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.
Soave Enterprises’ Ever Tru Farms Expanding Operations
Ever Tru Farms, the Kingsville, Ontario-based vertically integrated year-round supplier of strawberries and a division of Soave Enterprises in Detroit, is launching Phase Two of its expansion.
The farm is adding an additional 15 acres (653,000 square feet), bringing it to a total of 40 acres of production. The company started planting in early August, with harvesting coming near the end of September in the expanded facility.
“Ever Tru Farms has been looking forward to the farm’s expansion since inception,” says Paul J. Mastronardi, director of sales for Ever Tru Farms. “We have seen positive feedback from customers and consumers and are excited to grow the farm to meet that demand.”
Ever Tru berries are grown year-round with supplemental lighting to achieve consistent production, especially during the winter season.
“Partnering with local Canadian retailers and U.S. retail partners receiving our berries within 24 hours ensures that consumers can rely on our premium berries year-round,” Mastronardi says. “Consumers won’t have to sacrifice quality or taste due to the consistent supply Ever Tru Farms provides. Indoor growing allows us to be unaffected by harsh natural elements and weather conditions that impact traditional outdoor farms.”
For more information, visit here.
Schostak Brothers Donates $150K to Launch Community Doula in Southwest Detroit
Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center Inc. in southwest Detroit has received a $150,000 gift from Livonia-based Schostak Brothers & Co. to launch a community doula (trained companion) program at CHASS Center.
The gift provides the funding needed to integrate the CHASS Center Community Based Doula Program as part as of its prenatal care services to bolster positive maternal physical and emotional health outcomes in southwest Detroit. The gift, a part of Schostak’s 100th Anniversary Community Giving Campaign.
“We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of Schostak Brothers & Co. in making it possible to bring our doula program back to CHASS Center,” says Dr. Felix M. Valbuena Jr. “With a full-time staff of three doulas, our program will provide support services for to up to 60 patients per year. The integration of the doulas into our health care team, coupled with the delivery of culturally and linguistically competent maternity care, will result in increased pre and postnatal visit rates and help to decrease pregnancy-related complications in our community.”
The doulas will work closely with medical providers and collaborate with other community health workers, breastfeeding educators, registered dietitians, and behavioral health staff at CHASS Center to provide comprehensive resources for prenatal and postnatal health and wellness support. The program also will support infant health by educating new moms on infant feeding and connect families to CHASS Center as their medical home for preventive screenings and immunizations.
Moms-to-be will be referred to Labor and Delivery at Henry Ford Health Main Campus. CHASS Center is partnered with HFH Obstetrics for support, including Labor and Delivery for approximately 400 women annually. Additionally, the community-based doulas will support coordination of care, including transportation to CHASS Center and HFH Main Campus. The projected start date for the doula program is this fall.
In June, Schostak Brothers & Co. announced it will mark the company’s 100th anniversary with a community giving campaign to distribute $1 million across impactful Detroit-based nonprofit organizations. Selected from a range of nonprofit sectors including neighborhoods, workforce development, education, health, and entrepreneurship, the goal of the initiative was to select organizations based on their work in Detroit, the city where the company was founded a century ago.
The gift recipients were selected through an extensive selection process involving Schostak employees, with the intent to help the charities complete a current project or start a new phase while shining a light on each organization’s efforts to reach other potential donors. Additional funding recipients will be announced throughout Schostak’s anniversary year, in coordination with each organization’s projects and initiatives.
The now fourth generation, family-based company has included development, acquisitions, and leasing of retail, office, industrial, residential, and mixed-use projects — both urban and suburban. Schostak’s current activities include joint ventures, build to suit projects, mixed use developments, and a variety of necessity-based retail and open air centers in 17 states. The company’s TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants portfolio includes nearly 170 restaurants composed of Applebee’s, Del Tacos, MOD Pizzas, Olga’s Kitchens, and Wendy’s.
Detroit’s Inventev Receives $1M FTA Award to Develop Bus Exportable Power Standards
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that as part of its Bus Exportable Power System (BEPS) Program it has awarded the Detroit-based Inventev team approximately $1 million to take the next step through a standards development project.
