DBusiness Daily Update: Michigan Expanding Access to Vaccine Starting Monday, State Distributing $10M in Marijuana Payments to Local Governments, 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.
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graph of daily coronavirus cases in Michigan
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Michigan Expanding Access to COVID-19 Vaccine Starting Monday
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that the state is expanding vaccination eligibility beginning Monday, March 8, to include people age 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities, caregiver family members, and guardians who care for children with special health care needs.

Beginning Monday, March 22, vaccine eligibility will again expand to include all Michiganders 50 and older. To date, more than 40 percent of Michigan citizens age 65 and older have been vaccinated. The state’s goal is vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders over age 16

“Over 2.3 million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccines have been administered in Michigan, and we know more vaccine is coming into the state,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the state. “We are pleased to expand eligibility for more people to get vaccinated as we continue to focus on our most vulnerable and those at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. With three safe and effective vaccines now authorized for use, people should get the first vaccine available to them. These vaccines are the way we are going to end this pandemic.”

All vaccine providers may begin vaccinating the two new priority groups of 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities, caregiver family members, and guardians who care for children with special health care needs by Monday. Those eligible to receive a vaccine should:

  • Check the website of the local health department or hospital to find out their process or for registration forms.
  • Check additional vaccination sites, such as local pharmacies like Meijer, Rite Aid, or Cardinal Health (U.P. residents).
  • Residents who don’t have access to the internet or who need assistance navigating the vaccine scheduling process can call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 (press 1), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or can call 2-1-1.

It is important to note that, while supplies are increasing, there remains a limited amount of vaccine available, so there may be a waitlist for available appointments. As more vaccine becomes available, the state will continue to move more quickly through the priority groups.

Michigan residents seeking more information about the COVID-19 vaccine can visit here.

State Distributing $10M in Marijuana Payments to Local Governments
The Michigan Department of Treasury is distributing nearly $10 million to more than 100 municipalities and counties as a part of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

This week, 38 cities, seven villages, 21 townships, and 38 counties began receiving payments from the Marihuana Regulation Fund for every licensed retail store and microbusiness within its jurisdiction. For the state’s 2020 fiscal year, this means each eligible municipality and county will receive around $28,000 for every licensed retail store or microbusiness.

“The revenue generated from marijuana taxes and fees is important to our local governments,” says Rachael Eubanks, state treasurer. “In this extraordinary time, our staff is working to get those payments to impacted municipalities and counties. Every dollar helps right now.”

For the state of Michigan’s 2020 fiscal year, more than $31 million was collected from the 10 percent adult-use marijuana excise tax. Combined with fees, there was a total of $45.7 million available for distribution from the fund.

State law outlines how much is distributed from the Marihuana Regulation Fund.

Aside from the nearly $10 million in disbursements to municipalities and counties, around $11.6 million will be sent to the School Aid Fund for K-12 education and another $11.6 million to the Michigan Transportation Fund, upon appropriation. The remaining $12.5 million amount will be used toward start-up and administrative costs.

In total, more than $341 million in adult-use marijuana sales was reported for fiscal year 2020.

Detroit Pistons to Begin Selling Tickets for March Games Today
The Detroit Pistons announced plans to place a limited number of tickets on sale beginning when the club plays the Toronto Raptors on March 17 at Little Caesars Arena. Tickets went on sale today at 10 a.m.

Working under direction of state and local government health professionals and guidelines, up to 750 fans will be allowed to attend upcoming games in this initial phase.

Tickets for available Pistons second-half home games in March will be sold by visiting Pistons.com/tickets or TicketMaster.com.  Pistons season ticket and suite holders were given presale access earlier in the week. As an extended health and safety measure, all tickets will be accessible by mobile ticketing only.

“In preparation for hosting a limited number of fans during these challenging times, we are grateful to work closely with state and local health professionals, the NBA, and Olympia Entertainment in creating a safe and welcoming environment,” says Mike Zavodsky, chief business officer for the Detroit Pistons. “We thank our fans and the community for their continued support during this time as we worked through all necessary steps and benchmarks required for welcoming you back to Little Caesars Arena safely.”

