SPECIAL REPORT: Laws, Regulations Crunching Businesses Trying to Survive

(Editor’s Note: First in a series detailing the issues business owners face as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis.)

As states around the country have begun to relax stay-at-home orders put in place to battle the spread of COVID-19, businesses and their employees are chomping at the bit to reopen and get back to work.

Or are they?

Of course they are, but owners know that, in the new post-COVID era, things aren’t going to be business-as-usual. Most states are going to add new requirements for the safety and health of workers and customers, and experts say a general fear about coming back too soon is likely to cause fear in workers returning to their jobs.

According to Timothy Williams, Vice Chairman of Pinkerton, a global provider of corporate risk management services and solutions, it’s largely a fear of the unknown.

“There’s a great deal of anxiety,” Williams said. “There’s so much we don’t know. We have generally accepted protocols to deal with other crises. We understand how to deal with an earthquake or a tornado. But there are still so many unknowns and so many variables with (COVID) that we’re going to have to be exceptionally patient as we reopen the economy.”

The anxiety is coming in waves from several different directions. Employers are concerned, for instance, about being able to comply with new safety standards that are almost certain to be imposed when they’re allowed to reopen.

Workplace safety the biggest concern
Having workers report back to a safe environment is going to be one of the paramount obligations for employers. Businesses will likely have to have adequate personal protective equipment in place, as well as policies about cleanliness and sanitization.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are certainly going to affect how companies do business. According to information on the OSHA website (www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html), some of the more relevant requirements include:

  • OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards, which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection when job hazards warrant it.
  • When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard.
  • The General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Denise Navarro, President/CEO of Houston, Texas-based Logical Innovations, Inc., said the requirements will likely vary by industry, but will still likely be, at a minimum, a financial stressor.

“For instance, I have noted that some businesses are restructuring and redesigning office layouts to accommodate continued social distancing,” Navarro said. “This could lead to additional costs and limited space.”

Workplace safety standards are going to be a focus. According to information provided by the Michigan OSHA, more than 300 workplace complaints were received March 30-31 alone.

What will new standards look like?
Steve Girard, a labor attorney with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Clark Hill PLC, said OSHA inspectors will look at employers who had COVID-19-positive employees and ask if the company “did everything they could do” to protect employees. If OSHA determines such wasn’t the case, Girard warned, companies could face citations.

The problem with that, he said, is it’ll be an after-the-fact determination of whether companies did everything they could against a virus nobody has ever seen.

“You’re going have investigators after the fact doing some Monday morning quarterbacking and saying ‘you could have done more,’” Girard said.

What safety standards may be required is still a bit of an unknown, and most businesses are already setting up to meet projected requirements as best they can.

For instance, Mid-West Instrument – which develops proprietary designs manufactured for Original Equipment Manufacturers – is already, among other actions, voluntarily testing employees for temperatures at the start of shifts; locking visitors out of the building; requiring staffers to clean their own work areas; placing hand sanitizer throughout the building; offering cloth masks to every employee; and suspended all work-related travel.

Can business keep up with evolving standards?
Because Mid-West Instrument was identified as an “essential” business, the company has remained open during the stay-at-home order, and has only laid off two of its 40 employees. But business is down, and the company is waiting to hear about its loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

More: Construction, Real Estate Activity Next Up for Reopening

More: Claims Continue to Flow as U.S. Unemployment Passes 30 Million

More: Town Hall Answers Questions as Businesses Get Ready to Re-Engage

Meanwhile, company officials worry about what the requirements will look like when the stay-at-home order is finally eased.

“As this is rapidly changing we do not know what new requirements may be implemented,” said Mid-West Instrument President Mike Lueck. “We are concerned that impractical safety requirements may be imposed which far exceed CDC recommendations.”

Workplace rules changed to benefit the employee could be problematic for employers, as well. For instance, Whitmer signed an executive order last month saying businesses can’t punish workers who stay home when either they or their close contacts are sick.

And Clark Hill’s Girard said worker’s compensation will likely be another big issue for essential employers operating now and non-essential employers when they reopen. Rules were changed last month, Girard said, that employers of first responders and healthcare providers who contract COVID-19 must prove by what Girard called “objective evidence” that the worker didn’t get it on the job before denying a claim.

Legal and political challenges are popping up over how states and individual companies are handling the pandemic. For instance, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was sued by a couple of business groups and by a state legislator for establishing a stay-at-home order (a judge ruled in favor of the legislator and issued a stay in that legislator’s favor).

An employee of a Tuscon, Arizona electrical company was recently awarded $1,600 because the company denied him paid sick leave after he was told by a doctor to self-quarantine.

And there was a lawsuit filed by a director of Eastern Airlines who was fired just days after requesting time off to tend to an 11-year-old child.

Lois M. Kosch, a partner in the employment law practice group for California-based Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP whose practice emphasizes the litigation of harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage and hour matters, said that, while the DOL wasn’t doing much enforcement at first, they are now.

“Enforcement actions are happening, whether from the government or private attorneys, so (businesses) should keep those obligations in mind,” Kosch said.

She said some 187 new labor laws have been passed as a result of COVID-19. For instance, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act mandates paid sick leave and paid time off to take care of children.

There are also obligations under the Family Medical Leave Act to accommodate employees who have child care challenges. That law, Kosch said, entitles employees up to two-thirds of their regular pay, up to $200 per day.

That’s not going to help businesses already looking at balance sheets that aren’t exactly balanced.

“These additional costs in benefits and required payroll additives add to the already-stressed bottom line for some businesses that have been ‘on hold’ during this crisis,” said Logial Innvoations’ Navarro.

To pay unemployment or not to pay, that is the question
Unemployment assistance is turning out to be a double-edged sword. While it provides compensation for workers who lose their jobs, the additional $600 provided by the federal CARES Act can also make it easier for workers to stay off the job because the compensation is often better, particularly in some retail and restaurant businesses.

If the employer tries to bring them back, and they refuse because the money is less, the employee then loses the right to unemployment.

Kosch said recently updated guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor determined workers in that situation are not authorized to collect unemployment, including the $600 federal supplement.

But Dan West, president of the Livonia, Mich., Chamber of Commerce, said he’s still hearing from business owners there are “a lot of concerns” about workers coming back, particularly among restaurant owners.

“Restaurants had to lay off all their wait staff, so a lot of them have taken jobs at Amazon, Walmart, what have you, and may not come back,” West said. “I’m hearing owners are looking for means of bringing people back part-time so they can still get unemployment. There’s really no incentive to come back if they’re making more (on unemployment).”

Kosch pointed out that they won’t be, at least not for long.

“Without (the $600 federal incentive) they wouldn’t be making more than if they were working,” Kosch said. “I think letting people know if they decide not to come back to work when work has been offered to them they’re going to lose that federal supplement … might be a powerful motivator.”

The other thing about which business owners have expressed concern is a question of what the rules will look like when they are finally allowed to reopen. Governors in states like Georgia, Tennessee and Texas have already issued guidelines for re-engagement.

