New Michigan tax change could be boon for business owners

Crain’s Detroit Business
Dec. 23, 2021
Nick Manes

While a new $1.5 billion economic development fund for large-scale manufacturing projects has received most of the news this week, a tax policy change also signed into law this week amounts to something of a Christmas gift for many of the state’s small businesses.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that will allow Michigan’s pass-through entities — primarily LLCs and S corporations in which income passes through to the individual owners — to pay a new 4.25 percent state income tax at the business level rather than the individual level. Doing so allows eligible business owners to avoid the $10,000 federal cap on deducting state and local taxes, or SALT.

The legislation, sponsored by Rochester Hills Republican state Rep. Mark Tisdel and passed with bipartisan support, is estimated to save the roughly 240,000 pass-through entity owners subject to tax in Michigan about $200 million in federal taxes annually, according to a client alert sent out by Detroit-based law firm Miller Canfield.

“It will make a big difference for a lot of S corps and LLCs,” Brian Calley, president of the Lansing-based Small Business Administration of Michigan, said of the legislation. “And the nice thing is that it doesn’t really cost the state anything other than the administration.”

“All the way around, this is a big win,” Calley added, noting that the tax policy change will be of particular benefit for more “mature” companies, while startups might see less benefit because of some added costs for accounting and tax preparation.

Those businesses can simply choose to pay at the individual level and take the federal deduction, he said.

About 20 other states offer a similar workaround for their pass-through entities, according to a CNBC report earlier this month, including Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Of particular importance, the legislation will be retroactive and available for businesses for the 2021 tax year.

Gregory Nowak, senior counsel at Miller Canfield, said that due to the retroactive nature of the legislation, businesses and advisers are “scrambling” somewhat to best identify when owners should make quarterly payments, as much of the official guidance from the Michigan Department of Treasury is still forthcoming.

The Treasury Department on Wednesday afternoon did offer that guidance for those owners who want to make the election for this year and make a payment before the end of the year, an option on the Treasury portal that will be available in the coming days.

“So it does create some interesting tax compliance challenges,” Nowak said. “But the benefit of the federal tax deductibility of these taxes, generally, is often going to be worth some compliance efforts. Everyone’s going to be kind of scrambling.”

Whitmer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation on Wednesday. The Democratic governor, who’s up for re-election next year, vetoed similar legislation over the summer.

It’s unclear why the governor opted to sign this legislation.

Tisdel, the bill’s sponsor, applauded the governor’s change of heart and noted the numerous businesses that will benefit from the change.

“Corner stores and Main Street shops are the foundation of our local economies and a feature of our communities,” Tisdel said in a statement. “They sell products, like meals and books, and provide services, like haircuts and help filing our taxes. We know and trust our local businesses to serve us, and they deserve a fair tax system. I was proud to spearhead this new law, which will empower small businesses to boost their tax savings. More money kept locally by businesses will provide more economic opportunities in Michigan communities.”


Reflections on Rob Fowler’s Leadership for Michigan Small Businesses

After more than 20 years with the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) and more than three decades advocating for small business, Rob Fowler will retire at the end of the year as Chief Executive Officer of SBAM. Rob has been a steadfast champion for entrepreneurship and small businesses throughout Michigan. His passion and impact on small business goes beyond Michigan and includes his service on the Board of Directors of the National Small Business Association.

Under Rob’s leadership, SBAM has been the premier advocate for the interests of small businesses in Lansing and has helped the organization represent more than 23,000 companies from all of Michigan’s 83 counties. Since I joined the Chamber, it has been a pleasure to work with Rob, and our two organizations have found common cause more in working to improve Michigan’s competitiveness and business climate. Additionally, Rob has utilized his experience and expertise in education serving as a school board member and a co-chair of the statewide education reform initiative, Launch Michigan, that has brought leaders together to do the hard work of bettering K-12 education in Michigan. Like his work on behalf of small business interests, his contributions to education will resonate long after he clears out his SBAM offices.

Rob has been a tremendous friend and colleague and partner in advancing bi-partisanship and civility. On behalf of the Detroit Regional Chamber Board and staff, I congratulate Rob Fowler on his long and committed service to Michigan and wish him all the best as he enters the next chapter of his impactful life.

Chamber Salutes Regional Municipal Leaders Retiring or Leaving Office

As 2021 comes to a close, the Detroit Regional Chamber reflects with gratitude on the public service legacy that regional municipal leaders as they leave office.

Brenda Jones
Brenda Jones retires from Detroit City Council after two terms as City Council President. Ms. Jones was first elected in November 2005. In 2018, Ms. Jones was elected to complete John Conyers, Jr.’s term. Despite a brief five-week tenure, Congresswoman Jones voted 77 times and sponsored two pieces of legislation while representing Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

During her tenure in public service, Council President Jones has worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for the citizens of Detroit by working to reform and improve education and advocating for new jobs for the city. As of April 1, 2020, Council President Jones has successfully sponsored 9 ordinances and 40 resolutions. Her legislative efforts have positively impacted the quality of life for residents, public safety personnel, government employees, unions, and others.

