DBusiness Daily Update: Southfield’s HED Merges with California Architectural Firm, Better Made Snack Foods CEO Sam Cipriano Dies, 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.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of April 13

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.

Southfield’s HED and Pacific Cornerstone Architects Announce Merger
Southfield-based national architecture and engineering firm HED has merged with Pacific Cornerstone Architects (PCA) in San Diego.

An architecture, interior design, and planning firm with a 27-year history of design leadership across southern California, PCA brings a team of experienced architects and designers to the HED design team.

“We are committed to strategic growth that increases the firm’s ability to create positive impact for our clients and their stakeholders,” says Peter Devereaux, chairman and CEO of HED. “Bringing the PCA team into the HED family will align with our vibrant San Diego practice and enable us to make a greater impact in this thriving region and beyond.”

According to Devereaux, the merger will bring expanded expertise in the life sciences, higher education, and commercial market segments, and will add additional institutional knowledge of the San Diego community to the critical planning and entitlement phases of the design process. Together, the companies’ expanded capabilities will strengthen relationships within the local and regional development community and provide greater depth and breadth of services.

In the area of life sciences in particular, San Diego has long held a prominent position as a national industry leader. HED and PCA both have long histories of design excellence and leadership in the life sciences as well as other sectors such as higher education. The merger of these two firms represents a significant combined expertise and experience which will be of tangible benefit to clients, the companies say.

“We are excited to be able to offer an even more robust suite of integrated design services to our long-time clients,” says Tim Schulze, principal and founding partner of PCA. “We have already begun significant collaboration with our new colleagues, and we look forward to continuing to develop innovative design solutions in the San Diego community.”

Better Made Snack Foods CEO Sam Cipriano Dies
Salvatore “Sam” Cipriano, CEO of Better Made Snack Foods for the last 10 years, died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was years 80 years old.

Cipriano was the second generation to lead Better Made Snack Foods, and took the company to new levels of success. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the American Heart Association.

“He was loved by everyone at Better Made and those that knew him, and will be missed tremendously,” says Cathy Gusmano, chairman of the board of Better Made Snack Foods.

Better Made started in 1930 in Detroit as Cross and Peters and now is in its 90th year.

Tractor Supply Co. to Expand Carhartt Footprint 100+ Stores
Tractor Supply Co., the Tennessee-based rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, announced plans to expand its offering of products from Detroit’s Carhartt in dozens of retail stores.

Carhartt will add several thousand additional square feet of branded, in-store shopping space to provide consumers with a dedicated shopping experience. The new “shop-in-shop” concept, which currently is in 10 stores, will roll out in more than 100 Tractor Supply stores in 2021, with an additional 25 stores added next year.

“Our Tractor Supply stores offer a unique assortment of products that cater to the Out Here lifestyle, and we know our customers depend on Carhartt for comfortable, durable clothes to get the job done,” says Seth Estep, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Tractor Supply Co. “This new store-within-a-store format was created with Tractor Supply’s customers at the center of the shopping experience. By partnering with Carhartt to double our selection, our stores have even more of what makes Tractor Supply a destination for everything — workwear and otherwise — that our customers need to take care of their home, land, pets, and animals.”

The expanded merchandise selection available in the in-store shop includes bibs, rainwear, year-round fleece assortments, additional pants and jeans styles, and more. Additionally, the product collection will include clothing for women, kids, big and tall and plus sizes, most of which are not currently available in Tractor Supply stores.

Both brands tested this strategy throughout 2018 and 2019 when Carhartt installed three shop-in-shop spaces each year, measuring between 1,200 and 1,400 square feet, at Tractor Supply locations in California, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York. These expanded in-store shops feature similar signage, branding, and premium fixtures consumers would find at any of Carhartt’s 33 company store locations.

“By expanding our presence at these retail locations, Tractor Supply shoppers will experience the Carhartt brand in a whole new way,” says Tony Ambroza, chief brand officer at Carhartt. “We look forward to growing our longstanding partnership with Tractor Supply as we work to bring our rugged workwear products to the country’s hardest-working people.”

Customers also can shop an expanded online assortment of Carhartt products, including more sizes and colors, at TractorSupply.com. To learn more about Carhartt and the products available at Tractor Supply, visit here.

Detroit Casinos Report $113.84M in March Revenue
The three Detroit casinos reported $113.84 million in monthly aggregate revenue during March while continuing to operate at limited capacity due to COVID-19 health concerns.