That’s a good thing, according to West.

“The uncertainty is the biggest thing … business people are planners,” he said. “Right now, that uncertainty makes it hard for them to plan. And they can’t work right now, and that makes it even more frustrating for them.”

New requirements could slow productivity
But it’s not just the state rules that trouble some business owners. Ted Barker, the president of Livonia, Mich.-based Shaw Construction and Management Company that employs some 20 workers, said he received a list of 20 requirements the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council wants him to follow when reopening.

Among them are requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), a specified COVID-19 site supervisor, asking employees to self-identify if they have symptoms, and having running water – “A lot of our sites don’t have running water,” Barker said — and soap on job sites.

“They feel this is a good baseline for future work in this environment and that it will provide the governor with assurance that the Michigan construction industry has the infrastructure, culture and training resources to safely return to work beyond the critical infrastructure projects currently underway,” Barker said. “The (COVID requirements) will cost dollars and has the strong possibility of slowing down productivity, which again will cost dollars to all involved. But I don’t know how we can get clearance to work without trying to inforce a new set of guidelines, either.”

Crisis could crush morale
What owners should really be concerned about, according to Pinkerton’s Williams, is the culture that will exist once restrictions are eased. Morale could be a problem, and business leaders are going to have to be acutely aware of the emotional states of their employees.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around the world, let alone in the United States, about ‘do I have a job,’ ‘do I want to go back to work when I can get paid a little more in the interim?’

“Some have lost coworkers and relatives and haven’t had the chance to grieve,” Williams added. “You’ve got a lot of emotions coming into this, and a lot of fear, because it’s a scenario where we don’t have complete information and may never have.”

Mid-West Instrument’s Lueck agrees about the morale, and says Michigan officials, including Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, haven’t helped the situation with what he calls “aggressive statements.”

“This has been a real issue due to … their total lack of recognition of critical manufacturers supplying to medical gas industry, oil and gas, power generation, military and safe distribution of drinking water,” Lueck said. “This has raised the stress level of many employees who question if we should remain open even though almost all of our products support industries listed (as) essential critical infrastructure workers.”

Fear will also play a role as workers return with concerns about contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. Sonya Bielecki, owner of HR Professional Support Services and a consultant for Express Employment Professionals, doesn’t believe there’s any way to completely reduce an employee’s fear of COVID-19 or the chance they’ll contract it in the workplace.

She said company leadership, “regardless of their personal opinions on COVID-19,” must present a coordinated message to the staff. The other idea she suggests is for employers to prepare a formal communication to workers outlining all of the safety steps they’ve taken.

“If you can prove to an employee that you’ve made CDC and OSHA requirements happen and you’re taking all the steps to keep them safe, that’ll reduce a lot of fears,” Bielecki said. “But the communication has to go out before their return.”

Pinkerton’s Williams agreed communication is the key when there are so many of what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called “unknown unknowns,” things we don’t know that we don’t know.

“That’s perfect for how we are today … It’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “Communicating with employees several times a day routinely with current information about what we know and what we don’t know would help a great deal with morale.

“If we can be extraordinarily patient in these times with ourselves, with our customers … I think that will keep the security issues at a minimum, and it’s really going to pay off in morale issues,” he added. “People are on edge, anxious. We’re in uncharted territory for our generation. That’s why that ‘high-touch’ (by telephone and conference calls) and very frequent communications that are forthright is going to be very important.”

Ford Leadership Changes Aim to Strengthen Production Creation, Transform Global Supply Chain Management

DEARBORN, Mich., Sept. 22, 2022 – Ford Motor Company recently accelerated the Ford+ plan for growth and value creation with key leadership changes to support the development of breakthrough electric vehicles at scale, strengthen its internal combustion product line and transform the company’s global supply chain management.

Specifically:

  • Doug Field is named chief advanced product development and technology officer. In this expanded role, Field will continue to oversee EV products, software and digital systems development, and advanced driver assistance, while also taking on design and vehicle hardware engineering
  • Lisa Drake, vice president, EV industrialization, will now also be responsible for manufacturing engineering as Ford scales to a run rate of 2 million EVs per year by the end of 2026
  • Chuck Gray, who has been vice president, EV technology, is named vice president, vehicle hardware engineering

Both Drake and Gray report to Field, as does Anthony Lo, Ford’s chief design officer.

“As we enter an intense period of execution for Ford Model e and our $50 billion investment in breakthrough electric and digital vehicles, Doug, Lisa and Chuck are taking on larger roles and building out very capable teams,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO. “Developing and scaling the next generation of electric and software-defined vehicles requires a different focus and mix of talent from the accomplished Ford team and many exciting new colleagues joining our company.”

Among those new colleagues are four leaders with Silicon Valley credentials who will strengthen Ford’s push to develop fully connected, software-defined vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems. Roz Ho is appointed chief connected vehicle software officer. Ho joins Ford next month from HP, where she was vice president and global head of software. Previously, she served in several leadership roles during her 22-year tenure at Microsoft. Ho will work closely with Jae Park, who recently joined Ford as vice president, digital product design, after successful stints at Google and Amazon. They join Sammy Omari, executive director of advanced driver assist technologies (formerly of Motional, a joint venture of Hyundai and Aptiv) and Rob Bedichek, executive director of platform architecture (formerly of Intel and Apple). This leadership team, supporting outstanding talent at Ford, is setting the direction on technology platforms for Ford’s next-generation products.

As Ford continues to build out a portfolio of both EVs from Ford Model e and iconic Ford Blue internal combustion vehicles, Jim Baumbick is taking on additional responsibility as well. He is appointed vice president, product development operations, cycle planning and internal combustion engine programs. Jim will oversee the development of all Ford Blue products, as well as lead cycle planning, vehicle development engineering and product development operations for all of Ford. He will report to Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue, and partner closely with Doug Field and his team on the broader development of all products at Ford.

“Jim Baumbick has been a driving force behind our incredible Ford Blue lineup built around icons like F-Series, Mustang, Ranger and Bronco, and new hits like Maverick that have driven significant demand and market share gains,” Farley said. “We’re building on this rock-solid foundation with exciting new vehicles and derivatives that customers across the world will love.”

At the same time, Ford is transforming its global supply chain management capability to support efficient and reliable sourcing of components, internal development of key technologies and capabilities, and world-class cost and quality execution. John Lawler, Ford’s chief financial officer, will lead Ford’s global supply chain organization on an interim basis until a chief supply chain officer is selected. Jonathan Jennings, vice president, supply chain, will also take additional responsibility for supplier technical assistance and quality. He will report to Lawler.

As previously announced, Hau Thai-Tang, chief industrial platform officer, will retire Oct. 1 after a more-than-34-year career with Ford. Ford also announced that Dave Filipe, vice president, vehicle hardware modules, will retire effective Dec. 1 after 30 years with Ford.