Mayor John B. “Jack” O’Reilly, Jr.
After 32 years of public service and 14 years as Mayor of Dearborn, John B. O’Reilly is retiring. Mayor O’Reilly has been a leader in regional cooperation, particularly around Chamber priorities like transportation, support for small businesses, and economic development. Mayor O’Reilly has also been a strong leader for Dearborn, the seventh-largest city in the state, by preserving the city’s high quality of life and attractive residential areas.

During his administration, the John D. Dingell Train Station was constructed with federal grant dollars and added to the city’s reputation as a sought-after destination and a regional transportation hub. Mayor O’Reilly advanced initiatives that modernized the city and made it a magnet for culture. Significantly, it was O’Reilly who recruited Artspace to transform the historic City Hall building into an innovative space for artists to live and create, with plans for public exhibits and events, and with the goal of being an economic driver for the east downtown.

Mayor O’Reilly has a deep passion for Dearborn and the region, and he plans to continue to reside in the city after his retirement.

Janeé Ayers
Detroit City Council member Janeé Ayers term is up at the end of the year. In 2015, Ayers was appointed to Detroit City Council as an at large member and elected for the remainder of the term on November 8, 2016. She was reelected to City Council for a full four-year term on November 7, 2017.

Prior to her time on City Council Ayers became the youngest Vice President of the Detroit Metro AFL-CIO in 2013, elected by more than 24 union affiliates, including AFSCME Council 25, the city’s largest union.

Ayers is a leader of Detroit’s labor community who maintains a passion for working people, with a keen appreciation and understanding of Detroit’s business community.

Roy McCalister Jr.
First elected to Detroit City Council 2017, Roy McCalister Jr. is an experienced leader and community servant. He faithfully served the residents of Detroit for 24 years with the Detroit Police Department. He achieved the rank of lieutenant and is the former commanding officer of the Detroit Police Homicide Section. He also is a retired Chief Warrant Officer IV/Special Agent with the United States Army & Army Reserves, Criminal Investigative Division. Prior to his election to City Council, Member McCalister served as an investigator with Legal Aid, Federal Defender Office, for the Eastern District of Michigan, defending the constitutional rights of citizens. He was the only criminal investigator in Michigan certified by the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council.

The Detroit Regional Chamber thanks these committed public servants for their leadership and wishes them the best in their next endeavors.

Whitmer signs $1.5B biz incentive bills, $841M plan for COVID testing, rental aid

The Detroit News
Dec. 20, 2021
Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed several bills Monday that state leaders say will finance millions of dollars in incentives that will attract businesses, create job and make Michigan more competitive.

The $1.48 billion spending plan signed by Whitmer with GOP legislative leaders and economic development officials in tow in Detroit will use tax dollars to lure economic development to Michigan, including a new General Motors Co. battery plant and three other “serious projects.”

Another $841 million supplemental spending plan targets federal relief funds toward emergency rental assistance, COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools, teacher recruitment and environmental threats in Benton Harbor.

The business incentives program was prompted by Ford Motor Co.’s September announcement of an $11 billion investment, along with 11,000 jobs, in Kentucky and Tennessee, Whitmer said Monday. Within the industry, there have been doubts that Michigan could move fast enough or with the bipartisan support necessary to deliver for business, the Democratic governor said.

The incentive package puts those concerns to rest, she said.

“Yes, we can move fast,” Whitmer said. “Yes, we can make Lansing work incredibly well together. And now we have tools. So we have put that narrative behind us.”

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said the package reflects the competitive spirit in Michigan that revved up in the wake of Ford’s announcement.

“This is just a building block of what’s to come for Michigan,” Wentworth said. “…This issue right here cannot go into the background. We have to keep this in the forefront.”

The package, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said, reflects a combination of preparation, anticipation, competition and long-term planning. But he said the incentives are only part of the answer. Business-friendly regulations, taxation and supplies of energy also are needed.

“We are not just demonstrating Michigan is in the game, but we are affirming we are at the table,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

The proposal, which the House and Senate approved last week on their last session day of 2021, featured $1 billion for economic development incentives and $409 million in assistance for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the $1 billion outlay, Whitmer signed into law a package of bills to create the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund in the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The $1 billion would eventually go into the SOAR Fund and could only move to two other new funds — the Michigan Strategic Site Readiness Fund and the Critical Industry Fund — with the approval of lawmakers, giving them influence over the decisions.

The site readiness fund would be charged with spending money on activities related to “strategic sites” and “mega-strategic sites.” The other fund, the Critical Industry Fund, would be focused on providing investments to “qualified businesses for deal-closing, gap financing or other economic assistance to create new qualified jobs or make capital investments.”

