May 28 | This Week in Government: MIOSHA Says Fully Vaccinated Employees Can Unmask at Work; Regional Unemployment Mostly Down in April

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. MIOSHA Says Fully-Vaccinated Employees Can Unmask at Work
  2. Regional Unemployment Mostly Down in April, Still Higher Than ’19
  3. House Bills Would Reduce Fees for Biz Shut Down, Limited by COVID
  4. Committee Nixes 3rd Grade Retention for ’21, Expands to 4th Grade for ’22
  5. Bernstein Breaks from Justices as MSC Denies Eavesdropping Questions

MIOSHA Says Fully-Vaccinated Employees Can Unmask at Work

GRAND RAPIDS – Several updates to coronavirus safety protocols enshrined in the state’s work safety emergency rules were lifted Monday, allowing a return to in-person work for employers and their employees and a lifting of workplace mask and social distancing orders for the fully vaccinated.

The updated Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) guidelines were announced alongside the new Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) order regarding masks and gatherings, which will eliminate outdoor capacity limits and increase indoor gathering limitations to 50% capacity effective June 1.

Changes to MIOSHA COVID-19 emergency rules include allowing fully vaccinated employees to do away with face coverings and social distancing on the job provided employers have a policy deemed effective to ensure non-vaccinated workers or others continue to follow the rules. They also are based on performance, the state said Monday, eliminating industry-specific requirements. Definitions guiding those requirements have also been updated to more clearly reflect changes in close contact and quarantining requirements for fully vaccinated employees.

Many of the facility cleaning requirements from the early days of the pandemic have been updated to reflect new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has in recent months backed off from the agency’s initial belief that surface-to-surface transmission was a strong mode of spreading COVID-19. While it is still possible, the CDC said it is less likely than direct, prolonged close contact between individuals.

The new rules also note that employers should continue to have and implement a written COVID-19 preparedness plan in line with the updated rules.

MIOSHA filed its updated COVID-19 emergency rules with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules on Friday. The agency also rescinded draft permanent COVID-19 rules and a public hearing on those rules scheduled for Wednesday has been canceled.

A more formal announcement surrounding the rule changes came Monday – the day the new rules went into effect – at an in-person press conference featuring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Acting Director Susan Corbin of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Andy Johnston, vice president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Keane, CEO of the Steelcase furniture company, which hosted the press event at its Kentwood facility.

It was there that Gov. Whitmer also said that employers could still require masks and other return-to-work guidelines if they so pleased, they just wouldn’t be in violation of pandemic work health and safety orders if their vaccinated employees no longer don masks.

The emergency rules by law expire on Oct.14. However, the Governor’s office in a news release issued following the press event said that MIOSHA could also choose to rescind all or part of the rules.

As for rules that were to expire in October, Gov. Whitmer said the agency has integrated them with the latest CDC guidelines.

Although the announcement did not include a full lifting of COVID-19 work safety orders, Gov. Whitmer called the new rules a “slimmed down” version that reflects the progress the state has made in fighting COVID-19 – aided, of course, by a deeper knowledge of the virus the availability of safe and effective vaccines.

“That’s why it’s so important to get this right,” she said. “Together, we are eliminating once in a century virus, and now we’re poised to jumpstart our economy and power it up to new heights. We have a lot of work to do, but I know that we are up to it. Last week, Republican leaders in the Legislature and I announced a bipartisan agreement to work together to pass the budget in Michigan, into our schools and small businesses and communities.”

Not only has the state received money from the administration of President Joe Biden, but the state still has money that was sent to Michigan by way of congressional COVID-19 relief from the administration of former President Donald Trump.

The reemergence of Michigan’s economy post-pandemic and its new relaxing of COVID-19 rules was a testament to how seriously residents and their respective political and community leaders took the virus, Gov. Whitmer said.

“I know that after all the sacrifice and pain that people have felt and business felt from March 2020, we are now ready to get back and ready to take Michigan to the next level,” she said. “So, we’ve been tested and as I often say, tough times don’t last, tough people do. Michigan is bursting at the seams with possibility. It’s our job in state government (to) harness the boundless energy of our people, our businesses and our communities and channeling into big projects, bold initiatives, and of course, fundamentals that put us on a path to prosperity.”

Corbin in her remarks thanked Steelcase for their help on the state’s Return to Office Task Force that helped set policies guiding Michigan’s protocols to safely return to the workplace.

