DBusiness Daily Update: SMBA Awards 331 Small Businesses $3M in Grants to Winterize Operations, Cinch I.T. to Open First Michigan Location in Troy, 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
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.

SMBA Awards 331 Small Businesses $3M in Grants to Winterize Operations
The Small Business Association of Michigan, through a program created and funded by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, has awarded $3 million in grants to 331 Michigan small businesses to help them winterize workplaces and temporarily expand operations to meet COVID-19 distancing requirements.

“Offering outdoor opportunities for business during the colder months has been a lifeline for small businesses this year as they work to survive during the pandemic,” says Brian Calley, president of SBAM. “These grants are helping small businesses offset the costs of creative outdoor options that increase capacity as they work to operate safely. SBAM is proud to have worked with LEO on this important program.”

Qualified businesses were awarded between $1,000 and $10,000 to fund weatherized, temporary outdoor facilities. The grants were part of COVID-19 federal funding identified by LEO to assist businesses with winterization efforts.

“Michigan small businesses have done their part to safely keep our economy running during this pandemic,” says Susan Corbin, acting director of LEO. “We know these times have been tough and are proud to continue working with SBAM to provide resources to help small businesses weather the storm, and in this case, take on winter operations they never would have considered before.”

Businesses and nonprofits that received the funding included:

  • Restaurants and/or bars
  • Breweries/wineries/tasting rooms
  • Cafes
  • Concession stands
  • Banquet centers
  • Catering companies
  • Gyms
  • Ski resorts
  • Dance/gymnastic studios
  • Boating clubs
  • Golf courses
  • Funeral homes
  • Theater companies
  • Museums
  • Downtown development districts
  • Food banks
  • Nature centers
  • Cider mills
  • Retail stores/shops
  • Commercial real estate companies

Grant funds will reimburse small businesses for constructing temporary structures such as canopies and igloos or purchase portable heaters, outdoor furniture and tableware, cooking equipment, and other related safety and security upgrades needed to increase outdoor capacity for carryout and delivery services. All funds must have been used to support weatherization of outdoor capacity expansions completed between Aug. 1 and Dec. 30, 2020.

For more information, visit here.

Cinch I.T. to Open First Michigan Location in Troy
Massachusetts-based Cinch I.T. is opening its first location in the state of Michigan in Troy early next month.

Cinch I.T.’s expansion into Michigan comes at a time when demand for I.T. services and cloud-computing solutions have skyrocketed as remote work continues. The new location will be owned and operated by Josh Fett, who will provide enterprise-level I.T. support to Detroit area businesses of all sizes at a fraction of the cost of an in-house I.T. department, according to Cinch I.T.

“With the support of Cinch I.T. and its team, I am excited to be able to bring the brand’s services to Troy and the greater Detroit area to help businesses better adapt to and operate through the challenges so many people continue to experience with remote work,” says Fett. “I am confident that we can meet and exceed the growing demand for I.T. support in the area as Cinch I.T.’s first location in Michigan.”

Cinch I.T. says it lost no customers when the COVID-19 pandemic started thanks in part to its centralized support system that handles 80-90 percent of the support calls and help tickets.

This system, called Cinch Central, provides franchisees and clients access to a support system of more than 40 team members and I.T. technicians, which gives Cinch I.T. an edge over in-house I.T. technicians who are struggling to keep up with demand and the increase in help tickets.

“We are excited to be expanding our brand into new states like Michigan at a time when the demand for our I.T. and cloud-computing services is increasing,” says Rick Porter, president of Cinch I.T. “We saw our support calls triple as people shifted to remote work so now is the perfect time to expand our reach and help even more businesses navigate their I.T. operations during the pandemic.”

Cinch I.T. provides remote and on-site computer support. The services offered include I.T. support plans, network security, backup/disaster recovery, cloud computing, cybersecurity software, tech consulting, and more.

For more information, visit here.

February Auto Sales Forecast Strong Despite Weather and Lean Inventory
New-vehicle retail sales for the month of February are expected to show growth from February 2020, according to a joint forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, both in Troy.

Retail sales for new vehicles are projected to reach 975,600 units, a 3.3 percent increase compared to February 2020 when adjusted for selling days. February 2021 contains two fewer selling days and one fewer selling weekend than February 2020. Comparing the same sales volume without adjusting for the number of selling days translates to a year-over-year decrease of 4.6 percent. February 2020 was a once-in-a-generation sales calendar month, which benefitted from being a leap year and having five weekends.