The bills were introduced as General Motors Co. eyes property in Delta Township near Lansing to build its third multibillion-dollar battery cell manufacturing plant in the United States. The proposed investment is pegged at $2.5 billion, according to GM’s tax exemption requests to the city of Lansing, and the plant would create an estimated 1,700 jobs in the region when it is fully operational.

Lansing City Council is set to meet Monday night to consider a tax exemption for the battery cell manufacturing plant.

The $841 million supplemental, separate from the incentive package, includes $150 million for COVID testing in K-12 schools, $140 million in federal money for emergency rental assistance, $10 million for teacher recruitment and training, and $36 million for “emerging environmental threats” in Benton Harbor and other communities.

Another $14 million in federal funds would go toward nursing home and long-term care facility strike teams to build and maintain infection control and $19 million in federal funds for mental health services.

The bill also had $22 million for one-time grants: $9 million for the North American International Auto Show, $5 million for converting a floor at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital into a pediatric psychiatric unit and $1 million for the St. Clair Convention Center.

Prior to the signing of the two spending bills Monday, Michigan had been sitting on about $10 billion in federal relief funds that remained unappropriated, of which legislators had discretion over about $5.7 billion.

As recently as Friday, Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation members sent a letter to legislative leaders urging them to spend the federal relief money.

“We worked hard in Congress to bring home billions of dollars to help Michigan families, small businesses and seniors get through this pandemic,” the letter said. “That is why we were surprised to learn that the State House adjourned early — with billions still unspent and rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

View the original article.

Black Art Library Spreads the Word About Black Artists One Book at a Time

The Detroit News
Maureen Feighan
Dec. 20, 2021

Scroll through Asmaa Walton’s Black Art Library page on Instagram and you’ll see post after post with her signature pose — two arms holding out books about different Black visual artists.

It isn’t really a pose. It’s a subtle invitation — an invitation to check out books you often can’t find at your local bookstore or even Amazon, books about Black artists who haven’t always gotten the spotlight.

Walton’s unique collection of 500 books (and growing) called Black Art Library casts a rare spotlight on Black artists and the books that exist about their work. It’s become a traveling museum exhibition, displayed not just in Michigan but across the country.

Walton, 27, an art education graduate of Michigan State University who grew up in Detroit and still lives there, just wrapped up an exhibition of her books at a Cleveland art gallery. And in 2022, the collection will be on display in Texas, first at a gallery in San Antonio and then at a Houston library. She’s also been tapped to curate a special collection of books at The Shepherd, a new arts center being created in a former church by the Library Street Collective on Detroit’s east side.

Walton, who also has a master’s degree in Arts Politics and has also had fellowships at art museums in Toledo and St. Louis, said it was important to her to create a collection of books that isn’t just about artists everyone has heard of.

“I’ve also been trying to collect books on artists that people have never really learned about, artists that really didn’t get that spotlight that they deserved,” said Walton. “A lot of those artists aren’t living anymore so the books that exist may be the only books that will be made about them. I’ve wanted to be able to highlight those artists.”

Eventually, Walton would like to open her own brick and mortar space to display her collection in the city but she’s still fundraising and looking for the right location.

“Until I have my own space, I think it’s a really good idea to be able to travel the collection to other places, to other communities, so more people can see it and engage with it,” she said.

In the meantime, Walton also has a small capsule collection of 80 books now on display at the Bottega Veneta, a popup market in an old firehouse on Bagley Street in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. To give it a local twist, all of the books are from two Detroit publishing companies that focused on printing books from Black artists, Broadside and Lotus.

The idea for Black Art Library came to Walton around December of 2019 and she knew she wanted to start it the following February.

“The past two years before that, every year during Black History Month, on my personal Instagram page, I would make a different post about a different Black artist every day,” said Walton. “I was like, ‘This is a way to teach them (her friends and followers on social media) something. They might find it interesting. They might want to look further.'”

Eventually, she liked the idea of sharing art books about Black artists. She’d already been a big fan of art books, asking for them for her birthday and holidays.

“I thought maybe art books could be a good way to share that information,” she said. “I thought ‘Maybe I can build a collection of books.’ I had no idea what I’d do with it or how’d I’d keep it going.”

Today, she has 11,000 followers on Instagram. She finds books wherever she can: from online booksellers, used bookstores, Facebook marketplace and elsewhere. She had her first museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in February of 2021.

Her collection includes books on a mix of artists, including Romare Bearden, Beauford Delaney, Kara Walker, Betye Saar and more. She has a few books on Detroit’s Tyree Guyton.

“I wouldn’t have been able to just focus on Black artists from Detroit just because there just aren’t enough of those books that exist,” Walton said. “That’s why I knew I had to expand it, though I knew I wanted the project to be based here. A lot of these books — they don’t exist yet. Now, more of them are being made about Black artists, especially Black artists working now.”