“Since the first COVID outbreak … the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and MIOSHA have been at the frontlines of the effort to keep workers safe from COVID,” Corbin said. “The MIOSHA emergency rules have not only protected employees, and giving them confidence that their workplace was as safe as possible, the rules also gave employers the clear guidance they needed to protect their workers.”

Meanwhile, at least one Republican legislative leader who has been critical of Gov. Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic questioned the timing of the announcement after a photo was posted to social media, and then deleted, violating social distancing and capacity restrictions.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) on social media noted that he thought it was a strange that Gov. Whitmer had violated her own rules over the weekend and then days later lifted several key MIOSHA COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Something ‘science-y’ must have happened over the weekend,” Nesbitt tweeted Monday afternoon, linking to a news article about the new guidelines and complete with a shark emoji.

Gov. Whitmer, however, had announced the loosening of some restrictions last week and Monday was the day the remote work requirement was to be lifted.

WHITMER EVADES CLARITY ON FUTURE LEGISLATIVE HEALTH ORDER AGREEMENT: While the governor mentioned Monday a deal with legislative Republicans to work together on the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, all parties have also alluded to a new working framework that involves the Legislature in crafting future pandemic-related or other public health orders should they be necessary.

When asked what she would envision what that might look like – and more specifically, how Republican leadership would be involved – the Governor offered no greater clarity on the matter other than to say that she hoped more orders would not be necessary down the pike and that past decisions weighed heavily on her.

“Contrary to some of the rhetoric out there, it has been a hard year and three months,” Gov. Whitmer said. “None of these orders (were) issued lightly. …There’s not a governor in the nation that has had to do this and has had anything but a lot of angst around every decision they’ve had to make. I know because I’ve talked to a lot of them on both sides of the aisle.”

As to the root of the question, Gov. Whitmer did say that she that both her and the Legislature can now play a dual role.

“I think it’s something we can now do with an understanding that this is largely behind us,” she said. “We’ve learned some lessons. Perhaps there are some ways to do that and that’s what we’ve agreed to do and I think that’s a good thing.”

Related: State Updates Return-to-Work Safety Guidelines, MIOSHA Emergency Rules for the Workplace

Related: WATCH: Q&A on Updated MIOSHA Workplace Rules

Regional Unemployment Mostly Down in April, Still Higher Than ’19

The state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates decreased in 15 of the 17 labor markets in April, the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget said Thursday, with levels still higher than two years ago.

“Jobless rates in Michigan regions have dropped very sharply since April 2020, which was the peak of COVID-19 pandemic layoffs,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “Despite these improvements, jobless rates still remain above April 2019 levels.”

Statewide payroll jobs remain 326,000, or 7.4%, below April 2019 levels.

Regional unemployment rate decreases ranged from 0.3 to 0.9 percentage points, with a median rate cut of 0.6 percentage points. Both the Northeast and Northwest Lower Michigan regions exhibited the largest jobless rate drops of 0.9 percentage points. The Monroe and Lansing metropolitan statistical areas were the only two major Michigan regions with jobless rate advances over the month, primarily due to auto-related layoffs during April.

With April 2020 being the peak month for pandemic-related layoffs in Michigan, regional unemployment rates in the state were down significantly in all 17 Michigan major labor markets during the past year. Rates declined by a median 18.2 percentage points during the year with the largest over-the-year jobless rate drop occurring in Flint, which decreased 24.1 percentage points.

Regional workforce levels moved down in 15 Michigan areas in April, with a median decline of 0.7%. The largest labor force reduction occurred in the Muskegon area, which declined 1.3%. Labor force levels advanced in 13 labor market areas over the year, led by the Ann Arbor region with a gain of 4.6%. Workforce levels fell in the Muskegon, Monroe, Jackson, and Battle Creek regions since April 2020.

Employers indicated that not seasonally adjusted Michigan nonfarm jobs inched up by 5,000, or 0.1%, to 4,095,000. Minor employment increases were seen in most sectors. Manufacturing was an exception, as jobs fell by 11,000 during the month, due to auto layoffs related to a nationwide semiconductor chip shortage.

Payroll employment rose in nine metro areas in April, but job gains were minor with a median increase of just 0.4 percentage point. The Midland area had the largest over-the-month advance – up 1.7 percentage point – for the second consecutive month.

Five regions had payroll job cuts in April, led by the Lansing and Muskegon metro areas with declines of 0.9 and 0.7 percentage point, respectively.

