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 Launches New College Savings Mobile App
The Michigan Department of Treasury has launched READYSAVE 529, a new education savings mobile app available to Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP) account owners. The app provides a convenient way to access information, track progress, and make contributions.
“We are excited to be one of the first states to offer this new tool that makes it easier for families to save for their children’s future,” says Diane Brewer, administrator of MESP. “As higher education costs continue to rise, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to help Michiganders plan, monitor, and adjust their saving strategies to meet their goals. READYSAVE 529 delivers a simple yet powerful solution to do that.”
Developed by Ascensus, the READYSAVE 529 app allows users to view account balances and investment allocations, make one-time or reoccurring contributions, and see how their savings compare with peers. Future launches of the app will add new capabilities like allowing family and friends to make gift contributions.
READYSAVE 529 is available for download in the Apple and Google Play app stores and can be installed on any device. MESP account owners can log in using their existing username and password.
More information about MESP is available at MISaves.com or 877-861-6377.
Liberty Bank Chooses Detroit’s Autobooks to Support Small Businesses
Detroit-based fintech Autobooks has been selected by Connecticut’s Liberty Bank, one of the largest mutual banks in the country, to be the small business platform embedded in Liberty’s digital banking platform.
“We’re now competing not only with megabanks, but with PayPal, Square, all these challenger fintechs,” says David Mitchell, executive vice president, general manager, and chief digital officer of Liberty Bank. “Innovative partners like Autobooks are essential to thwarting their attacks and keeping our small business customers satisfied. We can quickly and seamlessly add features like industry-leading digital payment acceptance into our banking channels to meet and exceed customer expectations.”
Autobooks helps banks and credit unions improve their small business product mix to better serve these critical customers and cement long-term relationships. Liberty Bank engaged Autobooks as a third-party solution through the Alkami Platform, a complete digital solution for financial institutions that facilitates both retail and business user onboarding, engagement, and account servicing.
“We recognize the strategic importance of embracing the best of fintech innovation and bringing the right partners into the Alkami platform,” says Stephen Bohanon, chief strategy and sales officer at Alkami. “Autobooks has been a fantastic partner in the critical small business sector, and we look forward to continuing our work together as we enable Liberty Bank to deliver competitive and compelling solutions to their business customers.”
Small businesses account for nearly 44 percent of the economic activity in the United States, but have unique needs that aren’t served with out-of-the-box business checking accounts. By embedding friendly fintech, financial institutions can increase their core competencies and integrate their channels and services into the daily operations of their small business customers, effectively locking in those relationships.
“Liberty Bank is a forward-thinking institution that’s constantly looking for ways to deliver more value to their customers. It’s satisfying to partner with such a progressive bank,” says Steve Robert, CEO of Autobooks. “They understand that their small businesses deserve industry-leading technology to compete in a digital-first marketplace. We’re thrilled that they’ve chosen Autobooks to enhance their platform with digital banking, payment acceptance, and small business ledgering solutions.”
Washtenaw Community College Joins DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program
Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor has enrolled in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower voluntary renewable energy program, the first community college in the state to do so.
MIGreenPower provides DTE customers with an easy, low-cost option to access more clean energy without installing onsite generation.
“Protecting our precious resources for generations to come is a critical role for all of us,” says Rose B. Bellanca, president of WCC. “WCC is thrilled to partner with DTE as the first community college in Michigan to participate in MIGreenPower to accelerate our longtime commitment to these efforts.”
Bellanca says WCC has aggressively pursued a campus-wide environmental sustainability plan for the past decade with the intent of achieving a carbon neutral footprint, including signing the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and outlining long- and short-term goals.
The college’s clean energy commitment, which includes sourcing 100 percent of its electric power needs through clean energy by 2029, is part of WCC’s broader sustainability effort. Among these initiatives are installing occupancy sensors in classrooms and offices; eliminating incandescent lamps; implementing a comprehensive campus recycling program; composting food and yard waste; installing electric vehicle fueling stations; and following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system for all new and remodel building projects.
Additionally, WCC has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its campus tree care program for five years in a row. With more than 1,600 trees across its 147 acres of maintained grounds, WCC has an active forest management program that includes student service-learning opportunities, a tree advisory committee and a campus tree-care plan.
“Washtenaw Community College is one of our area’s top community colleges,” says Brian Calka, director of DTE’s Renewable Solutions team. “We know they are committed to supporting the educational goals of the more than 21,000 students they serve each year, and we are excited they have enrolled in MIGreenPower to meet the environmental goals that are also important to their faculty, students, staff and supporters.”
Madison Heights’ Shelving Inc. to Award 7th Annual Scholarships
Shelving Inc., a provider of corporate and consumer shelving and storage solutions based in Madison Heights, will be awarding its seventh annual college Business Scholarship to three business students in August.
The scholarships will be awarded to three eligible college students currently pursuing a major in business and/or enrolled in a business-related field of study. One student will receive a $1,500 first place scholarship, and two students will receive $1,000 as second- and third-place scholarships.
“Today, more than ever before, we know how important it is to support our next generation of business leaders with financial assistance to attend college,” says Mike Schodowski, president of Shelving Inc. “In our seventh year of running this scholarship, we’ve learned just how motivated today’s youth are to making a difference in their communities and economies. We look forward to reviewing the applications of the deserving students that apply this year.”
Schodowski says the company possesses a deep belief in the importance of giving back by funding the scholarships, hosting fundraising events, and donating 10 percent of company profits annually to the Capuchin Ministries, and supports Humble Design and Friends of Foster Kids.
Eligible students must be a student attending an accredited university or college, or a high school senior that is currently enrolled or planning to enroll in college beginning no later than the fall 2021 semester. Those interested in applying must be pursuing a major in business or a business-related field of study, have a minimum 2.8 cumulative GPA, and submit a copy of their transcript and draft an essay.
The deadline to apply for the scholarship here is July 31.