June 17 | This Week in Government: Whitmer Signs Child Care Bills; Launch MI’s Plan: Reinvention, Resources, Responsibility for Schools

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. Whitmer Signs Child Care Bills
  2. Launch MI’s Plan: Reinvention, Resources, Responsibility for Schools
  3. Texting While Driving Package Reported by Senate Judiciary
  4. Fake MIGOP 2020 Electors Served Grand Jury Subpoenas
  5. Stamas Hoping To See Budget Votes Next Thursday

Whitmer Signs Child Care Bills

Bills increasing the number of children family child care and group care homes can serve while also lowering the minimum age for workers were signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday as part of an effort to expand capacity for care in the state.

Whitmer signed HB 5041, HB 5042, HB 5043, HB 5044, HB 5045, HB 5046, HB 5047, and HB 5048. The new laws will empower more child care entrepreneurs and increase the options for parents, Whitmer said in a statement.
“Quality, affordable child care is the backbone of our economy, and I will work with anyone to invest in childcare professionals, businesses, and facilities so parents can go back to work knowing their kids are safe and cared for,” she said. “Last fall, I signed a bipartisan budget that expanded low or no cost childcare to 1 in 3 Michigan families, delivered $1,000 bonuses to 38,000+ childcare professionals in Michigan, and helped nearly 6,000 childcare businesses keep their doors open.

Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann), a key sponsor of the legislation, said the bills signed Thursday are well-informed and comprehensive and will lead to immediate results.
“Getting these bills to the governor’s desk is just fantastic. After years of hard work, lots of discussion, and a great deal of compromise, we have finally been able to get it done,” he said in a statement. “I want to thank the governor’s team and everyone who worked on this package for their dedication and commitment. I look forward to seeing child care re-emerge in the state.”

The bills include provisions intended to increase the number of children family child care and group care homes can serve.
The bills also include new ownership disclosure rules, the creation of family child care networks by the Department of Education to support home-based child care providers, model contracts for some state-licensed child care providers and change database reporting requirements.

Additionally, the bills allow 90 days for child care centers and homes to comply with state rules and create more flexibility in the maintenance of licensing records.

A variety of business groups, advocacy organizations, and child care providers praised the signing of the bills in a statement with the governor’s office.

“This legislation will play a critical role in boosting our childcare industry,” said Alexa Kramer, director of government operations for the Small Business Association of Michigan. “Child care providers are small business owners, and SBAM proudly supports this legislation to ease regulatory burdens and grow our supply of providers in Michigan to better serve employees and families.”

The bills are now Public Acts 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, and 113 of 2022.

Launch MI’s Plan: Reinvention, Resources, Responsibility for Schools

Launch Michigan released its latest plan to address education and its shortcomings Thursday, focusing on three key areas that would mean more support for students wishing to enter post-secondary or technical education.

The organization, formed in 2018, consists of business, education, labor, and philanthropy leaders, including Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, Brian Calley, former Lt. governor and president of the Small Business Association Michigan, and Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

“We want to be careful not to look backward or to point fingers. I think our system in many ways is doing what it is designed to do,” Calley said of Michigan’s education system. “It’s not that it’s stopped doing what it’s designed to do. It’s just what is required by the world has changed so much.”

The framework touches on key three areas – reinvention, resources, and responsibility – and the organization has coined it has a solid foundation to build upon. In its plan, the reinvention aspect focuses on aligning Michigan with national and international standards. This includes adopting a new college and career readiness standard, which would provide comprehensive information about how the schools are performing and offer students and educators a roadmap for improvements needed.

Students would have three years to demonstrate they have achieved the new standard before graduation, with tools developed each year starting in the 10th grade and would allow students to submit a portfolio of work if testing does not offer the best fit. Additionally, Launch MI believes measurement should occur at the start of kindergarten, third grade, and eighth grade.

Doug Pratt, MEA director of public affairs, said the group wants to make changes to the “Read-By-Grade Three Law,” saying it would like to get rid of the retention aspect. Calley agreed with this statement, saying it assumes and accepts that some students will not move on.

If students do not reach the standard by 12th grade, they can attend a 13th “opportunity year,” attending classes at a local community college for free and would be paid for by the state’s General Fund. This option would be available to eligible persons until they either meet graduation requirements or turn 26 years of age. The same holds true for those who need special education services.

The framework also includes better support for students. In the report, the advocates highlighted that Michigan has one of the worst student-to-counselor rations, with 671 students to one counselor. The student-to-school nurse ratio is also subpar, with 4,204 students to one nurse, and special education teachers continue to be on the decline. The framework focuses on adequately staffing and funding for these services.

Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses and at least one college credit-bearing pathway are also being advocated for, as well as career and technical pathways that combine classroom knowledge with hands-on opportunities. Special education students would also be encouraged to participate in the career or collegiate-focused pathways.

As far as resources, Launch MI supports the recent findings from the bipartisan School Finance Research Collaborative that estimates $10,421 per student is needed to educate each pupil, at a minimum. Launch MI is also recommending an additional annual investment of $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion.

Separate from the research collaborative, the framework adopted a supplemental cost model that indexes the collaborative’s poverty multiplier to account for concentration, hoping to tackle the impact of concentrations of poverty.