Payroll employment in the state advanced by 718,000 over the year, or 21.3%, which reflected the recalls that have occurred since the April 2020 pandemic-related job lows. All 14 metro areas had nonfarm job additions over the year, led by Flint, up 30%.

House Bills Would Reduce Fees for Biz Shut Down, Limited by COVID

Businesses like restaurants, hotels, and bars – those hardest hit by restrictions due to the coronavirus – would see lower licensing fees under a package of bills discussed in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday.

HB 4557, HB 4558, HB 4559, HB 4560, and HB 4561 are all sponsored by House Republican lawmakers and would either refund some license fees, prorate the payment to discount fees, or eliminate them altogether.

For example, the first bill would waive the annual renewal fee charged by the Michigan Liquor Control Code in 2021 for several businesses, including bars, to make up for the 2020 fee that was paid even as bars were limited for much of the year.

“On a philosophical level, I believe it is fundamentally wrong for the state to charge you for a product you can’t use,” Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) told the committee.

Mason Doerr, with the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said the bills would help an industry crushed by the pandemic. On cost, he said federal COVID-19 relief funds could be used.

“Waiving food and liquor fees in 2021 would help relieve some of the burden our state’s struggling bars and restaurants are facing on top of an excess of other problems,” he said.

Other bills in the package would prorate fees to provide discounts during months where a business or industry may have not been operating, including in the skilled trades.

Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) said she thought the legislation was fair.

“I look forward to providing this commonsense relief that the members of our skilled trades sectors deserve,” Griffin said.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Liquor Control Commission both submitted cards opposing the legislation.

Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mount Pleasant), the committee chair, said LARA reached out to him before the committee and said it is studying the fiscal effect of the bills and looked forward to conversations.

Hauck said he hoped the committee could work with the agency to get them to support the bills.

BOTTLE DEPOSIT FRAUD: The committee unanimously reported bills that would direct more funds to the enforcement of the bottle deposit system and increase penalties for those cheating the system.

HB 4780, HB 4781, HB 4782, and HB 4783 were reported 14-0.

Committee Nixes 3rd Grade Retention for ’21, Expands to 4th Grade for ’22

The requirement that third-graders unable to read at grade level remain in third grade for another year would be suspended for the current school year but return for the 2021-22 school year with a one-year expansion of the retention requirement for fourth-graders under a bill approved Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee reported SB 265 and SB 268 to the full chamber with significant changes to the legislation.

As introduced, SB 265 would have simply lifted the grade retention requirement for the 2020-21 school year amid overwhelming sentiment that with the reduction in learning hours caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the decisions of some school districts not to return to in-person learning or only to do so on a limited basis, that this is not the time to start the third-grade reading retention law.

The retention language will resume force based on student performance in the 2021-22 school year. Under the S-1 substitute, the retention requirement would apply to fourth-graders for the 2021-22 school year as well. The 2022-23 school year would return application of the law only to third-graders.

A clearly frustrated Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), sponsor of the original version of the bill who opposed the changes in the substitute, had his name removed as the bill sponsor, with sponsorship going to Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), who said there must be an effort to assure students get the education they need to read at grade level.

“If we do nothing, it’s as bad as doing something wrong,” Horn said.

Bumstead, however, told the committee the bill is a move in the wrong direction.

“I was prepared to come to committee today to tell you how great Senate Bill 265 was and to ask for your support. Instead, I’m asking you to vote no,” he said. “Our students, teachers, administration, and parents do not need more mandates from Lansing.”

In an unusual situation, Bumstead said no one ever brought the proposed substitute to him. That’s almost unheard of for a majority caucus to dramatically change one of its members’ bills without their involvement or assent.

“If these ideas had been brought to me directly, I would have flat out rejected them,” he said. “And that is why I assume they were not.”

Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), a committee member, told Bumstead it seemed odd he would be left out of the process as the bill sponsor.

“Well, that’s the same thing we thought. We were kind of left out of the process,” he responded.

The retention bill cleared the committee on a 4-2 party-line vote with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed, suggesting the bill is going to have problems if it reaches the desk of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The retention component of the law has never had Democratic support.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), a former teacher, said the non-retention parts of the third-grade reading law that provide literacy coaches and other supports to students not reading at grade level are working. She said data shows grade retention, however, does not work.

“Moreover, the data shows that retaining kids can be emotionally harmful in a typical year, but in a pandemic it’s my feeling that it’s just plain cruel,” she said.