Table games and slots generated $110.87 million in revenue while retail sports betting produced $2.97 million in revenue.

MGM Detroit had a 39 percent of the market. MotorCity Casino was a close second with 38 percent of the market. Greektown Casino held 23 percent of the market.

Table games and slots revenue rose 93 percent in March compared with March 2020 results.

All three casinos recorded significant revenue increases in March compared with monthly results from a year earlier when they were ordered to close on March 16, 2020, due to public health concerns.

MGM earned $43.21 million in monthly revenue, an 80.6 percent increase. MotorCity revenue rose 107.2 percent to $42.04 million. Greektown saw a 93.7 percent increase in monthly revenue, posting $25.62 million.

March revenue also was up 28.2 percent when compared with February numbers.

During March, the three Detroit casinos paid $9 million in gaming taxes to the state of Michigan compared with $4.7 million in March 2020. The three Detroit casinos reported submitting to the city of Detroit $13.2 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments during March.

The three Detroit casinos’ aggregate revenue for the first quarter was down 5.1 percent from the first quarter of 2020. Quarterly gaming revenue for MGM was $111.6 million, for MotorCity, $106.5 million, and for Greektown, $66.1 million.

Comparing first quarter numbers with the same period last year, MotorCity Casino’s revenue was up by 3.7 percent while MGM was down 11.8 percent and Greektown results fell 5.7 percent.

Retail sports betting qualified adjusted gross receipts for March totaled $2.97 million. Results by casino were:

  • MGM, $868,206
  • MotorCity, $1,276,470
  • Greektown, $825,479

Qualified adjusted gross receipts are gross sports betting receipts minus the monetary value of free play incentives provided to and wagered by bettors. The three Detroit casinos reported total handle of $24,241,730. The casinos recorded total gross receipts of $2,968,064.

The state received $112,272 in taxes on retail sports betting revenue from the Detroit casinos. The three casinos also reported submitting $137,221 in retail sports betting taxes to the city of Detroit.

Through March 31, aggregate retail sports betting qualified adjusted gross receipts were $6.96 million. The results by casino were:

  • MGM, $1,722,884
  • MotorCity, $2,658,808
  • Greektown, $2,573,952

During February, fantasy contest operators reported $1 million in total adjusted revenues and paid $87,004 in taxes.

State Awards $1M to Increase High-speed Internet Access Across Michigan
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget announced an additional $1 million in funding from the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program to projects that will expand broadband infrastructure across Michigan.

The list of projects receiving funding can be found here.

The CMIC grant program was established to extend broadband service to unserved areas in Michigan and help close the digital divide. This is the second round of awards. The $1 million grant funding was awarded to four projects across the state and will impact 1,300 locations. The overall economic benefits from these infrastructure initiatives are estimated to reach up to $2.9 million annually.

The first round of CMIC grant funds were announced in October 2020, with $11.9 million awarded to 10 projects. Overall, the total grant funds awarded so far will impact more than 12,000 locations in Michigan and generate annual economic benefits that could exceed $25 million.

All projects awarded funding have committed to closing the digital divide and providing digital literacy training materials to residents and businesses in their proposed service area, while working with local community and anchor institutions and foundations to host events to promote e-learning, job, and workforce training.

A third round of projects are currently under public review, with DTMB accepting comment or objections concerning each project through May 5.

Playa Vs. Playa Gaming Lounge Opens, Receives $60K from Motor City Match
Playa Vs. Playa, a club for competitive e-gamers at 15850 Wyoming Ave., used a $60,000 cash award from the Motor City Match program of the city of Detroit and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. to renovate the hip-hop and comic-themed gaming lounge.

The facility provides cross-generational, inclusive, and safe entertainment through e-sports, as well as an array of contemporary and retro video and board games.

“As we revitalize our neighborhood commercial corridors across our city, entrepreneurs like Lance McGhee are taking the lead with the help of the Motor City Match program,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “Playa Vs. Playa will be a great addition to the offerings on Wyoming Avenue, providing a safe, fun destination for families and a catalyst to attract more investment to this neighborhood.”

The club hosts tournaments for serious competitive gamers and is forming leagues for e-sports gamers to compete on a national level. Tournaments will offer prizes and be livestreamed.

McGhee says when gaming is promoted as an inclusive activity for all children, the result is improved academics and student engagement.

“Playa vs. Playa is the only facility to offer face-to-face e-sports style gaming, board games and traditional stand-up games all under one roof in the city of Detroit,” says McGhee. “It’s important to offer a safe space for gaming to all Detroiters, but especially kids. With the help of Motor City Match, I’m proud to be able to fill this gap for Detroit’s inner-city neighborhoods.”