Anthony Curis, owner of Library Street Collective, calls Walton’s collection really unique. That’s one of the reasons he and his wife, JJ, reached out to Walton about curating a permanent collection of 800-1000 books, records and more in a library space at The Shepherd. It will focus on artists of color who’ve made significant contributions to Michigan.

“She’ll also have a lot of different programming with the community there — whether it’s artist talks, or with different stakeholders coming and speaking to the neighborhood,” he said.

Walton said museums and galleries have also played a role in why many Black artists haven’t gotten their due. She cites folk artist Clementine Walker, who died in 1988. She had an exhibition at a large museum but “she wasn’t able to see her own show because she was Black,” she said.

“When the big museums and the galleries aren’t talking about these Black artists, no one really cares about them,” she said. “…The art world depends on that buzz. If no one is going to see your shows or reviewing your work, it doesn’t really matter. I think that’s what held back a lot of Black artists.”

But Walton is helping change that one book at a time. With a permanent space for her collection eventually, people will be able to interact with her books (she wouldn’t lend them out given how rare many are). She also recently received a $10,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to build a website presence.

“There isn’t really anything like this,” said Walton. “…It’s really exciting to see the different ways it’s expanding and people are finding out about it.”

View the original article.

Michigan companies await final legal verdict on Biden vaccine mandate

Bridge Michigan 
Dec. 20, 2021
Paula Gardner

Michigan’s larger businesses are heading into the holiday week with renewed uncertainty over the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers announced months ago by President Joseph Biden.

But legal and business experts said Monday that clarity may come just days into the New Year, when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to say whether it will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the mandate, which will affect an estimated two million workers in Michigan.

Debate over the mandate — which requires companies with more than 100 workers to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing — was revived Friday when a divided Court of Appeals in the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati reversed rulings from Louisiana courts that effectively hit pause on worker mandate across the U.S.

By January 10, employers of at least 100 people will have to have a vaccine mandate plan in place, according to regulations. They get another month — until February 9 — until they face fines if they don’t have a plan for testing unvaccinated workers, so long as the employer is acting in good faith toward compliance.

However, appeals already are being made to the U.S. Supreme Court, where some Michigan business experts say they believe the final ruling will come.

Until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the case, the rules are “sort of in this limbo-land, going back and forth,” said attorney Matt Disbrow, a partner at Detroit-based Honigman law firm and leader of its employment division.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Monday she’s prepared to advocate for the mandate if other Democratic attorneys generals are willing to draft a legal briefing to the Supreme Court. Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature has backed a lawsuit seeking to block the vaccine mandate.

Disbrow said any Supreme Court action likely would take place on an expedited basis due to the urgency of the coronavirus. In Michigan, the state’s seven-day average of new COVID cases dropped to 4,667 on Monday, down from 5,381 a week earlier. But health officials are bracing for a winter surge in the more transmissible omicron variant, and the state’s test positivity rate remains in the mid-teens, an indication that virus spread remains rampant.

A move by the conservative-tilting U.S. Supreme Court, Disbrow said, “can provide some certainty and finality for employers (who are asking), ‘Do we have to comply with this or not?’”

Biden announced Sept. 8 that the vaccine mandate was coming for larger employers, along with mandates for federal workers and contractors. Guidance for larger employers was released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Nov. 4, but the order’s effect was put on hold by a lower court two days later.

That’s left employers to sort out their approach, Disbrow said, as the public health aspects of vaccines continue to have political implications and have left workplaces and nearly every other aspect of public life divided over whether vaccines should be required.

Many companies in the state set up their own mandatory vaccination policies in preparation for the federal deadline or because they and their employees wanted the health protection afforded by broad vaccine protections.

Others resisted setting a mandate, even as they encouraged the vaccines, hoping that a lighter-handed approach would coax more workers to get vaccinated, business leaders said.

However, some employers — particularly in heavily Republican areas of Michigan — still seek advice over how to manage the mandate with a workforce largely resistant to the shot. About 62.8 percent of the state’s residents have at least one dose of the vaccines, compared to a national average of 74 percent.

“We have some employers who have a significant portion of their employee base who are not vaccinated, and it will create real operational problems for them if they have to send these people home,” Disbrow said. “They’re looking for ways to provide options to employees that will cause the least amount of disruption to their workforce.”

Disbrow said there are few options for large businesses once the mandate takes effect, along with fines of $16,653 per violation and possible additional penalties.

Some may opt instead for allowing regular employee testing and mandatory masks, but there are also unresolved questions for that approach, including whether employers are required to pay for tests if workers decline vaccines.

The Republican-led Michigan House of Representatives recently passed $100 million in funding to assist private businesses in obtaining COVID-19 tests for staff that have received an exemption from any government-mandated vaccine mandate.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said testing availability could be an issue for companies in the coming months.

