Matthew Abel

Executive Director, Michigan NORML

Matthew Abel has been a practicing attorney in Michigan for 32 years and is the Executive Director of Michigan NORML. Abel founded Cannabis Counsel PLC, a five-attorney Detroit law firm entirely devoted to cannabis clients and cases, providing both business advice and legal counseling as well as criminal defense in marijuana cases throughout Michigan.

Abel is a lifetime member of the NORML Legal Committee, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the National Cannabis Bar Association, where he serves on the board of directors. He is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Michigan. Abel was one of the drafters of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

Abel holds a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School, a Master of Science in public administration from Central Michigan University, a bachelor’s in philosophy from Central Michigan University, and an associate degree in criminal justice from Castleton University.

Chambers: New Expungement Package Will Help Thousands Find Work

October 9, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business

Sandy Baruah and Rick Baker

We talk to businesses every day and they tell us the same thing: there are simply not enough qualified, skilled workers to meet the demands of the marketplace.

When thinking about workforce development policies to address this crisis, we must consider expungement reform legislation. Unfortunately, the current laws, and lack of awareness of the expungement process, are keeping hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents unemployed.

State lawmakers recently introduced a six-bill legislative package addressed at expunging an individual’s criminal record. These bills have the opportunity to open up the expungement process to many Michigan residents who struggle to find a job because of their past criminal records as well as open up eligibility for a number of low-level offenses such as traffic offenses that are ineligible under the current expungement law.

Research shows that expanding expungement means massive economic benefits. Annually, the underemployment of formerly incarcerated people costs the nation between $78 billion and $87 billion in gross domestic product. Within two years of receiving an expungement, a person’s likelihood of being employed increases significantly and their personal income increases by 25 percent. With a stable career, returning citizens are able to support themselves and their families while being productive members of society.

Additionally, clearance of public criminal records reduces recidivism rates and fights crime, making communities safer. Employing someone who is formerly incarcerated is the best available recidivism-reduction tool. If a person stays out of trouble for five years or more, they are no more likely to commit another crime than any member of the general public. Past convictions do not predict future criminal conduct and should not be the basis for employment decisions.

Michigan businesses are primed and ready to support individuals who want to take advantage of the benefits of expungement and address the labor shortage. In fact, many employers already overlook criminal records to fill their talent shortages, giving workers a chance to prove themselves for their past mistakes — Bank of America has partnered with the Detroit Justice Center to provide a place to get records clear, among many other services for formerly incarcerated Detroiters; Cascade Engineering helps give returning citizens a second chance for successful re-entry and provides opportunities to former inmates they may not otherwise receive; and DTE Energy partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections last month to train inmates for careers after prison.

What they have found is that an individual with a record typically performs no differently than other employees who do not have records. Employers report that these employees are actually often more productive, sticklers for attendance and timeliness, and have lower turnover rates.

The expungement legislative package will help residents of all age groups and across multiple demographics to take that first step to a new beginning. Finding employment should be an easy process for people who are not a threat to public safety.

The time is now to modernize this legislation and change the lives of so many Michiganders.

Sandy Baruah is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Rick Baker the president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. 

Read the original article here

How Would a National Recession Affect Detroit?

October 14, 2019

Curbed Detroit

Aaron Mondry

Many economists believe a national economic recession is on the horizon. A number of indicators, like the inversion of the yield curve and shaky stock market, point to a downturn of some sort in the near future. Not to mention that economic health is cyclical and the United States is undergoing the longest period of growth in the country’s history.

Given the likelihood, it’s worth asking how a recession would affect the local economy. Are Detroit’s fundamentals different enough from other cities that it would be hit harder by one or able to weather it better?

Detroit’s poverty rate still hovers around 35 percent and the population has plateaued—a modest improvement after decades of loss.

These numbers concern Mark Skidmore, a professor in the Department of Economics at Michigan State University.

Detroit’s housing prices may have stabilized after bottoming out during the mortgage and tax foreclosure crises. But because population isn’t increasing alongside housing prices, Skidmore says, “There shouldn’t be much more demand for housing. That’s as a whole; there might be pockets where demand is pretty high. But there are huge areas where it’s not.”

On the other hand, banks have been relatively tight despite the steady increase in home mortgages. That might not be great for homeownership now, but means there’s little chance of another subprime mortgage crisis.

“The credit available for housing in Detroit has continued to be a challenge and that’s been an impediment to the current recovery,” Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, says. “People being underwater on mortgages is highly unlikely because lending standards have increased so much and credit has been so careful, particularly in Detroit.

“When comes to housing,” he adds. “We don’t anticipate seeing anything like the Great Recession.”