Jennifer Smith of the Michigan Association of School Boards was one of several officials from public school groups to register opposition with the committee to the bill.

“We do not support bringing fourth-graders into the law, even for one year,” she said. “This puts an additional burden on our districts for retention, classroom assignments, and reporting and more importantly is unfair to those students who would suddenly be subject to retention going into fifth grade.”

The Michigan Department of Education also opposes the bill.

“Third-grade retentions are bad public policy, and even more so if expanding to students in two grades,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said in a statement. “Local school districts need to work carefully with families to focus on reading supports and minimize retentions and the resultant adverse impact to children.”

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), a committee member, said in effect the bill moves the retention decision on this year’s third-graders forward one year. It’s possible that some of the pupils who would have been held back this year will read at grade level as fourth-graders, he said.

“It’s not at this juncture that any of the kids per this bill are being held back,” he said.

The bill would retain good cause exemptions for retention in the current law that allow parents and school administrators to exempt a pupil from remaining in the same grade another year.

SB 268 would give parents the authority to have their child retained regardless of reading aptitude if the parent wanted. That bill, which is tie-barred to SB 265, also cleared the committee on a 4-2 party-line vote.

Bernstein Breaks from Justices as MSC Denies Eavesdropping Questions

Justice Richard Bernstein broke from his colleagues on the Michigan Supreme Court Wednesday when the high court declined to answer a set of certified questions and denied a request for oral arguments regarding the state’s implied prohibition on recording conversations without the consent of all parties involved.

The case was AFT Michigan v. Project Veritas (MSC Docket No. 162121), a lawsuit dating back to 2017. It centers around a complaint filed by the Michigan labor affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers against Project Veritas, a conservative group known for using secret recordings, fake identities, and scams to infiltrate and attempt to discredit organizations.

AFT Michigan alleged that the organization and one of its agents violated the Michigan eavesdropping statute by secretly recording – using both audio and video – certain conversations between AFT Michigan employees without their consent.

Attorney General Dana Nessel had asked the high court to rule on whether Michigan’s eavesdropping statute indeed prohibits the recording of conversations if the recording party was also involved in said conversation.

Certified questions were sent to justices by U.S. District Judge Linda Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan in mid-October 2020.

While Chief Justice Bridget McCormack had initially asked the parties to brief the matter, a majority comprising each of the high court’s justices besides Bernstein said in an order issued Wednesday that it respectfully declines to rule on the questions. Therefore, motions for oral arguments were also denied.

Bernstein wrote that he would have answered the certified questions but did not elaborate on what those answers might be if he and his fellow justices had the opportunity.

Detroit Charter Revisions Must Be Removed From Aug. 3 Ballot

On Wednesday, May 26, Wayne County Circuity Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled that the proposed City Charter governing document cannot go before voters on Aug. 3. The Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a longtime activist and pastor, and Detroit resident Rodrick Harbin on May 17 filed a lawsuit arguing that the proposal could not be placed on the ballot because the changes were not approved by Gov. Whitmer.

“In the absence of approval from the governor, the proposed charter revision cannot be placed on the ballot and submitted to the voters,” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny wrote in his Wednesday opinion and decision on the lawsuit.

The Detroit Regional Chamber opposed the proposed city charter revision. “Over the past few years, Detroiters worked hard to show the world that the City is a great place where businesses and workers can succeed, with a well-functioning city government,” said Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy Baruah. “The charter adds cumbersome bureaucracy that will curtail both economic development efforts and efficient service delivery to residents. This additional bureaucracy will also hamper the city’s ability to accelerate out of the pandemic shutdowns and make the most of the American Rescue Plan resources.

Judge Kenny made it clear in his ruling that he wasn’t wading into the politics of the issue. “The court cannot and shall not consider the political and policy issues arising from Proposal P, instead it focuses solely upon the fundamental question regarding the placement of Proposal P upon the ballot for the Aug. 3 primary,” the judge wrote.

The Chamber will continue to monitor the legal proceedings related to the proposed changes to the Detroit City Commission.

Gov. Whitmer announces school funding priorities to transform K-12 education

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today her funding priorities for K-12 education as the state readies for major investments in our schools and teachers. Due to the American Rescue Plan and the recently announced state revenue increases, a surplus in funding now exists to make unprecedented investments in our schools, with enough funding to eliminate the funding gap that has existed between schools for many years.

“Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to help each and every student recover academically, mentally, and physically,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, we must work together to provide equitable school funding, attract and retain top talent, facilitate post-secondary transitions, and build stronger, safer schools. With the resources we have available to us thanks to federal aid and a state surplus, we can making lasting, transformative investments in our kids and schools that will have positive impacts for generations.”

In just a year, Michigan has gone from a nearly $3 billion deficit to a $3.5 billion surplus, with a state budget that is primed for investment.

The framework announced today by Gov. Whitmer puts hundreds of millions of dollars toward student academic recovery and mental health, with funding to attract and retain talented teachers, school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and nurses. It also delivers on a decades-old goal of equitable funding so that every district receives the same per-pupil amount to ensure equality regardless of what school a student happens to attend.

Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Whitmer











Major highlights of the framework include

  • Closingthe funding gap between schools in lower and higher-income communities with a $262 million investment. This goal was put forward as part of Proposal A in 1994.
  • Investing funds in students who need them the most through a weighted funding formula which distributes education dollars more equitably.
    • This model supports at-risk students ($20.4m), special education ($60m), and English language learners($12.2m).
    • For special education specifically, we are allocating $6 million for pre-employment training, expanding a remote learning library, and hiring more qualified personnel for children with disabilities.
  • A combined $500 millionfor districts to hire and retain more educators, psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses, and provide student loan debt relief for mental and physical health professionals who work in high-need districts.
  • Substantial investments to help students plan for life after high school by facilitating post-secondary transitions:
    • $50 million to double funding for CTE, vocational, and skilled trades programs.
    • $55 million to expand dual enrollment and early middle college programs.
    • And $100 million to hire more guidance and career counselors.
  • $500 million for school infrastructure.

Other notable pieces include

  • $402 million to increase the foundation allowance by 4% ($163/$326 per pupil)
  • $350 million to stabilize enrollment over 2 years for districts after COVID related unpredictability and pupil losses.
  • $41.5 million for literacy coaches, an increase of $10 million from current law.
  • $50 million for ongoing student mental health programs.
  • A 2% operational funding increase for community colleges.

The plan utilizes the surplus to propose over $1.7 billion in one-time funding and allocates over $900 million for ongoing investments, representing Michigan’s most significant investment in public education to date.

Michigan Drives Collaboration Between Universities, Innovators and Defense Industry Leaders

Department of Defense program appoints Len Haidl to University of Michigan to identify innovative solutions to national security challenges while supporting technology transfer initiatives

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan continues to take a comprehensive approach to supporting innovative public-private partnerships that can offer real-world solutions, solve industry challenges and address national security needs. As a result of these ongoing efforts statewide, the University of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) have launched a new collaboration through the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), a DoD program focused on connecting academia and industry to solve national security problems.

Through this innovative partnership, Len Haidl has been appointed to join the University of Michigan as its new University Program Director. Haidl will be based in the university’s Office of Technology Transfer where he will collaborate with local high-tech startup and venture capital communities to help strengthen partnerships between them, DoD, the university and industry leaders throughout the state.

“Michigan has long been known for our culture of innovation, as home to the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II, and more recently assembling an Arsenal of Innovation to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Looking ahead, we continue to build on our proud legacy by testing, developing and deploying next-generation technologies that will keep all Americans safe, both at home and abroad,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “We appreciate the Biden-Harris Administration recognizing Michigan’s continued innovation and leadership through this new appointment from the National Security Innovation Network and are pleased to welcome Len into this exciting new role. By working together to build on our strengths in advanced manufacturing, technology and R&D here in Michigan, we are helping pave the way for the solutions of tomorrow.”

This announcement marks the culmination of an 18-month-long collaboration between the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), University of Michigan and the Department of Defense to establish an NSIN office in Michigan. With Haidl’s appointment, the University of Michigan is now the 14th university in the nation to partner with NSIN and the second university in the Great Lakes region.

“I am extremely humbled by this opportunity to serve with the National Security Innovation Network at the University of Michigan and to work with the innovators and defense industry across the great state of Michigan,” Haidl said. “During my 27-year career in the Navy, I was grateful for the technological edge found in the platforms and systems I operated. I look forward to working with industry partners, non-traditional problem solvers, academics, and dynamic innovators to ensure our current service members and the national security professionals writ large continue to have that same technological edge. Michigan has a storied tradition as the Arsenal of Democracy and I look forward to protecting and growing that legacy through NSIN programming.”