“Two months ago, it was easy to get an antigen test or even get a PCR test at the local pharmacy,” Baruah said. “Now, you’re lucky to find any one of them at all.”

He continued: “As the mandate takes effect, there could be huge compliance issues, backlogs, logistical challenges, etc.”

In October, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce led a coalition of business groups urging Biden to drop the business vaccine mandate, contending that the government shouldn’t make decisions for private employers. They also said they feared that Michigan businesses, already facing a shortage of workers, would lose many more if the mandate takes effect.

“The administration failed to listen to Michigan businesses regarding the significant problems the mandate will cause,” Wendy Block, vice president of government relations for the Michigan Chamber, said Monday.

Amid continuing uncertainty, the chamber is advising companies with 100 or more employees to continue to prepare to initiate the new rules.

According to a recent Detroit chamber statewide poll of registered voters, also uncertain is whether the mandate will yield the vaccination results Biden said the nation — which is nearing its third year of pandemic crisis — needed to protect people’s health and the U.S. economy.

Requiring a vaccination would lead to a 67.5 percent vaccination rate among workers, according to the survey, released Dec. 15. Yet not requiring a vaccination would lead to a 66.4 percent vaccination rate among them, it said.

The survey also said that 77 percent of unvaccinated workers would quit their job if they were forced by their employer to get a vaccine.

But it’s unclear whether such surveys reflect the real-world decisions of workers. In early October, Henry Ford Health System released data showing that only a tiny sliver of its workforce actually chose to leave rather than receive a system-mandated COVID vaccine.

“Obviously, companies have to continue to operate and there’s a balancing act that they’re going to have to go through,” Disbrow said. But he said he tells clients that “unless something happens, you’re going to have to comply with these OSHA regulations or you’re going to be subject to fines.”

View the original article.

In Case You Missed It: Growing and Retaining Detroit’s African American Middle Class

Detroit Future City’s (DFC) Center for Equity, Engagement, and Research
recently hosted a conversation about the growth of Detroit’s African American middle class as an indicator of economic equity. Detroit Future City’s director of the Center for Equity, Engagement, and Research, Ashley Williams Clark, shared the latest data on the state of the city’s middle class before a panel of experts shared why this metric is important and potential solutions to improve this critical sector of society and the economy. With data from DFC’s State of Economic Equity in Detroit Report, Clark provided context around Detroit’s population changes in recent years and what it means to be a middle class neighborhood.

In 2010, 82% of Detroit’s population was Black, in comparison to 77% in 2019. Considering that population loss, the majority of Metro Detroit’s Black middle class households now live in the suburbs, up from 28% in 2000 to 54% in 2017.

How are middle class neighborhoods classified? A middle class neighborhood is one with more than 50% of the households being middle or upper-middle class. A near-middle class neighborhood has 30 to 50% of households that are middle or upper-middle class. Detroit went from having 22 middle class neighborhoods in 2010 to just 11 in 2019. In 2010, there were also 133 near middle class neighborhoods. By 2019, 79 of those declined out of that classification, and only four became middle class neighborhoods. At that time, only 4% of African Americans in Detroit lived in middle class neighborhoods.

A panel moderated by Catherine Kelly, managing editor and director of Bridge Detroit, featured Nedra Sims Fears, executive director of Greater Chatham Initiative; Christopher Johnson, president of the Bagley Community Council; Annie Millie, executive director of Live Baltimore; and Sherita Smith, vice president of community development at Cinnaire.

The Black Middle Class as an Economic Engine

The conversation focused heavily on the importance of Black culture and communities nationwide, and how these sectors are “economic engines.” The speakers shared best practices for how to better meet the needs of Black communities and improve systems to reduce barriers to them becoming thriving, middle class communities.

“Our goal is to make our neighborhoods ones of opportunity and choice,” said Fears.

To help support the growth of Detroit’s Black middle class and nudge communities over the tipping point into the middle class, Smith shared the need to close the city’s racial wealth gap, create pathways to homeownership, offer career exploration, and provide funding and mentorship to women and BIPOC creators. Johnson also emphasized the importance of strong block clubs and ensuring that growth that happens in the city is reflective and inclusive of the African American community. Based on her experience with similar issues in Baltimore, Millie noted that advocacy for population growth is key and that leaders need to encourage recruitment and retainment of residents to home buying assistance and strong school resources.

Shifting Narratives, and Better Understanding Black Communities’ Needs

Using Detroit’s Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood as an example, Smith outlined some neighborhood stabilization services that support the prosperity of communities. She shared that access to affordable housing across income levels, property tax reform, engagement with residents to maintain quality of life, and proximity to amenities like shopping, basic services, and multimodal public transportation is key to equitable growth.

