COVID-19 Update: Investment Allows Bottle Recycling Facility in Ann Arbor to Reopen, Skymint Opens East Lansing Cannabis Dispensary, and More

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map of Michigan coronavirus cases by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Nov. 19

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Investment Allows Bottle Recycling Facility in Ann Arbor to Reopen
Recycle Ann Arbor has been selected to receive an $800,000 American Beverage Association investment from the ABA’s Every Bottle Back initiative to help rebuild and reopen the city’s Materials Recovery Facility, which has been closed since 2016.

The investment, deployed in partnership with Closed Loop Partners, will help create a state-of-the-art materials recovery facility that allows for enhanced sorting of valuable recyclable materials, like the beverage industry’s 100 percent recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles. The project also leverages capital from additional stakeholders, including $800,000 from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

“Our investment in Ann Arbor will help restore the region’s critical recycling infrastructure, create jobs, and showcase effective strategies to build a more circular economy,” says Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the ABA. “This exciting new project is one in a series of investments the beverage industry is making alongside our environmental partners and community leaders under the Every Bottle Back initiative to boost the collection of our 100 percent recyclable bottles and cans so they can be remade, as intended.”

Every Bottle Back is an integrated and comprehensive initiative by The Coca-Cola Co., Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo to reduce the industry’s plastic footprint. The investment in Ann Arbor is the fourth of 11 initial projects that the beverage industry has committed funding for under Every Bottle Back to ensure its bottles are collected and remade and do not wind up in beaches or lakes or wasted in landfills.

“Rebuilding Ann Arbor’s Materials Recovery Facility with modernized, state-of-the-art equipment will boost efficiency, increase recycling rates, and help keep our valuable fully recyclable PET bottles in-state to help sustain local recycling systems,” says Derek Bajema, president and CEO of Michigan Soft Drink Association. “We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to working with all those who share our goal of improving our state’s collection system so that it captures more recyclable materials.”

The ABA is partnering with Closed Loop Partners, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Recycle Ann Arbor on the project, which will help equip Ann Arbor’s MRF with upgraded equipment and infrastructure to sort, clean, and bale recyclable materials.

The investment will allow more valuable recyclable materials to be efficiently captured via curbside, yielding an estimated 284 million new pounds of materials collected over 10 years – including 7 million pounds of PET and 740,000 pounds of aluminum. The investment will provide the City of Ann Arbor with local capacity to more effectively manage their recyclables toward a circular economy that eliminates waste, creates jobs and protects the environment.

For more information about the Every Bottle Back initiative, visit here.

Skymint Opens East Lansing Cannabis Dispensary
Lansing-based cannabis retailer Skymint Brands has opened an outlet in East Lansing (3315 Coolidge Road), its third in the area and the 11th in Michigan.

“The launch of Skymint East Lansing affords us a meaningful presence near the Michigan State Capitol building and Michigan State University,” says Jeff Radway, co-founder and CEO of Skymint Brands. “I invite legislators, their staffers, and MSU students 21 and older to come see for themselves how cannabis makes a great neighbor while contributing significantly to our state’s economic vitality and to Michiganders’ quality of life.”

Skymint, which will be open in East Lansing Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., also has announced the launch of a Team Feed donation drive for Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people.

Pincanna Partners with Tikun Olam to Produce Cannabis Products in Michigan
Pincanna, the Farmington Hills-based cannabis cultivator and distributor, has partnered with New York’s Tikun Olam to bring the latter’s Tikun’s cannabis products to Michigan in Spring 2021.

The collaboration combines Tikun’s history of peer-reviewed research and clinical data with Pincanna’s expertise in formulating and delivering high-quality cannabis products to consumers.  Tikun Olam has been producing its proprietary-research-backed cannabis strains since 2005.

“We are honored to welcome Tikun to the Pincanna family of cannabis brands and to collaborate with one of the best cannabis companies in the world,” saysw Robert Nusbaum, founding partner of Pincanna. “With our shared mission of wellness, we look forward to launching Tikun’s internationally recognized products throughout Michigan.”

Bernie Sucher, CEO of Tikun Olam, says, “I grew up in Michigan, so it is especially meaningful to me that Tikun is being welcomed to the state. What’s really special, however, is who is doing the welcoming: Pincanna is an extraordinary organization. Its founders’ established support of cannabis research underlines our mutual long-term commitment to patients. We are thrilled to partner with Pincanna and help them fulfill their goal of delivering outstanding wellness products to the Michigan community.”

