DBusiness Daily Update: New Wayfinding Kiosks in Downtown Detroit Connect the Community, 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.
Downtown Detroit’s new wayfinding kiosks are designed to help visitors and residents navigate downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. // Courtesy of DDP
Downtown Detroit’s new wayfinding kiosks are designed to help visitors and residents navigate downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. // Courtesy of DDP

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.

New Wayfinding Kiosks in Downtown Detroit Connect the Community

The Downtown Detroit Partnership, in collaboration with the city of Detroit and IKE Smart City, have unveiled the city’s new digital interactive, wayfinding kiosks.

Designed to help visitors and residents navigate downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, the collaboration is bringing state-of-the-art smart city technology to the public at no cost to the city or its constituents.

The first kiosk was unveiled in Cadillac Square. The kiosks will be deployed throughout Detroit in the next several months, with plans to have an active network of up to 30 kiosks throughout Detroit.

“As our commercial districts rebound from the pandemic, these digital kiosks will provide wayfinding and public information, and make our city and businesses more accessible to residents and businesses alike,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Focused in commercial, pedestrian-oriented areas, the new digital kiosks offer advanced wayfinding capabilities through smart city technology. Each kiosk serves as a free Wi-Fi hotspot and is geo-located, displaying informational listings based on what’s in immediate proximity to the kiosk. Features include a suite of interactive applications that drive discovery of area businesses, promote diverse mobility solutions, and improve equity with 24/7 access to resources.

This new system was designed for a diverse audience and offers information in 10 different languages and is fully ADA-compliant. Additionally, the kiosks provide access to social services information such as homeless shelters, addiction recovery programs, and food support.

“We are excited to see this program go live,” says Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “These industry-leading kiosks provide a valuable resource for visitors, businesses, employees, and residents. It supports DDP’s mission to make information on merchants, community resources, and events in downtown Detroit and throughout the city accessible to all.”

HAP Makes $75K Donation to Detroit Public Schools Community District Foundation

Health Alliance Plan, a Michigan-based nonprofit health plan, is reaching out to the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to support a program that provides coats and personal care items to students throughout the district who need them.

HAP’s $75,000 donation to the DPSCD Foundation will purchase all-weather coats and personal care items that students can “shop” for at DPSCD schools. The program is designed to support students and their families, eliminating barriers to attendance and attention while at school.

“We have deep roots in this community and are dedicated to the health, safety and wellness of Detroiters, especially the most vulnerable — our children,” says Margaret Anderson, senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer at HAP.  “For some time, HAP has been working to support programs that address homelessness and food insecurity, two issues that have major impact on overall health and well-being. If we can reduce the effects of these social determinants of health, students can focus on their studies, parents can focus on the family, and we can all work together to build stronger communities.”

DPSCD coordinates shopping events at schools throughout the district, allowing students and family members to select coats, care items, and gift cards that fit their individual needs.  Helping students address issues around routine, basic needs is critical to supporting the entire student according to Sharlonda Buckman, assistant superintendent of family and community engagement at DPSCD.

DPSCD estimates that 6,000 students — about 12 percent of the student population — will benefit from this program.

Buddy’s Pizza Expands to Okemos and Clarkston

Buddy’s Pizza will open its 20th location on April 4 in Okemos and its 21st on April 18 in Clarkston.

The 7,000-square-foot full-service restaurant in Okemos will offer a bar, kitchen, and patio seating to accommodate 275 people. It will be the company’s second restaurant in the mid-Michigan area, with the first opening in west Lansing in June 2020.

All grand opening efforts for this location will benefit two Lansing-based nonprofits whose mission is to alleviate homelessness and help get families on their feet.

Buddy’s will host an exclusive charity preview March 28-30, where the company will pay for each customer’s food in exchange for a donation to Child and Family Charities. Buddy’s will then donate all opening day sales to Haven House.

The Buddy’s Clarkston restaurant is a carry-out only location with an updated design concept. It features a layout specifically engineered for the carryout experience, including a grab-and-go station for online orders and a redesigned kitchen optimized for carryout. This is the first Buddy’s location that will include this grab-and-go system.

The new model aims to increase service speeds and enhance the overall guest experience, while still including classic features, such as décor elements that incorporate the local community of Clarkston.

For this restaurant opening, Buddy’s has partnered with Lighthouse of Oakland County and will donate all opening day sales to the nonprofit.

“We are proud to celebrate the milestones of opening our 20th and 21st locations,” says Wes Pikula, chief brand officer at Buddy’s Pizza. “Not only are we looking forward to how these new restaurants will further develop our business and grow our dedicated team, but we’re ecstatic that more families and communities will have the opportunity to experience the Original Detroit-Style Pizza from the creator itself.”

Trucenta Opens Michigan’s First Licensed Cannabis Consumption Lounge in Hazel Park

Hot Box Social, the state’s first licensed cannabis consumption lounge, will open this month for private events in Hazel Park.