“We’re grateful for Hau’s and Dave’s significant contributions to Ford and our Ford+ plan, which helped set the stage for our exciting future,” Farley said.

Qualigence Appoints Kim Warnica as New Chief Revenue Officer

Qualigence International announced Kim Warnica as the firm’s next Chief Revenue Officer. As an experienced executive in marketing and business development, Qualigence officials said, she has armed sales teams with the power to increase conversion and revenue.

Warnica boasts extensive experience in marketing, leadership and business operations across multiple industries, and most recently served as Managing Director of Marketing and Experience at Homepoint. Warnica also previously served at Qualigence as Vice President of Marketing from 2004 to 2010. Over her career, Warnica has focused on consumer and business-to-business strategies as well as delivering measurable ROI in all aspects of marketing and communications.

“I am honored and excited to be rejoining the Qualigence team at a time when Qualigence is innovating how companies build and lead teams,” said Warnica.

“Kim will be an invaluable member of the Qualigence executive team,” said Steve Lowisz, CEO & founder of Qualigence International. “In her previous tenure at the company, she led a highly successful rebrand for Qualigence that drove significant growth for the organization. She is an exceptional marketer and leader, and her proven ability to drive results time and again will be instrumental in forwarding our mission.”

Qualigence International is on a mission to transform the talent optimization industry by putting people at the center of every organization and unlocking their best performance. Founded in 1999, Qualigence now offers comprehensive performance solutions for engaging and retaining teams in addition to recruitment research, talent sourcing and full-cycle recruiting services.

To learn more about Qualigence’s talent acquisition and optimization solutions, call (877) 817-6861.

Cherya Jenkins to Lead Miller Canfield Business Development and Marketing

Miller Canfield is announced that Cherya Jenkins has joined the firm as the Director of Business Development and Marketing.

Jenkins comes to Miller Canfield, an international law firm headquartered in Detroit, from Akerman LLP in Chicago, where she was the Senior Client Development Manager. She has 23 years of experience in marketing in the legal and professional services sectors.

“Cherya’s experience will perfectly complement Miller Canfield’s core practices, which include real estate, banking and finance, commercial litigation, public finance, employment and labor, and corporate transactions,” said Miller Canfield CEO Megan Norris. “As we continue to strategically grow our practices and expand in new geographical markets, Cherya’s record of success will serve our firm, our clients and our attorneys well.”

Miller Canfield recently announced a strategic affiliation with Dictio Law Firm in Kyiv, Ukraine, and in the past five years has opened offices in: Cleveland; Washington, D.C.; Doha, Qatar; and Torrance, California. The firm and its attorneys are recognized in Chambers USA, Best Lawyers and Best Law Firms, Super Lawyers, and is ranked in the annual national Bond Counsel Rankings, published by Refinitiv.

Jenkins earned a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Roosevelt University. She has been a volunteer for the Western Cook County Chapter of Jack and Jill Inc., serving as its president from 2014 to 2016, and is active in The Links Inc. Hoffman Estates Chapter, a nonprofit volunteer service organization of professional women of African descent.

Legal veteran Ira Jaffe Joins Honigman

DETROIT — Honigman LLP announced that law firm founder, respected and admired practitioner and community leader Ira Jaffe has joined the law firm as distinguished counsel in its corporate and private client practices. Jaffe will be based in the firm’s Bloomfield Hills office.

“We are honored to have Ira join Honigman as distinguished counsel, a special Honigman status reserved for attorneys who are widely recognized in the legal and business communities as preeminent practitioners,” said Honigman CEO and Chair David Foltyn. “Ira has over 50 years of experience working with and advising some of the nation’s most sophisticated and successful individuals, businesses, foundations and non-profit community organizations, a background and skill set that will prove invaluable to the many Honigman clients he will come to serve. He also has led numerous non-profits, foundations and other community organizations, and his considerable insight, experience, knowledge and judgment in these areas and as a law firm founder and leader will assist Honigman leadership as we continue to strategically grow our business in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace.  We are delighted and honored that he will continue his remarkable career with us.”

Jaffe retired in 2021 from both the law firm Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss, which he founded in 1968, and The Fisher Group, LLC, the Max and Marjorie Fisher family office where Jaffe served as The Fisher Group’s CEO and President for over 10 years.  Upon retirement, he formed his own consulting business, Ira Jaffe Consulting LLC.

Through Ira Jaffe Consulting, and based on Ira’s extensive background and experience, he consults with a small group of high-net-worth clients on the non-legal family-driven aspects of succession planning, business planning, estate planning, family and trust disputes, nonprofit and foundation involvement and corporate board membership. Jaffe has also served on numerous foundation and nonprofit boards over the years, including The Fred A. & Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation; Cranbrook Educational Community; Cranbrook Institute of Science; McGregor Fund; The Parade Company; and the Detroit Zoological Society. He currently serves on the advisory boards of Beyond Basics; eLab Ventures; Michigan Capital Advisors and as Chairman of the Board of REDICO.

“Honigman has an innovative, highly respected, and growing legal presence,” said Jaffe. “I am looking forward to partnering with many of my long-time friends and colleagues in this next step in my career and to contributing to this outstanding institution.”

Comerica Bank Names Joe Ursuy Executive VP, National Businesses for Energy, Renewables and Waste

DALLAS – Comerica Incorporated announced that Joe Ursuy has been named to the new role of Executive Vice President, National Businesses for Energy, Renewables, and Waste. He will report to Mike Ritchie, Executive Vice President, Head of National and Specialty Businesses.

Ursuy most recently served as Senior Vice President, Director of Environmental Services, leading the Environmental Services Department (ESD) that he was instrumental in establishing among Comerica’s Commercial Bank divisions and industry services. In addition to continue managing Comerica’s sizeable relationships in the recycling, renewable energy, and waste industries, Ursuy will also oversee the Bank’s existing oil and natural gas production and midstream line of business.

“Joe’s expertise assisting renewable energy, recycling and refuse companies has been instrumental in allowing us to deepen our relationships in many sectors within those industries across all our markets,” said Ritchie. “These businesses and the environments in which they operate are continuing to evolve, and Joe’s leadership and extensive knowledge bolster our customers’ ability to navigate through their challenges while helping them grow and succeed.”

Over the past 16 years, Comerica’s ESD has continued to develop its portfolio and industries it serves.

Earlier this year, Comerica expanded the Environmental Services Department with the introduction of the Renewable Energy Solutions Group, which is dedicated to growing and supporting Comerica’s renewable energy business. The group’s continued expansion into renewables and growth in green business comprise part of Comerica’s commitment to sustainability, while helping communities protect and preserve the environment. As of June 30, 2022, Comerica had $2 billion in green loans and commitments, marking a 42% increase since June 30, 2021 and up over 9% from March 31, 2022. Additionally, Comerica was named to the Newsweek’s 2022 list of America’s Most Responsible Companies, marking its third consecutive year on the list.