In Chatham, Fears cited marketing and surveying current and potential residents as effective tactics. She shared that getting to know their needs better reveals solutions. For instance, supporting market-rate housing that is attractive and conducive to young adults’ lifestyles or that is ADA-compliant for senior residents, would be reparative. The community needs housing stock that mirrors residents’ lifestyles.

Millie also shared a narrative shift that helped Baltimore chart a better course to growing its middle class that could benefit Detroit as well.

“The dominant narrative really has been – continued to be – about white flight. That somehow our population decline was being driven by loss of white residents when really that was not the case,” said Millie. “At Live Baltimore, when we were developing our strategic plan in 2017, that was the first time that we were really intentional and explicit about calling out the loss of Black residents as the primary population issue that needs to be addressed.”

That shift in focus has helped by acknowledging that Black housing consumers are a unique, important audience. More work is being done to determine what motivates that audience. For example, priorities shared by Black homebuyers were affordability and proximity to friends and family – being part of a community – and housing stock with larger homes to accommodate larger families. Understanding that helped target marketing and resources to better serve those communities.

Investing in People or Institutions and What Will Generate Reparative Progress

“Investment into people is the key,” said Johnson. “Investment in people, in education, in helping them get over these hurdles is what’s going to help.”

Fears, on the other hand, shared that it needs to be a combination of both investments in people and institutions because instructions being accountable is key to addressing and eliminating structural racism that is embedded in these institutions that are discriminatory.

“We have to find ways to interrupt generational poverty, and that really begins with education and income,” said Smith. “If we’re going to move Detroit in a way that is sustainable and have a sustainable recovery, we’ve got to find ways to grow the middle class – not just by bringing our folks back from the suburbs, but also help people move, economically, that are here.”

Lastly, the speakers shared their takes on programs that would create reparative progress. Smith cited connecting residents to living-wage employment, having great schools in every community, and lowering property taxes. Millie said tax policy parity is needed; the federal government subsidized the move of the white population out of these cities that led to devastatingly high property taxes. Johnson cited improved public safety and legislative reform for car insurance and property tax rates, while Fears suggested focusing on the key demographic of Black women and supporting them and their essential contributions to communities and economies.

Gov. Whitmer Signs Economic Development Legislation with MICHauto And Chamber Advocacy

On Monday, Dec. 20, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bipartisan Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) package to support small businesses and fully fund a historic economic development toolkit to make Michigan a national leader in business attraction.

Over the past month, MICHauto and the Chamber have been leading advocacy efforts pushing for a more robust economic development toolkit, working in coordination with the governor’s administration and Republican leadership to move beyond Ford’s recent battery plant announcement and position the state to win future transformational projects and retain its global automotive leadership.

“Big bipartisan wins for Michigan are increasingly rare, especially ones that have a transformative impact on our economy. Michigan created and owned the automotive industry since its inception, but leadership today does not ensure leadership into the future — especially in light of other states gunning for our assets,” said Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Chamber and MICHauto, along with partners across the state, are proud to have worked with the Legislature and Governor’s office to pass the biggest bipartisan deal in Michigan since the 2019 bill signing at the Mackinac Policy Conference, which will allow our state to compete and win the jobs of the future.”

What’s In the Legislation

  • The governor signed House Bill 4603 to create a $1 billion economic development fund to ensure the state can compete for billions of dollars in investment and attract tens of thousands of jobs to bolster our economy.
  • The governor signed Senate Bill 771 to create a $500 million fund to make our economy more adaptable to the rapid pace of technological change, supporting small businesses, and creating or retaining good-paying jobs.
  • Additionally, the governor signed Senate Bill 769 to create a financing mechanism for both programs and Senate Bill 85 to provide full funding to start delivering for Michiganders right away.
  • SB 85 will also provide direct assistance to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This transformative economic development package will build on Michigan’s growing economic momentum.

“Today, I signed a package of bills that will put Michiganders first and continue building on our economic momentum,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Thanks to the effective collaboration between legislative leadership, my administration, and community and business leaders, I signed bills that will back small businesses and empower Michigan to grow and attract billions in investment and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. Because both parties in the legislature came together, our state will be able win huge, transformational projects and compete effectively for every dollar and every job for decades to come.”

Chamber and MICHauto Advocacy

The Chamber and MICHauto were able to deploy the full advocacy team in Lansing and the Detroit Region to connect with legislators and push for the passage of the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund bills. MICHauto’s expertise provided legislators with information on why these incentives were critical to secure the state’s continued leadership in the global automotive industry. Finally,

MICHauto and the Chamber were instrumental throughout negotiations by utilizing the strength of our bipartisan relationships to secure passage.

“Winning new investment and ensuring Michigan remains the leader in electric and autonomous vehicle technology is critical to our state’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness,” said Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto and vice president of Automotive & Mobility Initiatives for the Chamber.  “This legislation will help Michigan compete and win its share of transformational projects. The Legislature should be applauded for its bipartisan work on these bills – given the unprecedented investment being made in the automotive industry, it could not have come at a more critical time.”

