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.
Shinola Introduces Shinola X Pewabic Collection
For the first time, Shinola and Detroit-based Pewabic Pottery have collaborated to introduce a one-of-a-kind watch collection featuring premium leather straps in earthy hues and artisanal dials to celebrate pottery’s significance in art and design. A Pewabic Pottery candle tray also is part of the collection.
Founded in 1903, Detroit-based Pewabic Pottery is known for the beauty of its community, iconic ceramics education center, and vibrantly iridescent glazes. Pewabic ceramics have graced museums, skyscrapers, and homes in Detroit and around the world.
Melding the art of pottery and watchmaking, Shinola was able to repurpose Pewabic titles with surface imperfections that would have otherwise been recycled.
Built to last, the Pewabic Runwell and Birdy watches feature sustainably sourced dials, crafted from Pewabic Pottery clay overages that provide a unique organic, natural surface. A premium leather strap complements the classic numerals on the timepiece.
Handcrafted by artisans at Pewabic Pottery, the Pewabic Pottery candle tray pays homage to the clay tile installations that decorate Detroit icons ranging from the Guardian Building to the Detroit Institute of Arts to the People Mover Stations around town. Slight variations in glaze and firing results ensure each piece is a one-of-a-kind Detroit heirloom.
The Shinola x Pewabic Collection is available in store and online at Shinola.com. Pricing ranges from $150-$700.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Maintains $0 Premium 2022 Medicare Plans
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will continue to offer $0 premium plans, $0 or low deductibles, $0 doctor visits, and improved supplemental benefits for the 2022 Medicare annual enrollment period, running Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
“Plan stability and affordability are at the forefront of our mission to ensure seniors have access to the care, resources and support they need,” says Krischa Winright, executive vice president of senior health services at BCBSM. “Naturally, addressing the cost of prescription drugs and other health-related needs are critical components to achieving that mission. We’re thrilled to provide enhanced benefit options that help members save money while also getting more value out of their health care plan.”
All 10 of Blue Cross and Blue Care Network Advantage’s current Medicare Advantage plans will be maintained for 2022 enrollment including the $0 premium Essential PPO and Prime Value HMO-POS plans featuring $0 medical deductible in most counties and $0 in-network primary care doctor visits.
For more information, visit here.
Electric Last Mile Solutions Locks in Urban Delivery Battery Supply Through 2025
Commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Electric Last Mile Solutions Inc. in Troy today announced major progress in its vehicle battery strategy with an eye toward potential U.S. localization of its electric vehicle batteries.
ELMS reached an agreement with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., a global leader of new energy technologies, to supply batteries and secure production capacity needed for its all-electric Class 1 Urban Delivery commercial vehicle. The agreement secures battery supply through 2025.
CATL will provide a 42-kWh lithium-ion battery in the lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry system, which has demonstrated high safety and reliability, as well as long cycle life. By leveraging CATL’s cell-to-pack (CTP) technology, the battery pack’s design improves system energy density, simplifies manufacturing and results in cost savings. Additionally, both sides are collaborating on future battery localization in the U.S.
“We reached an important milestone to secure battery capacity in an extremely challenging supply environment,” says Rob Song, deputy CFO and treasurer at ELMS. “This step allows ELMS to guarantee continued utilization of trusted, reliable vehicle components in our products.”
Consumers Energy Breaks Ground on New Natural Gas Training Facility in Flint
Consumers Energy today broke ground on its new, $10.1 million natural gas training facility in Flint, developed in partnership with the Michigan State Utility Workers Council. Construction is expected to be complete in winter 2022.
The center, named Flint Gas City, will serve as a training resource for more than 1,500 Consumers Energy employees who build, maintain, and operate natural gas infrastructure.
“Flint Gas City is a breakthrough initiative that directly impacts our goal to provide world-class performance and deliver hometown service,” says Tonya Berry, vice president of Gas Operations at Consumers Energy. “This facility, along with our training team, will provide the best possible preparation for our current and future workforce.”
The training center will feature learning environments designed specifically for the natural gas industry, including a command center where instructors will create and control various training scenarios, such as gas leak simulations, service hook-ups, utility locating, leak detection, and corrosion monitoring.
