Johnson joins Plunkett Cooney’s Commercial Litigation Group

A former law clerk for two U.S. District Court judges, attorney Erik Johnson recently joined the Commercial Litigation Practice Group of Plunkett Cooney, one of the Midwest’s oldest and largest full-service law firms.

Johnson’s practice focuses on the resolution of litigation involving business torts, real estate disputes and other claims on behalf of clients from various industries. He is admitted to practice law in Illinois and his application with the State Bar of Michigan is pending.

Prior to joining the firm, Johnson worked as a law clerk to judges Mark A. Goldsmith and David M. Lawson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Johnson received his law degree from the University of California, Irvine School of Law in 2015 and his undergraduate degree from the University of La Verne, which is also located in California, in 2011.

Plunkett Cooney’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group represents a range of clients in litigation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution concerning matters that arise while conducting business. Practice group members have extensive experience in matters involving contract disputes, business torts, real estate disputes, business ownership conflicts, bankruptcy, antitrust claims, corporate compliance issues, tax and finance issues, commercial collections, commercial landlord/tenant disputes, civil RICO, ERISA, intellectual property claims and many other areas of litigation.

Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is a leading provider of business and litigation services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm employs approximately 150 attorneys in seven Michigan cities, Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plunkett Cooney has achieved the highest rating (AV) awarded by Martindale-Hubbell, a leading, international directory of law firms.

For more information about Erik Johnson joining Plunkett Cooney, contact the firm’s Director of Marketing and Business Development John Cornwell at (248) 901-4008;

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Comcast RISE Investment Fund to Detroit

Comcast has been working proactively to help small businesses throughout the United States that have been hit the hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic. In October of 2020, we created Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment) in a deliberate and focused effort to reach out, connect with, and support thousands of small businesses over the next three years that are navigating the challenges and difficulties of the pandemic.

A new phase of the program is launching, the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which includes grants for business communities that have experienced excessive hardships.

Detroit is one of only five cities across the nation in which our company is launching this next phase of Comcast RISE. Between now and March 14, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned, small businesses in Detroit, as well as neighboring Hamtramck and Highland Park, can apply for a $10,000 grant here. In May, 100 grants will be awarded to local businesses for a total of $1 million. 

To qualify, grant applicants must be in a business for three or more years, employ a staff of between one and 25 employees, and meet other Comcast RISE eligibility requirements

If a business is not in Detroit, Comcast RISE also offers the opportunity for BIPOC-owned, small business to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. So far, over 700 businesses have received these services, and another round will be announced in March.

ASE Welcomes Six New Board Members

Media Contact: Heather Nezich, Manager, Communications, ASE, 248.223.8040,

Troy, MI —March 3, 2021 — ASE, Michigan’s trusted HR partner and largest employer association, has added six new members to their Board of Directors for 2021. Five members moved off the slate due to term limits and retirements.

New Board Members
• Kay Douglas, President/Founder, Douglas Marketing Group
• Deloris Hunt, Chief Human Resources Officer, Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan
• Amy Schultz, Executive Director – Organizational Effectiveness & Chief Learning Officer
• Tricia Snyder, Vice President, Employee & Labor Relations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
• Thomas Wolfe, Jr., Senior Vice President, Ziebart International Corporation
• Brent Yax, President, Awecomm Technologies, LLC

ASE thanks their outgoing members:
• Diane Antishin, Vice President, HR Operations and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, DTE Energy
• Beth Ardisana, Chief Executive Officer, ASG Renaissance
• Elliot Forsyth, Vice President of Business Operations, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
• Cathy Goheen, Vice President, Human Resources, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
• Frank T. Mamat, Attorney-in-Charge, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

The changes were announced by ASE President & CEO Mary E. Corrado. “ASE is pleased to welcome these highly regarded new board members. Their breadth of knowledge and experience will help ASE continue to grow as we have for 118 years,” stated Corrado. “In addition, I am very thankful for the many years of service our resigning board members served.”

About ASE
ASE is Michigan’s trusted HR partner. ASE is a non-profit, membership organization – everything we do is based on the needs of members and to drive the success of their organizations. ASE strengthens organization’s HR departments by offering member benefits and discounted services that span the entire employee lifecycle including recruitment, development, and retention while minimizing compliance risk. We provide our members guidance through new legislation and workplace issues such as those currently occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about ASE at

Dickinson Wright Ranked in The Bond Buyer’s Midwest Year-End Review

TROY, Mich. – Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that the firm has been ranked as the #1 Bond Counsel in Michigan and the #5 Bond Counsel in the Midwest in The Bond Buyer’s Midwest Year-End Review.