A 24-year veteran in the financial services industry, Ursuy has been with Comerica since 1998. Prior to founding the Environmental Services Group in 2006, he has held a variety of positions in Comerica’s Middle Market Banking Team.

Ursuy is a board member for the Environmental Research and Education Foundation based in Raleigh, N.C., and he is a frequent guest speaker at industry events.

Other industry associations Ursuy cultivates Comerica’s relationship with include the National Waste & Recycling Association, The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, and Detachable Container Association. He also leads Comerica’s partnership with Waste Expo and hosts the annual Waste 360 Business Leadership Forum designed to assist companies seeking business and financial strategies that go beyond daily operations.

Ursuy is an avid supporter of giving back to the community, and he and his team regularly volunteer at several Detroit area charities. He obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in economics from Northwood University and an MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy. Ursuy also completed training at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Asif Hafiz Named Director of Factoring at Livonia-based RoadEx

Asif Hafiz

LIVONIA, Mich., Sept. 28, 2022 — Transportation service provider, RoadEx, offering freight bill factoring, dispatch, and insurance services to owner-operator truck fleets, has named Asif Hafiz as the company’s director of factoring. RoadEx CEO Paul Adams made the announcement.

“We welcome Asif and his expertise to the RoadEx team as we continue to see exponential growth across our business,” said RoadEx CEO Paul Adams. “His years of experience in customer service, portfolio management and leadership experience will help us continue to expand our thriving factoring business and help more clients get access to the capital they need to effectively manage their trucking business, which is essential in the current environment.”

Over Asif’s 15 years of experience, he has served in many diverse roles including RTS Financial as an Account Manager and Amerisource as a Funding Relationship Manager. Most recently he served as a Relationship Manager and Business Specialist at Bank of America where he worked with small businesses owners to address funding needs and help them secure access to capital through term loans, lines of credit and SBA loans.
In his role as Director of Factoring with RoadEx, he oversees a robust factoring program, supporting thousands of trucks – independent and small fleets – ensuring they have the financing they need to keep loads moving across the country. He holds a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s degree in finance/leadership from The University of Missouri-Kansas City.

For more information, visit www.roadex.com.

Canada Lifting COVID Travel, Border Restrictions

Travelers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border are about to find the journey a little easier.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration is ending its mandatory vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements for international travelers, Bloomberg reported.

Starting Saturday, travelers headed into Canada no longer have to provide proof of vaccination, undergo testing, quarantine or isolate. They also no longer have to submit public health information to the government’s app or website. Canadian officials made the announcement Monday in Ottawa.

Drivers aren’t the only ones who will find entry into Canada easier. Masking requirements on domestic planes and trains will also be lifted, and cruise passengers won’t be required to have pre-boarding tests or be vaccinated, according to Bloomberg.

Since earlier this year, Canada has been gradually lifting its COVID-related restrictions to fully reopen its economy, with travel measures being the last set of rules to remain in place.

“Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, we have reached the point where we can safely lift the sanitary measures at the border,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement. The virus is, however, still circulating, he warned. “So I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses and exercise individual public health measures.”

New Rule Would Add Transparency to Airline Fees

WASHINGTON – Airline passengers are going to get a break from paying so-called “hidden” fees – such as baggage and change fees – under an initiative announced by President Joe Biden.

The initiative would eventually allow consumers to see a more complete price on airline tickets before they buy them, as the White House continues to search for ways to lower costs for Americans amid persistently high inflation, according to the Associated Press.

The White House says the Transportation Department’s proposed rule keeps airlines from hiding the “true cost” of airline tickets, helping travelers save money up front and encourage more competition among airlines to offer better fares.

The requirement will apply not only to airlines directly but also on third-party search sites such as Kayak and Expedia, the AP reported.Airlines made nearly $700 million on cancellation and change fees last year, White House officials said.

Biden is encouraging other federal agencies to take similar cost-saving actions, particularly by increasing transparency on hidden fees that can balloon the true cost of goods and services.

First-Time Unemployment Claims Drop Below 200,000 for First Time Since May

The number of U.S. workers filing initial claims for unemployment assistance remained consistently above the 200,000 mark for the last 19 weeks.

Until now.

According to statistics released by the Labor Department, first-time claims fell to 193,000 in the week ending Sept. 24, a drop of 19,000 from the previous week.

It’s the first time the number of such claims had fallen below 200,000 since May.

Unemployment insurance claims dipped to their lowest level since April 23 when 181,000 signed up for initial claims, UPI reported. First-time filings had been over 200,000 applicants weekly since April 30, when 202,000 asked for assistance.

The filings for the week ending Sept. 24 broke a streak of 19 straight weeks where 200,000 or more filed for initial jobless benefits.

According to Labor Department statistics, the four-week moving average for first-time jobless benefits fell to 207,000, a decrease of 8,750 from the previous week’s revised average.

Overall, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits for the week ending on Sept. 17 was more than 1.3 million, a drop of 29,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department statistics showed.

The good jobs news comes after the Federal Reserve continues to slow it down because of inflation worries.

Last week, the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percentage points to fight the highest inflation in 40 years. The move jumped the federal funds rate to the range of 3% to 3.25% after it remained near zero as recently as March.

Experts: Fed’s Rate Hike ‘Sharply Downgrades’ Economic Growth Projections

The Fed raised the federal funds rate target by 0.75 percentage points to a range of 3.00%-to-3.25% and signaled another 1.25 percentage points in rate hikes is likely by year-end.

The Fed’s September economic projections — a.k.a. dot plot — sharply downgraded economic growth projections for 2022 and 2023 and modestly raised inflation projections for both years as well. The Fed expects the unemployment rate to rise to 4.4% by the fourth quarter of next year and remain roughly around that level through 2025. According to a simple, but popular recession indicator (the Sahm Rule), increases in the 3-month moving average of the unemployment rate over its previous low by 0.5% is indicative of a recession.

Thus, the Fed’s forecast of the unemployment rate rising to 4.4% by Q4 2023 can be interpreted as Fed signaling they expect a recession in the coming quarters.
 
Housing starts rose to 1.575 million units annualized in August, significantly higher than market expectations for 1.450 million units; July was revised down to 1.404 million from 1.446 million. Building permits plunged 10.0% in August to 1.517 million, close to levels seen during the throes of the pandemic in August 2020.

Existing home sales in August fell 0.4% to 4.8 million, also close to levels recorded during the depths of the pandemic in 2020. The decline last month was the seventh consecutive fall in existing home sales, putting existing home sales roughly 25% below January levels.

 The current account deficit narrowed sharply by $31.5 billion, or 11.1%, to $251.1 billion in the second quarter. The improvement in the deficit can partially be attributed to U.S. energy exports outpacing imports of foreign energy and to lower imports of consumer goods. The soaring dollar and waning global growth prospects present risks to further current account improvements.
  
S&P Global’s “flash” composite PMI rose to a three-month high of 49.3 in September, well above the 46.1 consensus. Both manufacturers and service providers reported an uptick in new orders. Cost inflation was reported to be rising at the slowest pace in several months. Hiring continued, albeit at a slower pace.