Total new-vehicle sales for the month of February, including retail and non-retail transactions, are projected to reach 1,206,700 units, a 3.7 percent decrease from February 2020 when adjusted for selling days. Reporting the same numbers without controlling for the number of selling days translates to a decrease of 11.1 percent from February 2020. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total new-vehicle sales is expected to be 16 million units, down 0.9 million units from 2020.

“Despite challenges posed by inclement weather in most of the country, retail sales demand continues to be strong with the industry posting a second consecutive month of year-over-year gains,” says Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power. “Typically, weather related sales disruptions are made up in the weeks following, so most of the sales lost at the beginning of February will be made up at the end of February and trail into early March.

“While the ongoing strength of the sales rate is impressive, the transaction prices and profitability of those sales is nothing short of remarkable,” King continues. “The combination of strong retail sales, higher transaction prices, and smaller discounts means that February 2021 likely will be one of the most profitable Februarys ever for both retailers and manufacturers.”

Although vehicle inventories were lean during the month, there was enough to maintain positive sales growth in the near term, according to J.D. Power. The lingering risk to the current retail sales pace for the balance of the year is supply chain disruption.

“Lean inventories mean that vehicles are selling quickly once they arrive at dealerships — and they are selling with lower discounts,” King says. “The average number of days a new vehicle sits on a dealer lot before being sold is on pace to fall to 53 days, down 18 days from last year.”

For more details, visit here.

Ann Arbor Company Authorized to Provide Cybersecurity to DoD Supply Chain
NSF International Strategic Registrations, a management systems certification company in Ann Arbor (NSF-ISR), has been authorized to offer a new cybersecurity assessment to companies from the aerospace and defense, technology and software provider industries within the Department of Defense (DoD) supply base.

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB) provided the authorization.

The CMMC-AB approved NSF-ISR as one of the first Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program-certified Third-Party Assessment Organizations (C3PAO). The certification program was created by the DoD to enhance the protection of controlled unclassified information, such as blueprints for parts of new defense aircraft and specifications for military uniforms, within their supply base.

“Some level of CMMC will be required for all defense contractors, and we are honored to be among the first to be authorized to help protect our nation’s security,” says Jennifer Morecraft, senior managing director of NSF-ISR. “If you handle any form of controlled unclassified information, whether that is a service such as mowing the grass, providing simulation software to train soldiers prior to deployment or the manufacturing of helicopter propellers or apparel, your organization will be required to be certified to some level of CMMC.”

For more information, visit here.

DDI Technology Announces Entry into Michigan Electronic Lien and Title Market
DDI Technology, a leading electronic vehicle title and registration technology firm in Illinois, is expanding services and Premier eTitleLien product into the state of Michigan. DDI will become one of just two certified ELT service providers approved by the Michigan Secretary of State.

“DDI has 22 years of experience bringing its industry-leading ELT solutions to lenders across the U.S.,” says Troy Moore, senior director and head of business development at DDI. “Beginning in March, lenders in Michigan will join a growing market of institutions receiving the value-added benefits of an electronic lien filing process supported by our exceptional product and customer service teams.”

DDI’s Premier eTitleLien solution streamlines lenders’ title and lien release management, simplifying the title process by reducing fraud and errors while allowing lenders to eliminate paper title storage, such as lien cards, and receive quicker confirmation of lien placement, according to the company.

The platform provides electronic lien processing, including electronic filing of liens for certain refinance transactions available through the Michigan ELT program. Additionally, the Michigan title inquiry transaction is built into Premier eTitleLien, reducing fraud for lienholders as well as delivering time and cost savings.

J.D. Power Report: Battleground for Electric Vehicle Purchase Consideration is Wide Open
Undecided battery electric vehicle (BEV) shoppers can be converted to likely purchase considerers with some encouragement, according to the inaugural J.D. Power U.S. Electric Vehicle Consideration Study.

Currently, more than half (59 percent) of new-vehicle shoppers fall into the “somewhat likely” or “somewhat unlikely” categories when it comes to considering a BEV for their next purchase or lease — a significant window of opportunity for future EV sales, according to J.D. Power in Troy.

“Right now, the projected BEV supply outweighs consumer interest,” says Stewart Stropp, senior director of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “And for every new-vehicle shopper seriously considering BEVs, there’s another at the opposite end of the spectrum. To avoid a potential ongoing inventory surplus, it behooves manufacturers and retailers to identify why shoppers in the middle ground aren’t completely sold on the technology, and how to get them over the hump into the ‘very likely’ consideration camp.”