U.S. Armed Forces has undertaken a momentous shift in modernization and technological upgrades in equipment and solutions to be sure that the U.S. continues to be the world’s strongest military. By partnering with NSIN, the MEDC, through the Michigan Defense Center, is bringing together new communities of innovators to solve national security challenges and develop new technologies by leveraging the innovation that exists within Michigan’s robust research and development community.

“Our near peer adversaries are working hard to best the United States in emerging technologies like autonomy, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Platform Cyber Security and Alternative platform energies,” said Vicki Selva, Executive Director of MEDC’s Michigan Defense Center. “Michigan is the global leader in these types of solutions and so it is important to the state and the nation that DoD be able to tap into our pipeline of talent and innovation. We look forward to helping NSIN foster productive relationships between our robust commercial, industrial and military R&D communities.”

This appointment also underscores Michigan’s continued efforts to grow technologies out of its expansive university network and its ongoing support for tech transfer activities across the state, which help bring research and technologies developed at the university into the commercial market to have real-world impacts. Haidl’s work will involve close coordination with the MEDC’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative to connect with local high-tech startups and venture capital communities to develop opportunities and form new partnerships with the state’s expansive university network and commercial technology companies.

“The University of Michigan is pleased to partner with NSIN and to build on our long-standing relationship with the MEDC,” said Kelly Sexton, Associate Vice President for Research, Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships at University of Michigan. “This program will serve our campus innovation ecosystem and the entrepreneurial and business communities within Michigan by connecting them with key Department of Defense programs and resources. This collaboration will allow us to ensure that our research discoveries are translated and commercialized in ways that enhance societal wellbeing, create regional economic prosperity, and ensure our nation’s continued technological preeminence.”

“Michigan’s universities are ground zero for innovative research and technologies that change the way we live, interact with one another and keep ourselves and our nation safe,” said Denise Graves, University Relations Director at MEDC. “We are thrilled to welcome Len into this new role and will continue working together with him, his colleagues at the University of Michigan and across the state to foster our collaborative ecosystem and introduce new inventions from the lab into the marketplace.”

About University of Michigan

One of the nation’s top public universities, the University of Michigan has been a leader in research, learning and teaching for more than 200 years. With the highest research volume of all public universities in the country, U-M is advancing new solutions and knowledge in areas ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to driverless vehicle technology, social justice and carbon neutrality. Its main campus in Ann Arbor comprises 19 schools and colleges; there are also regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint, and a nationally ranked health system, Michigan Medicine. The university also boasts a world-renowned intercollegiate athletics program and has been the site of many important events in U.S. history, including JFK’s announcement of the Peace Corps, LBJ’s “Great Society” speech, and the clinical trials of the Salk polio vaccine. U-M’s alumni body is one of the largest in the world and includes a U.S. president, scientists, actors, astronauts and inventors.

About the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN)

The National Security Innovation Network‘s mission is to “build networks of innovators that generate new solutions to national security problems.” National Security Innovation Network is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and has regional offices in 11 commercial innovation hubs throughout the United States. Through its headquarters, regional hubs and embedded university partnerships, National Security Innovation Network builds a national network of innovators and delivers programming that solves real-world, Department of Defense problems through collaborative partnerships with nontraditional problem solvers within the academic and early-stage venture communities.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall with Dennis W. Archer Sr. and Dennis W. Archer Jr.

Dennis W. Archer Sr. is chairman emeritus at Dickinson Wright PLLC and was mayor of Detroit from 1994 until 2011, while Dennis W. Archer Jr. is chief executive officer at Ignition Media Group and founding partner of Archer Corporate Services.

The father and son duo joined the Detroit Regional Chamber’s virtual audience for a new session of Celebrating Diverse Voices. They participated in a discussion with Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer at the Chamber, looking at Detroit through the decades when it comes to systematic racism and work underway to improve equity for Black Detroiters. The Archers also shared their perspectives on where the focus needs to be going forward to create better outcomes and opportunities for individuals.

Carnrike recalled the 2017 memoir penned by Archer Sr. titled, “Let the Future Begin,” taken from his 1993 mayoral campaign slogan, which led him to victory as well as subsequent leadership roles during key times including Detroit’s revitalization.

“How has the business landscape changed since then, and did it change the way you thought it would?” Carnrike asked the former mayor.

Archer Sr. said he views Detroit’s business landscape as transformed for the better following the city’s recovery from its bankruptcy. He also credited stronger relationships between business, the community, the city’s administration, and the state with helping the city grow beyond its dark days.