Rankings are based on dollar volume of deals in 2020 and included issues maturing in 13 months or more. In issues with multiple book-runners, each firm is credited with its actual allocation and in issues with multiple co-advisers or co-counsel; the par amount of the issues is divided equally among the firms. The Midwest region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Below are Dickinson Wright’s rankings in The Bond Buyer’s Midwest Year-End Review:

#1 Bond Counsel with a deal volume of $4,075,300.

#5 Bond Counsel with a deal volume of $4,093,500.

As a nationally recognized bond counsel firm, Dickinson Wright has more than sixty years of experience serving as bond counsel in public finance transactions. Our lawyers are problem-solvers focused on the individual needs of each client and create legal solutions to satisfy those needs. We have experience within all facets of financing municipal projects and programs for states, cities, townships, villages, counties, building authorities, county road commissions, colleges and universities, and other public entities. We also have four decades of experience representing the State of Michigan and its various agencies and authorities in complex bond financings.

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 475 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. The firm has 19 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 12 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise, and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification and one of the only firms with ISO/IEC 27701:2019 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management procedures, security controls and privacy processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

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March 5 | This Week in Government: PPE Tax Exemption Moves to Senate; DHHS Eases COVID-19 Restrictions

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Supplementals Tied to Limiting Administration’s Power Closer to Gov
  2. House Overwhelmingly Sends PPE Tax Exemptions to Senate
  3. DHHS Relaxes Several Restrictions to Cheers, Disappointment
  4. Groups Laud State Clearing Those 50+ For COVID Vaccine
  5. Sen. Runestad Joins GOP Chorus Urging Hertel Appointment Rejection

Supplementals Tied to Limiting Administration’s Power Closer to Gov

Supplemental appropriations bills utilizing mostly federal dollars to address the coronavirus pandemic passed the House on Wednesday, with GOP lawmakers also seeking to tie some of the funding to limits on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s powers during the health crisis.

HB 4047 and HB 4048 passed 85-25 and 77-33, respectively. Both bills include ties to separate legislation limiting the state’s power to issue orders related to the coronavirus.

HB 4047 designates almost $350 million for a contingency fund for federal epidemiology and laboratory capacity grant funding contingent on Gov. Whitmer signing SB 1, which would limit epidemic orders issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to 28 days.

HB 4048 includes language that unless Gov. Whitmer signs HB 4049, which would stipulate only local health departments could close schools for in-person instruction or halt school sports based on specific criteria in the bill, more than $800 million to schools would not be appropriated.

SB 1 could not be taken up by the House Wednesday as it just passed the Senate Tuesday. HB 4047 was enrolled, but HB 4048 was amended and will need another Senate vote before being sent to the Governor’s desk.

HB 4049 passed 60-50 and was also enrolled.

It is unclear what Gov. Whitmer’s options are with the language making portions of funding in both bills contingent on her signing legislation limiting pandemic powers. Republicans do not think she could declare it unenforceable, meaning the funding in question would not be allocated if she vetoed SB 1 and HB 4049. Other sources are mixed but there is no concrete answer. Gov. Whitmer’s office did not specifically respond to a question on if her office believes it could deem that language unenforceable.

While the Senate removed a traditional tie bar in HB 4048 and HB 4049, it did replace it with the language in the supplemental bill tying the more than $800 million to the signing of HB 4049. This change appears to have tied less money to the limits on the Governor’s pandemic power instead of the entirety of the bill (subscribers please note: Tuesday’s story on the supplemental bills passing said the removal of the tie bar made it so Gov. Whitmer could veto HB 4049 without striking authority to appropriate the funding, which is not a certainty).

Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said the governor has been clear she wanted the Legislature to send her bills allocating the entirety of the more than $5 billion in federal funds available. He said it’s promising the Legislature took steps to get at least some of the funding out, however.

“The reality is that they’ve been sitting on this money for two months, their bill continues to withhold billions of dollars at a time when we need every penny to help grow our economy, and it was not negotiated with our office,” Leddy said. “Governor Whitmer will ensure that this crucial funding is available to help us ramp up vaccine distribution and testing, support small businesses, invest in our kids and schools, keep people in their homes, and provide food assistance, but we expect the Legislature to step up to fix the bill to allocate all of the money we need to get back to normal.”

As passed Wednesday, the supplementals do not include a provision blocking the state from using the social vulnerability index to distribute vaccine doses. However, there is still a requirement that recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine be informed of the utilization of aborted fetal tissues or embryonic stem cell derivation in the development of the vaccine, which Right to Life of Michigan praised.

HB 4047 also requires the state to expand its COVID-19 vaccine distribution, within 30 days of its enactment, to independent pharmacy networks. It also includes a requirement the state report weekly on metrics used for calculating vaccine distribution and other specific items.

While the bills release more federal funding than the $2 billion that first passed the Senate and the $3.5 billion that first passed the House, they still do not release all federal dollars available. House Democrats proposed substitutes that would have released all federal dollars. They were rejected by the GOP majority.