Bill Adams is senior vice president and chief economist at Comerica. Waran Bhahirethan is a vice president and senior economist at Comerica.

Chevy Launches 2024 SILVERADO HD With ‘More Power,’ ‘Smarter Technology’

Front 3/4 view of 2024 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD LTZ Dually

DETROIT – Chevrolet brings everything heavy-duty truck customers want and need with the 2024 Silverado HD — with no compromises in capability and comfort.

The 2024 Silverado HD arrives with powertrain upgrades, a more commanding presence paired with an overhauled interior, enhancements to its revolutionary trailering technology, and infotainment and active safety technology2 upgrades.

“We’ve designed the Silverado HD to be our customers’ favored choice for true truck capability,” said Scott Bell, vice president of Chevrolet. “The enhancements to the 2024 model build on its core strengths to provide an even stronger balance of the design, strength and confidence that makes tackling the hard jobs, including trailering, easier and more convenient than ever.”

The lineup includes 2500HD and 3500HD models in Regular Cab, Double Cab and Crew Cab configurations. Dual-rear-wheel models are available on 3500HD and they support the lineup’s highest trailering capacity: 36,000 pounds3. The 2024 Silverado HD is available in Work Truck, Custom, LT, LTZ, and High Country trims. ZR2 will join the HD trim lineup later in the model year for the first time.

For the first time, the proven Allison 10-speed automatic transmission is now standard equipment for both the Silverado HD’s powertrains: the standard 6.6L V-8 gas engine and the available Duramax turbo-diesel. It replaces the gas engine’s previous six-speed automatic, offering smaller “steps” between the gears, which enables the 6.6L gas engine to hold closer to its peak power for longer periods.

The improvements translate to a more confident feeling of on-demand power, regardless of whether the truck is towing a trailer. When it comes time to tow, the 10-speed configuration helps channel every single pound-foot of torque to the tires in every gear. In turn, the 2024 Silverado HD’s Gross Combined Weight Rating with the 6.6L gas engine increases to 26,000 pounds7, up from 24,000 pounds previously.

Additionally, the Allison transmission’s 10-speed design optimizes grade braking with the gas engine, with the closer gear ratios enabling greater engine-braking control. That, in addition to precise tuning for smooth shifts and quicker downshifts, complements the enhanced feeling of on-demand power, greater control, precision and refinement.

Silverado engineers continue to further push the renowned Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel V-8 engine, and with the 2024 Silverado HD, they’ve issued their latest upgrades.

Overall, the horsepower and torque numbers increase to 470 hp and 975 lb-ft of torque, per SAE J1349. Additional changes and upgrades were designed to produce a more efficient combustion, which enhances overall performance. Further, engineers enhanced low-end torque production by up to 25% for improved performance at low speeds or climbing grades, and particularly when trailering.

SBA Announces $7.2 Million in PRIME Grants to Help Emerging Micro-Entrepreneurs Gain Access to Capital

WASHINGTON (Globe Newswire) — Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, announced a $7.2 million grant award to 38 organizations under the Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME), a $1.7 million increase, up 30% from last year’s allocated $5,500,000 in funding.

The PRIME award will support these nonprofit organizations as they help low-income entrepreneurs get financing to establish and expand their small businesses or provide capacity-building training for other organizations that provide capital to underserved small businesses. 

In line with the President’s mission of creating an economy that works for all, Administrator Guzman has led the SBA to prioritize equity through all its offerings and increasing support for entrepreneurs from underserved communities at each stage of the entrepreneurship journey. PRIME helps execute the above strategic goals and others outlined in the Agency’s Equity Action Plan, aimed at lowering barriers to accessing capital while deepening engagement with trusted community organizations. 

“Our SBA PRIME grants provide critical support for nonprofit organizations that are delivering needed technical assistance and training to America’s small businesses so they can continue to power our nation’s strong economic recovery and transition to strong, stable growth,” Guzman said. “This year, the SBA focused our PRIME grant selection process on our nonprofit partners who can best bring federal resources to life, especially in the regions and communities where they are needed most. I look forward to working with these organizations as they help us connect America’s entrepreneurs with the capital they need to start, grow and build resilient businesses.”  

Congress established PRIME as part of the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs Act of 1999. Grant funds will be made available on September 30, 2022, and the project period for each grant is one year. The SBA placed special emphasis in this year’s competition on projects that will offer training and technical assistance to strengthen economically disadvantaged businesses, particularly those that service entrepreneurs in rural areas and foreign language-speaking small business owners.  

The PRIME grants range from $75,000 to $250,000 and typically require at least 50 percent in matching funds or in-kind contributions.   For more information on the SBA’s PRIME grants and a list of this year’s grantees, visit www.sba.gov/content/prime-grantees.   

GM Investing $760 Million in Toledo Propulsion Plant for EV Drive Unit Production

Kimberly Perryman at work at General Motors Toledo Propulsion Systems producing transmission products on the assembly line Friday, September 23, 2022, as GM announces it will invest $760 million here to prepare the facility for production of drive units that will be used in future GM Ultium-based battery electric trucks, including the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV and GMC HUMMER EVs. Renovation work at Toledo Propulsion Systems will begin this month. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

DETROIT — General Motors announced it will invest $760 million at its Toledo, Ohio, propulsion manufacturing operations to prepare the facility for production of drive units that will be used in future Ultium-based battery electric trucks, including the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV and GMC HUMMER EVs.

Toledo Propulsion Systems will be GM’s first U.S. powertrain or propulsion-related manufacturing facility transformed for EV-related production.

This investment is another example of GM’s intention to create job opportunities and to bring employees along in the company’s EV transformation. With today’s announcement, GM has invested more than $1.9 billion at Toledo since 2011. Renovation work at Toledo Propulsion Systems will begin this month. 

Once the plant is converted, it will produce GM’s family of EV drive units, which convert electric power from the battery pack to mechanical motion at the wheels. GM’s EV drive units will cover front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive propulsion combinations, including high-performance and off-road capabilities.

“Our Toledo team has a long, proud history of building great products and they have worked hard to earn this investment,” said Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Sustainability. “This investment helps build job security for our Toledo team for years to come and is the next step on our journey to an all-electric future.”

The Toledo Propulsion Systems team will continue building world-class transmission products while building drive units simultaneously during GM’s EV transition.

“Our Toledo team will continue to play a key role as we work to strengthen our current truck and SUV dominance, while also playing an important role in our EV growth transition,” Johnson added.

“This investment is a recognition that UAW Local 14 members bring the skills, know-how and drive that make GM successful,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “UAW members look forward to being a part of shaping the future of General Motors.”

Purchased by GM in 1956, Toledo Propulsion Systems currently builds GM’s six-speed, eight-speed and 10-speed rear-wheel drive and nine-speed front-wheel drive transmissions that are used in a variety of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac products. The facility currently employs approximately 1,500 people.