Once complete, the 1.4-acre complex will also include:
- A mock neighborhood of mini-homes and businesses with functioning pipelines, meters, and other natural gas facilities.
- An outdoor space for practicing heavy equipment use in a safe, controlled environment.
- A controlled outdoor area to practice fighting natural gas fires.
- In addition, the company will partner with local first responders to coordinate natural gas safety training opportunities for emergency responders.
“The development of this learning center in conjunction with the Michigan State Utility Workers Council is a testament to our strong partnership and commitment to ensuring our employees have the necessary training and resources to deliver safe, reliable natural gas to the communities where we live and serve,” says Amanda Wagenschutz, vice president of people and culture operations at Consumers Energy.
Detroit’s Birdy Boutique Makes Top 15 in Lowes Small Business Competition
Birdy Boutique in Detroit has advanced to the round of 15 in the #MakingItWithLowes program that is a way for the retailer to create a space for diverse-owned small businesses to sell their products.
“We are very excited about this, and we consider it an honor and privilege to be selected to go to the next round,” says Barbara Kent, owner of Birdy Boutique and a disabled veteran.
Birdy Boutique is a business built from the ground up by two immigrant sisters — Kent, a retired, disabled army veteran with 13 years of service, a mother of two, and wife to an active-duty soldier, and Joanna Jozwik Serra, an award-winning educator. The company is a certified disabled veteran and women-owned small business.
According to Kent, the company creates products with purpose, encouraging children to play, learn and explore. The flagship product line is the learning blankets, which are in the competition to win and be on Lowes’ shelves in the home decor department. Packed with facts and various topics, these blankets, according to Kent, are a great educational tool loved by kids and educators alike.
To advance in the competition, Birdy Boutique needs the public to vote until Oct. 15 for its blanket here.
For more information, visit here.
Grosse Pointe Natives Launch Realize Home Design App
Today marks the public launch of Realize, an artificial intelligence interior design app that allows anyone to design their home instantly in 3-D.
The brainchild of Grosse Pointe natives and brothers Michael and Wes Cimmarrusti, Realize is intended to allow people to answer questions like: “How do I know my shopping cart of furniture will fit and look good in my home?” “I want to integrate bold colors into my home but I’m nervous.” “I’d love an easier way to communicate my vision with my client.”
Realize creates a digital version of a room by taking the user on a guided 2-minute walkthrough of the space. From there, the app takes over. There’s no more need for cardboard box simulations, tape measures, and mood boards.
Mood boards don’t account for size, say the developers, cardboard boxes don’t account for realism, and neutral designs that consumers resort to because design is simply too challenging are unsatisfying.
“We knew there had to be a better solution that solved each of these inadequacies,” says Michael Cimmarrusti. “We’ve heard these struggles a thousand times, as well as a slew of insufficient solutions. Everyone is talking about augmented reality or virtual reality in relation to home design, but what if there was a better way? We don’t augment reality; we rebuild it from the ground up.”
Cimmarrusti says Realize was released it to the app store June 16 and 15 retailers have come onboard. The user base has been growing at a rate of more than 50 percent per month since then.
For more information, visit here.
Lansing Insurance Company Enters the Registered Index-Linked Annuity Market
Jackson National Life Insurance Co. in Lansing today announced the launch of Jackson Market Link ProSM (JMLP) and Jackson Market Link Pro AdvisorySM (JMLPA), two new registered index-linked annuities (RILAs).
JMLP (commission-based) and JMLPA (fee-based) offer consumers the opportunity to grow assets before and during retirement while offering different degrees of protection against unexpected market events.
“Registered index-linked annuities are one of the fastest growing segments of the annuities market and continue to gain momentum,” says Aimee DeCamillo, chief commercial officer and at Jackson and president of Jackson National Life Distributors. “Jackson is thrilled to launch our suite of RILA products, providing choice and flexibility to investors who are seeking to mitigate risk as they plan for their financial futures. By leveraging one of the largest distribution teams in the country, we are excited to educate and work with our financial professional partners to empower clients to invest on their own terms. These new products complement Jackson’s existing annuities lineup, enabling consumers to grow and protect their retirement assets tax-deferred.”