According to the FTA project website, “BEPS will enable transit agencies, communities, and states to access power options through hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell buses during major power disruptions.” The cooperative development project was allocated funds by the U.S. Congress in FY2021 legislation to commence a competitive selection process.
Grid resiliency and relief efforts requiring temporary power following natural disasters have been part of emergency management plans for years. However, the expanding electrification of transit buses and commercial vehicles and their related technologies now create more options to generate and transfer power between vehicles and building infrastructure in contrast to traditional diesel-powered portable generator sets.
“I’m obviously very excited to learn of our team’s selection by the FTA,” says Dave Stenson founder and CEO of Inventev. “It will be a large effort through 2023 and into 2024 in a technical area that Inventev has been exploring for several years. Whether from buses or work trucks, the concept of grid-quality emergency backup power is becoming a market reality and part of the U.S. grid resiliency and emergency management strategy.”
The FTA’s funding is centered on transit bus capabilities and connection standards but flexible power conversion and interchange have also attracted the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense in the recent past as experienced by Detroit nonprofit NextEnergy.
“We are pleased to leverage our experience and expertise in exportable power to partner with Inventev and the other team members,” says Jim Saber, president and CEO of NextEnergy. “We look forward to co-developing these standards, which will enable our communities to access critical clean power options and serve them during times of emergencies.”
Waymark In Detroit Rolls Out AI Tool to Create ‘Pro-quality’ Ads in Seconds
Waymark, a Detroit-based company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scale up video production, has launched what it calls “a revolutionary AI-powered tool” that allows users to create ads in minutes with no creative expertise required.
Waymark AI Video Creator empowers local media companies to “instantly create high-quality ads and get them to air quickly,” shortening sales cycles and creating new opportunities for growth with local businesses.
Users input a few keywords into a web-based interface, and Waymark AI Video Creator automatically generates every element of the ad, from script to imagery to branding. At the heart of the product is an AI engine that processes a local business’ online profile and translates it into a natural-sounding script, with relevant imagery and brand elements, to create professional-grade spots.
“AI-produced content is the future of advertising, and it gives companies that work with local businesses a huge competitive advantage,” says Alex Persky-Stern, CEO of Waymark. “Waymark AI Video Creator makes it so fast and easy to create compelling commercials — with no experience required — that it’s now possible to show every potential client exactly how good their business could look with a professional spot.
“Users just choose from a wide selection of video templates, AI does all of the heavy lifting, and then customers can easily make edits, share previews, and download the approved files. It all takes just a few minutes and helps you shorten sales cycles and earn more business. It’s radically changing the economics of the creative process, and allows companies to get campaigns on the air literally in a matter of minutes, rather than weeks.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield Offers Integrated Family Building Program
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will offer a new, comprehensive family building and maternity support solution for 2023 open enrollment.
The solution includes a personalized digital care app to help guide members on their journey through family planning, including different paths to parenthood, pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatrics.
In partnership with Maven Clinic, a comprehensive digital family health platform, members will get access to support throughout the entire journey from family building and pregnancy through postpartum and early parenting. The program will help Blue Cross address gaps in care around maternity care and family health and improve clinical outcomes for parents and babies.
“Supporting new parents is more important than ever when it comes to not only maintaining healthy families, but ensuring a strong and diverse workforce for employers,” says Aji Abraham, senior vice president of health plan business innovation and market solutions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We know there’s an urgent need for easier access to support services and health care providers to improve maternal and infant outcomes, while also helping parents return to the workforce postpartum. We’re confident this partnership will help us address these challenges while supporting Michigan families and those of our customers across the country through every step of this exciting stage of their lives.”
Offering support for each stage of the journey, three customized programs are provided within the platform including Family Building, Maternity, and Parenting and Pediatrics.
The Family Building program includes resources pertaining to fertility treatment, preconception care, egg freezing, and adoption and surrogacy. Maternity is a 12-month pregnancy program spanning prenatal and postpartum resources, NICU support and high-risk pregnancy management. Lastly, the Parenting and Pediatrics program is geared toward parents with children 1-10 years of age providing pediatric care, parent coaching, special needs support and childcare navigation. The Maternity program also includes a partner track program for the covered spouse at no additional cost.
For more information, visit here.