While Archer Jr. mostly agreed with his father, he insisted there’s room to improve equitable investment in Detroit’s neighborhoods versus the city’s downtown area.

“Detroit’s 139 or so square miles, the greater downtown Detroit area is 7.2 miles,” said Archer Jr. “There was a report that was updated quarterly for a number of years called the 7.2 Square Mile Report, because that is where a lot of the focus has been as it relates to development.”

Archer Jr. credits Mayor Mike Duggan and businessman and investor, Dan Gilbert, with helping to “increase investor confidence” for the city in the post-Recession era by securing new investments, jobs, and attracting large-scale businesses to the downtown area.

But the investment should spread to Detroit’s neighborhoods, Archer Jr. said, to ensure residents are being more equitably involved.

“People in Detroit neighborhoods want the same thing that people in suburban neighborhoods want,” explained Archer Jr. “They want to go get coffee really close, go to the grocery store, the drugstore, the dry cleaners, and get gas within one or two minutes for their home.”

Archer Jr. concluded, “That’s prime opportunity for investors to invest in their neighborhoods.”

Although Archer Jr. said he understands investment often begins in a robust downtown, especially in “a city that’s laid out like the city of Detroit,” he said, “there’s more to do than has been done.”

Carnrike then asked the Archers to share how systematic racism has impacted revitalization efforts in the previous decades and how is it impacting those efforts today. Archer Sr. recalled his time of running for mayor and hearing businesses of color complain and confide in him about their lack of access to capital.

Once elected, Archer Sr. set out to create an equity fund that would allow businesses owned by African Americans and Hispanics to be able to borrow money. With help from Comerica Bank Senior Vice President Brenda Snyder, at the time, Archer Sr. was able to secure more than the $500 million first offered.

“They came up with a billion dollars that businesses could access if they wanted to borrow money to be in the Empowerment Zone,” recalled Archer Sr. Subsequently, Chrysler came to the city offering a $750 million investment in a new plant.

“And it just kept building and building,” recalled the former mayor. “The city of Detroit had the best investment by new businesses and the like than any other city in the United States.”

But again, Archer Jr. pointed to a lack of inclusion in today’s investment conversations happening in Detroit.

“Business in large part is based on relationships,” explained Archer Jr. “And so, while Black folks may get left out of opportunities in this area…we do get left out of opportunities more so.” He continued to say, “But it’s not always caused by racist, prejudicial, or unjust policy. Sometimes, it’s rooted in relationships.”

Carnrike’s final question for the Archers focused on the role of business in shaping a more equitable future in the decade ahead.

Both father and son agreed that businesses should keep in mind the predicted future browning of America and try to get ahead today by creating meaningful diversity across the board.

“A business should be reflective of the broader community,” said Archer Jr.

Butzel Long attorney Kaveh Kashef to be sworn in as President of the Oakland County Bar Association

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Butzel Long attorney and shareholder Kaveh Kashef will be installed as the 89th President of the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) during a virtual Annual Meeting on June 3, 2021.

Kashef has served on the OCBA Board of Directors since 2012. He is the former chair of the Continuing Legal Education committee and is past president and a trustee of the Oakland County Bar Foundation. In addition, Kashef is a Barrister of the American Inns of Court and is the former chair of the New Lawyers Section of the OCBA. He was a member of the State Bar Association Civil Procedure and Courts Standing Committee from 2005-2012.

Kashef specializes in complex litigation in the fields of automotive, shareholder disputes, employment, commercial, construction, riparian rights and real property law. He has prepared and succeeded in numerous trials, arbitrations and appeals in various states across the country.

In addition to handling litigation in a wide range of industries, Kashef represents traditional and nontraditional private equity groups and serves as a general business and legal advisor to his individual and corporate clients.

Kashef has been a speaker in the field of condominium development and has authored several contracting-related articles. He is admitted to practice in the State of Michigan and the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and numerous courts across the country.

Further, Kashef has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Michigan Super Lawyers; has been a “Super Lawyer” since 2013; a Top Lawyer by DBusiness Magazine; and, as an “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. In 2012, he was named to The Trial Lawyer’s Top 40 Under 40 for the State of Michigan.

