DBusiness Daily Update: U-M’s Accelerate Blue Fund Makes First Investment, Oakland County Retains Moody’s Aaa Bond Rating, 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 17

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.

U-M’s Accelerate Blue Fund Makes First Investment
The Accelerate Blue Fund, an early-stage venture fund of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has reached its first $2-million fundraising milestone and made its first investment in a U-M tech startup.

The recipient of the fund’s first investment is Movellus Inc., which provides technology to boost semiconductor chip design for cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other applications.

Movellus, based in San Jose, Calif., with operations in Ann Arbor, launched in 2016 with help from U-M’s Office of Technology Transfer.

Accelerate Blue has made an initial investment of $150,000 in Movellus as part of a $3 million bridge round.

The evergreen fund, which was officially approved to raise at least $20 million by the Regents of the University of Michigan in October 2019, reached its initial fundraising goal of $2 million in early 2021. That puts it in the position to start making investments of between $10,000 and $200,000 in U-M tech startups.

Accelerate Blue aims to support the attraction of business leadership, speed U-M tech startups to commercial success, and shorten the gap to securing additional venture capital by providing early risk-tolerant investments and leveraging the resources of U-M and the Office of Tech Transfer. All investment returns will go back into the fund for future investments in new U-M startups.

In 2019, Movellus secured $6 million in Series A venture funding, which was led by Stata Venture Partners, run by Ray Stata, founder and chairman of Analog Devices. Also participating in the round were Intel Capital, which had invested in two prior funding rounds, and U-M’s MINTS, or Michigan Invests in New Technology Startups.

“The fund’s first investment in Movellus is a significant milestone for Accelerate Blue,” says  Mike Psarouthakis, director of U-M’s Tech Transfer Venture Center and managing director of the Accelerate Blue Fund. “We are excited to be backing Mo Fasil, founder and CEO, and his team as they grow the company and successfully commercialize the discoveries of professor David Wentzloff, which Movellus licensed from U-M in 2016.”

“While Accelerate Blue’s primary investment focus is on new startups, the Movellus investment fits into the 20 percent of the fund targeted to invest in later-stage U-M startups that are potentially faster liquidity events. This 20 percent is a long-term strategy to grow the fund’s pool of investment capital while we continue our efforts to raise additional investment capital from donors.”

Accelerate Blue has a goal of raising at least $20 million. Tech Transfer officials have said they initially thought fundraising efforts would be curtailed by their inability to travel and hold in-person meetings during the pandemic, but they kept making progress through productive video conferences with U-M alumni, tech entrepreneurs, and U-M supporters across the U.S.

Oakland County Retains Moody’s Aaa Bond Rating
Oakland County has retained its Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, which provides a stable outlook amid the fiscal and operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to County Executive Dave Coulter.

Moody’s awarded its highest credit score to the county for two Water Resources Commissioner (WRC) refunding bonds, which are designed to save ratepayers an estimated $5.2 million with lower interest rates over the life of the bonds.

Moody’s cited the county’s effective response to the virus, budgetary excellence, and its administration’s vision for the future as the rationale for reaffirming the county’s bond rating.

“The county has maintained its financial strength throughout the pandemic, and it has benefitted from the receipt of significant federal stimulus, which it has and will leverage to support small businesses, community health, and social services,” Moody’s said in a press release.

“This Aaa bond rating affirms that Oakland County is headed in the right direction,” Coulter says.

The two refunding bonds are the City of Pontiac Wastewater Treatment Facility Drainage District Drain Refunding Bonds, Series 2021 ($39.11 million) and Oakland County Farmington Hills Water Supply System Refunding Bonds, Series 2021A ($4.21 million). The bond sale will be on April 28.

“The longstanding Aaa bond rating that Oakland County has earned allows for important water and sewer projects to be financed at the best rates,” says Jim Nash, Water Resource Commissioner. “It provides cost-effective benefits that will have a positive impact on our ratepayers and lasting economic, environmental and social equity rewards that will resonate for decades to come.”

Oakland County has maintained a Aaa bond rating since 1998 because of the shared commitment to long-term financial planning among the leaders in all branches of county government.