“On an individual level, when a student is living in poverty or has a disability, but also students who may not be in poverty, but they’re living in a community that has high rates of poverty…in those districts, all of the evidence would tell us that there are more intensive resource needs in order to help kids achieve their full potential,” Calley said.

All current and future School Aid Fund money would be dedicated to Pre-K-12 purposes, and any higher education money would come from the General Fund. New state tax revenues would be key for additional investment, but the framework also recommends restructuring the state’s school employee retirement system and reallocating federal funds.

Every three years, the framework would require schools to submit a student achievement and investment plan in order to receive funding.

The framework also would provide what it calls renewed support to state educators and would ensure salaries are brought to the level of jobs that have the same education requirements and reflect local living costs.

“Moving us more towards a system like you would see with physicians, where you have residency novice teachers that are moving up to become professional practitioners and eventually master educators who have a broader impact on the system,” Pratt said.

He told Gongwer News Service that student teachers are often not provided enough mentoring and support, and the education system does not allow for educators to collaborate with each other. Doctors are always talking with each other and figuring it out, Pratt said, we need to do the same thing for education.

The third and final aspect of the framework, responsibility, calls for the alignment of the governor, the Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction, and local schools. In its report, Launch MI writes it is essential the Board of Education and MDE have strong collaborative relationships with the Legislature.

The framework recommends the board chair, and the superintendent of public instruction be appointed by the governor, saying this will help reduce the number of conflicting education policy agendas, increase voter accountability for education outcomes and ensure solid leadership at MDE.

Educator evaluations would not use test scores and would include local assessments and observations by administrators and other educators such as mentors and coaches, replacing the current system with Professional Practice Reviews.

The National Center on Education and Economy, the organization that helped Massachusetts with its plan, reviewed the framework and told Launch MI the framework would improve the education system and result in real benefits for students.

Related: Launch Michigan Publicly Releases Framework, Sets Foundation For Work Ahead To Transform Public Education

Texting While Driving Package Reported by Senate Judiciary

A package of bills expanding the scope of Michigan’s texting while driving was reported to of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, marking a key milestone for advocates who want to see stricter enforcement.

HB 4277, HB 4278, and HB 4279 would expand restrictions on phone use while driving to explicitly include social media use and live streaming. The package also increases the fines for second and subsequent violations from $200 to $250 and requires law enforcement to note phone use in an accident report.

All three bills were reported with 6-0, with Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) abstaining.

While there have been previous pushes to expand the state’s texting while driving ban, lawmakers have resisted. Last term, one bill out of a three-bill package was able to pass the House, and the Senate never took action.

The current package makes exceptions for people using phones to contact the emergency services, viewing a GPS system, and general hands-free feature use. Law enforcement and emergency service workers are also excluded from the restrictions.

HB 4277 originally included an exemption for individuals placing or answering phone calls without the use of hands-free features, but Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township) proposed an amendment eliminating this language.

Johnson said that the amendment was “requested by law enforcement” and “removes ambiguous language” that would be difficult to enforce.

“Too many lives are being lost needlessly in our state each year due to distracted driving and this bill, but the substitute before our committee members would represent a huge step forward in the fight to combat this trend, reduce crashes and save lives,” she said.

The package was supported by the Kiefer Foundation, the Daniel J. Horal Family Foundation, and the League of Michigan Cyclists.

The committee also voted down two proposed amendments from Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) and Runestad.

Barrett’s amendment would have allowed drivers to hold their phone in hand while on a call, an act that would be prohibited under the current package. Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) raised concerns that the exemption would enable distraction since drivers would likely look at any notifications that they receive while also making it more difficult for law enforcement to determine when someone would actually be illegally using their phone. The amendment failed 1-6, with Barrett being the only vote in support.

Runestad’s amendment would have explicitly allowed for phone use when the car is in park or when stopped for over 60 seconds, in cases such as being stopped by traffic jams or accidents. VanderWall again raised concerns that the exception would make it more difficult for law enforcement to effectively police these restrictions. The amendment also failed 1-6, with Runestad being the only vote in support.

A key advocate for the legislation praised the Senate panel’s action in a statement.

“Ending distracted driving has become my life’s mission. Today, we’re one step closer in Michigan to passing bipartisan legislation that will save lives and keep our roads safe,” Steve Kiefer, chairman of The Kiefer Foundation, said in a statement. “This is not a path I chose, but a mission that I took up after losing my son in 2016. Mitchel’s death in a distracted driving crash changed my life forever. I know that everyone who testified today has felt the same pain and immeasurable loss. We want a future where no parent has to bury a child as a result of a preventable car crash. Today, we’re one step closer to that goal.”

Runestad, in explaining his abstention, said he believed police officers would write tickets for those stopped for prolonged periods of time under the package.

The bills have a five-year sunset, and after 42 months, the state police would be required to submit a report on the number of citations given, demographic information for those cited, and the number of accidents involving phone use.

Fake MIGOP 2020 Electors Served Grand Jury Subpoenas

At least one of the 16 Michigan Republicans who sought to file as an alternative slate of electors for former President Donald Trump – a cog in what a congressional committee alleged was a plot to overturn the election in the days leading to a formal count of electoral college votes – had been served with a grand jury subpoena on Thursday from federal investigators.

