DBusiness Daily Update: U-M Center Empowers Communities to Tackle Renewable Energy Projects, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
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Solar panel farm
The U-M Center for EmPowering Communities is designed to help Michigan communities tackle the planning and zoning challenges related to renewable energy projects such as wind and solar installations. // Photo courtesy of U-M

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

New U-M Center Empowers Michigan Communities to Tackle Renewable Energy Projects

The University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute in Ann Arbor is launching the Center for EmPowering Communities to foster decarbonization solutions that advance community goals and priorities.

The center will help Michigan communities tackle the planning and zoning challenges related to renewable energy projects such as wind and solar installations. In addition, the center will spur collaborative research that integrates social science with technology design, community engagement and policymaking.

The center will be led by Sarah Mills, an expert on farmland preservation, rural prosperity, and planning and zoning for renewable energy. The establishment of the center is a natural progression of Mills’ prior energy-focused work at the Graham Sustainability Institute, which has garnered increasing interest from researchers, practitioners and stakeholders.

“The Center for EmPowering Communities is designed to respond to stakeholder needs and catalyze research and education around renewable energy in a way that is community-centered,” says Mills, who also is an associate professor of practice in U-M’s Urban and Regional Planning Program.

“At the heart of this endeavor is a network of partnerships forged with stakeholders from the public, private and nongovernmental sectors. By collaborating deeply with these diverse entities, we can identify and elevate issues and opportunities at the intersection of land use, decarbonization and economic development. Our goal is to bridge the gap between theory and real-world implementation, shaping policies and strategies that align with local objectives.”

The center also should enhance the Graham Institute’s long-standing partnership with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). This partnership includes facilitating the Catalyst Leadership Circle program, which supports local governments that are leading the way in paving a path to greater sustainability across Michigan and includes a fellowship for graduate students to help CLC communities take tangible steps toward their sustainability goals.

In collaboration with EGLE and other key partners, the center will administer the Renewable Energy Academy. This program provides a range of resources to assist communities in the planning and zoning process for renewable energy.

In addition, the center partners with faculty and researchers on a range of other engaged research projects considering how renewable energy infrastructure impacts — and is impacted by — the communities that host it. This includes a project, led by Michael Craig of the School for Environment and Sustainability, to consider the economic impacts of solar power on rural communities in the Great Lakes region, as well as to document and understand how local government zoning rules impact solar deployment.

Michigan State University Receives $423M in State Funding for Multiple Projects

Michigan State University in East Lansing is receiving $423 million as part of the state of Michigan’s 2023-24 fiscal year education budget.

The state education budget includes $318.6 million in base operations funding, a 5 percent increase over last year’s investment from the state and 5 percent funding increases for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch, amounting to $33.2 million and $38.5 million in funding, respectively.

“I appreciate the Legislature and Gov. Whitmer for their continued investment in higher education,” says Teresa K. Woodruff, interim president of MSU. “Our elected state leaders play a critical role in the allocation of funding to MSU, its programs and critical projects, which collectively strengthen our state’s competitiveness and build a pipeline of leaders, innovators, and problem solvers to fill key roles at companies here in Michigan.”

The new education budget includes a $30 million investment in the construction of a new Engineering and Digital Innovation Center on campus.

The new center will be a collaborative effort among six MSU colleges and will harness research, innovation, and discovery across multiple disciplines to ensure students are prepared to thrive in a competitive state and global economy.

The Detroit Apple Developer Academy is receiving $3 million in continued state funding. The academy recently celebrated its second graduating class. The academy offers students an opportunity to become entrepreneurs and app developers by learning the fundamentals of coding, design, marketing, and project management.

Graduates ages 18 to 70 have secured employment or internships with companies such as Ford, GM, Little Caesars, Rocket Mortgage, and others. Some students are remaining with the academy to participate in its second-year internship program, while others are continuing their higher education.