Republicans have said they do not want to give Gov. Whitmer a blank check. Democrats have countered the federal money comes with many strings attached.

Further, House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) said during a press conference earlier in the day that the state needs money for rental assistance now, not in August, and it needs more funding for its vaccine distribution now, not in September.

“As a Legislature, we provide oversight every year for over $50 billion in our state budget. To say that there’s something different about $5 billion, that all of a sudden the Legislature has no oversight or accountability for, again, is a partisan political game,” she said. “That’s not what this moment is about. This is a historic pandemic. We are in the throes of it, in the clutches of it right now. We need our vaccine distribution system now. We need rapid testing now. And we need to make sure that folks don’t go into a financial death spiral that withholding rental assistance, food assistance will cause.”

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) during a floor speech called on Ms. Whitmer to loosen the state’s COVID restrictions – of which many have been already – and said her efforts are not based on science but are “calculated measures to retain power.”

“The economic devastation that is being unleashed is significant. It is felt by our families, and it is being hidden by a massive infusion of federal dollars. There is no shortage of small businesses that have closed their doors or are hanging on by a thread,” he said. “Listen to what the people of Michigan are saying. Enough. Open your eyes and see what’s going on. The greatest effect of your over-the-top measures is not an improvement of public health, it is the loss of one’s dignity of being able to provide for one’s family, and their community through work. To use a word from the governor’s statements on this relief plan, her actions have been just plain cruel.”

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) praised the package in a statement following the vote, and specifically thanked Albert for his work on the legislation.

“This is a comprehensive plan that puts money where it’s needed most, that holds government accountable, and that helps struggling Michigan families, students and businesses heal from a devastating pandemic,” Wentworth said.

HB 4047 includes $2.3 billion with $632 million from the General Fund, with money going to the Department of Health and Human Services for food assistance, the continuation of increased pay for direct care workers and money for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing.

It also includes funding for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for rental and utility assistance and General Fund dollars to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. A series of tax and fee relief items for businesses is also included in the bill for the Department of Treasury.

HB 4048 includes $1.95 billion for schools, mostly made up of federal dollars but also includes $136 million in School Aid Fund for districts that receive less than $450 per pupil through the federal formula. Schools would have to offer at least 20 hours of in-person instruction to all students by March 22, 2021, to receive the funding.

The two supplementals were mixed with a couple dozen Democrats voting in support. HB 4049 was a mostly party-line vote, with two Democrats, Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette and Rep. Karen Whitsett of Detroit, voting yes.

House Overwhelmingly Sends PPE Tax Exemptions to Senate

A pair of bills exempting businesses from sales and use tax when purchasing personal protective equipment and supplies related to mitigating the effects of the coronavirus passed the House on Wednesday with wide margins.

HB 4224 and HB 4225 passed 104-6.

The bills would only exempt PPE and other tangible personal property from the taxes if they were specifically used in relation to COVID-19. Businesses would also have to have implemented a COVID-19 safety protocol plan.

The exemptions under the bill would be retroactive and would apply beginning March 10, 2020, until Dec. 31, 2021.

A House Fiscal Agency analysis said the bills would reduce mostly sales tax revenue by an estimated up to $5 million for 2019-20, up to $10 million for 2020-21 and up to $4 million for 2021-22.

The Department of Treasury previously took no position on the bills, which are sponsored by Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Township).

In committee, Anthony said she has been impressed with employers and businesses that have persevered and kept their doors open during the pandemic.

“The reality is there is a significant cost in order to actually implement those changes needed to operate in a global pandemic,” she said last month. “They are doing everything they can. They are doing it right. They are following the rules. And I feel like it is now our responsibility to extend support.”

Lilly, in a statement Wednesday, said the bill would benefit workplaces that continue to buy PPE because of COVID-19 and state requirements.

“Over the past year, job providers all across Michigan have faced unprecedented challenges simply to stay in business and keep their doors open,” he said. “The cost of personal protective equipment to keep their employees and customers safe is part of that challenge. With this legislation, we have a fantastic opportunity to help. Keeping people safe should not be a barrier to keep a business open, earning a living, and keeping our economy and communities strong.

DHHS Relaxes Several Restrictions to Cheers, Disappointment

The most significant relaxing of restrictions the state has imposed to address the coronavirus since last summer was announced Tuesday, allowing larger social gatherings, greater capacity in restaurants, bars and retail stores and more people into entertainment venues.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel issued a new epidemic order, effective Friday, that makes wholesale changes following what was – until the past 10 days – a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases. The state’s seven-day case average of newly confirmed cases on Tuesday was 1,071, up from a recent low of 818 on Feb. 21. Still, that is well below the November seven-day average peak of 7,270 new cases per day. Deaths continue to fall, and the number of people hospitalized with the virus also continues to fall.

“We’re getting there Michigan. This is good news,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a news briefing.