In an interview with Gongwer News Service, then-delegate and Trump elector Michele Lundgren confirmed that she had received a subpoena on Thursday from a group of officials that also included FBI agents. It required her to turn over whatever documents or information she had regarding December 14, 2020, when the 16 Republicans calling themselves the Trump electors attempted to enter the Michigan Capitol to falsely certify that Trump had won Michigan.

She added that she would swear to statements under oath and appeared willing to either give up that information or testify by July 8 – the date provided on her subpoena, she said.

A message seeking to confirm FBI and other agency involvement was not returned by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan’s office. However, another source confirmed with Gongwer that federal authorities had been out delivering subpoenas on Thursday and was likely related to the investigation into the false electors by the Michigan Department of Attorney General, which had been turned over to the FBI.

MIGOP spokesperson Gustavo Portela said that he was not aware of others aside from Lundgren who had been served, but he said the party was aware the electors would likely be contacted by the federal government.

He declined to comment on the situation as a whole, nor when asked if MIGOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock had also been served. When asked what the party’s next steps were if she or Chair Ron Weiser were to be served subpoenas, Portela said he couldn’t speculate. He did add, however, that the party is now and would, in that event, be focused on getting their candidates across the finish line in 2022 and beating Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall.

Maddock was one of those identifying themselves as a Trump elector and was the foremost Republican in Michigan, claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. She and her husband, Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford), both attempted to enter the Capitol on December 14.

News of federal law enforcement activity in Michigan on Thursday was first reported by The Detroit News. The newspaper also reported talk that Michigan Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, who was elected chair of the false electors meeting, and elector Amy Facchinello had also been subpoenaed, but Berden could not be reached for comment and Facchinello declined to comment.

Bridge Michigan reported that it had spoken with Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, who was also one of the 16 claimed electors that signed the false election certificate. He said he had not received a subpoena and did not have any further comment on the matter.

It also appeared Thursday that a possible Maddock ally confirmed the federal law enforcement activity in a post on the right-wing and pro-Trump blog, The Gateway Pundit, listing not only the names of those who were rumored to have been served but he also provided information on a National Archive special agent from the agency’s inspector general’s division being involved.
The post’s author was Ben Wetmore, which is also the name of a Maddock legislative staffer. The post also carried with it a favorable slant toward the electors implicated. At one point, the post also called the FBI and the National Archive officials “goons.”

Wetmore did not respond to an email seeking to confirm if he had indeed written the blog post or if he had been supplied information on the matter from either Maddock or Maddock. The email also inquired if the Maddocks had also been served subpoenas.

The flurry of activity on Thursday followed several congressional committee hearings looking into the alleged plot by Trump’s campaign to thwart electoral college votes from being counted, which has been said to include a plan to have fake slates of alternative Republican electors meet and file election certificates in the chance that they might be read by Vice President Mike Pence and the election would instead swing to Trump.

That plan failed when Pence refused to entertain the idea due to what he, his attorneys, and several others since have said was a misreading by Trump of the Electoral Count Act and the powers vested to the vice president in his role on the electoral count day – January 6, 2021.

The group, which included the Maddocks and Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), was ultimately thwarted by Department of State Police troopers, who refused them access to the Capitol. At the time, the rightful slate of electors from the Michigan Democratic Party were gathered in the Capitol’s legislative chambers casting ballots for current President Joe Biden – who won Michigan over Trump by more than 154,000 votes.

Lundgren, who is also a Republican candidate seeking nomination to the 9th House District seat in the August 2 primary, confirmed reports that the group had met in the basement of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters, signed the falsified documents, and attempted then to enter the Michigan Capitol.

She also claimed that she was unaware that the group was meeting as an alternative slate of electors and simply received a phone call from a person unknown to her that she was needed to sign her name on what would become the now-infamous false election certificate implicating the electors now.

“We all received phone calls, although some might have been smart enough not to answer,” Lundgren said. “They said, ‘can you come to the Capitol at such a day and at this time?’ I was there with 15 other people, with some we didn’t know. I’m in the lower-level meeting room (of MIGOP headquarters), and I’m having coffee and coffee cake, and there’s one piece of paper, it was blank and had lines on it.”

She claims that she was then simply asked to certify her name, which she did. In a previous interview with Gongwer, Grot said similarly – that he was called to do what he believed was his duty and was unaware that what they were doing was potentially illegal.

As to Lundgren’s claim that the group included individuals that several of them did not know, she said that there were whispers that they might have been Trump’s campaign attorneys.

Separately this week, The New York Times reported that Shawn Flynn, a Michigan attorney who worked for the Trump campaign, had also been served a subpoena in what appears to be the same legal matter.
A source had reported to The Detroit News that Flynn was not only present at the basement meeting but had presided over it until officers had been elected to continue the affair.

In testimony played this week before the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, former MIGOP Chair Laura Cox told members and their investigators that a plan had also emerged for those electors to gain access to the Michigan Capitol the night before, stay the night and be ready to engage in the false electors meeting in the Senate chambers to certify its slate of electors as prescribed by law.

Cox told the committee that she thought that plan was “insane” and “inappropriate.”