Ford Investing $700 Million, Bringing Jobs to Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ford Motor Company is investing $700 million in new investment and creating 500 additional hourly manufacturing jobs in Kentucky to support new vehicle production.

The new investment in Kentucky — part of the company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value-creation – will support an all-new F-Series Super Duty pickup built at Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville.  

“Ford is America’s No. 1 employer of hourly autoworkers, and our workforce in Kentucky makes some of the country’s most popular vehicles, including the F-Series Super Duty for both retail and Ford Pro commercial customers,” said Kumar Galhotra, president, Ford Blue. “Ford has been growing in Kentucky since the days of the Model T, and we are continuing to invest in the Bluegrass State to produce great vehicles that our customers love and depend on.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear proclaimed today to be “KenTRUCKy Day” in honor of Ford’s investment in Kentucky and tonight’s reveal of the all-new F-Series Super Duty tonight at Churchill Downs.

“The partnership between Kentucky and Ford goes back more than a century and is only becoming stronger,” Gov. Beshear said. “Today’s announcement is one of the largest investments ever in Jefferson County and will create hundreds of great jobs, including building the 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty Truck. Together with last year’s record-shattering electric vehicle battery plant announcement, Ford is building its future here in the commonwealth. We couldn’t be more proud and look forward to many more decades of success for this iconic American company here in Kentucky.”

Ford is the top assembler of vehicles in America and the F-Series pickup franchise alone generated nearly $40 billion in revenue last year, more than the global revenue of Coca-Cola and Starbucks. F-Series Super Duty on its own generates more revenue than major companies such as Southwest Airlines, Marriott International or Nordstrom.

“UAW Local 862 members are proud to be a part of the F-Series Super Duty’s success both today and tomorrow,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “We celebrate this $700 million investment into Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, as it shows that UAW members continue to play an important role in Ford’s future.”

Ford employs more than 12,000 people in Kentucky and supports nearly 120,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state and a state GDP contribution of $11.8 billion.

“Advanced manufacturing continues to drive significant economic growth in Louisville,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Built upon a rich manufacturing history, Louisville has developed a strong foundation of support that allows us to meet manufacturers’ workforce and growth needs and has led manufacturing companies to invest more than $5.2 billion in our city and create more than 10,000 new jobs since 2014. We are excited to add today’s announcement to those growing numbers. Thank you to Ford for remaining committed to Louisville for nearly 110 years and continuing to invest in and grow its local operations and workforce.”

And between Kentucky and Ohio – where Ford also manufactures Super Duty at its Ohio Assembly Plant – plant operations, local sales, suppliers and employees help support nearly 200,000 direct and indirect jobs and a combined GDP of approximately $19 billion.

“This investment recognizes that UAW members bring quality, skills and experience to their jobs every day and that Ford counts on them to build their future business,” said Chuck Browning, UAW vice president and director of the Ford department. “Our members put Kentucky on the map when it comes to auto manufacturing and that imprint will only grow larger.”

Ford, America’s truck leader, is celebrating 45 years of F-Series as the best-selling pickup in America and the 25th anniversary of Super Duty with the all-new 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty. The next-generation Super Duty takes America’s most trusted heavy-duty truck to the next level with unprecedented levels of work capability, ingenious new technology and a suite of cloud-based services for new levels of productivity. It will be revealed today at 7:15 p.m. EDT at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

Ford is expanding its presence in Kentucky with the BlueOval SK Battery Park, a new, $5.8 billion, 1,500-acre battery manufacturing complex powering next-generation electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles. The joint venture with SK On will create about 5,000 new jobs.

The Ford F-Series Super Duty is proudly built at Kentucky Truck Plant alongside the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator in Louisville, Kentucky, while the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair are built at the nearby Louisville Assembly Plant.

Expert: After Another Big Rate Hike, Fed Set to Push Economy into Recession to Bring Inflation Down

Matching market expectations and Comerica’s forecast, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the target for the federal funds rate another three quarters of a percent at their September 21 decision, to a range of 3.00%-to-3.25%. They made a parallel increase in the interest rate paid on reserve balances. The decision matched the most widely-held expectation pre-meeting although a minority of fed watchers thought a hike of a full percentage point was more likely. The policy statement was nearly unchanged from July, and emphasized the many sources of inflationary pressure afflicting the US economy: “Supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher food and energy prices…broader price pressures…[and] Russia’s war against Ukraine.”
 
The FOMC statement demonstrates that they see their mandate for maximum employment as essentially met, writing, “Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low.” However, their dot plot shows they expect that to change. They sharply revised down forecasts for growth through the end of 2024 and raised their forecast for the unemployment rate from their last projections published in June. Real GDP growth in year-over-year terms for the fourth quarter of each year is cut to 0.2% in 2022, 1.2% in 2023, and 1.7% in 2024, down from 1.7% in 2022 and 2023 in the June projections and 1.9% in 2024. The September dot plot adds a dot for 2025 of 1.8%, which matches the Fed’s view of potential growth. They forecast for the unemployment rate to rise another tenth of a percent by year-end, then increase to 4.4% at the end of 2023 and hold there through the end of 2024; in the June dot plot they saw the unemployment rate holding under 4% through year-end 2023 and at 4.1% at year-end 2024. The median member of the FOMC thinks the unemployment rate’s longer run average is 4.0%, below where they expect it in 2023 and 2024. The September dot plot adds a forecast for 2025, of 4.3% at year-end.

On a three-month rolling average basis, the unemployment rate has only increased by half a percentage point or more during recessions. Since the latest dot plot sees this increase occurring between now and the end of 2023, the Fed is more or less acknowledging that a recession is likely ahead—not just two quarters of modestly lower GDP, but also significant job losses affecting a wide swathe of the economy and leading to a self-reinforcing, painful decline in economic activity.

The September dot plot raises the forecast for inflation from the June dot plot, reflecting higher inflation over the last few months, and expectations that inflation will be more persistent in 2023 and 2024. The dot plot shows inflation by the personal consumption expenditures deflator of 5.4% in 2022, 2.8% in 2023, and 2.3% in 2024, up from increases of 5.2%, 2.6%, and 2.2% respectively in the June dot plot. The September dot plot forecasts total PCE inflation meeting the Fed’s target of 2.0% in 2025, with core PCE inflation at 2.1% nearly the same.

At the press conference following the decision, Chair Powell repeated the hawkish message he delivered to the Jackson Hole monetary policy conference on August 26. Powell thinks that “Reducing inflation will likely require a sustained period of below-trend economic growth,” and that “The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely easing policy.” Powell sees the Fed’s key mistake in the 1970s as declaring victory over inflation prematurely, taking their foot off of the brake, and allowing inflation to bounce back again, forcing another round of tightening.