Read the full article here

Warner Partners Receive MiBiz Dealmaker of the Year and Deal of the Year Awards

Detroit, Michigan, October 14, 2019 – Warner Norcross + Judd LLP partners Timothy L. Horner and Charlie Goode have been recognized by MiBiz as Dealmaker of the Year for their role as U.S. legal advisors on the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The firm’s representation of Structural Concepts Corp. has also been honored as Manufacturing Deal of the Year.

The partners, along with Stephen C. Waterbury and Michael J. Jones, will be honored on Thursday, Oct. 17 at the High Five located in downtown Grand Rapids during the publication’s dinner reception and awards ceremony. They are two of 13 winning teams in categories recognizing West Michigan’s Top Deals and Dealmakers, an annual event presented by MiBiz in cooperation with the Association of Corporate Growth West Michigan.

Winners were determined based on best practices and excellence related to mergers, acquisitions and deal-making. Senior executives, attorneys and advisers served as judges.

Dealmaker of the Year: Gordie Howe International Bridge

Goode and Horner’s nomination reads in part: “For more than the past decade, Tim Horner and Charlie Goode have led a team of nearly 60 Warner attorneys representing the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, an international public-private partnership that successfully closed a $4.4 billion concession agreement on Oct. 15, 2018. The concession agreement provides for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the Gordie Howe International Bridge and is the largest single transaction with West Michigan roots finalized between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.”

When completed, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will be among the top five longest bridges in North America. It has received multiple international awards, including being named 2018 Transport Deal of the Year for the Americas by Project Finance International and Best Road/Bridge/Tunnel Project at the 2019 P3 Awards hosted by P3 Bulletin.

Goode has nearly two decades of transaction experience, practicing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, securities regulation and corporate governance. He has broad experience working with community banks and the financial services industry in Michigan and beyond. Goode works on transactions relating to infrastructure and in public-private partnerships, or P3, in addition to the Bridge.

Goode also represents community development financial institutions and other nonprofit organizations in nationwide debt securities offerings that focus on catalytic and impact investing.

He chairs the firm’s Finance Committee and is a former Chair of the Business Practice Group and a former member of the Management Committee.  He has been recognized as a Leading Lawyer in Michigan.

With nearly three decades of experience in corporate, securities and financial services law, Horner works extensively in the negotiation and implementation of complex commercial, business and finance transactions, with a focus on infrastructure, governmental and nonprofit finance and P3 transactions. He serves as legal counsel to public and private business clients, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions. Horner co-chairs the firm’s Infrastructure and Public-Private Partnership Practice Group.

Horner was recognized as a 2019 Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly for his leadership role in this historic project. He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers in America.

Manufacturing Deal of the Year: Sale of Structural Concepts

MiBiz has also recognized the firm’s work on the sale of Structural Concepts Corporation to Mason Wells. Previously awarded alone by size, deals will now be recognized by industry. Key players in the sale of SCC included Phil Gilbert of P&M Corporate Finance based in Southfield, and Joseph Wagner and Mike Congleton of P&M Corporate Finance based in Chicago.  Key SCC players steering the transaction included President David P. Geerts and Chief Financial Officer Tammi S. Milewski.

The sale of SCC, a West Michigan family-owned business, to a private equity firm was structured utilizing an F-reorganization instead of a more frequently used 338(h)(10) election.

The Muskegon-based company designs and manufactures temperature-controlled food and beverage display cases for supermarkets and food-service establishments. The company utilizes innovative designs focused on presenting refrigerated food and beverages in aesthetically attractive formats that save energy, preserve food and beverages longer and minimize operation costs. Until the sale of the business in October 2018, SCC was owned by founder James Doss, his family and members of the SCC management team.

The deal’s nomination read in part: “The sale allowed for a seamless transition to ownership by Mason Wells, a leading Midwest-based private equity firm with $1 billion in assets under management. The Mason Wells team was headed by Senior Managing Director Jay J. Radke. Since Mason Wells was formed in 1998, its buyout funds have invested in four specific areas: consumer packaged goods, outsourced business services, engineered products and services and packaging materials and converting.”

Throughout his career, Waterbury has led or participated in hundreds of deal teams involving clients in manufacturing, medical devices, energy, insurance, human resources, software, construction, agriculture, packaging and other areas. In addition, Waterbury is experienced in international business transactions and corporate governance best practices. He serves as counsel to a variety of leading Michigan businesses, including multigenerational family businesses.

In fall 2018, Waterbury was recognized by MiBiz and the Association for Corporate Growth as the first recipient of a new Hall of Fame Award that honored his successful career in mergers and acquisitions. Waterbury has also been recognized by Best Lawyers, Michigan Super Lawyers and Chambers USA.