While Playa Vs. Playa officially opened its doors in early 2020, its grand opening celebration was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lounge offers more than 10 different console systems from Atari to virtual reality, all of which can be played on a variety of monitors. Gamers also have the option to bring in their own consoles and peripherals using the lounge’s one-gigabit internet connection.

Plum Market Partners with California Digital Coupon Company
Plum Market, which has nine retail outlets in metro Detroit, is partnering with California-based digital media and promotions technology provider Quotient.

Plum Market will join Quotient’s Retailer Promotion Platform, which has expanded to cater to regional retailers, that will allow shoppers to a wider variety of digital coupons and rebates directly in the Plum Market app.

Through this partnership, Plum Market will be able to provide an “enhanced digital experience” across its platforms to shoppers and drive national promotions. Upon using their Plum Market mobile app, shoppers can access national savings while at the same time continuing to earn shopper “points.”

“We’re always looking for ways to innovate, and this partnership with Quotient enables us to seamlessly deliver new and relevant promotions directly through our app,” says Marc Jonna, co-founder and president of Plum Market. “We’re thrilled to offer these incentives that reward our guests a way that really enhances their shopping experience.”

Steven Boal, CEO of Quotient, says, “Plum Market will have the ability to continue to improve its loyalty program by providing national savings to both their shoppers and advertiser partners.”

Honigman Represents Pebblebrook Hotel Trust in Sale of Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco
Detroit law firm Honigman represented Maryland-based Pebblebrook Hotel Trust in connection with the sale of the 416-room Kimpton Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. The sale generated $157.6 million in net proceeds to Pebblebrook after customary closing costs.

“We were thrilled to continue our long affiliation with Pebblebrook and to assist Pebblebrook with this significant transaction involving such a signature hotel,” says Adam Rothstein, partner and co-chair of Honigman’s Real Estate Department.

Rothstein and Honigman partners Renee Naylor, Matthew Disbrow, and Tony Ling represented Pebblebrook in the sale. Pebblebrook Hotel Trust purchased the Sir Francis Drake Hotel for $90 million in 2010 as its second hotel. Pebblebrook reports that proceeds from the sale will be utilized for general business purposes, which may include reducing the company’s outstanding debt.

LTU Expo Gaming, Anime Fest Returns Virtually
Southfield’s Lawrence Technological University is hosting the LTU Expo, a celebration of anime, gaming, and e-sports events, will take place April 19-24 as a virtual event. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceled.

The event will present the advanced project work of LTU game design and computer science students, along with the products and services of local game developers and business partners, plus Esports tournaments, keynotes, panels, and more.

The initial LTU Expo, held on campus in 2018, drew a crowd of more than 1,200 to LTU’s Southfield campus. A similar-sized crowd attended in pre-pandemic 2019.

For more information and a complete schedule, visit here.

Partnership to FightCybercrime Launching Program to Support the Military and Veterans
Prominent military and veteran service organizations, non-governmental organizations, corporations, foundations, and federal agencies are banding together in the Ann Arbor-based Partnership to FightCybercrime to launch a national program that supports America’s service members, veterans, spouses, survivors, and their families.

This is a community of 28 million that is disproportionately targeted for online scams, fraud, and identity theft.

“Cybercriminals, online fraudsters and international crime syndicates are attacking our nation’s military and veteran community at alarming rates,” says Kristin Judge, CEO of the Cybercrime Support Network, the convener of the partnership. “Besides the emotional and financial toll on individuals and families, cybercrime can have a devastating impact on our military readiness and national security.”

The partnership’s Military and Veteran Program will educate and mobilize the community to recognize, report, and recover from cybercrime. The FightCybercrime.org/military website offers free prevention resources, online security tips, and guidance for service members and veterans to report cybercrime incidents to the appropriate authorities.

The Partnership to FightCybercrime Military and Veteran partner organizations are: 22Kill, Army Emergency Relief, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Gold Star Wives – Arlington Chapter, Got Your Back Network, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Links to Freedom, National Association of Black Veterans, National Organization for Victim Assistance, Patriot Boot Camp, Racing for Heroes, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Travis Manion Foundation, and VetSec.

Interested nonprofit organizations can become a partner of the Partnership to FightCybercrime at no cost. Partners will support the program’s outreach efforts, webinars, speaking engagements, and other initiatives. Please contact Ursula Palmer, CSN’s Executive Director of Military and Veteran Programs, at military@cybercrimesupport.org to get involved.