Besides the changes affecting capacity at gatherings and Michigan businesses, Ms. Hertel also relaxed restrictions on visitors to nursing homes.

Among the major changes in the order announced Tuesday that runs through April 19:

  • Private residential gatherings can now have up to 15 people from three different households, up from 10 people across two households. Outdoor gatherings at residential locations can now have up to 50 people with no limit on households involved, up from 25 among three households;
  • Indoor gatherings at non-residential venues can now have up to 25 people, a move seen as opening up city councils, school boards, township boards and county boards to meet in person. Outdoor non-residential venues can have gatherings up to 300 people;
  • Restaurants and bars can now seat people for dine-in service at 50 percent of capacity, up from 25%, though the previous cap of 100 people total from the Feb. 4 order remains in place. The 10 p.m. curfew on dine-in service was pushed back to 11 p.m.;
  • Retailers, libraries and museums can now operate at 50% of capacity, up from 30%;
  • Exercise facilities can operate at 30% of capacity, up from 25%;
  • Pools, previously limited to 25% capacity, can now operate at 30% if indoor and 50% if outdoor;
  • Ice and roller rinks can now have 10 persons per 1,000 square feet, up from four;
  • At sports stadiums, indoor venues with capacity under 10,000 can have 375 patrons and those with more than 10,000 can have 750. Outdoor entertainment and creation facilities can have gatherings up to 1,000 people.

“Due to the trends we’re seeing, we’re taking a step forward, but a cautious one,” Hertel said.

Gov. Whitmer announced a new workgroup on reopening offices to in-person work. Business groups have called for changes once emergency rules prohibiting in-person office work unless it cannot be done remotely to end.

s the state relaxes these restrictions, the question will be whether it opens the state up to a new surge in cases or whether the continuing rise in the number of people vaccinated and warming weather enabling people to get outdoors more will prevent that from happening.

Reaction to the announcement was mixed.

“We welcome the Governor’s decision today to expand restaurant, banquet and meeting space occupancy and consider this change critically important, but the six-week duration of this order is concerning and significantly too long to adapt to rapidly changing metrics around this virus,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We are hopeful that this DHHS order represents a paradigm shift in the administration’s overall approach to the hospitality industry, accepting that the dramatically reduced hospitalization rate and increased vaccine distribution mean our most vulnerable populations are protected and that reopening should advance in a timely manner.”

Scott Ellis, head of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said he was “truly disappointed” the new order maintains the 100-person cap, saying larger establishments with greater capacity have more space to spread out patrons and abide by social distancing.

Bill Hallan, president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, said he was pleased by the capacity increase.

“This is a good step towards reopening our economy, but until we are at 100 percent capacity, retailers will continue to struggle,” he said in a statement. “We appreciate the confidence given to retailers who have worked consistently to ensure the safety and health of customers and employees. The timing of this message is especially good news for pharmacies as they get ready to administer the vaccine to Michiganders quickly and efficiently at trusted and convenient retail locations.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) in a statement called Gov. Whitmer’s announcement “woefully inadequate.”

But Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) praised Whitmer for the 25-person non-residential indoor limit he said would allow government bodies to meet in person again.

“The Governor’s orders were limiting residents’ access to their local elected officials and the community entities necessary to carry out the functions of municipal life,” he said in a statement. “Today’s update fixes that. I thank the governor for her response, and I urge her to lift some of her other restrictions doing so much damage to our residents and their way of life.”

Groups Laud State Clearing Those 50+ For COVID Vaccine

A major expansion in eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to those 50 and older announced Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer received praise from a variety of business and health care organizations.

Starting March 8, those 50 and older “with medical conditions or disabilities and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs,” can receive the vaccine, a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services said. Starting March 22, all residents 50 and older will be eligible.

This move comes as more than 40% of those 65 and older in Michigan have been vaccinated and with President Joe Biden saying Tuesday he anticipates all adults wishing to receive a vaccine in the United States will be able to get one by the end of May.

“The more people we can get the safe and effective vaccine, the faster we can return to a sense of normalcy,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. “I urge all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines to protect you, your family and your community. We’ve already administered over 2.3 million doses to Michiganders of all races and backgrounds, and yesterday’s announcement that our national supply will be enough to protect all Americans by the end of May is incredible news.”

Those eligible to receive a vaccine should check the website of their local hospital or health department to determine their process or check other sites such as local pharmacies, the statement from DHHS said.

“The MHA and our member hospitals and health systems are pleased to see eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination expand in the coming days and weeks to include those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions or disabilities and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special healthcare needs, and then to all Michiganders 50 and older,” said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, in a statement. “Hospitals and health systems will continue to partner with their local health departments and other providers to vaccinate all eligible and vulnerable populations as quickly as possible. The significant increase in vaccine supply to our state this week is an encouraging sign that we will be able to vaccinate 70% of our adult population more quickly than originally planned.”