When Gongwer asked if she felt taken advantage of or if she had been duped into thinking that her signing the document was a routine delegate duty, Lundgren said no, but added that she didn’t have knowledge that she was doing anything other than signing “an innocuous piece or type of paper.”

She also questioned why “this whole thing spun out of control two years later,” and said she was getting “doxxed with horrible threats and insults like I was a criminal.”

“I want to know why two years later this has surfaced, and it is so important to … our electoral system,” she said. “What happened within a span to two years? I’m being doxxed for some heinous act that I had no knowledge of. I’m an older woman. I don’t have the stamina to be put through this.”

In a Facebook post from December 14, 2020, Maddock hailed the mission to the Capitol and said the goal was not to supplant or replace the Democratic Party slate of electors but to have their ducks in a row “just to be safe.”

While she did not elaborate on what that meant then, those investigating the alleged plot have said this was done across several swing states Trump had lost.

The goal, congressional investigators have said, was to be ready if some evidence of fraud was proven to have swayed the election away from (although that never materialized) or if Pence had decided to discard his oath and instead counted Trump’s votes instead.

Stamas Hoping To See Budget Votes Next Thursday

The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee said on Thursday that his goal is to pass a complete budget package and supplemental funding during the Senate’s lone session day next week, saying budget work has been progressing within subcommittees.

That said, Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) told Gongwer News Service on Thursday that appropriators were still in the process of reconciling budget subcommittee recommendations.

“The process is going well, I’m still fully committed, still trying to get something done by the 30th,” Stamas said.
Time to meet this goal is limited, with the House having session days scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday next week and the Senate having only a tentative session day slated for Thursday.

“I would say that I think conversations have been positive and substantial, and we’re still working long days to achieve a budget,” Stamas said.

Stamas, when asked whether ongoing negotiations over providing a tax cut to residents would be tracked directly with the budget, said: “not to my knowledge.”

The senator added that the idea has been to make sure the money is there for tax cut negotiations to continue while the budget is separately finalized.

He said his expectation would be that tax cut negotiations would continue knowing the money for crafting a deal is available and could be passed at some undetermined later time.

This year’s budget comes against an ongoing partisan debate over providing some form of tax cuts to residents. Republicans have pushed for a wide-ranging tax cut, recently having for a second time in recent months passed a $2.5 billion plan, which was vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Democrats have urged more targeted cuts such as to pensions and the Earned Income Tax Credit, with Whitmer having recently called for a $500 rebate to an undefined group of taxpayers.

Budget talks have been happening with a surplus of about $6 billion, but much of that is one-time monies.

As to the final budget product itself, he said it has not yet been determined whether the individual budget bills would each be passed or if they would be rolled into larger omnibus bills.


Launch Michigan publicly releases framework, sets foundation for work ahead to transform public education

The state’s leading PK–12 partnership is collaborating on proposed policies to completely reinvent Michigan’s education system

Lansing, MI – Michigan’s educational system is delivering the results it was built to deliver. If we want different outcomes, we must start rebuilding.

Using that simple premise, a diverse group of statewide leaders in business, education, labor, parents, and philanthropy today joined forces to reveal a series of recommendations that better prepare Michigan’s children for success. The Launch Michigan Framework is designed to be a foundation for transforming Michigan’s educational system to equip students for a world economy that is increasingly remote, automated, and global.

Launch Michigan was formed in 2018, originally seeded by Business Leaders for Michigan, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), and The Skillman Foundation. Since then, a steering committee representing a broad cross-section of education stakeholders has tapped the knowledge and expertise of both its members and state, national and global experts in educational research and policy. Most recently, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a group with a reputation for being the best education system transformers in the United States, reviewed Launch Michigan’s work to date, helping to guide its next steps and helped connect the dots between education and the economy.

The framework released today coalesces around three interconnected areas of focus:

Reinvention: Michigan will adopt a clear and rigorous college and career readiness standard, aligned to international benchmarks, to establish a ‘foundation’ to be part of each student’s graduation requirements. Part of the proposal includes amendments to the state’s “Read by Grade Three” law and continuous support to ensure students – no matter where they come from – can meet high standards in a variety of ways.

Resources: Michigan will adopt and adequately support a new funding system that provides a strong foundation for all and focuses on providing equitable resources to students with the greatest needs. The ideal funding system will include both an increase to the foundation allowance and weighted funding to support students with greater need. Rethinking existing expenditures and securing new revenue must be part of the solution.

Responsibility: Michigan must evolve its regulatory structures to ensure greater effectiveness, alignment, and accountability from all education stakeholders, including having the Governor appoint the State Superintendent. Improvements to both the capacity and governance of the Michigan Department of Education are necessary, as are changes to the educator evaluation system and school performance measurements.

“Michigan’s kids simply do not have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as their peers in countries with which Michigan’s economy competes. Our state’s educational system was designed for the mid-20th century, and it hasn’t undergone a true reinvention since,” said Launch Michigan President Adam Zemke. “Our world changes daily, and we must empower our kids to succeed by making better, smarter investments in their classroom experience that prepares them for a global 21st-century economy.”

