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.
State Expands Restaurant Capacity Limit to 50% Starting March 5
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has updated two of its epidemic orders, allowing for increased capacity limits at various venues including restaurants and bars starting March 5.
As of Friday, restaurants and bars are allowed to be at 50 percent capacity (increased from 25 percent) up to 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. There is now an 11 p.m. curfew.
The state also revised its restrictions on larger residential and nonresidential gatherings and expanded visitation opportunities at residential care facilities. Changes, according to officials, are designed to balance reopening while controlling the spread of COVID-19 and save Michiganders’ lives.
“More than 2 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and a third vaccine will soon be arriving here in Michigan to help us end the pandemic in our state,” says Elizabeth Hertel, director of MDHHS. “We continue to monitor the data closely, and based on current trends we are taking another step toward normalcy. We urge Michiganders to continue doing what works and wearing a mask, washing their hands, and avoiding crowds.”
Changes to the Gatherings and Mask Order go into effect Friday, March 5, and remain in effect through Monday, April 19.
In addition to the restaurant and bar order, other capacity changes include:
- Indoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households are permitted up to 25 people, allowing public meetings and other small indoor gatherings to resume.
- Outdoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households are permitted up to 300, allowing larger outdoor events to resume.
- Indoor entertainment venues are allowed to be at 50 percent capacity, up to 300 people.
- Exercise facilities are allowed to be at 30 percent capacity with restrictions on distancing and mask requirements.
- Retail is allowed to be at 50 percent capacity.
- Casinos are allowed to be at 30 percent capacity.
- Indoor stadiums and arenas are allowed have 375 if seating capacity is under 10,000; 750 if seating capacity is over 10,000.
- Outdoor entertainment and recreational facilities may host up to 1,000 patrons.
- Indoor residential gatherings are now limited to 15 people from three households, while outdoor residential gatherings can include up to 50 people.
The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause other venues and activities where participants have close physical contacts and are not consistently masked, like water parks. As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so.
The Residential Care Facilities Order goes into effect immediately. The order encourages communal dining and group activities for residents and allows indoor and outdoor visitation in all counties regardless of county risk level. Visitation is allowed as long as the facility has not had a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days and all indoor visitors ages 13 and older are subject to rapid antigen testing.
Adult foster care homes licensed for 12 or fewer residents, hospice facilities, substance use disorder residential facilities, and assisted-living facilities are encouraged to implement visitor and staff testing protocols. Visitors will be required to wear face masks or other personal protective equipment when required by the facility at all times. In general, visitors will need to maintain six feet from residents.
Strata Oncology and Pfizer Start Clinical Trial of Cancer Therapies
Ann Arbor-based Strata Oncology Inc., a company advancing molecular indications for cancer therapies, has announced a clinical trial for its Strata Precision Indications for Approved Therapies, or “Strata PATH.”
Strata PATH is a multi-drug, multi-arm, biomarker-driven clinical trial designed to evaluate the efficacy of FDA-approved targeted- and immunotherapies in new Strata-defined biomarker indications. Pfizer Inc. in Kalamazoo will provide marketed, targeted drugs for four study arms at no cost to participants. Additional pharmaceutical companies are expected to participate after the study launch.
The trial will use Strata-defined biomarker profiles from comprehensive DNA and RNA profiling to match patients to one of several different investigational treatment arms. Strata Oncology is leveraging its clinical-molecular database, which includes genomic and transcriptomic data with paired treatment outcomes, to define novel, pan-tumor biomarker hypotheses for existing FDA-approved therapies. Strata PATH will enroll patients with advanced solid tumors who have exhausted standard lines of therapy, are positive for specific biomarker profiles assessed by the StrataNGS test and have not previously been treated with the identified class of therapy.
“The Strata PATH study is another example of our commitment to deliver the best possible treatment for each patient with cancer,” says Dan Rhodes, co-founder and CEO of Strata Oncology. “We are using the latest clinical-molecular insights to devise better biomarker-guided treatment hypotheses, and then partner with biopharma to test those hypotheses in patients. Pfizer is on the forefront of precision medicine, and we are pleased to work with them to translate these insights into prospective studies that may accelerate the availability of treatments for patients with cancer.”