MSU received continued funding for increases of up to $500,000 for MSU’s research evaluation of the Great Start Readiness Program, or GSRP, Michigan’s statewide preschool program. MSU’s WKAR-TV, celebrating its 100-year anniversary is part of the Michigan Learning Channel, a statewide public television partnership offering instructional content to support the education of students and to provide alternative resources for families and teachers. The partnership is receiving $5 million in continued funding through the state education budget.

The majority of MSU’s funding from the state comes from the education budget. MSU stands to receive an additional $22.9 million in funding through the state omnibus budget that awaits the governor’s signature. This funding includes:

  • Funding of $16.5 million will help launch Rx Kids, the first citywide effort in the U.S. aimed at tackling poverty to improve health outcomes for Flint mothers and babies.
  • $6.4 million in continued annual funding for Michigan Doctors Improving Access to Care, or MIDOCs, as one of four medical schools working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to recruit and retain medical providers with the goal of increasing access to care in underserved rural and urban communities across the state.
  • $6 million in state funding, to develop, implement, and evaluate a soil health, regenerative agriculture, and climate resiliency program.

HopCat to Cut Ribbon on New Livonia Location July 28

HopCat, along with the Livonia Chamber of Commerce, will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony in celebration of the opening of its new 9,200-square-foot restaurant (17800 Haggerty Road) in Livonia beginning at 11:30 a.m. on July 28.

In addition to the leadership team from Project BarFly, the parent company of HopCat, the event will take place with local community and business leaders, including City of Livonia Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan and Livonia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan West.

A special check presentation will take place with representatives of Livonia Public Schools, HopCat’s grand opening charity partner, and HopCat mascot, Brewce. As part of the grand opening celebration, HopCat named the Livonia Public Schools and its STEM program — Project Lead the Way — as its charity partner and hosted special invite-only dinners to raise money and awareness for the Livonia-based nonprofit.

HopCat announced it will match up to $5,000 of all monies raised through alcohol sales and charitable donations on these special nights. The donations will directly support the purchase of classroom materials and PLTW kits for all elementary classrooms.

Detroit’s DivDat Adds Text-to-pay Enhancement to its Mobile Payments

Diversified Data Processing & Consulting Inc. (DicDat) in Detroit has added a text-to-pay feature enhancement to the DivDat Mobile App, providing DivDat Mobile App users with an additional way to pay DivDat Payment Network billers with checks or cards in metro Detroit.

The DivDat Mobile App, available in the App Store and on Google Play, is free to download and to use ( although biller-specific transaction fees may apply).

“Bringing text-to-pay capabilities to billpaying consumers is another way in which DivDat’s innovations are helping folks stay current on essential bills, while they’re on the go,” says Jason Bierkle, president and CEO of DivDat. “With Text-to-Pay, our biller customers now have another convenient and official secure payment method that consumers can leverage to stay current, and that treasury teams can monitor and manage.”

For more information, visit here.

 One of Detroit’s Biggest Festivals Returns to Celebrate the Soul of Detroit

Courageous Inc., a nonprofit organization in Detroit, presents the third annual Soul Day Detroit Festival, in partnership with the Motown Museum and Northwestern High School.

Soul Day Detroit will take place on the campus of Northwestern High School from noon-9 p.m. on July 29. The festival is free and will feature performances by Charles and Gwen Scales, Notorious, and Larry Lee.

A musical experience will be presented by Motown Museum’s Hitsville Next.  Additionally, local entrepreneurs will showcase food, products, and services.

“We are excited to bring back the Soul Day Detroit Festival,” says Keith Williams, a former Wayne County commissioner. “This festival is a party with a purpose. It not only celebrates the incredible heritage of Detroit but also highlights the importance of supporting our youth.”

Donations for Courageous Inc. are welcome to continue funding aimed at building communities and strengthening families through youth sports.

For information about volunteering, along with vendor and sponsorship opportunities, visit here.