“Until we act to create an educational system that gives kids the knowledge and skills to succeed in an economy that’s increasingly advancing on a global scale, we will lag behind other states and nations and outsource the opportunities that should belong to our youngest residents,” said Jeff Donofrio, Launch Michigan co-chair and President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “To ensure future opportunities will exist for our kids, we have to invest in the educational system capable of producing them.”

“As Michigan works to make these essential changes, it’s particularly important that all students can reap the benefits, regardless of their differing abilities and needs,” said Punita Dani Thurman, Launch Michigan co-chair and Vice President of Program & Strategy for The Skillman Foundation. “Our K-12 system requires changes in policy, funding, and ultimately, in practice to prepare young people to be the leaders they’re meant to be. We have deeply embedded equity and justice and know the true measure of success will be to see today’s most underserved kids reach a vibrant and prosperous tomorrow.”

“When it comes to boosting Michigan’s educational outcomes, there is absolutely no time to lose,” said MEA president Paula Herbart, who also serves as a Launch Michigan co-chair. “Our priority is to ensure we start filling in the gaps we know exist, so we can begin changing children’s lives and futures as quickly as possible. Michigan’s educators are dedicated to our students, and this framework is an important place to start providing them with the tools needed to change the course of our kids’ futures.”

“Michigan’s future depends on small business, and the success of small business depends on the outcomes of our education system,” said Brian Calley, President and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan and a Launch Michigan co-chair. “Inaction is not an option here. We will continue working together until true transformation becomes a reality for Michigan students.”

To solidify and formalize its efforts to effect change, Launch Michigan will transition its organization to that of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the coming months. In addition, NCEE has recommended that Michigan’s leaders come together to develop both a shared economic vision for the state, and recommendations connected to that vision on how to create a world-class education system.

“Like all frameworks, today’s release is a starting point, not a final product,” Zemke said. “Using the framework as a foundation, Launch Michigan is asking broad groups of stakeholders and practitioners to be fully engaged in further work to make these ideas a reality.”

The full Launch Michigan Framework is available at www.LaunchMichigan.org/Framework.


Launch Michigan is an unprecedented partnership of business, education, parents, labor, philanthropy, and civic leaders, all of whom care deeply about education and our state’s collective future. That is why we are crafting a new, high-quality, student-centered system for Michigan–one that helps every student succeed in school, in their careers, and in life. We understand implicitly that a strong, thriving public education system is the cornerstone of successful kids, prosperous communities, and a strong economy.

Learn more about Launch Michigan at LaunchMichigan.org.

Greenwood, Inc. Acquires Valence to Provide Professional Development and Job Recruiting for the Black Community

Black Enterprise
June 22, 2022

Greenwood, the digital banking platform for Black and Latino individuals and business owners, has announced the acquisition of Valence, the leading platform that connects, showcases, and empowers the Black professional community through its recruitment and professional development products. This acquisition will grow the Valence Pipeline recruiting database by nearly one million Black professionals, making it easier for recruiters who use this service to diversify their workforces at every level, from early career to c-suite.

Valence was founded in 2019 by Kobie Fuller, chairman of Valence and general partner at Upfront
Ventures, and also Emily Slade and LaMer Walker to create a centralized community network of
Black professionals and easily create a pipeline for companies to find outstanding Black talent.
Valence plays a key role in connecting the innovation economy to the Black community and
specifically addressing the lack of diversity in leadership in high-paying industries such as finance
and technology. Valence has raised over $7 million from investors such as GGV Capital, Upfront
Ventures, and Maveron.

“We’re being very targeted in how we can drive economic opportunity and wealth creation in the
Black community,” said Fuller. “Joining with Greenwood is a commitment to our community and accelerates our mission towards creating new paths to success for Black professionals and fuels our efforts towards closing the racial wealth gap.”

“Emerging Black leaders continue to face enormous challenges navigating career development and
advancement, while companies and leadership struggle to attract and retain Black talent in their
executive ranks,” said Guy Primus, chief executive officer of Valence.

“Valence provides a platform for executives, employers and Black business leaders to take meaningful steps to accelerate Black representation in the C-suite and drive positive change in corporate America.”

As a result of this acquisition, Fuller will join the advisory board of Greenwood. Primus will
continue in the role as chief executive officer of Valence, in addition to being named as vice president of Greenwood.

Valence offers two specific products that help with professional development and career growth.

  • Pipeline recruiting database: Pipeline is Valence’s recruiting database, a central hub for Black talent available to corporate recruiters looking to diversify their workforce at all levels, including the c-suite. Over 400 corporations have partnered with Valence to source and recruit diverse talent.
  • BONDS professional development: BONDS is Valence’s professional development
    program for emerging Black leaders, designed for Black professionals with five to 15 years of work experience. Through coaching, community, and curriculum, BONDS allows members to unlock their full potential and set them on the path to realizing their goals. By partnering with Valence’s BONDS, companies show their dedication to supporting the growth and development of Black talent.

In addition to these products, in 2020 Valence launched a new initiative called the Valence Funding
Network to link Black entrepreneurs with top partners at firms including Accel, Sequoia, GGV, First
Round Capital, Bessemer Ventures, Greylock, and Upfront Ventures. Through the initiative, Black
founders and future founders have the opportunity to connect with general partners of the firm for
mentorship and coaching.