The Michigan State Medical Society also lauded the news.

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, president of the MSMS said in a statement, however, that primary care physicians should be involved in the effort.

“We applaud the governor and Director Hertel for expanding eligibility to the COVID-19 vaccine to residents 50 years of age and older,” he said. “The fastest and best way to return to pre-pandemic life is for people to be vaccinated. Expanding access by age will help do that, and expanding access even further means involving primary care physicians in the delivery of the vaccine. Michigan’s primary care physicians must be allowed to be involved in the important work of vaccination distribution, especially now as more and more residents become eligible. I can assure you that Michigan physicians stand ready to assist in this vital effort.”

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said the announcement meets its recommendation for a simpler eligibility system that prioritizes those with the highest risk of serious illness or death.

“SBAM applauds Governor Whitmer for enacting this approach and encourages all Michiganders to get the vaccine as soon as you are eligible,” he said in a statement. “Widespread vaccine administration will be the key to ending this pandemic.”

There some were problems with waitlists after the state broadened eligibility from those 75 and older to those 65 and older.

Mark Hornbeck, spokesperson for AARP Michigan, said even though there is still large number of people 65 and older to be vaccinated, expanding eligibility to those 50 and older is a sound move.

“National statistics tell us 95% of COVID deaths are among those 50 and older, so the priority for adults 50 and up is based on science,” he said. “Supplies of vaccine are ramping up, especially with the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so we’re hoping the percentage of inoculations of Michiganders 65 and older will pick up significantly in the weeks to come.”

MHA spokesperson Ruthanne Sudderth, to concerns that expanding the vaccine eligibility could slow progress for the 65 and older population, said the ability to move to the new threshold will vary based on the progress of an area’s providers in getting through those 65 and older.

“This is not a mandate to providers; it simply allows those who are prepared to do so to get more people in line,” she said. “We know that some parts of the state are starting to have fewer seniors and others who are currently eligible and haven’t yet been vaccinated. We don’t want those providers or their supplies sitting idle.”

Sen. Runestad Joins GOP Chorus Urging Hertel Appointment Rejection

Sen. Jim Runestad became the third Senate Republican to urge the rejection of the Governor’s appointment of Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel and the second in as many days.

The call by Runestad (R-White Lake) was the third in a week among members of the Senate Republican caucus and may signal the willingness by the party to further its fight against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over the administration’s pandemic response.

So far, 18 of Whitmer’s appointments have been rejected by Senate Republicans seeking to push Gov. Whitmer to change her pandemic response policies.

Hertel is scheduled to appear at noon Thursday for a second round of questioning before the Senate Advice and Consent Committee.

In a statement Wednesday, Runestad cited Hertel’s response to questions during last week’s Senate Advice and Consent Committee hearing. He noted that the director under questioning declined to provide examples of instances in which the department’s policies may have been a mistake during the pandemic response.

“The administration’s executive orders led to putting COVID-19 infected patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable, yet Hertel can’t think of anything they could have done differently? That is unacceptable,” Runestad said. “The families who lost loved ones deserve answers for how this happened, why it was allowed to happen, and why the administration isn’t providing the data on nursing home deaths Director Hertel needs to share that information now.”

The Senate has 60 days to accept or reject gubernatorial appointees, with a decision needing to be made on Hertel’s appointment by March 23.

Also calling for the rejection of Hertel so far are Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) and Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly).


Chamber Advocacy Leads to Passage of PPE Tax Exemptions in MI House

COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed After Letter from Chambers Advocating for Safe Opening of Restaurants

Chamber Advocacy Leads to Passage of PPE Tax Exemptions in MI House

The Michigan House overwhelmingly approved two bills that would exempt COVID-19 personal protection equipment and disinfecting supplies from state sales taxes on Wednesday, March 3. The Detroit Regional Chamber has been at the forefront of developing this legislation and advocating on behalf of businesses for their passage.

The bills would only exempt PPE and other tangible personal property from the taxes if they were specifically used in relation to COVID-19. If the bill passes the Senate and the Governor signs it into law, businesses with written COVID-19 safety plans required by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration would not have to pay the state’s 6% sales and use tax on purchases of PEE and disinfecting supplies. House Bill 4224 and House Bill 4225 both passed 104-6, with broad bipartisan support.

Listening to member businesses throughout southeast Michigan, the Chamber identified how critical PPE is for companies to operate during a pandemic and how those previously unplanned business expenses could be devastating to their bottom line. Tax relief is essential to making PPE more affordable.

Matt Patton, Director of Government Relations, Detroit Regional Chamber.

“Throughout this pandemic, small businesses around our state have paid taxes on the equipment needed to remain operational at great cost to their bottom line,” said Matt Patton, director of government relations for the Chamber. “Despite a bitterly disagreeable political climate, these bills brought Democrats and Republicans together in order to make life-saving PPE more affordable by stopping the government from profiting off of the necessity of it.”