Motor City Electric Co. Makes Clean Energy Commitment
Motor City Electric Co., a Detroit company specializing in the design, construction, and maintenance of industrial electrical systems and, has enrolled in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program.

Through the program, Motor City Electric will match 60 percent of the energy use at its Detroit and Ann Arbor locations to DTE’s clean energy projects, a commitment that will offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving a passenger car 840,000 miles.

Motor City Electric has partnered with DTE on numerous projects over the last 40 years and has expertise in servicing the utility industry through work on overhead lines, substations, renewable energy projects, and other needs.

“Sustainability is important to our company,” said Dave Volkman, senior vice president at Motor City Electric Utilities Co. “Using MIGreenPower to match our energy use to renewable energy was an easy decision to make. It enables us to achieve our environmental targets and support Michigan jobs created through building, operating, and maintaining local wind and solar projects.”

Motor City Electric joins more than 300 Michigan businesses and 28,000 residential customers who are using MIGreenPower to reduce their impact on the environment.

For more information on DTE’s MIGreenPower program, visit here.

Gardner-White Hosts Auburn Hills Garage Sale April 20-22
Gardner-White is hosting a “garage sale” at its Auburn Hills store (4445 N. Atlantic Blvd.) April 20-22 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Thousands of items of furniture, mattresses, accessories, and flood samples will be available at warehouse prices during the sale.

The last Gardner-White warehouse sale in October 2019 resulted in customers lining up for blocks to gain access to the big discounts.

California Cannabis Firm Acquires Michigan Property, Expands Partnership with Green Peak
California’s Innovative Industrial Properties Inc., a real estate company focused on the regulated U.S. cannabis industry, has acquired property located at 9410 Davis Highway in Windsor Township, southwest of Lansing.

The purchase price for the property was approximately $15.6 million. Concurrent with the purchase, IIP entered into a long-term, triple-net lease agreement with Green Peak Industries (also known as Skymint Brands or Skymint), which intends to operate the property as a regulated cannabis cultivation, processing, and distribution facility.

Green Peak will redevelopment the approximately 175,000-square-foot industrial building. In connection with the redevelopment of the property, IIP has agreed to provide reimbursement of up to approximately $14.4 million. Assuming full reimbursement for the redevelopment of the property, IIP’s total investment in the property will be $30.0 million.

In addition to this property, IIP owns and leases to Skymint seven other properties in Michigan, including a cultivation and processing facility and six retail locations, representing approximately 262,000 square feet and a total investment of approximately $57.6 million (including the commitment to reimburse Skymint for redevelopment of this property).

“We have been Skymint’s long-term real estate partner since 2018 and are excited to partner with them again on the redevelopment of this new property that is expected to dramatically expand Skymint’s cannabis production capacity to meet the tremendous demand across the state, and support Skymint’s continued dispensary expansion plans,” says Paul Smithers, president and CEO of IIP.

Jeff Radway, co-Founder and CEO of Skymint, says, “We are very happy to team again with IIP on this new property, and appreciate all of their support in facilitating our expansion over the past three years.”

New York Investor Finances Michigan Solar Power Project
D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments in New York today announced the closing of Assembly Solar III, a 79-megawatt solar project in Lennon, west of Flint, and is moving forward with construction after securing both construction debt and tax equity financing for the project.

The Assembly Solar III project is the third phase of the Assembly Solar project in Michigan to begin construction. The projects were developed by Ranger Power, a utility-scale solar developer headquartered in Chicago, in partnership with DESRI, and are being constructed by McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. Assembly I began operating in December 2020 and Assembly II is slated to reach commercial operation in the third quarter of 2021.

Assembly III signed a long-term power purchase agreement with DTE Electric for the project’s output in the first half of 2020.

“DTE is leading Michigan’s transition toward a clean energy future and we’re proud to play a role in helping the state’s largest producer of renewable energy provide solar energy to people across Michigan,” says Paul Harris, president of Ranger Power. “In addition, solar energy projects like Assembly Solar create jobs, generate local tax revenue, promote energy independence, and preserve farmland. We look forward to completing this project and developing future projects in Michigan and throughout the Midwest.”