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State Grants $6M in Registered Apprenticeship Funds
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity announced the recipients of grants totaling more than $6 million to help support the development of over 2,300 registered apprenticeship opportunities throughout the state.
The State Apprenticeship Expansion grants have been awarded to nine regional implementation consortia to increase and develop registered apprenticeship opportunities. Funds provided by the grant awards will help support 200 employer sponsors for Registered Apprenticeship Program costs, including on-the-job learning and related technical instruction.
“Increasing access to Registered Apprenticeship programs means more opportunities for job seekers to earn while they learn, gaining in-demand skills and a nationally recognized credential in a critical industry,” says Susan Corbin, acting director of LEO. “At the same time, it helps local Michigan businesses fill a continuous talent pipeline by providing a stream of qualified candidates who are trained and certified based on the employer’s needs.”
Regional implementation consortia will lead expansion activities to accelerate the growth of more than 2,300 apprentices with a focus on underrepresented populations — including minorities, females, youth, individuals with disabilities, and veterans — in high-skill, high-wage, in-demand careers in advanced manufacturing, construction, energy, health care, information technology, and mobility sectors to help secure Michigan’s future.
Lead partners for the nine regional implementation consortia grant recipients include:
- Jackson Area Manufacturers Association (260 new registered apprentices; $780,000 grant award)
- Michigan State AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute (440; $1,100,000)
- Michigan Works! Region 7B / Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! (250; $735,750)
- Michigan Works! Southwest (176; $528,000)
- Networks Northwest (100; $300,000)
- Oakland County Workforce Development / Oakland County Michigan Works! (250; $625,000)
- The Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation / Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium (427; $1,108,666)
- Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! (200; $550,000)
- West Michigan Works! (200; $525,800)
“These grantees are partners committed to incorporating best practices for serving underrepresented populations and managing quality pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship readiness programs — all in an effort to create a robust service delivery model that benefits Michigan workers and employers,” says Stephanie Beckhorn, director of LEO’s Office of Employment and Training. “Registered apprenticeship expansion allows us to help more individuals gain paid work experience and related classroom instruction, usually with little or no cost to the individual.”
To increase the overall understanding of apprenticeship opportunities in the state, LEO recently launched the Michigan Registered Apprenticeship Data Dashboard. This online tool allows users to explore registered apprenticeships in regions across the state, including how many active apprentices there are and the occupations and industries in which they are employed.
To further support Michigan’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts, a new state-level Apprenticeship Advisory Board has been established. The board consists of members from multiple industry sectors, labor, secondary and postsecondary education, workforce development, and the U.S. Department of Labor Michigan Office of Apprenticeship. The board will provide guidance on innovation and implementation strategies to expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs statewide.
The board’s first meeting will be conducted virtually on March 17; once established, the schedule for future meetings will be available here.
Warner Norcross + Judd Offers Advice on Hiring Foreign Employees
The Warner Norcross + Judd law firm in Southfield is offering advice on hiring foreign employees who are part of the H-1B visa program, which begins March 9.
- The H-1B visa program allows 85,000 foreign nationals to work within the U.S. each year.
- Last year, significant changes to the H-1B lottery system made it easier and less expensive to participate, which drove up demand. The firm expects more of the same this year during the filing period, which runs March 9-25.
- Companies filed 275,000 H-1B petition registrations in 2020, an increase of nearly 37 percent over 2019.
- The 2021 lottery process will continue to lower costs for employers, which could entice even more companies to submit petition registrations. This year, registration is $10 compared with more than $1,000 in years past.
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced it is delaying the “implementation of a Trump Administration regulation that would have allocated H-1B cap numbers to beneficiaries who paid the highest wage level for their occupation and geographic area.”