NGK Spark Plugs to Change Name to Niterra North America
NGK Spark Plugs Inc., a supplier of ignition systems and sensors in Wixom, will change its name to Niterra North America Inc. effective April 1, 2023.
The name change follows the strategy to unify the global brand NGK Spark Plug Co. Ltd., which will begin operating under the English tradename Niterra Co. Ltd. at the same time. The Japanese language corporate name will not change.
“As we prepare, create, and lead our company into the future, we continue to grow and expand inside and outside the automotive business and other ICE industries,” says Michael Schwab, president and CEO of NGK Spark Plugs. “We are becoming an increasingly progressive corporation as we strive to meet our vision for the future.
“However, it became apparent several years ago that our global corporations’ name in English, although very well established, presented certain limitations, creating a narrow image of our identity to the outside world and not lending itself to evolution.”
The new name, not specific to spark plugs, combines the Latin words Niteo, meaning shine, and Terra, meaning Earth, reflecting the company’s future vision and already expanding portfolio of products and services.
The company will not change the brand of its products with this transition, stating the NGK and NTK brands will remain the brands of their portfolio or products. Other brands, however, may be added in the future as they continue to evolve.
UnitedHealthcare Donates $1M to Nonprofits in Michigan
UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, is awarding $1 million in Empowering Health grants to five community-based organizations in Michigan to expand access to care and address the social determinants of health for uninsured individuals and underserved communities.
Grant recipients include:
Brilliant Detroit – $300,000.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor – $250,000.
YWCA Kalamazoo – $200,000.
The Children’s Center, Detroit – $125,000.
Detroit Area Agency on Aging – $125,000.
In total, UnitedHealthcare is donating $11 million in grants through its Empowering Health program across 11 states. The grants will assist individuals and families experiencing challenges from food insecurity, social isolation and behavioral health issues, and support local health promotion and health literacy efforts.
“Social and economic factors have a profound impact on achieving and maintaining good health,” says Dennis Mouras, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Michigan. “Through our Empowering Health grants and local outreach efforts from UnitedHealthcare, we’re working with local organizations in the state to provide Michigan residents with an interconnected system of clinical and social services that can produce better health outcomes and make the health system work better for everyone.”
Since launching its Empowering Health commitment in 2018, UnitedHealthcare has invested more than $51 million in Empowering Health grants reaching more than 8 million people through partnerships with community-based organizations in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
City of Detroit Donates 500 Decommissioned Computers to Detroit Families
Hundreds of city government computers recently replaced for newer models will be completely refurbished and distributed for free to Detroit families in need of technology and access to the internet, thanks to a partnership between the city and nonprofit human-I-T.
The donation of more than 500 decommissioned city computers is part of the city’s larger strategy for bridging Detroit’s digital divide through its partners at Connect313.
Half of the computers were delivered Wednesday, and the remainder will be delivered in the coming weeks. All 500 computers first will be wiped of any existing and sensitive data. Most will be refurbished to be provided to Detroit families lacking access to technology by human-I-T and its community partners. Devices that may be damaged or too old to be refurbished will be disposed of in an environmentally sensitive manner.
“Our longstanding commitment to digital equity is realized through our partnerships,” says Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion. “This initiative will allow us to make a positive impact on the environment while also empowering Detroit families with technology needed to access opportunities in the digital age.”
If a family receiving a donated computer does not currently have internet access or needs assistance, human-I-T uses a four-pillar approach to helping citizens acquire computer devices and internet access, as well as with tech support and training.
“With the city of Detroit’s partnership and commitment to donate technology to human-I-T, we will be able to protect our planet by diverting items from landfills and provide Detroiters access to unlock opportunities and achieve their fullest potential,” says Jennifer Jambor, senior manager of programs for human-I-T. “We believe in equitable access and the city is helping human-I-T ensure Detroiters have access to devices, low-cost internet, digital skills training and technical support.”
While it will take several months before the donated city computers will be ready for distribution, families in need of a computer can get on a list to receive one from human-I-T from its existing inventory.
Detroit residents who would like access to low-cost computers, laptops, and tablets, or help getting reduced-rate broadband internet, or tech support or training can call 888-391-7249 or visit human-I-T.org.