win the sweepstakes will still receive $5,000 towards their home mortgage.

Additionally, each finalist will get the opportunity to shoot around on the Pistons Practice Facility court and take part in a meet-and-greet with Pistons legend Ben Wallace, as well as Ishbia.

Events Partnership to Benefit Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau

MAD Event Management in New York and Messe Düsseldorf North America (MDNA) in Chicago are partnering to launch and incubate events in Detroit, supporting the vision of a launchpad of events under the guidance of Claude Molinari, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“The credit for the concept lies in a multi-year development plan between MAD and Claude Molinari, whose vision of Detroit as a city well positioned to capitalize on the future of live events in North America is unwavering,” says Martha Donato, founder and president, MAD Event Management. “Detroit is keen to focus its resources to launch business-to-business and business-to-consumer events. “MDNA is an organizer with a global view of the events industry and was the perfect partner with whom to execute the ambitious plan.”

AllStar Chauffeured Services Hiring Drivers

AllStar Chauffeured Services in Troy is hiring drivers for its fleet of luxury vehicles.

Full- and part-time positions for safe drivers with a standard driver’s license pay $14 to $17 per hour, plus a signing bonus. Part-time positions for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) pay $20 to $25 per hour, plus a signing bonus.

Qualifications and skills include: friendly individuals with a driving knowledge of Michigan and a passion for excellent customer service; chauffeurs/drivers who enjoy working as a team; and those who have the ability to use an iPad.

Employee benefits include a 401(k); health, vision, and dental insurance; paid training; and paid time off. Clients range from corporate to casual.

AllStar’s fleet includes Cadillacs, Mercedes, Van Hool motor coaches, mini-buses, luxury coaches, and Sprinters.

Those interested in applying for a position should visit here or call 248-549-8800.

IconicWP Joins the StellarWP Suite of WordPress Brands

StellarWP in Lansing has attracted IconicWP to join its software portfolio. IconicWP provides plugins that add features and functionality to WooCommerce, the ecommerce platform that powers more than one-quarter of online stores across the web.

IconicWP has a reputation for making quality ecommerce products to boost sales and conversions, and their plugins are trusted by more than 16,000 WooCommerce businesses and online shops. The company joins StellarWP’s collection of plugins that serve customers and drive innovation with bundled services that enable digital commerce.

“We are excited to welcome the IconicWP team to the StellarWP brand,” says Joe Osterling, chief technology officer of Liquid Web. “This continues the StellarWP strategy of making investments into the growing WordPress ecosystem to empower WordPress users with plugins that propel business and support entrepreneurs.

“We’re excited about our ability to attract these smart, passionate and entrepreneurial innovators in the WordPress and WooCommerce arena and collaborate with them to propel our commitment to delivering innovative solutions that power online businesses and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them.”

IconicWP founder James Kemp and his team will join StellarWP in the transition.

Grand Rapids’ SpartanNash Launching Telemedicine Services for Pharmacies

SpartanNash Co. in Grand Rapids announced a partnership with Bonum Health to provide telemedicine services at all company-owned pharmacies.

Family Fare, Martin’s Super Markets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Econofoods, Family Fresh Market, and Forest Hills Foods pharmacy patients now have direct access to health providers through the Bonum Health mobile app and website.

Patients can log in for a one-time visit for $29 or purchase a telemedicine subscription for $11 per month. Monthly subscriptions provide one adult and all household dependents (18 and younger) with up to five telemedicine visits monthly. Bonum Health providers specialize in everyday care and non-emergency services. Prescriptions, if needed, are prescribed directly to the SpartanNash pharmacy for added convenience.

“The SpartanNash partnership with Bonum Health promotes equitable access to U.S. Board-Certified providers and allows any guest who may be uninsured, under-insured or simply looking for cost savings with immediate, high-quality care,” says Tony Sarsam, president and CEO of SpartanNash. “This offering builds on the many great services and care already available from our SpartanNash pharmacists.”

Interlochen Announces In-Person Summer Concert Series

Harry Connick Jr., Chicago, and Jake Owen will headline the return of in-person public performances at Interlochen Center for the Arts (south of Traverse City) as part of a six-concert Interlochen Arts Festival Aug. 3-29. Tickets will go on sale June 22 and can be purchased here.

“We are thrilled that our friends and neighbors will be able to return to Interlochen for incredible Arts Festival performances,” says Trey Devey, president of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. “There is nothing like experiencing a live concert amidst the beauty and creative energy of the Interlochen campus. We know how much our supporters cherish this series, which is also a vital source of support for student scholarships.”

The schedule of performances is as follows:

  • Chicago, Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m.
  • Harry Connnick Jr., Aug. 10, 7:30 p.m.
  • Foreigner, Aug. 14, 7:30 p.m.
  • Jake Owen, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m.
  • Old Crow Medicine Show, Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.
  • Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.

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