What Other State Leaders Are Saying

At the bill signing, Governor Whitmer was joined by House Speaker Jason Wentworth and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who were instrumental in the passage of these bills.

“Michigan is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. But our business climate is still holding us back from what we can be. Small businesses are struggling to fully reopen, large employers are picking other states for long-term investments, and far too many local workers are still on the sidelines. We need to step in and provide a shot in the arm that will lead to new opportunities for everyone. That is exactly what these bills do,” said House Speaker Jason Wentworth. “With this plan, we are giving small businesses a way to create new jobs in every corner of the state. We are helping large employers keep more opportunities here at home where they belong. And we are providing certainty, stability and opportunity to people worried about making ends meet when they sit down to pay their monthly bills. Those are the kind of results hard-working families need to see from their state government.”

“With the actions we are affirming today, we are not just demonstrating Michigan is ‘in the game,’ we are establishing our seat at the table, side by side with investors who recognize the value of Michigan and its unique assets,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. “Purposeful budgeted actions will now replace the uncertainty of mortgaged futures. This first significant step must be accompanied by a disciplined commitment to improving and leading in every category, and, most importantly, friendly to moms and dads and families.”

“Make no mistake: this is an important beginning,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We appreciate the incredible diligence, hard work and collaborative approach to position Michigan for large-scale investments that accelerate growth in high-paying jobs, retain large customers for our small businesses and remain at the center of technological change for decades to come.”

New Police Chief in Dearborn to be First Muslim to Lead Department

Detroit Free Press
Niraj Warikoo
Dec. 20, 2021

A veteran of the Dearborn Police department will be the city’s next police chief, Mayor-elect Abdullah Hammoud announced Monday.

Starting Jan. 1, Cmdr. Issa Shahin, who has served with Dearborn Police since 1998, will be the first Muslim to lead Dearborn’s Police department. And he is believed to be the first Muslim police chief in the history of Michigan, said local community advocates.

His appointment comes at a time when the city is seeing demographic changes and calls for more diversity in city departments. Hammoud was the first Muslim and first Arab American to be elected mayor of Dearborn.

Commander Issa Shahin of Dearborn Police was named on Dec. 20 by Dearborn Mayor-elect Abdullah Hammoud to be the next Police Chief of Dearborn. Shahin, who has served with Dearborn Police since 1998, will be the first Muslim to lead Dearborn’s police department.

Dearborn has one of the largest city police departments in Michigan, in part because of a city requirement approved by voters that it must have a certain minimum level of police officers. In addition to 110,000 residents, Dearborn, where the headquarters of Ford Motor Co. is located, has a daily influx of employees and shoppers that greatly increases the number of people in the city.

“Dearborn is a wonderfully diverse city whose residents have shared values and a desire for a safe and welcoming community,” Shahin wrote in his letter applying for the role as police chief. “Dearborn deserves a chief who is fully committed to honest, transparent, and meaningful involvement with all its communities.”

Hammoud, a state lawmaker who was elected to the mayor’s office last month, said in a statement announcing the appointment that “Shahin is the senior-most executive commander with a strong track record and good rapport within the department.”

“He’s committed to building a trusting relationship with residents and delivering equitable policing in a way to best meet today’s demands in community policing,” Hammoud said.”I am confident he will deliver the transparency and accountability residents expect while positioning our police officers for success.”

According to his biography, Shahin graduated cum laude from Eastern Michigan University in 1997 with a degree in political science and a master’s degree summa cum laude in homeland security and emergency management in 2016. He also attended an international studies program in Middle East and North African Studies at The American University in Cairo from 1995 to 1996 and the executive leadership program for police staff in 2016 at Eastern Michigan University.

Shahin said in his letter that he “firmly believes everyone’s voice matters.”

“… We will establish and embrace a culture of transparency and accountability to foster trust and legitimacy inside and outside the organization,” he wrote. “Moreover, the department can embrace needed police reforms while removing criminals from the streets – the concepts are not mutually exclusive. Providing equitable policing to all communities and concurrently remaining tough on crime is wholly achievable.”

Shahin worked as a police officer and corporal from 1998 to 2009, according to his resume. He served from 2009 to 2013 as a sergeant in the tactical patrol unit and an ATF Task Force officer, a lieutenant in critical incident and community support from 2013 to 2015, a captain in the investigative and patrol division from 2015 to 2019.

He then became the acting investigative division commander in 2019 and the commander of the investigative division since March. He said he solved all of the 12 homicides under his tenure.

Shahin also worked on outreach to the community on substance abuse programs and developed Dearborn’s religious head coverings policy “to protect the rights of Muslim women to wear a head covering while in the custody of the Dearborn Police Department,” he said on his resume.