Located at 23610 John R, Hot Box Social is a gathering space for meetings and special events where cannabis can be consumed in a safe and supportive environment. Capacity is approximately 200 people for private indoor events. The plan is to open the 3,000-square-foot indoor lounge to private events first, and to the public later in 2022. The 5,000-square-foot back patio also will be available later in the summer.

Hot Box Social is owned by Trucenta, which also operates the Breeze recreational provisioning center in Hazel Park.

As a licensed consumption lounge, cannabis products must be delivered from a licensed dispensary and used onsite. Cannabis experts will be available to help guests understand how to make an informed decision on the best product for them to consume. Local caterers and food trucks also can be hired for a wide variety of event experiences.

“We are honored that Michigan has awarded us the state’s first license for a consumption lounge,” says Nowfal Akash, chief information officer at Trucenta. “Our plan is to first use the space for corporate, social, and special events. Come summer, we’ll start scheduling events so the public can experience Hot Box Social with consumption-friendly activities like social gatherings, educational opportunities, and arts-focused activities.

“Our hope is that Hot Box Social will be used to bring a new experience for companies hosting brainstorming meetings, friends who are gathering for private parties, and one-of-a-kind fundraisers to raise money for nonprofit organizations.”

For more information, visit here.

Le’Host Hair and Wigs Teams with Walmart to Open Franchise in Las Vegas

Metro Detroit natives Henry and Haith Johnson, owners of Le’Host Hair and Wigs, are teaming with Walmart to launch its first franchise model in Las Vegas later this spring.

The Johnsons operated a storefront in Ferndale for 15 years before moving to Las Vegas last month.

Walmart introduced and rolled out Le’Host Hair and Wigs products to more than 300 stores spanning 25 states in February 2021. Additional stores are expected to be added.

“We know that we are making history in the beauty industry by collaborating with Walmart to service more customers and meeting the beauty needs,” says Haith Johnson.

Le’Host is known for servicing women who wear luxury wigs as well as those who wear natural and protective styles. The company specializes in working with cancer patients with hair loss and those who suffer with alopecia by creating custom wigs. Upon opening the Las Vegas location, Le’Host will be gifting four wigs to cancer survivors and veterans.

Las Vegas is expected to be the first of many franchise locations to come. Next year, the Johnsons anticipate opening a location in Texas as well as introduce new products to the market.

Emagine Cracks Top 10 Largest Movie Theater Chains in North America

Troy-based Emagine Entertainment Inc. is now ranked among the top 10 largest theatre chains in North America according to the 2022 Giants of Exhibition report from The Boxoffice Pro, the premiere publication of theatrical exhibition.

This year’s ranking at No. 9 reflects Emagine’s continued commitment to become the No. 1 movie-going destination in North America, the company says.

Emagine’s growth includes the acquisition of seven locations in 2021, adding 87 new screens in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, giving the theatre chain a total of 28 locations and 342 screens.

The seven new locations added in 2021 include: the Birmingham 8 Powered by Emagine in Birmingham, Quality 10 Powered by Emagine in Kochville Township (north of Saginaw), Emagine Woodhaven in Woodhaven, two in Indiana and two in Illinois.

Emagine now has 14 locations in Michigan, nine in Minnesota, three in Illinois, and two in Indiana.

“Becoming the ninth-largest theater chain in the country is a remarkable achievement for us,” says Paul Glantz, chairman of Emagine Entertainment. “Our leadership team has put us in a great position for growth despite the pandemic and challenges other operators in our industry have faced.”

Anthony LaVerde, CEO of Emagine Entertainment, says, “We are not done yet. We are continuing to evaluate other opportunities that provide growth value to our brand, that will allow us to bring the Emagine experience to other communities.”

Emagine says it has initiated processes to remodel and upgrade four former Goodrich theaters it acquired with the goal of turning them into state-of-the-art movie palaces. The theaters are in Kochville Township; Batavia, Ill.; Portage and Noblesville, Ind.

Completion of the aggregate $22 million dollar remodeling projects at those venues is slated for late 2022.

Amazon Launches Employment Support Program for Refugees

Amazon today launched the Welcome Door program, a new initiative to provide refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees with additional resources and support, as well as reimbursement for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) fees.

“At Amazon, we have a variety of jobs and welcome all kinds of people, and we’re proud to offer enhanced support for refugees around the world,” says Ofori Agboka, Amazon’s vice president of people experience and tech for operations. “Being displaced from your homeland and having to start again somewhere new is challenging and emotional. It is an honor and a privilege to help to make that transition easier and help people start again. Across our entire business and at all levels, we’re working with refugees to secure jobs and get the support they need.”

