DBusiness Daily Update: Realtor Association Promotes First-time Homebuyer Savings Account Program, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
family home
The first-time homebuyer savings account allows Michiganders to save for their own or a family member’s initial down payment on a future home purchase. // Stock Photo

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Realtor Association Promotes First-time Homebuyer Savings Account Program

The Greater Metropolitan Association of Realtors (GMAR) is working to educate metro Detroiters on a new program for first-home buyers in Michigan. The first-time homebuyer savings account allows Michiganders to save for their own or a family member’s initial down payment on a future home purchase.

GMAR has launched a dedicated web page to guide Michigan residents through opening their accounts so they can begin taking advantage of this opportunity immediately. A downloadable handout is available on site for people to take to their tax preparer who can advise their clients on how to take advantage of the tax savings when they file in April 2023. In a time of inflation when everyone is looking for ways to save, this program helps twofold: putting away savings with a tax-free account and being able to deduct the investment.

“The Greater Metropolitan Association of Realtors is happy to promulgate the perks of the first-time homebuyer savings account program,” says Teri Spiro, 2022 president of GMAR. “Realtors are committed to enabling everyone to be a homeowner. The ability to benefit from saving for a first home was recently created in the state of Michigan, and we want to make sure every person sees how much they could benefit.”

Since the account grows tax-free, investors are able to deduct investments that are paid into it annually for 20 years, or until it reaches the limit of $50,000.

“In order to qualify for an account, there are two qualifications that must be met,” says Vickey Livernois, CEO of GMAR. “First, the potential homebuyer must be a Michigan resident. Second, the candidate has not purchased or owned a single-family residence in three years. This includes joint ownership as well. Once eligible, candidates can begin the process of opening an account. For potential owners, the best course of action is to pick an account that best suits themselves. As long as the financial institution is authorized to do business in the state, a candidate is able to open up an account. Types of financial institutions can range anywhere from a local credit union to a national bank.”

JPMorgan Chase Creates Detroit-based Virtual Call Center

JPMorgan Chase, during an event today at its Corktown Community Branch, announced a new, virtual call center in Detroit, which is part of the firm’s ongoing commitment to advancing inclusive growth and racial equity in the city.

The virtual call center is designed to create dozens of well-paying jobs for Detroiters and builds on the firm’s $200 million investment in the city that began in 2014. These full-time, home-based roles will provide access to a steady income with opportunities for career growth, financial wellness, and tuition assistance for local residents, primarily from underserved neighborhoods.

These account specialists will be trained to help build relationships with customers over the phone and help them manage their financial accounts.

While the roles will be virtual, teams will gather at Chase Community Centers for onboarding, training, and face-to-face meetings. Initially, the firm has hired approximately 50 members of the Detroit community, with the opportunity to add more jobs in the future.

These new employees will be paid no less than $22.50/hour and receive an annual benefits package worth about $16,000.

“We have always seen Detroit as an investment — and today, the returns on this investment are even clearer,” says Peter Scher, vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. “This new call center demonstrates Detroit is a city full of talent and opportunity.”

Amazon Donating $150K Home Security Devices to Support Life Detroit Neighborhoods

Amazon has made a $150,000 donation to Detroit nonprofit Life Remodeled and Detroit neighborhood organizations, plus a donation of 100 Ring devices to residents in the Cooley High School neighborhood as part of Life Remodeled’s Six Day Project initiative.

Each year, a Detroit neighborhood is selected by Life Remodeled for its annual Six Day Project — a mass volunteering effort to clear blight and beautify Detroit neighborhoods. This year, the 2.5-square-mile area in the community surrounding Cooley High School will see thousands of volunteers remove debris and brush from its vacant properties. Cooley community residents also will be offered free lawn care services and curb appeal upgrades.

Amazon’s donation to Life Remodeled will support youth programming at the Durfee Innovation Society, a formerly vacant Detroit public school building Life Remodeled has repurposed and now serves tens of thousands of Detroiters annually. Part of the donation will also support community programs and events for Detroit neighborhood organizations. These neighborhood organizations include:

  • University District Community Association
  • Calvary Community Association
  • College Park Community Association
  • Oakland Boulevard Community District
  • Core Cities Neighborhood
  • Patty Turner Community Partner
  • STV 313 Neighborhood Safety
  • Happy Homes Community Association
  • Palmer Woods Association

“Life Remodeled has been dedicated to strengthening our communities block by block,” says Ian Conyers, head of community engagement at Amazon. “Amazon believes Life Remodeled has created a scalable revitalization strategy, and we are proud to support their efforts hand in hand with donations to Detroit block clubs and neighborhood-focused organizations.”

Amazon volunteers will be on-site for the Six Day Project to help Life Remodeled install 100 Ring devices at residents’ homes in the Cooley community. The Life Remodeled team believes the donated Ring devices will help bring peace of mind and support neighborhood safety in the Cooley community.