Ruth Ellis Center Breaks Ground on New Housing Development
The Ruth Ellis Center and the Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department today broke ground on a new, $15-million permanent supportive housing development along Detroit’s Woodward Corridor targeted toward LGBTQ+ youth that will provide housing to help them avoid homelessness, a health clinic, and a community space.

HRD Director Donald Rencher and Ruth Ellis Center Executive Director Jerry Peterson and others took part in the ceremony at 61 Clairmount, just west of Woodward Avenue.

Report: Holiday Bargains Rare for Car Shoppers
Shoppers seeking Black Friday bargains on new cars will likely need to do some extra research ahead of the holiday weekend, according to the car shopping experts at Edmunds.

Edmunds analysts note that automakers have pulled back on incentives for the holiday due to shortages in inventory created by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Edmunds data, the average days to turn (DTT) for new vehicles dropped to 56 days for the industry in October, nearly a 27 percent decrease from the same time last year and the lowest Edmunds has on record since June 2012. The average discount from MSRP for new vehicles dropped to $2,046 in October, nearly a 23 percent decrease compared to last year’s number. Edmunds analysts also predict that more than 50 percent of cars sold in November will be 2021 model year vehicles, an increase compared to last year when 40 percent of cars sold in November were 2020 model year vehicles.

“This Black Friday is looking much different in terms of sales compared to the blowout bargain events promoted in years past,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “Although automakers are doing a good job of broadcasting a ‘buy now’ message to shoppers with holiday advertising campaigns, they’re mostly just hype. The reality is that the transition phase between model years has been essentially cut short and, for the first time in a long time, dealers and automakers aren’t facing the overwhelming pressure to sweeten deals to clear out their lots.”

Despite fewer available discounts, Edmunds experts expect to see healthy retail sales over the holiday weekend thanks to demand from higher-earning consumers looking to direct their spending toward a new vehicle after months in quarantine.

Hub International Acquires United Shortline Insurance Services
Chicago-based Hub International Ltd., a global insurance brokerage, has acquired United Shortline Insurance Services Inc. in Port Austin (at the tip of Michigan’s thumb). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

USIS is a leader in the shortline and regional railroad insurance program and association market and has remained exclusively focused on the insurance needs of the shortline railroad industry for more than 30 years. USIS will complement and strengthen Hub’s growing rail practice in Kansas City, Mo. Louis Schillinger, owner and CEO of USIS, will join Hub Mid-America and report to Paul Cohen, area president of Hub in Kansas City.

Ascension Michigan Announces Updated Visitor Guidelines
Ascension Michigan, based in Warren, has implemented temporary visitor guidelines effective immediately for its hospitals and ambulatory sites to ensure the health and safety of its patients, caregivers, and staff from the spread of COVID-19.

No visitors are allowed at Ascension Michigan care sites (excluding physician practices) except for:

  • One guardian who has been appointed to make medical decisions for patients who have been deemed a legally incapacitated individual.
  • One visitor is allowed in Labor and Delivery in addition to a midwife/doula.
  • One visitor is allowed for Outpatient Surgery and must stay in the waiting room.
  • One visitor is allowed for pediatric patients (21 years and younger).
  • One visitor is allowed for Outpatient Radiology and Lab if necessary for patient assistance. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis relative to the patient’s individual needs by the management in the patient care area.
  • End-of-life visitation does not apply to these restrictions.

Visitor requirements for entry include:

  • All visitors are required to complete a screening.
  • Visitors must wear a mask and practice social distancing while in the patient room and any area of the facility.
  • Visitors must wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before and after the visit.
  • Should a visitor not have a mask, one will be provided.

WSU to Provide Tech-enabled Health Care for Detroit’s Low-income Seniors
Wayne State University in Detroit has received $2 million to provide health care services to low-income older adults as part of Connecting Seniors, a collaborative effort to close the generational digital divide.

As part of the program, 4,000 older adults and their caregivers will receive a custom application that connects them to a suite of health care services at WSU, as well as numerous health-related tools developed by Microsoft and Accenture in response to COVID-19.