CSN will carry out a 12-month capital campaign to raise the $3.5 million needed to allow for the full implementation of the program. Corporations, foundations, and other for-profit organizations interested in supporting our Nation’s military and veteran community through this effort can contact Joan Giovanni, CSN’s Chief Revenue Officer, at engagement@cybercrimesupport.org.

Michigan Coronavirus Dashboard to Include Disparities, Vaccination Data
Michigan residents soon will be able to search the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race, ethnicity, age, and gender as Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan experts expand the capabilities of the statewide coronavirus MI Safe Start dashboard.

They also are planning to include vaccination rates within weeks.

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw important disparities in the number of cases and deaths among certain populations,” says Marisa Eisenberg, project leader and associate professor of epidemiology at U-M’s School of Public Health and of complex systems and mathematics at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

“We hope this dashboard will help identify trends early and allow our community members to see what’s happening in their own regions,” she says. “It is important for Michigan residents to see how different groups are being affected by the pandemic so as a community we can help support those who need it the most.”

The information will be available by the eight regions defined by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Lansing, Traverse City, Jackson and the Upper Peninsula. More localized data will not be publicly available to ensure no individual person is identifiable, the developers say.

U-M researchers from the schools of public health and information have been working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop and update the MI Safe Start Map, which tracks and displays the current COVID-19 risk level of Michigan regions and counties.

The dashboard serves two main purposes: to help public health officials make informed decisions regarding the pandemic and to inform the general public about the information being used to determine such public health measures.

“In addition to illustrating a more nuanced view of COVID-19 spread and severity trends in each MERC region, this case and death disparity data provides additional context for the department’s ongoing public health mitigation efforts, including equitable testing, contact tracing and vaccination strategies,” says Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the MDHHS Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health.

Local Companies Named ‘Exceptional Private Enterprises’ for 2021
Learning Care Group in Novi, which provides transportation, hospitality, and other services, Detroit industrial products and construction company Walbridge, and Farmington Hills property management firm Beztak Properties are three of the 49 private businesses honored by the US Best Managed Companies program sponsored by Detroit-based Deloitte Private and The Wall Street Journal.

These 49 private businesses each generate at least $250 million in annual revenue and demonstrate excellence in four key categories: strategy, execution, culture, and financials. Designees join the global network of Best Managed Companies, consisting of more than 1,000 organizations from 30 countries.

“After a challenging year for many businesses, it feels more important than ever to recognize the outstanding achievements of our 2021 US Best Managed Companies honorees,” says Jason Downing, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and U.S. Deloitte Private leader. “These businesses are led by visionary and innovative management teams throughout the country and across industries. Their resilience and sustained commitment to their purpose, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, is inspiring. We welcome them into the program and look forward to their continued success.”

In March, a panel of independent judges reviewed applications and selected this year’s honorees based on strengths across the four core criteria, and whose management teams excel amid change. Benefits of the program include access to a global community of peer business leaders and marketplace recognition.

For more information on the US Best Managed Companies program, visit here.

Gen Z Entrepreneurs Launch Bombanana Line of Hot Sauces
Just as the pandemic began a year ago, four University of Michigan 2020 graduates launched Bombanana, a line of banana-based hot sauces.

What began as a shared love of food, flavors, and spice between college friends Jared Schacter, Grant Dukus, Jonny Moss, and Kevin Bhattacharyya has become a new kind of hot sauce for all.

With a combined background in hospitality, engineering, and business, the entrepreneurs look to revamp the category with a taste that appeals to more people than your typical hot sauce.

According to its creators, Bombabana is a “full-bodied, perfectly seasoned hot sauce that enhances the taste and spiciness of food without overpowering it, resulting in a more versatile and complementary flavor without a strong hot sauce taste.”

The sweetness comes from bananas instead of sugar and complements the warm spice of assorted chilis without radiating banana flavor. Using sharp árbol and rich chipotle peppers, the sauce adds a robust kick to everything from wings and scrambled eggs to shrimp ceviche and carbonara, bringing depth and flavor to any meal.

Currently there are two sauces, then Original that combines assorted chilis, bananas, and other spices into a fusion of sweet and heat, and Muy Muy, a spicy and robust sauce with more emphasis on chilis for those seeking extra heat. Each retail for $7.99. The sauces are available in select grocers and for purchase online at seekthespice.com.

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