Once completed, the Assembly Solar cluster will total 239 megawatts and is expected to provide low-cost, high-quality power to more than 43,000 Michigan homes annually, according to metrics provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Auburn Hills’ Destaco Introduces PGM40, New Part Positioner
Destaco, which has its corporate headquarters in Auburn Hills, has announced a new addition to its portfolio of high-performance part-positioning solutions, the PGM40.

The PGM40 positioner is designed for use in small, medium, and high-speed part-positioning applications, also known as indexing in automotive, consumer, packaging, industrial, molding, clean room, fixture/testing, and assembly processes.

The leading feature of the positioner is its precision-engineered design, enabling ultra-fast settling times with immovable positioning during stationary periods. This delivers high part-placement accuracy with long-life, trouble-free performance, which ultimately benefits the user through reduced operating and maintenance costs. The positioner’s service life is also extended because it requires less starting and overall power to operate, which eases the amount of stress placed on the unit’s motor.

“The new PGM40 part positioner is the perfect solution for manufacturers who may be looking to transition from traditional air-powered indexers to those powered by a motor, which have the capability to stop and, if needed, rest at multiple points in the positioning process,” says Matt Girand, vice president and general manager of the Americas and global automation at Destaco. “The operational benefits of this new unit make it a cost-effective solution that is ideal for use in highly precise indexing applications.”

The construction of the positioner enables it to handle relatively high-weight payloads, while a standardized clamping system makes it compatible with all third-party motors. The unit also features a large central opening that enables it to easily accommodate wiring and piping. Finally, its “lubricated for life” design reduces maintenance calls and downtime, essentially making it a “set it and forget it” product.

For more information, visit here.

Ballmer Group Grant Expands Employment Opportunities for Young Adults in Pontiac
A $300,000 grant from Ballmer Group in Washington state to Pontiac’s Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program will help prepare school graduates and young-adult residents in the city and surrounding for employment in the construction trades.

Created in 2019 by Oakland University professor David Strubler in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, Oakland County Michigan Works! Pontiac, and Pontiac Promise Zone, the training program is part of the OU Pontiac Initiative.

During the 12-week program, participants receive wages and tuition expenses as they learn construction skills in a hands-on environment. The program acts as a bridge into the construction trades for employment and further apprentice training.

The Talent Development Coalition Construction Pre-Apprentice Program is intended to create a physical and psychological model to help people explore career interests, while receiving valuable practical training, an apprenticeship and, ultimately, a career that will lead to a myriad of job opportunities in the high-demand construction field.

The workforce development program aligns with a global movement to bring renewed appreciation to the skilled trades and promote career opportunities for the 60 percent of young people in Michigan who do not attend college. The program benefits from many dedicated partners, including 12 employers who hire graduates.

The funds will help pay tuition and provide materials the students will need as they start their careers. They also will provide an additional supervisor who will offer training to participants at the Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County construction site.

Adding this extra supervisor will allow an impactful student to supervisor ratio of 5 to 1, ensuring that students receive an excellent training experience and improving the overall graduation rate of the program.

“With the support from Ballmer Group, we expect to graduate 72 expertly trained students during the next three years,” Strubler says. “These students, ranging in age from 18-24, will have valuable stackable skills and credentials that will lead to well-paying positions and lifelong opportunities for advancement.

“Experts predict there will be 811,000 open skilled trade jobs in Michigan by 2026,” he says. “Currently, only 25,000 people are enrolled in apprenticeship programs, signaling that immediate intervention is needed to close the gap in this important field. Support from Ballmer Group offers a life-changing solution for young adults looking for rewarding, lucrative careers and helps fill a widening need in our state’s construction industry.”

For more information, contact Teresa Rodges, senior director of pre-college programs and community partnerships, at trodges@oakland.edu.

Rockefeller Capital Management Adds Private Wealth Team in Michigan
The integrated financial advisory firm Rockefeller Capital Management in New York announced that a team of four has joined the firm’s Private Wealth offering in Bloomfield Hills.