“As an urban-facing university, and among the first in Detroit to mobilize in order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, Wayne State University is honored to be part of this consortium,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “This initiative rallies our resources to support low-income older adults with much-needed access to primary health services and accelerates our commitment to eliminate health disparities in our community.”

Connecting Seniors is made possible by a $3.9 million grant from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Rapid Response Initiative to the Connect 313 Fund, administered by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The Connect 313 Fund was created in 2020 to support digital inclusion efforts across the region.

Equipment and connectivity will be provided by human I-T, a nonprofit that provides low-income groups with technology. Digital devices will be distributed using Focus: HOPE’s food distribution network. Wayne State will provide physical and mental health care directly to older adults and caregivers throughout Detroit using telehealth technologies.

In Related News: Starting today, Wayne Health (formerly Wayne State University Physician Group) is offering free mobile COVID-19 swab testing for students (ages 3 and older) and faculty of Detroit Public Schools Community District and their families through a partnership with Wayne State University and Ford Motor Co.

Mobile testing units will travel to schools throughout the district through a program supported by funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to COVID testing, free blood pressure screening and HIV testing will be available. Through a partnership with the Detroit Parent Network, participants also can receive referrals to primary care physicians and to community resources for food, employment, utility assistance and more.

The testing schedule is available here.

EMU’s Entrepreneurship Graduate Program Ranked Among Nation’s Top 50
The graduate program in entrepreneurship at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has been ranked among the top 50 programs in the nation by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

“Their faculties are outstanding, their courses have robust experiential components, and their students receive outstanding mentoring and networking support,” says Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review about all of the schools on its list. “We strongly recommend these fine schools to anyone considering a major or graduate degree in this burgeoning field.”

Eastern’s ranking is featured in Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 50 Best Grad Programs for Entrepreneurs in 2021 website and will be included in the print edition available Dec. 1.

“This fine recognition is reflective of the overall quality of programs in the College of Business,” says James Smith, president of EMU. “We pride ourselves on the tremendous success of students who complete graduate business degrees at Eastern, whether our MBA, finance, accounting, integrated marketing communications, or others. The importance of this ranking for the entrepreneurship program creates an even greater level of pride for all of us. Our data show the vast majority of EMU graduates are employed in their desired professions within three months of graduation.”

Kenneth Lord, dean of the College of Business, notes that Eastern has long been a key entrepreneurial player in Michigan and now is gaining national attention. In addition, the University’s MBA specialization was ranked number six among the “10 Most Affordable Top Ranked Entrepreneurship” programs by The Best Master’s Degrees.

“This recognition attests to the state-of-the-art education delivered by our outstanding entrepreneurship faculty and the achievements of our Center for Entrepreneurship, students, and alumni,” Lord says.

For more information, visit here.

Piston Group Donates $1M to Pope Francis Center for New Homeless Center in Detroit
Piston Group Chairman and CEO Vinnie Johnson Thursday announced a five-year, $1 million lead gift to support a new facility for the Pope Francis Center, a day center in Detroit that provides vital services to the city’s homeless population.

The Pope Francis Center team currently is working with the city of Detroit to identify and assess a location for the new center.  A capital campaign is underway with a goal of reaching $22 million.

“For 30 years, the Pope Francis Center has been at the forefront of serving the chronically homeless in Detroit,” says Johnson. “While there’s been significant economic rebirth in our city, we cannot forget about those who don’t necessarily see or feel the benefits of Detroit’s economic renewal efforts. And unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated the problems the homeless face on a daily basis. The need for a new center to serve the homeless is now and paramount.  We hope our contribution to the capital campaign serves as a catalyst for more awareness and support for our city’s homeless population.”

The Center’s current services include two nutritious meals each day, along with access to laundry and shower facilities, various medical clinics and housing assistance. The new center would support a long-term plan for ending chronic homelessness in Detroit by building a bridge housing center in the heart of Detroit that would help people experiencing homelessness access services to move them to an affordable housing solution.

The proposed center would include 40 residential units, a health clinic, gymnasium, and meeting rooms. Residents would stay up to a 120-day period and be provided with trauma informed care including healthcare and treatment for mental health and addiction issues.  Onsite job readiness training will also be available. The new center also will continue to maintain the current day center provided to hundreds of guests daily.



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