Patton testified on behalf of business before the House Rules and Competitiveness Committee in February, which was a critical step in these bills’ ultimate passage. In that committee hearing, Democratic co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said she was impressed by the perseverance of small businesses fighting to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

“The reality is there is a significant cost in order to actually implement those changes needed to operate in a global pandemic,” said Anthony. “They are doing everything they can. They are doing it right. They are following the rules. And I feel like it is now our responsibility to extend support.”

The bill’s other co-sponsor, Rep Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), released a statement after the bill’s passage on Wednesday.

“Over the past year, job providers all across Michigan have faced unprecedented challenges simply to stay in business and keep their doors open,” he said. “The cost of personal protective equipment to keep their employees and customers safe is part of that challenge. With this legislation, we have a fantastic opportunity to help. Keeping people safe should not be a barrier to keep a business open, earning a living, and keeping our economy and communities strong.”

The bill’s exemptions would be retroactive and would apply beginning March 10, 2020, until December 31, 2021.

Black Economic Equity

Black Economic Equity

Benard Parker III Director of government relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber joined council President Jones along with Dr. Ken Harris, President/ CEO of the National Business League, Inc. and Shannon E. Dulin external affairs manager Comcast for a discussion on Black Economic Equity.

Each panelist gave different perspectives on how to achieve black economic equity in Detroit and the nation. All panelists agreed that governmental policies, digital innovation, and business equality are needed to achieve this goal.

“One of the things we had to find out through our work on racial and economic justice is that we have to do a better job at our internal focus, being able to support other organizations, and expanding our own programs,” said Parker.  knows that counting to be a leader and creating programs that elevate business opportunities to all.

“If people are working, if people have a job, then guess what you have to buy less police cars, you will have fewer police officers because you will see less crime” said Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

All speakers agree that equity is not as simple as giving marginalized and oppressed communities more resources its also about dismantling oppressive systems that are working exactly as they were designed. Dr. Ken Harris and City Council President Brenda Jones emphasized the need for transparency when it comes to city jobs and city contracts. “In an 80% back city, I hope we understand the importance of asking how many Detroiters are employed on city contracts and I hope we equally understand the administration’s refusal to answer questions and work collaboratory to change laws” said Jones. Jones encourages all businesses to play their role and can contribute to achieving equity.

Detroit Regional Chamber Request for Website Proposal: March 2021

Download the PDF

1.0 Project Summary

The Detroit Regional Chamber (Chamber) is accepting proposals to develop a comprehensive website. In addition to initial development, the Chamber is looking for a partner that will work directly with the Chamber team on incremental updates and developments after launch that will help keep the site up-to-date with website best practices.

1.1 Project Goals

The Detroit Regional Chamber website aims to provide a best-in-class user experience for visitors to learn about and access the Chamber’s 30+ initiatives, 100+ events, and thousands of members and partners. Additionally, the website provides resources and content for businesses to learn best practices, relevant regional news, and understand the Chamber’s role in driving the economy in Southeast Michigan’s 11 counties.

1.2 Project Outcomes

To best achieve the goals outlined above, we have identified six key outcomes for this project:

  1. Develop a visually appealing site that caters to key audiences (outlined in section
    1.3) while also providing a professional user interface.
  2. Provide a clear hierarchy of pages, posts, and core programs that allow visitors
    to quickly navigate across Chamber initiatives and events.
  3. Develop a subset of page templates and functionality that allow the Chamber
    team to quickly and easily add new brands, programs and initiatives.
  4. Develop an easy-to-use blogging interface that allows multiple team members to
    create various types of content and assign to any program or initiative.
  5. Integrate the Chamber’s existing member portal, managed by the Chamber
    information technology team and connected to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
  6. Maximize search engine optimization, including the maintaining of existing SERP

1.3 Key Audiences

The Chamber’s target audience is the Southeast Michigan business community. There are five subsets, consisting of both members and non-members within these target audiences:

  1. Employers and business professionals who work for current and prospective Chamber member companies or invest in Chamber initiatives.
  2. Individuals with an interest in attending or sponsoring Chamber events. .(networking or professional development), specifically the Mackinac Policy Conference and other signature Chamber events.
  3. Entrepreneurs and small business owners.
  4. Individuals working in all levels of government and policy, including lobbyists, politicians, and staff.
  5. Any other business professional, civic leader or journalist with an interest in the economic growth of the Detroit region.

1.4 Project Background

The current Chamber website originally launched in 2012 as a visual representation of the Detroit Region with a focus on business attraction. This website has undergone several transformations as the Chamber’s goals and the internet landscape changed with an increased focus on educational attainment. Since 2012, the Chamber has expanded its content marketing efforts and launched several programs and initiatives, including more comprehensive data centers, many of which will live on the Chamber website and need varying levels of attention throughout the course of the year based on Chamber activities.