This announcement follows Greenwood’s recent acquisition of The Gathering Spot, a private
membership network focused on the Black community. Together, the combined conglomerate of
Greenwood Inc. includes Greenwood, The Gathering Spot, and Valence, all with a shared mission
and vision of closing the racial wealth gap and providing the tools and education needed to empower
the Black community to build generational wealth.

“This is a powerful moment in Black business history where we are combining the three of the
strongest communities focused on Black professionals and their career and financial needs,” said
Ryan Glover, co-founder and chairman at Greenwood.

“Adding the Valence platform to the benefits of Greenwood membership means we are supporting, educating, and through Pipeline, we are connecting Black professionals directly to the opportunities they need to build generational wealth. By working together, we are laying the foundation for the future success of Black people for years to come.”

“Combining our financial content with the professional advice and support Valence provides means
that Greenwood members will have an unbeatable set of tools in their tool kit,” said Ryan Wilson,
chief of community for Greenwood and co-founder and chief executive officer of The Gathering Spot.

“The quality and functionality of the Valence platform brings a new level of access and professional options to the one million members of our ambitious community and it gives recruiters access to nearly a million Black professionals.”

To learn more and join the Greenwood and Valence community, visit BankGreenwood.com/Valence.

View the original article.

Detroit’s Stephens Southern Delights and 19 Other Black-Owned Businesses Awarded $25,000 Coalition to Back Black Businesses Grants

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced that the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) has awarded 20 Black-owned small businesses from CBBB’s 2021 grant program an additional $25,000 enhancement grant to support their growth and long-term success. Among the 20 recipients – 45% of which started their business during the pandemic – 80% are women-owned small businesses and 85% have six or fewer employees.

“Employing nearly half of the U.S. workforce, the strength of small businesses is critical to the prosperity of our communities and our economic recovery,” said Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “We’re committed to supporting the needs of Black small business owners in America through our Coalition to Back Black Businesses and equipping them with tools to thrive.”

Now in its second year, the CBBB initiative was established in September 2020 by the U.S. Chamber Foundation, founding partner American Express, and four leading national Black business organizations – the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and Walker’s Legacy – to provide immediate financial assistance and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen the Black business community. Since its launch, CBBB has awarded grants to 1,091 Black-owned small businesses in 40 states to help cover essential needs as they navigated the pandemic, from covering rent and payroll expenses to expanding their online presence and marketing efforts.

“We proudly back small businesses because they are the backbone of communities across the country,” said Madge Thomas, head of corporate sustainability and president of the American Express Foundation. “In the second year of this program, we welcome the chance to continue to help Black-owned businesses recover from the pandemic, innovate, and grow.”

According to a survey conducted in January 2022, Black-owned businesses hit record levels of lower sales, with more than half reporting lower sales than in the previous year. Meanwhile, CBBB grantees report being optimistic about the future of their business, with 50% of them experiencing increased revenue in the second half of 2021. After more than two years into the pandemic, reduced consumer traffic, access to capital, and employee availability remain top obstacles to business growth.

“Because of COVID-19, the price of all raw goods has gone up – in some cases, three times as much, and the additional funds helped cover the cost of our raw goods,” said Nekia Hattley, owner of My Daddy’s Recipes in Inglewood, California. “The $5,000 grant was a blessing, it meant someone saw my dream and believed enough in it and in me to invest capital to aid in my growth. This support encourages me to keep growing, learning, and going.”

Additional funding from ADP, AIG, Altice USA (parent company of Optimum and Suddenlink), Dow, and the S&P Global Foundation, along with programmatic support from Stanley Black & Decker, Shopify, and Firefli, will provide $14 million in grants and other critical resources, like mentorship, to support Black small business owners across the country through 2024.

“The mentorship and coaching support that we have received from the Ureeka platform has been phenomenal. It is unmatched,” said Bupe Mulenga, owner of Stephens Southern Delights in Detroit, Michigan. “That in and of itself supplied so much encouragement, support, and reassurance that although we dream big, we can definitely achieve what we set out to do.”

Enhancement Grant Recipients

Twenty grantees were selected by a panel of judges to receive the $25,000 enhancement grant out of the 491 businesses in CBBB’s 2021 cohort. Businesses are located in cities across the country. Top reasons for requesting an enhancement grant included developing a stronger online presence, relocating to a larger physical space, and hiring additional staff.

“The enhancement grant will support us with crucial costs to propel our growth forward for 2022, including hiring more pilots, investing in SEO marketing, web platform improvements, rent, and more,” said Bronwyn Morgan, owner of Xeo Air in East St. Louis, Illinois.

For a full list of grant awardees, visit usblackchambers.org.

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Butzel adds attorney specializing in federal procurement law; Derek Mullins joins firm as a shareholder

DETROIT, Mich. – Butzel has added attorney and shareholder Derek Mullins to one of the firm’s largest practice areas — Litigation and Dispute Resolution. He focuses on federal procurement law and litigating complex commercial, real estate, class action, antitrust, and administrative law matters in state and federal courts.

Mullins, based in the firm’s Detroit office, advises government contractors on a wide range of federal procurement matters, including bid protests and post-contract claims, prime-sub disputes, False Claims Act issues, SBA issues, data rights, compliance and ethics, and subcontracts and teaming agreements. Mullins also has experience assisting companies with internal investigations and in responding to civil and criminal inquiries by federal and state agencies.