The study finds that firsthand experience with BEVs plays an important role in purchase consideration. Among respondents who say they have owned or leased a BEV in the past, 46 percent are “very likely” to consider another, while 6 percent say they are “very unlikely” to consider purchasing another BEV as their next vehicle. This is similar to findings in the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study in which, even among dissatisfied owners (overall satisfaction scores below 600 on a 1,000-point scale), 65 percent say they “definitely will” consider an EV for their next purchase.

The EVC Study also finds the “very likely” ratio among respondents who have simply ridden in a BEV is nearly three times that of those who have never been in one (20 percent vs. 7 percent, respectively). Half of respondents have never been in a BEV, highlighting a need for automakers and retailers to create opportunities for consumers to familiarize themselves with these vehicles.

“Anything stakeholders can do to get more people into electric vehicles, whether it’s experiential events, take-home test drives or other proactive efforts, will help break down the preconceptions people have about BEVs and drive higher consideration,” says Stropp.

For more information about the U.S. Electric Vehicle Consideration Study, visit here.

Apex Process Consultants Introduce No-code Forms
Apex Process Consultants in Southfield has introduced Apex Forms Workflow Edition, a new no-code platform for automatically generating user interfaces for IBM workflows.

With Apex Forms, any IBM workflow customer can “quickly and easily build codeless forms, streamlining UI development and creating solutions faster than ever before,” the company says.

“This useful and innovative tool represents a major breakthrough in no code development for intelligent process automation,” says David Knapp, president of Apex Process Consultants.

Utilizing Apex Forms, workflow developers can go from process diagrams to working UIs in seconds instead of the hours typical of such projects.

By reducing the time it takes to automate processes, companies can implement a broader range of workflows, resulting in a higher ROI and enhanced performance, according to Apex Process Consultants. Apex Forms is designed to be an asset for customers who are transitioning from legacy workflow tools like Filenet to IBM Business Automation Workflow.

The platform can be downloaded for free, and the basic subscription plan is also free. Pricing is usage-based with plans available for organizations of all sizes. For more information, visit here.

Beyond Basics to Host Literacy Summit March 3
Beyond Basics in Southfield is presenting its 2021 Literacy Summit via Zoom on Wednesday, March 3 at 12:30 p.m.

The featured speaker is John Corcoran, author of “The Bridge to Literacy,” “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read,” and “The Reading Gap.” Following Corcoran’s remarks, WXYZ-TV anchor Carolyn Clifford will moderate a media panel discussion featuring author R.J. King, editor of DBusiness magazine and DBusiness Daily News, and Jennifer Chambers, education reporter at The Detroit News.

To register, email Jennifer Sutherland at sutherland@beyondbasics.org.

DIA to Display Works by Robert Blackburn
The Detroit Institute of Arts, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), this spring will present works from influential Black artist and master printer Robert Blackburn.

Open March 20-Sept. 5, “Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking” brings together more than 75 works, including Blackburn’s lithographs, woodcuts, intaglio prints, and watercolors, as well as original prints by other iconic artists with whom he collaborated, such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Grace Hartigan, Robert Rauschenberg, and more.

Together, they form a picture of an artist who innovated while encouraging and inspiring the work of others. This exhibition is included with general museum admission, which is free for members and residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. All museum visitors must make an advance reservation by phone at 313-833-4005 or here.

A key artist in the development of printmaking in the United States, Blackburn became known as an influential teacher and master printer, engaging with avant-garde artistic ideas while promoting a new collaborative approach to a traditional medium. The exhibition traces Blackburn’s artistic evolution, together with prints by other American artists with whom he collaborated.

“For more than five decades, Robert Blackburn ran a workshop open to everyone,” says Clare Rogan, curator of prints and drawings at the DIA. “His printmaking knowledge and skill were legendary, and his generosity opened printmaking to generations of artists from all over the world. At the same time, he was deeply connected to Black artistic circles including the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Through this exhibition by SITES we are delighted to share his legacy with our visitors.”

Programming for Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking includes a virtual lecture by Smithsonian guest curator Deborah Cullen-Morales who will discuss the inspirational life of Blackburn, and the many ways the artist’s accomplishments and values resonate today. This event will be free, streaming on the DIA’s Facebook and YouTube pages on April 13 at 5:30 p.m.

“Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking” is organized by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and curated by Deborah Cullen-Morales, in cooperation with the Trust for Robert Blackburn and The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts’ Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Program. This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and funding from the Smithsonian’s Provost Office.

At the Detroit Institute of Arts​, major funding is provided by the DTE Foundation. Additional support is given by Rhonda D. Welburn.