For more information, visit here.
Nearly $1.6M in Grant Funding Available for Fisheries Habitat Conservation and more
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering nearly $1.6 million in funding for a variety of activities tied to improving state fisheries and aquatic resources, including fish habitat conservation, dam removal and repair, resource assessment studies, and providing access to recreation.
Distributed through three themes — aquatic habitat conservation, dam management, and aquatic habitat and recreation in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds — Fisheries Habitat Grant funding is available through an open, competitive process to local, state, federal, and tribal governments, and nonprofit groups.
“Healthy waters benefit all of us,” says Joe Nohner, a resource analyst with the DNR Fisheries Division. “Whether it’s better fishing, more resilient ecosystems or improved human safety, these projects have positive effects across Michigan. These grants help our partners protect and rehabilitate fisheries and waters in a state that relies heavily on those resources as a foundation for tourism and quality of life.”
Examples of proposed projects addressing the causes of habitat decline include efforts to:
- Improve the management of riparian land (land situated near or on the water).
- Restore natural lake levels.
- Improve or create passage for aquatic organisms by removing culverts, dams and other barriers.
- Improve water quality.
- Implement watershed-based approaches to improving both the quality and quantity of water.
- Develop projects that demonstrate habitat conservation.
- Restore stream function.
- Add structural habitats, like woody habitat or aquatic vegetation.
- Conduct assessments that will guide conservation projects.
- Complete other projects that meet program goals.
All applicants must first discuss their project with a fisheries biologist, then complete and submit a short preproposal for DNR review. Preproposals must be submitted by email to Chip Kosloski at KosloskiC3@Michigan.gov no later than Nov. 12. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their preproposal by Dec. 14 and, if selected, will be invited to submit a full application.
An invitation to submit a full application does not guarantee project funding. Final funding announcements are expected to be made by May 31, 2022. The detailed program handbook, including timeline, preproposal guidelines and forms are available at Michigan.gov/DNRGrants.
Rehmann Associate Raises $40K for Friends of Foster Kids
Maher Faik, an associate at Rehman in Troy, has raised $40,000 for Friends of Foster Kids (FOFK) through participation in the 100 Businesses Who Care semi-annual pitch event.
Faik was chosen as one of three finalists to present his cause to 100 top decision-makers from southeast Michigan, in the hope of securing up to $50,000 for his charity of choice.
“It feels incredible to have been selected for a $40,000 donation to Friends of Foster Kids, a charity I hold close,” says Faik. “This contribution will help provide holiday gifts, clothing, college dorm room materials, and other essentials to foster children of all ages. Whether it be immediate care offerings, college and schooling support, or access to career resources, these are kids in need, and I’m eager to see the impact this funding will have on such a deserving organization as Friends of Foster Kids.”
Friends of Foster Kids was established in 2008 in Macomb County as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to support foster children. FOFK focuses its services on five key programs:
- Coalition of Community Commitment.
To learn more about the program, visit here.
Mid-Michigan HVAC Company Wins DUCTZ National Franchisee of the Year
Doug Warren, franchise owner of DUCTZ of Mid-Michigan in Jackson, was named the DUCTZ 2020 Franchisee of the Year.
Warren and his team have been part of the DUCTZ network since 2008.
“Recognizing a dedicated DUCTZ team who supports and encourages the core model and culture makes this the biggest DUCTZ Award each year,” says Rick Bohdel, president of DUCTZ. “The Franchisee of the Year is a common franchise system award, but DUCTZ gauges these awards on so many facets, including engagement, interaction, support, compliance within the brand parameters. It is so important to set your Franchisee of the Year as the example to be recognized in front of the entire system.”
Warren is a member of the DUCTZ Franchise Advisory Council, mentoring fellow franchisees, and was nominated as the Small Business Person of the Year by his local chamber of commerce.
DUCTZ provides improved indoor air quality to homes and businesses across the country, producing a healthier and safer environment with air duct cleaning, HVAC restoration, coil cleaning and dryer vent cleaning. Indoor air quality has become a major concern in schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, and office buildings, and DUCTZ technicians are trained to properly restore HVAC systems to more efficient operation.