New Pilot Program Aims to Expand Schoolcraft College’s Offerings to High School Students

A new pilot program plans to connect high school students with occupational collegiate coursework through Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

The first-of-its-kind program in Michigan will expand the college’s Early Middle College Program to include occupational options. This will allow high school students to take college courses at Schoolcraft College in new tracks, including health care, public safety, manufacturing, and engineering. Tuition and fees, as well as books and other potential costs, would be covered by state and federal funding.

“This program is crucial to getting students exposed to these important career fields as early as possible, and we’re so glad to be the first to offer this opportunity in Michigan,” says Glenn Cerny, president of Schoolcraft College. “We’re confident this will help jumpstart these high school students’ collegiate careers and give them opportunities they may not otherwise have. We’re grateful to the state legislature for seeing the value in this program.”

This would expand on Schoolcraft College’s Early Middle College Track, SC Edge, which is currently offered online. Courses would include those in occupational tracks as well as liberal arts prerequisites.

The program is expected to launch in early 2024, beginning with the Clarenceville School District. This new program expands the relationship between Schoolcraft College and Clarenceville schools: the two educational systems began a partnership in 2022 that invited the district’s eighth-grade students to the College’s campuses to explore potential career opportunities. Additional schools may also be added to the new pilot program in the future.

FlintNOW Foundation, Artist Jamierson Green Complete Basketball Court Renovations in Flint

The FlintNOW Foundation, created by Detroit Pistons owner and Flint native Tom Gores, joined the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission and Flint native Jamiersen Green to unveil a freshly refurbished basketball court and mural July 22 in William Durant Park on the city’s north side.

The court marks the third park the group refurbished in the city of Flint. Windiate Park was completed last summer and resurfacing at Riverside West Park was completed earlier this week. Funding for the three park projects is provided in part by a $10,000 grant from the FlintNOW Foundation.

“The best solutions always start on the ground, with neighbors joining hands and rolling up their sleeves to bring their vision and creativity to life,” says Gores. “I’m proud we could help bring this group together again to be impactful in another Flint neighborhood. Kids and families on the north side deserve more safe and inspiring places to play.”

The idea for the parks program originated with Green, an artist and Flint native who had previously worked with the Pistons organization and approached the FlintNOW Foundation about working together on the courts project.

The court was designed by Green with input from community stakeholders.

“The artwork on this year’s court is an extension of our design at Windiate Park featuring arms of the community reaching out for a common goal,” says Green. “The arms of the community encompassing a heart-shaped basketball symbolizing the restoration of joy, love, peace, and power to the Northside, and Flint as a whole.”

Habitat for Humanity Dedicates Pontiac Home for Davis Family

Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County in Pontiac celebrated the accomplishments of the Davis family with a home dedication ceremony recently. The first-time homeowner was presented the keys to the home and guests were invited to tour the home once the ceremony concluded.

Attendees gathered at the home to hear words of encouragement from guest speakers Pontiac Mayor Tim Greimel, Habitat Oakland Executive Director and CEO Tim Ruggles, Habitat Oakland Director of Partner and Community Programs Micah Jordan, as well as friends and family.

Like all Habitat homeowners, the Davis family has contributed 300 hours of “sweat equity” working on the construction of their home and the homes of other Habitat builds, and participated in educational programs designed to strengthen their understanding and help to ensure their success as new homeowners.

Pontiac Community Policing Plans National Night Out Aug. 1

The Pontiac Community Policing Team will partner with Oakland County Sheriffs, Pontiac Academy for Excellence, and the City of Pontiac Youth Recreation and Enrichment to present its National Night Out on Aug. 1.

The free event will take place from 5-8 p.m. at the Pontiac Substation Parking Lot (110 E. Pike St.).

It is intended to form comradery between law enforcement and the community as well as bring summer activities to the city.

Activities will include bounce houses, K9 demonstrations, competitive games, food trucks, drone flying, motorcycle demonstrations, and music.

For more information, visit oaklandsheriff.com.