Holocaust Memorial Center Presents ‘A Call to Spy’ March 1
The Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills, in partnership with IFC Films and Tamar Simon from Mean Streets Management, will present “A Call to Spy,” a program about women spies in World War II on March 1.

The program will take place online as a live Zoom webinar at 7 p.m.

“A Call to Spy” will feature a discussion between Sarah Megan Thomas, who wrote the 2019 movie screenplay of the same name, plays Virginia Hall, and produced the film; Craig Gralley, author of “Hall of Mirrors: Virginia Hall: America’s Greatest Spy of WWII;” and moderator Nancy Kaffer of the Detroit Free Press.

In the beginning of WWII, with Britain becoming desperate, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered his new spy agency — SOE — to recruit and train women as spies. Their mission: conduct sabotage and build a resistance. SOE’s “spymistress,” Vera Atkins (Stana Katic) recruits two unusual candidates: Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas), an ambitious American with a wooden leg, and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte), a Muslim pacifist. Together, these women help to undermine the Nazi regime in France, leaving an unmistakable legacy in their wake. Vera Atkins was Jewish and faced antisemitism in London while working for the SOE. Inspired by true stories, this original screenplay draws upon SOE and CIA (and its pre-cursor OSS) files, as well as interviews with living relatives.

To register for the program, visit here. Registrants will receive a link to the webinar. The film can be watched on-demand on digital or cable platforms. Visit here for more information.

“Virginia Hall and Noor Inayat Khan were great spies not because they were women, but because they were smart, tenacious and accomplished,” says Sarah Saltzman, director of events at the Holocaust Memorial Center. “‘A Call to Spy’ shows how the perseverance and individual choices people make can create a tremendous impact. This timeless lesson resonates today as it relates to our mission to stand up for injustice and to be an upstander, not a bystander. We are honored to have such distinguished participants for this discussion.”

Community partners for this event are the Detroit Jewish Film Festival and the Greater Farmington Film Festival.

Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers’ Truckloads of Hope Supports Capuchin Soup Kitchen
The Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Association is again providing support to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Services Center in Detroit through its annual “Truckloads of Hope” campaign.

Through the month of March, each of the area’s 38 Chevrolet dealerships will be collecting shower, hygiene, and other personal essentials for use by those who visit the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s food pantry, as well as homeless guests who participate in the organization’s shower program.

Last year’s event was impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but MDCD still gathered thousands of items. For the 2021 collection drive, local Chevy dealers will use Silverado truck replica donation boxes in lieu of truck bed displays, but the donations will be presented to the Capuchins with a caravan of 38 Chevrolet trucks or SUV’s.

“After the 2020 pivot, our Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers are really looking forward to delivering hope — with the goal of filling the equivalent of 38 Chevy Silverado truck beds — to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen this year,” says John Fox, president of the MDCD. “COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways, but it’s been especially difficult for those who already struggled financially on a daily basis. Through Truckloads of Hope, we are continuing our Chevy Detroit tradition of supporting the meaningful services the Capuchin Organization provides, and our dealer members, the public who visit our showrooms, and our employees wholeheartedly get involved in this community-wide effort.”

One of seven Capuchin Soup Kitchen Programs, the Capuchin Services Center traditionally assists tens of thousands Detroit neighbors annually with emergency food, clothing, and household supplies like bedding and laundry essentials. Truckloads of Hope donations also will assist the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Meldrum site location, which has adapted its shower program due to the pandemic through the use of a mobile trailer three-station shower unit —located in the parking lot — to provide homeless guests with a warm shower, hygiene products, and fresh clothing.

“Donations from Truckloads of Hope can make all the difference in people’s daily lives and is such a blessing for our Capuchin Services Center and for our shower program,” says Br. Jerry Johnson, executive director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. “Household supplies and hygiene items are expensive, and many of our guests have difficulty affording these necessities. This event always provides a tremendous boost to our efforts. We’re very thankful for the many good people who purchase items and come out to the Metro Detroit Chevy dealership sites to donate.”

Visitors to Metro Detroit Chevy Dealer showrooms are invited to place their donations in the collection bins stationed near front entrances between March 1–31. The following new items are most in need:

  • Sheets (full and twin sizes)
  • Blankets (full and twin sizes)
  • Laundry detergent (42 oz. or 64 oz.)
  • Dryer sheets
  • Hand and bath towels
  • Travel shaving cream
  • Travel hand sanitizer
  • Disposable razors
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Baby wipes
  • Socks
  • Underwear

The Capuchin Soup Kitchen is a ministry of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph. For more information, visit here.

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