All seats will be physically distanced. Additional measures include:

  • All fans aged 2 years and older will be required to wear a mask for the duration of their time inside the venue except when eating or drinking at their seating location.
  • Marked physical distancing while navigating the venue.
  • Completion of health survey screening for all guests entering the arena no more than 24 hours before the game.
  • Installation of mobile ticket scanning pedestals.
  • Cashless payments in the parking lot and for food and beverage.
  • And any and all bags will be prohibited for all games.

A complete guest health and safety handbook can be accessed here.

“We are very excited to gradually expand the number of guests in attendance at Little Caesars Arena for upcoming Pistons games,” says Tim Padgett, vice president of venue operations for Olympia Entertainment. “We appreciate the extensive coordination with, and guidance from, public health and medical experts, government officials, and the National Basketball Association over the past several months. Safety is our top priority. We have developed and invested in a plan that has allowed us to welcome back fans safely to our venues.”

The Townsend Hotel is now Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED with Forbes Travel
The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham is among the first hotels in the world to become Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED with Forbes Travel Guide. The comprehensive facility verification helps ensure that guests and travel planners can book with confidence at properties that have appropriate health safety procedures in place.

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our guests and our staff,” says Steven Kalczynski, managing director at The Townsend Hotel. “We are extremely proud of achieving this verification. This is one additional assurance for our guests to feel even more protected when they visit or stay at The Townsend Hotel.”

This verification comes with an easily identifiable seal of approval, the Sharecare VERIFIED with Forbes Travel Guide badge, based on a hotel’s compliance with expert-validated best practices that minimize the risk and impact of COVID-19.

Developed by Forbes Travel Guide, the comprehensive verification covers more than 360 standards across health and hygiene protocols, cleaning products and procedures, ventilation, physical distancing, the guest experience, and health safety communication with guests and employees. Hotels are required to verify their health protocols on an ongoing basis to ensure continued compliance with the most up-to-date global health standards.

A video on the hotel’s COVID-19 safety standards can be seen here. The Townsend’s full health and safety plan is available here.

Georgia Aluminum Framing System Company Expanding in Niles
Georgia-based Bonnell Aluminum announced that its TSlots line of aluminum structural framing systems is expanding operations into the Midwest region with a new leased facility in Niles (south of Benton Harbor on the Indiana border).

The 12,550-square-foot of warehouse space for TSlots inventory, operated in conjunction with Bonnell Aluminum’s existing Niles location, will improve customer service levels for the Eastern and Midwest United States, including reduced shipping costs and shorter lead-times.

The TSlots aluminum framing system allows manufacturers to create light, durable, attractive, strong, versatile, and functional structures using custom T-slotted aluminum extrusions and connecting hardware.

“Over the years as TSlots has grown, our customers in the Midwest and East have been asking for a location closer to theirs,” says Steve Silvester, sales manager at TSlots. “By providing materials that ship from the Midwest, our customers will gain the benefits of being competitive in terms of costs and lead-time. We are proud of our growth over the past two decades, and with Bonnell Aluminum having locations across the country, TSlots can service our customers in the best possible way.”

The Michigan Hispanic Collaborative Announces La Puerta for Hispanic Students
The Michigan Hispanic Collaborative (MiHC), a Detroit-based nonprofit, has launched the La Puerta portal, a site that helps students, parents, and young professionals navigate their way through college and careers, while making connections along the way.

“We believe that the most important thing that our younger generation can hold to help the Hispanic community thrive is a bachelor’s degree,” says Anita Martínez, executive director of  MiHC. “By 2050, Hispanics will represent one-third of the U.S. population, however, our college persistence outcomes have stalled for 40 years.

“These facts propelled MiHC to create a scalable portal that provides our students with community, with mentorship, and with a blueprint to success in college and beyond.”

The La Puerta portal, powered by a partnership with Perficient, a leading global digital consultancy, is a digital roadmap for students, parents, and young professionals that simplifies the complex college and career ecosystem. La Puerta is the first to engage students and parents in a comprehensive and culturally relevant way, through the high school, college, and early career transitions. MiHC’s Hispanic “familismo” culture of strong extended and connected families ensures that when one Latino is educated, an entire community is empowered.

“At Perficient, we’re big believers in philanthropy and in giving back to the communities in which we live and work,” says Joel Stanesa, general manager of Detroit operations for Perficient. “We were honored to collaborate with MiHC to develop the La Puerta portal at no cost. MiHC is doing important work to advance education and career placement within Detroit’s Hispanic community. Our team of digital experts donated their time and expertise, and created an intuitive, comprehensive platform connecting MiHC Scholars with a variety of relevant resources that will help them achieve their educational goals.”