Through the new Welcome Door program, Amazon’s refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees will have access to several new resources, including:

  • Reimbursement for EAD renewal fees, which on average cost roughly $500 every other year.
  • A new Citizenship Assistance Portal that will fully support U.S. citizenship applications for all eligible employees.
  • Ongoing communications that will highlight policy changes that may impact an employee’s immigration status.
  • Free legal resources to help navigate immigration-related questions and the ability to connect with immigration experts.
  • Access to skills training benefits including free college tuition and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency through Amazon’s Career Choice program.
  • Customized mentorship.

These new resources will be offered to Amazon employees in the U.S. starting next month, and the company plans to expand the program globally by the end of the year.

In addition to Welcome Door, Amazon is supporting Ukrainians through the Tent Partnership for Refugees. Amazon is among the companies that have pledged to provide for the immediate needs and longer-term support for people fleeing Ukraine.

“We’re very proud of Amazon’s commitment to better support its refugee employees, joining other companies in the Tent Partnership that are going above and beyond to give refugees the help they need to integrate into their new communities,” says Veronica Rossini, acting executive director at the Tent Partnership for Refugees. “With millions of people fleeing war and conflict in countries like Afghanistan and Ukraine, a good job is one of the most impactful ways for refugees to build a new life. I hope the Welcome Door program inspires many more businesses to ensure these incredibly talented, resourceful, and dedicated people have the tools and support they need to thrive in their careers.”

For more information about Amazon’s Welcome Door program, visit here. For more information on what Amazon is doing to support people in Ukraine, please visit here.

Rocket Mortgage Classic Opens Registration for 2022 Volunteers 

The Rocket Mortgage Classic today announced volunteer registration has opened for the 2022 tournament, taking place at the Detroit Golf Club July 26 – 31.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic, which brings the PGA Tour’s top golfers to Detroit, relies on the support and dedication of its volunteers who help oversee every aspect of the event. New and returning volunteers can register for limited available positions now by visiting RocketMortgageClassic.com, clicking “Tournament Info” and choosing “Volunteer.”

Volunteering at the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic will be an exclusive experience for more than 1,500 people who will be an integral part of a PGA Tour event while also positively impacting the city of Detroit. Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the tournament, from admissions and guest services to on-course gallery management and shot tracking.

“Rocket Mortgage Classic volunteers are the backbone of what makes our event such a success,” says Jason Langwell, executive director of the tournament. “The duties they perform are critical to making the tournament run smoothly, and also provide significant support toward our Changing the Course initiative that aims to bridge the digital divide in Detroit.”

Each volunteer receives a Rocket Mortgage Classic golf shirt and hat by Levelwear Golf, complimentary week-long tournament access and parking, an additional daily grounds ticket for guests, complimentary food and beverage during shifts, and an invitation to the Volunteer Appreciation Party during tournament week. The volunteer package is $75 for adults, $35 for students 18 and over and free for those ages 13-18. All proceeds benefit tournament charities.

Dennis W. Archer, former mayor of Detroit, will return as the tournament’s volunteer general chair for the fourth consecutive year.

Report: Kettering Graduates Starting Salaries No. 1 in Michigan

The starting salaries of graduates of Kettering University in Flint are the highest in the state, according to a report from SmartAsset, a financial technology company based in New York City.

“Rigorous academic disciplines paired with our unparalleled cooperative education program provide remarkable opportunities for our graduates,” says Tracie Jones, interim vice president and director of enrollment at Kettering. “The application of theory and immersive industry practice creates a mastery of knowledge and professional confidence gained from experience. Our graduates are in high demand and leverage their success at Kettering throughout their careers of leadership and service.”

Kettering’s co-op program includes students alternating academic, on-campus terms attending classes with on-site work experience at one of more than 400 partner organizations, arming them with a degree and 2½ years of professional experience when they graduate. Students earn an average of $14.62 an hour in their first year to $18.44 an hour in their senior year.

As part of its annual Best Value College Index rating, Kettering also was named No. 3 in the state overall based on five factors: tuition, student living costs, scholarship and grant offerings, student retention rate, and starting salary for new graduates.

To read the full report, visit here.

Northwood University Launches True North Digital Platform

Northwood University in Midland has launched True North (truenorthideas.org), its new digital platform for advancing business innovation and free market thought leadership worldwide.

True North connects individuals and communities with thought leaders, think tanks, businesses, industry influencers, and media.

True North leads with the guiding values laid out by the school’s Northwood Idea, showcasing all tenets of the idea with an emphasis on business education, innovation, and free enterprise philosophies.

In addition, True North features a calendar of events, including activities and events sponsored by partner organizations.

In Related News: Northwood University will conduct its 44th Freedom Seminar, “America at the Crossroads: Challenges and Opportunities for the Next Generation,” April 7-10. The symposium on the free-enterprise system is led by academic and business leaders and investigates current business and economic topics of utmost interest to the academic and business communities. For more information, visit here.