The team is led by John Low, who will serve as managing director and private wealth advisor, and will include Kristen Palazeti, vice president and private wealth advisor; Jennifer Byrne, vice president and client relationship manager; and Tori Torango, client associate.

For more information, visit here.

Midwestern Gentleman Featured in April 21 Marketing Webinar
Midwestern Gentleman, a retail apparel and media shop started by Michigan State University graduate Andrew Case, will be the featured company of an April 21 webinar facilitated by the Direct Marketing Association of Detroit.

Case and his partner, Adam Powers, will cover how MWG brings to life the apparel, equipment and experiences of the “Great Lakes Good Life” through e-commerce, events, and journalistic-style storytelling.

“Midwestern Gentleman is a very different company,” says Cristina Cecchetti, president of the DMAD. “What they are doing is so interesting, innovative, and really fun. We’re looking forward to an inside look of what brands and marketers can learn from the way they tell a brand story.”

The event is free to DMAD members and discounted to AdCraft members. To register, visit here.

Altair Explores High-performance Computing at Global HPC Summit
Altair, a Troy-based global technology company providing solutions in simulation, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence will conduct its Global HPC Summit May 11-12.

This virtual event will feature leading HPC professionals and expert end users from a range of industries, will explore modern HPC workloads, tools, and infrastructures, and highlight recent HPC-driven innovations and enabling technologies.

The event will feature presentations and technical breakout sessions from Altair partners including Intel, Oracle, Google, NVIDIA, and Microsoft.

“During the past year, we have made exceptional advancements and investments in technologies to help our customers manage their HPC resources, both on-premises and in the cloud,” says James R. Scapa, founder and CEO of Altair. “We believe Altair now offers the industry’s most comprehensive HPC solution set and look forward to highlighting the new ways leading innovators are applying HPC to reach industry firsts and solve important problems faster and more efficiently.”

For more information and register for the summit, visit here.

Dan Gutfreund Realty Partners with Oakland County Sheriff’s ‘Re-CYCLE for Kids’
Dan Gutfreund Realty Group in Birmingham is partnering with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Re-CYCLE for Kids program, 1-800-Self-Storage.com, the Birmingham Police Department, Oakland University and the county’s Sheriff PAL Program to collect new and used bicycles and helmets for Oakland County children and adults in need.

To encourage donations, Dan Gutfreund Realty Group will match the first 50 bikes donated on May 8 with brand new bikes for children in need.

Donations will be accepted May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Birmingham (at the junction of Woodward Avenue and South Old Woodward Ave.) and at Oakland University (Lot P3 at the corner of Walton Boulevard and Squirrel Road).

Bikes may also be dropped off at any of the Sheriff’s Office 12 substations around Oakland County or at Sheriff’s Re-CYCLE partner 1-800-Self-Storage.com locations in Troy and Oak Park, during regular business hours, throughout the year. For more information, visit here.

Wayne State Offering 80+ Virtual K-12 Summer Programs
Wayne State University in Detroit has released a lineup of more than 80 virtual K-12 offerings for the summer months. Included are programs for young gamers, creative thinkers, explorers, business-medical-and science-minded students, and more.

The camps traditionally take place on the university’s Midtown campus, but will continue online this summer, allowing campers to participate from their own homes, due to the continued need for social distancing caused by COVID-19.

“Wayne State offers a wide variety of challenging and exciting summer programs that families in Detroit and beyond have come to expect,” says Laurie M. Lauzon Clabo, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Our long tradition of K-12 outreach is a mainstay of our University’s commitment to the community. We look forward to hosting new and returning students in our virtually formatted camps.

“While we would love to see the students on our beautiful campus this summer, their health and well-being is our number one priority.”

New for 2021, the WSU K-12 Focus on the Future Scholarship covers the full cost of one STEM-focused K-12 summer camp per qualifying child. To receive this scholarship, the student must qualify for free or reduced lunch. Students are automatically considered for this scholarship upon completion of their camp registration form.

To learn more about Wayne State University’s K-12 summer camps, visit here.