La Puerta is currently available to MiHC’s partner schools, with plans to scale access regionally and nationally over time. The portal is among the first to connect the broader Hispanic community with comprehensive digital tools to spur college retention, completion, and career success.

For more information, visit here.

Women Entrepreneurs to Receive Honors During Virtual JA Business Hall of Fame Event
Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan will honor two women business and community leaders during this year’s JA Business Hall of Fame for the first time in the event’s history.

Linda Orlans, founder and executive chair of Orlans, and Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, have been selected as laureates for the virtual event and fundraiser taking place April 22 at 6 p.m.

“This year’s honorees are shining examples of successful entrepreneurs who are also focused on making a positive difference in their communities,” says Gina Coleman, chief sales officer for MassMutual Great Lakes and JASEM board chair. “We look forward to saluting them both and highlighting their impressive careers at this year’s JA Business Hall of Fame virtual event and fundraiser.”

Funds raised at this event will help Junior Achievement develop the next generation of business professionals for our community. Event information can be found here or by contacting Linda Morrell at lmorrell@jamichigan.org or 313-962-0593.

This is the fourthh year Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan has hosted the JA Business Hall of Fame since reviving the event in 2017 from a 10-year hiatus. Past laureates include: Matt Simoncini, Mitch Albom, Marcy Klevorn, and Frank Venegas. In addition to recognizing our laureates the virtual program will include student interviews with this year’s winners and a showcase of JA programming.

Walmart Announces $350B Commitment to U.S. Manufacturing
Arkansas-based Walmart announced Wednesday that it is investing $350 billion in the future of U.S. manufacturing over the next 10 years. The retailer estimates that this spend will support more than 750,000 new American jobs.

In 2013, Walmart made a commitment to invest $250 billion in products made, grown, or assembled in America. The company says it is on track to deliver on that commitment — and expand on it with this latest announcement.

“U.S. manufacturing really matters,” says John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. “It matters to our suppliers, to entrepreneurs, and to the environment. It matters to our customers — more than 85 percent of which have said it’s important for us to carry products made or assembled in the U.S. And most of all, because of the jobs it brings, it matters to American communities and the people who live in them.”

Walmart has identified six priority categories on which to focus its investment: textiles; plastics; small electrical appliances; food processing; pharmaceutical and medical supplies; and Goods Not for Resale (GNFR).

The impact of this commitment goes beyond products and jobs, according to the company. It could result in an estimated reduction of as much as 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided by sourcing closer to customers, as well as an increase in spending with diverse suppliers based in the U.S.

In addition, Walmart will launch a new concept called “American Lighthouses,” with the goal of supporting U.S. manufacturing in a sustainable, long-term way. The retailer plans to unite key stakeholders in specific regions of the country to identify and overcome barriers to U.S. production. These Lighthouses will bring together participants from the supplier community, including manufacturers and NGOs, as well as others from academia, government, and local economic development groups.

Environmental Groups Announce Federal Clean Air Lawsuit Against AK Steel
Sierra Club and Environment Michigan, represented by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and National Environmental Law Center, announced Wednesday that they have taken the first steps in a Clean Air Act lawsuit against AK Steel Dearborn Works.

The groups sent their notice of intent to sue letter to state regulators, federal regulators, and Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., owner of the AK Steel plant. This represents the first step in the citizen enforcement suit process, as required under the Clean Air Act. In the notice letter, the groups state that they intend to prove that the AK Steel facility has violated the Clean Air Act by exceeding its air pollution emission limits thousands of times over the past five years.

“AK Steel’s blatant disregard for the law, blatant disregard for permitted emission limits, and blatant disregard for the community they operate in must and will be met with full accountability,” says Nicholas Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and one of the lawyers representing the groups. “We are hopeful that the suit will bring long needed relief to the residents of south end Dearborn.”

The notice letter states that AK Steel has continually failed to comply with emission limits for lead and manganese, which are neurotoxins. In addition, the letter documents hundreds of violations of the plant’s “opacity” limits, which measure the amount of fine particulate matter emissions. Particulate matter is associated with asthma and other health conditions and other impacts on health and mortality. The Dearborn facility has had a history of poor compliance.