2.0 Project Scope

The website must include best-in-class content display and curation and be built to allow the Chamber to make wholesome edits and add new pages post-launch. The platform must be easy to use and cost-effective for the Chamber to maintain after launch but be able to dynamically highlight events, priorities and programs throughout the year.

2.1 Development Guidelines

Website components should include:

  1. Visually appealing and consistent design, with each section having a common look and feel.
  2. Easy integration with Chamber’s member portal, which is authenticated using Azure B2C and connected with the WP Integrate plugin.
  3. Ability for Chamber team to duplicate and edit functionality to other WordPress environments (see for example) as new programs and initiatives launch.
  4. Easy for Chamber team to write new blog content, including the adding of images, video, and sidebar customization.
  5. A standardized set of page templates and functionality that can be applied to any and all sub-brands to appeal to their specific audiences while also clearly existing within the larger Chamber website.

2.2 Technology Specifications

The Chamber encourages creativity in proposals, however there are certain technology requirements. Specifically, the website must be built on a non-proprietary platform and developed with the latest standards for security and fraud prevention. Additionally, the Chamber must retain control of the host – it is preferred that the site is hosted on WPEngine.

The website must:

  1. Be built on the WordPress content management system.
  2. Be compatible with all current and supported versions of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge.
  3. Be responsive on all devices including desktop, tablet, and mobile.
  4. Be ADA compliant and accessible to users with various disabilities.
  5. Allow for the Chamber team to make edits to templates (back end) and add plugins and add-ons as necessary (see section 2.5 for more details).

2.3 Tracking

The website must connect to the Chamber’s existing Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.

2.4 Content Overview and Migration

The Chamber is recognized for statewide thought-leadership and its role as a go-to business resource and voice for Southeast Michigan. The website is used to display various types of content and information from detailed regional data reports, statewide polls, and industry cluster information to press releases, event marketing materials and a quarterly membership magazine.

The current iteration of the Chamber website features thousands of pages and posts. Proposals must include a plan for content migration from the current website, including recommendations for:

  1. How much content to migrate
  2. How many assets to migrate (i.e. photos, videos, etc.)
  3. Process for migration, including a long-term strategy for archiving old content
  4. Migration timeline, if different from the rest of the project

2.5 Customizations

The Chamber team requires the ability to customize the website, including but not necessarily limited to:

  1. New webpages and blog posts
  2. Menu changes
  3. Header graphic changes (if applicable)
  4. Footer changes (if applicable)
  5. Sidebar widgets
  6. Internal landing pages containing predetermined functionality that can be toggled on or off

3.0 Deliverables

The basic deliverables for the project include:

  1. Proposed wireframes for all page templates
  2. Proposed sitemap (with input from Chamber team)
  3. Beta version of website (to be tested by users)
  4. Final website with content transferred from existing Chamber site
  5. Cost estimates for ongoing maintenance

3.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The Chamber values SEO and expects the vendor to integrate this critical component into all aspects of the project. This includes (but is not limited to): wireframes, page taxonomy, development, content migration, canonical URLs, and recommended plugins for future optimization.

3.2 Deliverables Check-ins

The Chamber also requires regular demonstrations and check-ins with key Chamber team members throughout the design, development, and testing process. This includes the review and feedback of deliverables above throughout development. Upon launch of the website, the Chamber team also requires all licensing for site photography (if applicable) as well as those images in their original format.

4.0 Budget

Please provide cost proposals to accomplish the scope outlines including pricing for discovery, design, planning, development, testing, and deployment.

Proposals should include two detailed budgets:

  1. Platform build-out costs including project management, design, development, content migration, and launch
  2. Projected ongoing maintenance costs including turnaround time and rates for:
    1. Regular site maintenance
    2. Unplanned updates (i.e. updates to CMS platform)
    3. Updates to custom plugins or themes

4.1 Payment Schedule

Proposals must offer a recommended payment schedule with a percent of the total amount of payment up front and subsequent payments as deliverables are met. If undetermined, the Chamber will make payments in four equal installments over the course of the engagement.

5.0 Submission Requirements

Proposals must be emailed to Martha Schmitt at by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2021. Proposals should include the following:

  1. Executive summary presenting a high-level synopsis of the vendor’s response to the RFP.
  2. Vendor overview briefly stating the vendor and all sub-vendors participating in the bid and their respective components. Primary vendor is expected to manage all sub-vendors.
  3. Vendor approach briefly describing the methods and approach used to manage, design, and develop the project, including proposed method of client correspondence and testing.
  4. Three examples of related past work and references.
  5. Project deliverables with proposed timeline including a proposed structure for achieving goals, outcomes and deliverables identified in this document.
  6. Also include how the vendor will indicate whether or not objectives have been met for each deliverable.
  7. Detailed budget and itemized pricing including a fee breakdown by deliverable or phase, including estimates for ongoing maintenance.