Prior to its September meeting, the Fed had been looking for slower core inflation, lower commodity prices, an end to runaway house price and rent growth, and slower wage growth to be convinced that inflation was moving convincingly toward their 2% target. Now their bar is even higher: They want to see the unemployment rate move meaningfully higher to cool the labor market, slow the trend in wage growth, and bring inflation expectations to heel. They would rather overtighten and cause a recession than under-tighten and see inflation re-emerge down the line.

In light of this change in attitude from Chair Powell and the FOMC, as well as the September dot plot, Comerica’s next interest rate forecast will see another rate hike of three quarters of a percent at the Fed’s November meeting, a hike of half a percent at the December meeting, and a quarter percentage point hike at the following one in February 2023, raising the fed funds target to a cyclical peak of 4.50%-to-4.75%. The target range will hold there until the second half of 2023, when data are likely to meet the Fed’s high bar for beginning to cut interest rates.
 
With short-term rates headed higher than anticipated in Comerica’s previous forecast and the Fed explicitly prepared to accept a meaningfully higher unemployment rate, the yield curve will likely invert even more deeply, with the 2s-10s curve falling from an inversion of 50 basis points after the September Fed decision to 70 basis points during the coming winter.

The one part of the Fed’s September decision that was less hawkish than expected was their plans to reduce their holdings of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The Fed is following through on their plan to reduce their bond holdings, which in September raises the maximum amount of maturing securities they would allow to roll off of their balance sheet to $60 billion per month in Treasuries and $35 billion in MBS, from half of that in the prior three months.

However, Chair Powell stated in the press conference that the Fed is not considering outright sales of MBS near-term, which would be necessary for actual monthly reductions to come anywhere near the $35 billion limit. The Fed’s MBS holdings are much longer maturity than their Treasury holdings, meaning balance sheet reductions are mostly driven by prepayments (when a homeowner sells their home or refinances, their mortgage is repaid, which causes an earlier repayment of the principal of a mortgage-backed security). Surveys of private-sector economic forecasters showed that about half expected the Fed to begin selling their MBS holdings over the next few years, so a decision ruling out MBS sales near-term puts the balance sheet on course for a somewhat slower reduction in size than would happen with sales.

Bill Adams is senior vice president and chief economist at Comerica. Waran Bhahihretehan is a vice president and senior economist at Comerica.

GM Delays Bringing White-Collar Workers Back to the Office After Pushback

The pandemic-induced trend of working remotely from home is going to change for some employees at General Motors.

Just not as soon as originally expected, it seems.

GM announced Friday that white-collar workers will be required to return to the office three days a week, startling later this year. After receiving pushback from some of its salaried workers, though, GM officials announced in a statement Tuesday the timeline would be pushed back until at least the first quarter of 2023.

The change was reported initially by the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

“We acknowledge that the timing of the message, late on a Friday afternoon, was unfortunate. It was also unintentional,” the automaker’s top executives, including CEO Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss, wrote in the memo, according to The News.

GM on Friday told employees it would require them to return to the office three days a week later this year. That decision came after GM last year introduced a “Work Appropriately” model that gave GM teams the flexibility to work from home, a lab, an office, or wherever they can do their best work. 

Employees have had the flexibility of working from home or other venue since GM introduced its “Work Appropriately” plan last year. GM has not announced a specific timeframe for the new work schedule, other than to say it will be delayed until the first quarter of 2023. GM will not dictate which days employees go to the office.

“As we move to a more regular in-person work cycle, our plan is to collaboratively design the solution that best balances the needs of the enterprise with the needs of employees,” GM spokesperson Maria Raynal said in a statement, according to The News. “We’re spending the next few weeks listening to feedback and will work to incorporate it into our plans.”

Executives explained in the memo that the decision to adapt the model had been discussed earlier last week at a senior leader meeting and some information was shared to some parts of the company “prematurely.”

The company plans to provide employees with more information at the end of October, according to the memo: “Between now and then, we continue to ask for constructive dialogue about our culture, collaboration, speed and innovation. We commit to listen.”

Raynal also said GM continues to evolve the “Work Appropriately” program.

“As the COVID landscape has dramatically improved, and as we accelerate our transformation and enter a rapid launch cycle, we are evolving Work Appropriately to drive the best collaboration, enterprise mindset and impact,” she said in a statement, as reported by The Detroit News.

Automotive News first reported the change last week.

GM maintaints its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, and also has its Technical Center complex in Warren.

Old Ideas Proposed to Alleviate Michigan Housing Shortage

LANSING (Capital News Service) – The future of housing in Michigan may come from ideas that are more than 100 years old.

Michigan needs about 75,000 new houses over the next five years to keep up with demand, according to government officials. The Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. recently announced a solution that would create home designs that blend in with housing already in place.

“People used to use standardized plans where you could have materials shipped to you to build versions of the same houses across the region,” said Richard Murphy, the program manager for the Michigan Municipal League, which represents the state’s towns and cities.

Murphy and his colleague, Melissa Milton-Pung, are the coauthors of a plan called the “Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan.” 

Their inspiration is the homes people could order from the Sears’ catalog in the early 1900s.

“Traditional municipalities that developed at the turn of the last century are going to be the key market areas for Pattern Book solutions,” said Andrea Brown, the executive director of the Michigan Association of Planning.

“This is one of many strategies that we need to make up that gap to make sure that every Michigander has adequate and appropriate and affordable housing options available to them,” Murphy said.

The plans are for multifamily homes that help lower the cost of construction. The duplex model, called the Linden, is one home on top of the other. It costs about $500,000 to build. 

The fourplex model, called the Grove, is two apartments above two apartments. It costs about $900,000.

Both kinds of houses are scarce in Michigan.

“We don’t have a lot of homes that are in between either a single-unit house on the one hand, or a large apartment complex on the other,” Murphy said. “If somebody wants to live in something that’s in between, it’s a missing middle-density option.”

South Bend, Indiana, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, are among the communities nationwide that have adopted similar ideas, Murphy said. Pattern Book Homes in Michigan are unique because of their greater reach. 

“We aren’t the first to do this, but as far as we know we are the first to put out something that can be adapted statewide rather than just working in a single municipality,” Murphy said.

Certain aspects of the plan need to be “fill-in-the-blank” to adapt to different areas of Michigan.

“When you are building a house in Monroe you have to deal with a very different level of snow load on the roof, for example, than you would in like Marquette or Houghton,” Murphy said.

The Michigan Association of Planning has included Pattern Book Homes in a toolkit designed to help cities encourage new housing by updating zoning restrictions. The toolkit lays out 15 ways to expand housing choice and supply.

The toolkit encourages modest changes to local zoning to allow for multiunit homes to be built in areas zoned for single family homes, said Brown.

Places like Traverse City could particularly benefit from Pattern Book Homes and zoning reform.

“They are stretched thin,” Brown said. “There is no housing for service workers, restaurant workers, new professionals and people who want to age in place.”

“The situation in Traverse City is that 83% of residential properties are zoned for single families only. It means that even if people live alone or in small numbers they have to occupy an entire single family home to live in Traverse City,” said David Hassing, the chairperson of the Traverse City Planning Commission, which prepares and adopts physical plans for the city.