“Blighted vacant properties are visually depressing eyesores, and they can also contribute to unsafe pathways for students walking to school and other neighborhood safety concerns,” says Chris Lambert, founder and CEO of Life Remodeled. “Installing the Ring doorbells was an idea presented to us by community members, and we are glad to be able to provide this benefit to the community with Amazon’s help.”

LISC Detroit Starts Renovation of 30 Units of Affordable Housing

Local Initiatives Support Corp. Detroit (LISC Detroit) and developer Minyon Properties have started renovations on 30 deeply affordable apartments in Detroit’s Farwell neighborhood in District 3 that will see their homes get full makeovers and the affordability extended for at least the next 14 years.

When completed next summer, Le Chateau Apartments (19225 Mound Road) will be renamed the 7 Mound Apartments, and feature 30 deeply affordable units, with five apartments at or below 40 percent AMI and 25 at 50 percent AMI. That means one-bedroom apartments will be as low as $671 a month. All residents will be able to stay in their units during the renovation.

The renovations were made possible by the LISC-managed investment vehicle Detroit Housing for the Future Fund (DHFF), an unprecedented effort to preserve and create affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city. Minyon Properties — a Black-owned, Detroit-based developer — also is receiving a Developers of Color Fund grant through DHFF. Le Chateau is the seventh project to tap the DHFF since the private investment fund was launched in 2020.

“All over the city, we are working to create and preserve affordable housing and ensure that our neighborhoods have quality places that Detroiters can afford to call home,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “The Detroit Housing for the Future Fund is a critical tool providing sorely needed resources that help us ensure that deeply affordable housing options exist in neighborhoods across Detroit. It also is helping to renovate a number of the smaller apartment buildings we often see in our neighborhoods and keeping residents in their homes.”

Traverse City Whiskey Co. to Host Cherry Whiskeyfest Oct. 6

Traverse City Whiskey Co. (TCWC) will kick off its third annual Cherry Whiskeyfest Oct. 6, with the release of its Barrel Proof Cherry Whiskey — a limited-release, enhanced strength version of its classic American Cherry Edition, the best-selling craft spirit in the state of Michigan, according to TCWC.

The team will make a blend of 10 premium barrels available for purchase at The Stillhouse in Traverse City and The Outpost in Ferndale for $89.99 (750 ml). Non-locals can order a limited-edition Cherry Whiskeyfest kit ($85) at cherrywhiskeyfest.com, which includes 200 ml bottles of both the Barrel Proof Cherry and American Cherry Edition whiskeys, a jar of TCWC’s premium cocktail cherries and TCWC branded golf balls.

TCWC’s Barrel Proof Cherry Whiskey features the same mash bill (75 percent corn, 21 percent rye and 4 percent malt barley) and recipe as American Cherry Edition, but a higher proof (between 109-112). Additionally, the team infuses the Barrel Proof version with 10 pounds of Montmorency Sour Cherries from Fredrickson Orchards, which are wrapped in cheesecloth and suspended in the batch to fully infuse their fruity flavor for approximately three days (versus 10 for the Bottle Proof version).

The batch is then tasted at multiple points by the team’s master distiller and master blender to ensure the proper balance and addition of the cherry essence. Once the perfect taste is achieved, the cherries are removed, and the whiskey is bottled. The finished expression exhibits notes of rich dark chocolate, cherries, raspberries, vanilla, hints of cinnamon, and star anise.

“Barrel Proof Cherry Whiskey is extremely authentic to northern Michigan and exhibits a subtle cherry taste,” says Chris Fredrickson, co-founder of Traverse City Whiskey Co. “Folks who aren’t necessarily fans of flavored whiskey will appreciate this higher-proof version.”

General RV Center Earns Top 50 Dealer Designation from RVBusiness

General RV Center, based in Wixom, has been included among RVBusiness’s 11th annual Top 50 Dealers.

The list is chosen from nominations by U.S. and Canadian RV manufacturers. Nominees are then reviewed by a panel of industry executives during a two-day session after Labor Day at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.

The panel reviews sales volume, marketing savvy, aggressive employee training, cutting-edge service, community involvement and a commitment to consumer care. General RV, along with the rest of the designated dealers, will be recognized this year during the 2022 RV Dealers Convention/Expo Nov. 7-11 in Las Vegas.

Despite the pandemic and global supply chain issues, General RV has expanded its reach and recorded a 31 percent increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021. The new Top 50 Dealer recognition comes as the nation’s largest family-owned RV dealer celebrates 60 years of business.

“This recognition is truly a testament to the hard work, dedication and passion of the General RV family,” says Loren Baidas, president of General RV Center. “We have experienced record growth in multiple areas with strong RV sales, several construction and expansion projects, continuous hiring of new talent and more. An immense thank you is owed to our customers, employees, and RV manufacturing partners; all of whom play a major role in General RV’s success.”