Kashef was a law clerk to the Honorable William A. Webb, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan (B.A. 1995), and graduated with honors from the Tulane University School of Law (J.D. 2001) in New Orleans.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long 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, Bloomfield Hills, 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 or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

Trine University Seeking Projects for 21-22 year

Innovation One is Trine University’s incubator for creativity, invention, and design that improves education through experiential learning. We are in search of projects that align with our curriculum for the 2021-2022 academic year. Previous projects have consisted on programming/app development, data management, product design, site planning, packaging design, processes and tooling development, conducting research, and/or business planning. Any area that your company is seeking further advancement in may be a great project for our students.

Restaurant owners excited about Michigan’s progress toward reopening, new COVID guidelines


Click On Detroit 

By Grant Hermes and Dane Kelly 

DETROIT – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer officially revealed Michigan’s new accelerated timeline Thursday for eliminating COVID restrictions and returning to normal.

There’s a lot of work for shops and restaurants to get back up and running. With major changes on the horizon, businesses are having to make decisions on how they can navigate back to normal.

“There’s a lot of pent up demand. You’re seeing it out there — people want to travel,” said Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association president Justin Winslow. ”We needed that. We supported the governor’s back to normal plan, but it was unclear when or if we would meet some of those guidelines.”

The Michigan Small Business Association praised Whitmer’s announcement and said ”Today marks an important step for small business owners everywhere.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber Business Group — which announced its own restrictions for the Mackinac Policy Conference in September — said they expect some more confusion as the summer starts.

“Businesses and, frankly, government are going to be feeling their way through these issues throughout the summer months and I think, just like there was confusion at the beginning of the of this crisis a year ago, there’s going to be some confusion as we come out of it,” said Sandy Barouah.

For a lot of these places, getting the workflow back is the big key. The MRLA said they think there should be more changes regarding unemployment benefits, but the biggest thing people can do to help is to be patient, be kind and leave tips.

View original article here

COVID vaccine required to attend 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference


Crain’s Detroit Business 

By Dustin Walsh 

All attendees of the Mackinac Policy Conference must be vaccinated, according to guidance issued Thursday by organizers Detroit Regional Chamber.

The conference to be held Sept. 20-23 at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island will also be limited to 1,300 attendees, a reduction of one-third from past iterations of the event.

The chamber is requiring all attendees to have received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two weeks prior to attending the conference. The vaccine requirement will also be in effect for all on-site vendors and chamber staff, the organizers said in a news release.

The chamber said it is exploring a third-party technology contractor to assist in verifying attendees’ vaccination status.

“The Chamber takes its responsibility hosting Michigan’s top leadership seriously,” Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in the release. “The Mackinac Policy Conference will be among the first large high-profile events to occur as restrictions ease, and the chamber as a business organization has the responsibility to handle the event properly.”

The chamber is also urging attendees to bring a mask. Though wearing a mask will not required at the event, it is currently required on the ferry ride to the island.

The guidance issued Thursday is subject to change as as public health conditions change, the chamber noted in the release.

View original article here

Detroit chamber to hold in-person policy conference requiring vaccination


The Detroit News

The Detroit Regional Chamber said Thursday it will hold its Mackinac Policy Conference in September as scheduled as an in-person event, but will require attendees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The chamber’s conference appears to be the first major event in Michigan that will require vaccination for participation. The Detroit chamber said it is exploring using a third-party technology partner to help verify the vaccination status of participants.

Total attendance at the Mackinac Island conference will be limited to 1,300 attendees — an about 30% reduction to ensure a lower density of people in the hotel, according to the Detroit chamber.

The conference is a major gathering for state lawmakers, the governor’s office, business officials and other elected officials to share ideas. The Detroit chamber also used it during the Republican Snyder administration to try to set policy and other priorities for the coming year.

“The chamber takes its responsibility hosting Michigan’s top leadership seriously,” said Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Mackinac Policy Conference will be among the first large high-profile events to occur as restrictions ease, and the Chamber as a business organization, has the responsibility to handle the event properly.”

Attendees won’t be required to wear masks, but the chamber is asking that participants carry masks with them for use on the ferry to and from the island. Mask wearing is optional and won’t be discouraged as an extra level of protection against COVID-19.

The Sept. 20-23 conference on Mackinac Island is set to follow health safety guidelines — formed with the advice of the Henry Ford Health System and others — that are stricter than existing protocols as a matter of caution, the chamber said in a statement. The chamber said it was doing so since it and the Grand Hotel, where the conference is being held, are private entities.

The safety provisions could change “as public health conditions and official guidance evolve,” the chamber said.

The chamber is closing registration at the end of this month and will create a waiting list for those still interested in attending.

View original article here