Shahin is a member of the Islamic Society of North America and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

It’s unclear how many police chiefs in the U.S. are of the Muslim faith. Last year, Patterson, New Jersey, appointed its first Muslim police chief, reported

Chief of Police Ronald Haddad provides details on investigation of robbery and homicide happened on September 6 at the Dearborn Police Department in Dearborn, Thursday, September 12, 2019.

Shahin will replace current Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, who has led the department since 2008 after he had retired in 2007 from Detroit Police Department as a deputy chief.

Haddad, who is of Lebanese descent, was the first Arab-American to be police chief in Dearborn, which is about 47% Arab-American, according to 2019 Census data. Under his leadership, the department increased its diversity, hiring more Arab-American police officers.

Haddad and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly have said previously that police abuse and use-of-force incidents by police declined over the past decade under their leadership. But some high-profile cases involving police shooting deaths of Black suspects drew protests in recent years, and the department’s disproportionate rate of arrests of Blacks has drawn criticism.

Haddad began his career with the Detroit Police Department in 1973 and retired in January 2007 as deputy chief of the northwestern district.

Haddad could not be reached for comment Monday.

“Chief Haddad has served the city of Dearborn honorably for more than a decade, working hard to increase public safety and keep our neighborhoods and residents safe,” Hammoud said in a statement. “The city is thankful for his commitment to the job and his years of public service.”

Shahin said in a statement: “We’ve made progress in the department over the past several years, but there’s a lot of work to do to strengthen our relationship with residents and incorporate the latest policing practices to best serve the city.”

Dearborn is facing problems with reckless driving and like other cities, is concerned about an uptick in crimes over the past year.

“I look forward to working with the new mayor to address the concerns of residents in a meaningful way and tackle key issues such as reckless driving and mental health for residents and first-responders,” Shahin said.

Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News, praised the appointment.

“He’s a very honest, very hard-working person,” Siblani said. “I trust him fully. I believe he’s going to do a very good job.”

View the original article.

Progressive AE Joins the AIA 2030 Commitment

We recently announced that our firm has joined the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) 2030 Commitment to combat the effects of climate change. With today’s buildings generating nearly 40% of annual global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, it is imperative the AE industry prioritizes sustainable design. By 2060, it is estimated that global building floor area will double by adding 2.4 trillion square-feet, leaving architects an enormous opportunity and responsibility to transform the built environment. A shift in our practice needs to occur to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and contribute to mitigating climate change.

The AIA created the 2030 Commitment program in 2006 to reshape the practice of architecture and respond to the climate crisis through project-based, data-driven results. The challenge’s call to action is that all new buildings, developments and major renovations to be designed to meet a fossil fuel, greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 80% below the regional or country average for that building type in 2020, 90% in 2025, and reaching carbon-neutrality in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).

The Urgency of this Commitment
There has always been a need to protect our environment and preserve resources for future generations. With continued data and research available about our effect on the environment, particularly from the industrial revolution to today, the need for sustainability has become increasingly important and the sense of urgency is at its highest level.

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created the First IPCC Assessment Report to highlight the importance of climate change. Since then, approximately every five years they release a new report which is fed directly into international policy making. The latest data from the Sixth Assessment Report determined that getting to carbon neutral by 2030 is too late. To achieve the pursuit of the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep planetary warming below 1.5°C, all new buildings and major renovations must be designed to be carbon neutral today. Therefore the 2030 Commitment and carbon neutral buildings are absolutely critical.

Our Commitment to Sustainable Design
Progressive AE has always held a sense of sustainability within our design practice but starting in 2019 the firm began to reflect on where we are now and how we can improve. We have designed net-zero projects, LEED certified buildings, employed principles of circular economy to reduce material use, conducted energy modeling and assessments, and established water conservation measures. Through this reflection process, we began to look at our own design process and re-educate ourselves.

As a firm, we have a mission to drive performance through design. We embrace an integrated design approach which facilitates research, aspirational thinking, and alignment towards an understanding of success. By committing to the AIA 2030 Challenge, Progressive AE will bring a common language across discipline integration, positioning us to guide clients in combating climate change and making long-term business decisions impacting their facilities. Not only will we collect our own project data, but we will contribute to and gain access to building data throughout our industry – enabling us to benchmark and track progress. This is the first step toward environmental leadership in our industry.

About Progressive AE-
Progressive AE has provided innovative and sustainable architectural and engineering services for more than 50 years. Our work is guided by a fundamental and forward-thinking philosophy that spaces and environments should serve as strategic contributors that drive
organizational change. The firm’s success has been achieved through a workforce that is a unique blend of creative people who think strategically, and strategic people who work creatively. Progressive AE is a privately held, employee-owned company based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Charlotte, North Carolina that practices throughout the United States. For more information, visit