Jones co-chairs the firm’s Mergers & Acquisition Practice Group and focuses his practice on M&A work. He has successfully completed more than 100 transactions involved billions of dollars in various industries, including manufacturing, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, automotive suppliers, energy, technology, software and furniture.

Jones was honored by MiBiz as Dealmaker of the Year in 2016 for his leadership and creativity in completing key transactions during 2015-16. Jones has also been recognized by Best Lawyers, Michigan Super Lawyers and Chambers USA.

About Warner

By providing discerning and proactive legal advice, Warner Norcross + Judd builds a better partnership with its clients. Warner is a corporate law firm with 230 attorneys practicing in eight offices throughout Michigan: Grand Rapids, Southfield, Midland, Macomb County, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Lansing and Holland. To learn more, visit, follow us on Twitter @WNJLLP or connect on LinkedIn.

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Roma Thurin

Founder and Managing Partner, Thurin Law Group, PLLC and Third Coast Cannabis Consulting LLC

Roma Thurin, founder and managing partner of Thurin Law Group, PLLC. and Third Coast Cannabis Consulting LLC is a licensed attorney in the states of Michigan and New York. For over 25 years, Thurin has practiced transactional law with an emphasis on corporate law and business development.

Thurin’s experience in Michigan’s cannabis industry includes a 100 percent success rate of obtaining Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities License approvals for her clients, assisting with investment transactions and capitalization funding, and assisting cannabis companies on business operations, management, and regulatory compliance.

Michael Elias

Co-founder and CEO, Common Citizen and Michigan Pure Med

Michael Elias is the co-founder and CEO of Common Citizen and Michigan Pure Med, the largest vertically integrated license holder in Michigan. Elias has spent over 21 years re-engineering health care operations, leading organizational improvement and cultural transformation, and sustaining change. Most recently, Elias was the CEO and founder of Elias Group Corp, an international consulting practice specializing in health care transformations world-wide. He has taken over underperforming health systems and strategically transformed their clinical and non-clinical business practices.

Elias was also major catalyst of transformational change at North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada as the Chief Transformation Officer. He developed, deployed and sustained NYGH’s award-winning improvement system utilizing Lean and Six Sigma principles. Elias earned his Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University, and attended Wayne State School of Medicine master’s program in community medicine.

Ric Preuss

Director at Large, Public Lighting Authority 

Ric Preuss, a Detroit business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 (IBEW), is a licensed electrician with 21 years of electrical construction and maintenance experience. Preuss has extensive experience in designing and installing electrical systems safely for large infrastructure projects and, in his current role, is involved in every large construction project in the city of Detroit.

As the Detroit business agent for IBEW Local 58, Preuss works on contract negotiations, dispute resolution, and building strong collaborative relationships with customers and developers. He spends countless hours solving workforce problems and plays a significant role in the rebuilding of the workforce pipeline into skilled trades.


Allison B. Ireton

Founder and Compliance Officer, Bloom City Club/Peregrine Manufacturing, General Counsel 

Allison Ireton is a Michigan licensed attorney with Huron Valley Law Associates in Ann Arbor. She practices in the business aspects of Michigan’s medical marijuana law. She previously worked at Kerr Russell in Detroit in the highly regulated area of federal and state health care law, which is a natural fit for this highly regulated industry.

Prior to becoming a lawyer in 2006, Ireton was a human resource professional at Perdue Farms in Maryland and a technical writer for Paycheck Inc. In these roles, Ms. Ireton worked with officials from federal wage and hour and the equal employment opportunity commission. She also dealt extensively with rules and regulations regarding federal and state payroll tax liabilities.


Eric Mahler

Assistant General Counsel, Meritor, Inc.

Since 2011, Mahler has served as an Assistant General Counsel for Meritor, Inc., a global Tier 1 supplier of axles, brakes, drivetrains, and aftermarket specialty products to the commercial vehicle market. In that role, he is responsible for overseeing and labor and employment issues worldwide, including litigation and compliance advice and counsel.

Mahler works closely with the Human Resources team and local regional counsel, both internal and external, to shape, monitor and enforce Meritor policies and interests while advancing Meritor’s culture of performance and people. Mahler also oversees compliance with data privacy and protection laws worldwide, various commercial litigation matters and serves as the legal department’s point person to two of Meritor’s three major business units. Prior to joining Meritor, Mahler practiced at two AM La law firms in the Detroit area.

Kathleen Gray

Reporter, Detroit Free Press

Kathleen Gray has reported for the Detroit Free Press since 2000, covering local, state and national politics, campaigns, and public policy. In 2015, she began covering the marijuana industry as the state enacted laws to regulate and tax the medical marijuana industry. That grew into a bigger story when voters approved legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use in November 2018. Gray is a graduate of Michigan State University.