- Employers will receive an electronic notice of their selection by March 31, which will provide a time period of approximately 90 days in which they can submit their full H-1B petitions. They will be required to pay all fees at that time.
“The H-1B process has always been competitive, and appears to be even more so in the recent past,” says Mike Wooley, a partner at Warner Norcross + Judd. “For any businesses looking to attract highly skilled foreign professionals, the time is now to get organized and prepare for online submissions.”
Sen. Carl Levin Memoir Available from Wayne State
Wayne State University Press has published the memoir of long-serving U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate.”
Consisting of 17 chapters, the book takes the reader through Levin’s early life in Detroit of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s where he met his wife, started a family, practiced law, and served as the first general counsel for the newly created Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the chief appellate defender for Detroit’s Legal Aid Office.
It follows his career in elected office from the Detroit City Council in 1969 to the U.S. Senate, to which he was elected six times and spent 36 years.
Levin’s career placed him at the center of some of the nation’s most critical points in modern times: from the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots, to the Clinton impeachment, through 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 2008 financial crisis.
The memoir can be purchased here. A 30 percent discount is available using the code SS21.
Michigan Woman Helping Low-income Women with Menstrual Hygiene Products
Stacie Smith of Farmington Hills formulated an herbal tea, The Monthly Tea, to help her cope with menstrual cramps. Now she’s using that tea to help young women in underserved neighborhoods get access to affordable menstrual hygiene products.
Smith has earmarked a portion of every sale from The Monthly Tea to purchase period products in low-income areas. The tea is made with natural ingredients that are known to help ease cramps, bloating, cravings and irritability. The Monthly Tea can be enjoyed up to two cups per day and is naturally caffeine-free. In addition, the tea is natural, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free, and made in the United States. Smith started selling the product online after friends also experienced reduced PMS symptoms from her special blend.
“This is something that is a necessity, not a want,” says Smith. “That is why it is important for me to help supply women with menstrual hygiene products, so that they can continue to go out into the world and be great.”
The Monthly Tea is available for purchase at TheMonthlyTeaCo.com. It retails for $24.99. Shipping is free. Every purchase helps low-income women have access to hygiene products.
Grand Circus Offers Digital Bootcamp Scholarships to Women, Non-binary Individuals
Grand Circus, which offers a digital training bootcamp in Detroit, and the National Center for Women & Technology’s Regional Incentives Program are partnering again in 2021 to offer scholarships to women, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals.
Grand Circus partners with more than 300 employers statewide. It has graduated more than 1,600 students since 2015 and celebrate an 89.1 percent job placement rate for its bootcamp grads.
Lawrence Tech Offers Henry Ford High Students a Computer Career Boost
Students at Henry Ford High School in Detroit can get a jump start on their college education under a new “early middle college” agreement with Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.
This is the first early middle college agreement in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, and one of 40 partnerships Lawrence Tech has forged with area high schools.
Under the program at Henry Ford, students will begin taking LTU college courses in the 10th grade, starting with introductory computer courses. By their senior year, they’ll be taking advanced computer science and database systems courses, along with literature and natural sciences at the college level. And in their fifth year, they’ll be taking advanced classes in web server programming, cybersecurity, as well as the humanities.
At the conclusion of the five-year program, the students will have earned both a high school diploma and an LTU associate degree in general studies, with a choice of tracks in computer science, information technology, or business.
Middle college is an opportunity for high school students to earn an associate’s degree while they earn their high school diploma, and get halfway to a bachelor’s degree. In this program, students will earn up to 62 credit hours, and are given 50 percent off tuition to take the remaining courses to earn a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence Tech.
Students interested in the program should contact Henry Ford Principal Michael Mokdad.
“The EMC program aligns with Henry Ford High School’s mantra of ‘Excellence Leads to Opportunity,’” says Michael Mokdad, principal at Henry Ford High School. “It provides students access to the highly coveted information technology field, coupled with a world class education from Lawrence Technological University. The future is bright and will take them as far as their dreams.”