Under the Clean Air Act, citizen lawsuits, such as this one, require a 60-day notice to the polluting company being accused, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. These lawsuits are typically brought in instances when a facility violates federal air pollution laws and when violations are not being diligently prosecuted by the state or federal government. If successful and if an alleged violator fails to fix the source of its alleged pollution, these lawsuits commonly result in federal court ordered monetary penalties, court orders requiring violators to alter operations to comply with emissions standards, and/or supplemental environmental project investments aimed at improving public health in the impacted community.

Automotive Analysts to Present Virtual Fireside Chat March 18
The Society of Automotive Analysts will present a virtual fireside chat on March 18 from aa a.m. to noon featuring Magna CEO Swamy Kotagiri and Michael Ramsey, vice president and analyst at Gartner Research.

During this conversation, Kotagiri will share his thoughts on the future of mobility, predictions for industry-wide growth, Magna’s approach to evolving mobility and how it aligns with secular trends in electrification, and other industry issues.

To register for the event, visit here.

Stronger Warrior Foundations Opens Applications for 2021 Adaptive Warrior Program
Applications are open through March 31 for the Stronger Warriors Foundation’s 2021 Adaptive Warrior program. Eligible service members and veterans can complete the application here.

The Adaptive Warrior program is designed to help relieve the financial burden that service members may incur as a result of service-related or other injuries. The program is dedicated to assisting three selected warriors in need by financially supporting adaptive living additions to homes, vehicles, and additional necessities.

“We want to help achieve a better quality of life for those who have dedicated their time for our country,” says Zachary Osaer, director of the program. “Our goal is to help make a veteran’s living situation easier, whether the injury is service related or not. At the end of the day, we just want to provide proper service to those who served.”

Adaptive Warriors eligibility requirements include:

  • Must be a resident of Michigan.
  • Must be amputated, paralyzed, blind, or deaf. Other severe injuries may receive benefits based on the case committee’s discretion.
  • Injury occurred in either combat-related service, non-combat related service, post-service accident.
  • Was not dishonorably discharged from service.

The level of funding available to support the warrior varies based on the severity of the situation and need. All grants will be paid directly to the contractor or the vehicle seller themselves. Those selected will be notified by the end of April and announced on strongerwarriorfoundation.com.

Friendship Circle to Host Annual ‘One Thing I Wish You Knew’ Event March 14
Friendship Circle, a West Bloomfield-based nonprofit that supports individuals with special needs and other concerns, is hosting its third annual UMatter “One Thing I Wish You Knew” event for the community on March 14 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

The nonprofit’s UMatter program is focused on empowering individuals to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges and suicide.

The free, virtual event will highlight the vulnerability and honesty of individuals telling people in their lives what they are going through. It will focus on members of the community and how their attempts to overcome challenges have often felt isolating and alienating. The event also will highlight relationships teens have and the difficulty of sharing what occurs beneath the surface.

Speakers include:

Trevor Bates, a former NFL Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots and former player with the Detroit Lions. He is a current Pure Heart Foundation board member and will discuss the power behind finding purpose and understanding identity.

Kelly Erickson, a first response volunteer and speaker with HAVEN of Oakland County for over four years. She advocates for other survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault and will speak about her personal story and message of hope for others who are enduring similar struggles.

Gracie Greenberg, a senior at Skyline High School, who struggled with feeling isolated and alone due to hiding her obsessive-compulsive disorder and scoliosis diagnoses. Once she opened up about her battles, she realized the benefits that vulnerability had on her confidence and mental and physical health.

Hannah Palmer, a junior at Eastern Michigan University, is a survivor who is sharing her story and strength in hopes of teaching the community what she wishes they knew about her journey. Her current work on the Sunflower Project and as Miss Lighthouse Coast emphasizes that your mental illness does not define you.

“Now more than ever, mental health is as important as physical health, and it’s our mission through UMatter to help individuals overcome stigmas and other obstacles related to their mental health,” says Bassie Shemtov, co-founder of the Friendship Circle. “The pandemic has been isolating for everyone, particularly teens. We hope this event will provide a safe space for teens and all community members to be vulnerable and create peer-to-peer connections.”

Those interested in attending can register here.

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