He is a co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Public Contract Law: State and Local Procurement Division.

Mullins is admitted to practice in Michigan, the District of Columbia, Georgia, the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

He is a graduate of Columbia Law School (J.D., 2010) and Brown University (B.A. Political Science, 2006).

About Butzel

Butzel is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Troy, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting www.butzel.com or follow Butzel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/butzel_long

Detroit Among Great Lakes Chambers to Sign Letter Advocating for Federal Innovation Priorities

The Detroit Regional Chamber is among 14 chambers representing almost 50,000 businesses across the Great Lakes region that have come together to advocate for federal innovation priorities.

As the House and Senate amend the America COMPETES/USICA legislation, chambers from Michigan, Ohio, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Minnesota have signed a letter urging the nation’s leaders to include key provisions from both pieces in the final version of the America COMPETES legislation.

The following will advance the Great Lakes region’s historic leadership in research, innovation, and manufacturing and are critical to making the region — and nation — globally competitive:

  • Expand Pell Grant eligibility for short-term credential programs.
  • Prioritize registered apprenticeship opportunities for underserved populations and small- and medium-sized employers.
  • Create competitive funding opportunities that reduce the cost, time, and risk of commercializing new research and technology in emerging industries.

View the full letter below or download it HERE.

Chamber Releases 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List

The Detroit Regional Chamber announced its to-do list following the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference focused on the business community’s changing civic role in polarizing times. Each year, the Chamber develops a set of action items to continue the progress and discussions that occurred on the island. They are:

  • Build on the discussions and momentum around making Michigan more competitive to push for a more robust and consistent economic competitiveness approach.
  • With MICHauto, build a cohesive statewide strategy to develop the high-tech talent needs for the evolving mobility and EV industry in Michigan.
  • Leverage the Detroit Civility Project Partnership to use sports as a platform to advance civility in the Detroit region.

Michigan Matters: Mackinac Moments

CBS Detroit
June 19, 2022

MACKINAC ISLAND (CBS Detroit) – As 1,300 people from business, politics and the community attended the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, CBS 62’s “Michigan Matters” was there and checked in with folks about numerous issues.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow kicks off the all-star lineup as she talks with Carol Cain, Senior Producer/Host, about electric vehicles (she just bought a Chevy Bolt thanks to her daughter-in-law’s GM family discount) and also mental health initiatives she is spearheading.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan discusses the Motor City and recent EV announcements. He is also focusing on the ongoing talent gap and helping to make sure more Detroiters get ready for jobs of the future.

MDOT Director Paul Ajegba provides an update on road construction project across Metro Detroit this summer and where the state is in overall efforts to improve roads.

Chris Shepler talks about his company which provides ferry rides to Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, and added thoughts about business as the pandemic winds down. He too talks about worker shortages.

Michael Bickers, Regional President Detroit-Southeast Michigan PNC Bank, discusses the importance of helping small business and minority businesses which continue to face challenges.

Michael Genord, CEO of HAP, talks about rising inflation and costs which are impacting all Michiganders. He also talks about healthcare costs being impacted too.

Oakland University President Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz talks about the importance of higher education and how OU is working with businesses as they address talent needs.

Timothy Nicholson, of PVS Chemicals, discusses education and need to better address worker shortages, and how the region is working together to confront these issues.

DTE’s Shawn Patterson shares thoughts about the electric power grid and how Michigan will fare this summer amid reports there could be weather-related brown outs.

Rod Alberts, Executive Director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, and Joe Lunghamer, chair of the 2022 Detroit Auto Show, talk about the upcoming event this September. The duo also talks about EVs continuing to impact the market place as the region gears up for these changes.

GM’s Terry Rhadigan discusses EVs and the evolving market and how the auto maker is adjusting.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter discusses a new manufacturing center to be housed in Oakland County with a mission of raising the region’s profile as it entices more businesses.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel talks about issues impacting his county.

New Detroit’s Michael Rafferty provides insights into social justice and equity and talks about the region and how it is doing.

Brad Williams, of the Detroit Regional Chamber, talks about the 2022 election in Michigan, and a new survey the business organization conducted which gauged people’s thoughts about the current state of things.


New $11M Ebiara Fund To Help Black, Brown Developers in Detroit

Crain’s Detroit Business
Kirk Pinho
June 21, 2022

A new $11 million fund is aiming to help Black and Brown developers in Detroit access capital.

Ebiara, named after a type of wood from West Africa, is funded by $10 million from the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, with Invest Detroit contributing $1 million and acting as fiduciary and Detroit developer Roderick Hardamon’s firm, Urge Imprint, serving as operating partner.

It is unique in the Detroit market in that it provides funding directly to businesses for operating capital and building a transaction pipeline instead of issuing loans directly to projects by developers of color.

“If you’re really going to try to provide an opportunity for wealth creation, scalable economic advancement, so that Black- and Brown-owned development firms — not just developers, but true firms — have the opportunity to have systemic impact, we have to change the model in which they are funded,” said Hardamon, chief executive officer and chief strategist for Urge Imprint, which is also providing technical assistance. “The goal here is to put the capital into the firms, not just the project.”