“We are looking for more opportunities to bring housing variety so that smaller units can be within Traverse City limits,” he said. “What we see that’s missing is what is referred to as the missing middle. Which would be those duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes.”

Liam Jackson, a journalist from Trenton, Mich., writes for Capital News Service.

The Parade Company Announces Emagine Entertainment as Presenting Sponsor for the Distinguished Clown Corps

DETROIT – The Parade Company announced Emagine Entertainment as the new presenting sponsor of the Distinguished Clown Corps, bringing a special magic to this iconic group of 200 business and community leaders who march in America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner White. 

“We are excited to welcome Emagine Entertainment to The Parade Company family,” said Tony Michaels, President & CEO, The Parade Company. “This amazing Michigan-based company is the perfect partner to bring magic to our Distinguished Clown Corps and we look forward to a very special partnership.” 

“We are thrilled to be a part of this wonderful tradition in the city of Detroit. Community is very important to us and we know how important this event is to our entire community,” said Paul Glantz, Co-Founder and Chairman of Emagine Entertainment.

“Partnering with The Parade Company and the Distinguished Clown Corps is an exciting moment for our organization. We look forward to enjoying this cherished event with our Emagine teammates and guests,” added Anthony LaVerde, CEO of Emagine Entertainment.

This year’s event is hosted by 2022 Distinguished Grand Jester, Longine Morawski. Longine is a 28-year DCC who clowns with his son and daughter, and his brother, Lawrence (25-year DCC) and nephew. Morawski will have the honor of leading the group down the parade route for the 96th America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner White.

The DCC began in 1983 with business leaders Tom Adams, then the chief of Campbell-Ewald advertising and Walter McCarthy, then chief of Detroit Edison, who served as the spark in creating a way for the leadership to become personally involved in helping The Parade Company. With over 200 members, the DCC is one of the parade’s most beloved traditions.

DCC Committee Members include Maggie Allesee, Eric Borman, Van Conway, Rick DiBartolomeo, Grenae Dudley-White, Pat Fenton, Joe Fleck, Austin Kanter, John Landis Eric Larson, David Markiewicz, Luther “Skip” Rosemond, Syd Ross, Peter Schweitzer, Rebecca Sorensen and Bill White.

DCC annual membership is $1,000 per person with all proceeds benefiting the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation. For nominations, contact CarolAnn Barbb at [email protected].

Grand Rapids Cannabis Company Increases Investments in Social Equity Initiatives

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids-based cannabis company Fluresh provides a year-to-date report of its community impact initiatives, all part of the company’s commitment to being an engaged ally for positive change in West Michigan.

Fluresh is a leading, vertically integrated cannabis company that cultivates, processes and sells across Michigan. Fundraising campaigns and community engagement are part of Fluresh’s targeted efforts to support equity and growth in the West Michigan community.

A few notable initiatives from 2022:

LincUP: In January, Fluresh distributed $20,000 to LincUP.

Ukraine Relief: In May, the company raised an impressive $91,500 to support relief efforts in Ukraine.

Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, Grand Rapids Urban League, Community Against Police Brutality, Black-owned businesses: In June, Fluresh raised $9,210, dispersed between the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, Grand Rapids Urban League, Inc., Community Against Police Brutality and several local black-owned businesses in West Michigan.

49507 Project: Fundraising efforts in July brought in $16,000 to support The 49507 Project by The Diatribe, a community art project led by Black, Brown, and Queer local youth.

In addition to fundraising to support local organizations, Fluresh provides opportunities for employees to volunteer within the community. For example, Fluresh employees dedicated 49 hours of volunteer time this summer during “It’s My Park Day” to clean up Joe Taylor Park in the city’s Baxter Neighborhood.

Employees are also provided opportunities to civically engage by partnering with local political action organizations to gather signatures and register citizens to vote. Most recently, Fluresh partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to collect more than 300 signatures in two days, to protect reproductive rights in Michigan.

While all these efforts touch on all parts of community growth, Fluresh Vice President of Marketing, Sarah LaFleur, is especially excited about Fluresh’s Five Accelerator mentorship program, launched in late 2021. The program aims to provide skill, knowledge, and access to the cannabis industry to those who may have been previously excluded.

“We take someone from the local community who is interested in a career in cannabis, whatever that may be, even if they end up being a competitor of ours,” said LaFleur. “We help them understand the business and learn skills to help them advance in this industry.”

As the company develops more fundraising initiatives, Fluresh looks forward to making a positive impact by supporting organizations in West Michigan that are working to exact positive change throughout the community.

“Everyone is excited about the plans we’re making for the fall and winter,” said Fluresh Community Relations Manager, Tia Ezell. “We are creating several amazing events, and we can’t wait to share these opportunities with our neighbors in the community.”

Huntington Bank Opens Headquarters in Downtown Detroit

DETROIT – Huntington National Bank recently celebrated the grand opening of Detroit’s Huntington Tower, located at 2025 Woodward Avenue.

The new tower is located in the heart of The District Detroit, a world-class, mixed-use sports and entertainment district emerging in the city. The Detroit Huntington Tower is the headquarters for Huntington’s Commercial Bank and is the newest office building development in the area in more than 30 years.

The tower further expands Huntington’s commitment to Southeastern Michigan, as Huntington’s middle market business and Huntington Technology Finance are already based in Detroit.

“This investment is more than a beautiful building in the heart of downtown Detroit,” said Steve Steinour, Huntington’s president and CEO. “It’s another symbol of our strong commitment to the community, as well as our dedication to Huntington colleagues across southeast Michigan. After a difficult few years due to the pandemic, this building will serve as a place for colleagues to gather again and connect, collaborate and innovate, and work together to best serve our customers and communities.”

The new 21-story building is a modernly designed structure that features flexible workspaces, state-of-the-art amenities, and a beautiful rooftop terrace. The design of the building marries the numerous distinctive and historical architectural styles of the surrounding landscape to project a timeless image that contributes to Detroit’s notable skyline.

Each floor incorporates focus areas such as private offices with enough visual and acoustic privacy for customer or employee-based conversations. The design takes advantage of the best square footage overlooking Woodward Avenue for a collaboration zone, visible when entering each floor from the elevator lobby.

The open workspace around the perimeter provides ample access to natural light. Featured amenities include:

  • A colleague café with onsite refreshments such as Starbucks
  • Terraces on the rooftop and 19th floor that provide outdoor access
  • A new branch scheduled to open in late October

“We are fortunate in Detroit to have some remarkable corporate leaders who are deeply invested in the success of our city and its people,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “We are truly blessed to have Steve Steinour, Gary Torgow, and Sandy Pierce, who have been full partners in our city’s revitalization, especially at the neighborhood level. With Huntington’s opening today of the first high-rise office tower to be built in Detroit in 30 years, we see another level of their commitment.”

Click to access the login or register cheese