6.0 Evaluation Criteria

Any evaluation team from the Chamber, and potentially external partners, will review all proposals. Any award to be made pursuant to this RFP will be based upon the proposal with appropriate consideration given to operational, technical, cost, and management requirements. Evaluation of offers will be based upon the vendor’s responsiveness to the RFP and the total priced quote for all items.

6.1 Proposal Scoring

The criteria below will be used to evaluate vendor proposals. Please note the selected member must be either an existing Chamber member or join upon being selected as a vendor:

  1. Outcome deliverables – 35 points
    1. The extent to which vendor’s proposed solution fulfills stated deliverables as set out in this RFP.
    2. Strategic aspects of the proposal such as customizability by Chamber team and ability to integrate with existing Chamber member portal.
  2. Vendor information – 20 points
    1. An assessment of the vendor’s ability to deliver the indicated services in accordance with specifications set out in this RFP.
    2. The vendor’s stability, experiences, and record of past performance in delivering similar services to similar clients.
    3. Availability of high-quality vendor personnel with required skills and experiences for the specific approach, including considerations on diversity and understanding of challenges this platform aims to address.
  3. Diversity – 20 points
    1. The Chamber is interested in proposals from diverse suppliers, including small businesses and those owned by minorities, women, veterans, and other underrepresented groups.
    2. The Chamber is also interested in working with diverse individuals (i.e. project manager, development or creative leads) and requests a list of vendor team members who will be working on the project.
    3. Please also indicate diversity among any subcontractors or freelance team members that will be brought on to support this project.
  4. Cost – 25 points
    1.  Overall cost of the vendor’s proposal and projected ongoing maintenance costs.

Maximum total points: 100

7.0 Contact

Please submit proposals and any questions via email to:

Martha Schmitt
Digital Marketing Manager
Detroit Regional Chamber

Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall: Michael S. Rafferty, New Detroit, Inc.

Michael S. Rafferty is president and chief executive officer of New Detroit, Inc., a nonprofit coalition of leaders working to achieve racial understanding and racial equity in Metropolitan Detroit. Rafferty joined the Detroit Regional Chamber to discuss his experience in social justice work, address systemic and institutional racism, and offer advice to business leaders on implementing policies and procedures in their organizations to improve economic equality.

Rafferty’s career in social justice began in economic development. After a while in that space, he realized that though increased economic opportunity can be a rising tide, economic development won’t work unless there is cultural cohesion and investment in advancing people toward equity. Rafferty’s work with New Detroit is now focused on ending racism and scaling up interventions and resources to help the community get involved.

The War on Racism

New Detroit declared war on racism last June in an effort to focus on the subject systemically and draw a line in the sand to define and initiate action to end racism once and for all.

“Far too long we’ve been…focusing on the symptoms of racism,” said Rafferty, explaining those include things like income disparities, gaps in education attainment, unequal treatment by law enforcement, among others. This declaration puts emphasis on racism as a root cause of these issues.

“We acknowledge life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness isn’t and hasn’t been for all Americans, that was an important thing for us to say as we’re talking about trying to achieve our mission of racial understanding and racial equity,” Rafferty continued.

Progress Through Self-Examination

“Making the acknowledgment that racism is still a problem is the first step,” said Rafferty. “Committing yourself to not slowing down on it, committing yourself to examining every flaw and opportunity for growth is the next step.”

Investing in the racial justice ecosystem and ensuring that your organization and you as an individual are part of that ecosystem is key to meaningful action. Rafferty encourages businesses to bring in support to audit the culture and have a third party examine strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats. This evaluation can inform a plan and ongoing evaluation and monitoring.

As far as what progress looks like, Rafferty hopes Americans, especially decision-makers, will focus on racial equity as an imperative and have fewer debates about things that seem obvious to those that want to see equity.

The 1960s vs. Today

In comparing the civil rights movement of the 1960s to today’s racial justice efforts, Rafferty noted that anti-racism is the common thread in the natural evolution of progress. The objective 100 years from now is to not see gaps in outcome by race.

“The best way we can do this is to define this moment as anti-racism,” said Rafferty.

To continue advancing this movement and seeing real results, everyone has to accept their role to play.

“We need leaders to step up, and we need to acknowledge that we’re all leaders.”


We Went to the Moon, But Can We Address Racism?

The Sandy Baruah Interview 02/28/20

March 3, 2021

Detroit Wants 2 Know

The Steve Hood Show

Sandy Baruah talks about what the Chamber does, what it means to every day Detroiters, who are Chamber members, educational programs the Chamber leads, and what the future of the region is as we recover from COVID-19.