Hardamon credited efforts like Capital Impact Partners’ Equitable Development Initiative; the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund by Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp., the city and Michigan State Housing Development Authority; and the Detroit Housing for the Future Fund with providing critical funding and training for Black and Brown developers and said they are “wonderful components of the ecosystem that are critical and necessary.”

The fund, announced Tuesday, expects to be fully deployed within three years and have a multiplier effect of 10 to 20, meaning that it is anticipated to result in $100 million to $200 million in investment.

Ebiara anticipates working with approximately 10 developers, according to a press release.

There are effectively two tranches to the fund: The smaller tranche for loan capital to small development firms and the much larger remainder of the fund to be dispersed in larger batches, said Tosha Tabron, social investment officer at the Kresge Foundation, and Hardamon.

Ebiara will serve as a key gap, Tabron said.

“The patient capital that comes usually in the form of equity is not there. That comes from people who have generational wealth or access to generational wealth,” Tabron said. “In order for more projects to get done in the city of Detroit by people who live here, we really needed to have some dollars that were patient, that can wait. They could sit for 10-plus years. That’s just not available in the marketplace unless it’s from friends and family.”

For early-stage developers, Ebiara can be a lower-cost alternative to traditional equity partners, ranging in the 6.5% to 10% range compared to perhaps 15% interest for traditional equity or more than 17% for venture capital, Hardamon said. In addition, Ebiara offers coaching and technical assistance working through city and other agency processes and approvals.

The larger tranche can be used for anything from office supplies to hiring people, Tabron said.

“What we want them to do is grow an operating business that will continue to develop affordable housing in the city of Detroit or commercial development in the city of Detroit,” Tabron said.

Tabron said she hopes this pilot fund can serve as a springboard, eventually growing to perhaps $100 million or more.

Keona Cowan, executive vice president of lending for Invest Detroit, a major financial player in Detroit development, said the program is just a start.

“This is certainly a pilot and hopefully a catalyst for future investment,” Cowan said.

“This is going to be supportive in alignment with our focus our mission, which is lifting up and providing access to capital for the unbanked, underbanked community and frankly, if we look around at our minority development community, access to capital for their projects is one thing, but access to capital from an ability to meet equity calls in their projects is something totally different.”

To qualify, firms must be 51% or more owned by someone from the BIPOC community.

Much of the downtown Detroit development landscape is shaped by white developers, with a handful of exceptions, although a raft of projects — at varying stages of the process ranging from pre-development to construction — outside of the central business district have been taken on by Black developers, working either by themselves or with development partners. Those developers range from Hardamon himself to Clifford Brown, Sonya Mays to Dennis Archer Jr., Jason Jones to Edward Carrington.

View the original article.

Report: Michigan Recognized Globally as No.1 Emerging Startup Ecosystem

Jake Bekemeyer
June 16, 2022

The 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) from San Francisco-based Startup Genome has recognized Detroit as the top emerging startup ecosystem, further underscoring Michigan’s role as a high-tech hub in the Midwest.

The GSER provides a comprehensive review of the startup world, with data from more than three million companies across more than 280 entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems.

Detroit’s top-ranking marks a 13-spot jump from the previous year, solidifying the city’s growth in early-stage funding and investor activity, number of scale-ups and unicorns in the ecosystem, IP commercialization, and ability to retain talent.

According to the report, Detroit also ranked first in GSER’s list of Top 10 Ecosystems by Ecosystem Value at $90.6 billion, outranking both national and global cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Minneapolis.

“This latest ranking from Startup Genome highlights the tremendous growth for Detroit as a destination for startups and VC investment,” says Fred Molnar, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “As Michigan’s economy continues to thrive, we will continue to work on providing the most dynamic environment for startups across Michigan to find growth and success.”

Among GSER’s local key findings, Detroit scored 10 out of 10 in performance, measuring the size and performance of an ecosystem based on the accumulated tech startup value created from exits and funding; market reach, measuring scale-ups and unicorns in the ecosystem, size of local reach, and IP commercialization; and talent and experience, measuring long-term trends over the most significant performance factors and the ability to generate and keep talent in the ecosystem.

Detroit also scored 8 out of 10 in funding, measuring innovation through early-stage funding and investor activity.

This news builds on Detroit’s status as an attractive place for entrepreneurs, from its affordable cost of living compared to other dense tech hubs, to Michigan’s overall growth in VC investment. In a May 2021 article from Crunchbase, Michigan was recognized as the fastest-growing state for VC investment, with an increase in venture dollars from $300 million in 2016 to $3.1 billion in 2020.

According to the 2021 Annual Research Report from the Michigan Venture Capital Association, there are currently 165 venture-backed startup companies in Michigan — an increase of 17 percent over the last five years. In addition, the report found that every dollar invested in a Michigan startup by a Michigan-based venture capital firm attracts $9.70 of investment from outside of Michigan.

Michigan also has the distinction of being among the few states with more than one resident unicorn company. Since 2018, five Michigan startups — Duo Security, Llamasoft, Onestream Software, Rivian Automotive, and StockX — have become unicorns, thanks to the state’s diverse ecosystem with extensive resources that support new business.

Click here to view the full article.