Midland Area Farmers Market to Explore Long-Term Solutions, Location

After considering many factors and looking into a long-term strategy for the Midland Area Farmers Market, the Midland Business Alliance (MBA) has determined that the Midland Area Farmers Market will not return to its legacy location next to the river and Tridge.

While the riverside Farmers Market circle has served as a beloved home for the Market for many years, returning the Market to this location in its current size and state presented numerous challenges. Market growth, facilities needs, and necessary electrical and accessibility upgrades to the existing circle structure – which are limited in scope due to its location within a regulatory floodway – all contributed to the decision to seek a more feasible permanent location. As defined by FEMA, a “Regulatory Floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than a designated height.

“As much as we would love to continue in the wonderful setting by the Tridge, data tells us that the best decision for our community, market customers and vendors is to look at alternatives,” said Tony Stamas, MBA President and CEO. “It is our intention to take this time to locate a long-term option for the Farmers Market.”

A Temporary Home
The current location of Dow Diamond’s East parking lot will continue as the home for the 2023 and 2024 Farmers Market seasons. Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons has hosted the Midland Area Farmers Market in the East Parking lot since May 2020.

“We are happy to lend a hand to the Midland Business Alliance and Midland Area Farmers Market for another two years,” said Chris Mundhenk, President & General Manager of the Great Lakes Loons. “Dow Diamond is known to be a community gathering place and we’re happy to continue our great partnership to provide a temporary home.”

Persevering Through a Pandemic & Flooding
The Midland Area Farmers Market has been operating in the Dow Diamond East parking lot since the Tittabawassee River dam system failures in May 2020.

Midland Area Farmers Market has over 75 vendors for the 2022 season with over 50 in attendance during a height-of-season Saturday Market. During peak produce, Market goer attendance reaches over 5,000. Farmers Market popularity has continued to increase since the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, vendors have seen increases in sales and repeat customers.

Moving to Dow Diamond’s East Parking Lot in 2020 provided the opportunity to meet required COVID-19 distancing protocols for both vendors and customers. The additional space includes more parking as well as vendors to work more easily from their transport vehicles.

“We have been thrilled to be able to accommodate more Market Goers in our space, especially all the ages who utilize wheels for transportation” Market Manager Emily Lyons said. “On any given day there will be wheelchairs, wagons, strollers and motorized mobility assistance coming through the Market.”

Many vendors use the Market as a primary source of income; most are from the Great Lakes Bay Region.

As we work through this process we will continue to reach out to customers, vendors and the broader community for their feedback and ideas,” said Stamas. “We would like to thank everyone who continues to support the Market and make it a success.”

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Midland County Residents to Benefit from Rural Digital Opportunity Funding

The Midland County Internet Connectivity Committee (MCIC) announces areas receiving funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), an initiative of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designed to inject billions of dollars into the construction and operation of rural broadband networks.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the FCC’s first step in bridging the digital divide to fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America efficiently. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC has directed up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.

“The importance of reliable, high-speed internet connectivity in today’s world cannot be understated,” said Tony Stamas, MBA President & CEO. “We are grateful that RDOF funds have been identified to help install the necessary infrastructure in critical areas.”

The RDOF Phase I auction provided $9.2 billion in support targeting over six million homes and businesses in census blocks that are entirely unserved by voice and internet with speeds of at least 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload (25/3 Mbps). Nearly all locations funded are expected to receive access to internet speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps. Phase II will cover locations in census blocks that are partially served, as well as locations not funded in Phase I.

Winning bidders, announced in December 2020, are required to complete the work within 6 years with 40% of the work required to be completed by the end of year 3. Providers are also required to offer at least one broadband and voice service at rates that are reasonably comparable to the rate for similar services in urban areas.

RDOF areas in Midland County include Geneva, Jerome, Hope, Mills, Homer, Greendale, Ingersoll and Lee Townships. Winning bidders in Midland County include Mercury Wireless, Inc., CCO Holdings, LLC (Charter Communications) and NexTier Consortium. Click here for the detailed map of areas that received funding.

“RDOF funding will help connect Midland County residents to the internet in the areas where they need it the most,” said Bridgette Gransden, Midland County Administrator/Controller. “It is an essential utility and plays a vital role in daily life including education, business, personal needs and even health care.”

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Update on Current Legal Battle Over 2018 Adopt & Amend

In the July 21st issue of Weekly Update, we provided a summary of a surprising turn of events with several laws passed by the state Legislature in late 2018. As we reported at that time, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled on July 19th that the “adopt and amend” approach was unconstitutional. This potentially means that the two laws the Legislature passed on minimum wage and paid sick leave–which closely mirrored the ballot proposal that otherwise would have gone before Michigan voters–would stand, and the two subsequent laws they passed to enact business-friendly modifications, would be voided.

 

In a nutshell, this means that drastic changes would be implemented here in Michigan, regarding both minimum wage (and tipped wage) and paid sick leave. The MBA views these changes as unfavorable to business; in fact, in August 2018, the Board voted to officially oppose these changes, which were still a ballot proposal at that point in time.

 

While we are concerned for both matters–minimum wage and paid sick leave–the potential changes to paid sick leave are most concerning, as many employers have already adjusted their pay scales upward in response to the current workforce challenges.

 

At this webpage, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce provides a comprehensive summary of the changes that virtually every business–probably including yours–would need to make. If your business already has a paid sick leave policy, that will simply not be enough. We urge you to review this side-by-side comparison of the current law, and what will be required if the Court of Claims ruling stands.

 

So, now what? Well, as we eluded to in this article’s title, a legal battle is ensuing at the Michigan Court of Appeals, which essentially challenges the Court of Claims ruling that the adopt-and-amend strategy is unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals has been asked to expedite this case, and we are awaiting their agreement. If they agree, then a final decision could be reached by late 2022 or early 2023. Currently, a “stay” on the Court of Claims ruling of unconstitutionality has been implemented, but that will expire in mid-February. An expedited timeline could result in a ruling before that stay expires.

 

If this all sounds confusing… It is. If this all sounds like it could significantly impact your business… It could. The MBA is gauging how we can best engage to advocate on behalf of the 3,000 businesses here in Midland. We will continue to keep you informed.

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Midland Area Farmers Market to Celebrate Farmers Market Week

The Midland Area Farmers Market (MAFM) is excited to bring back Farmers Market Week! Farmers Market Week is so much bigger and better this year that the event has gone international! Bring your family, friends and colleagues (sorry no pets!) to pick up the freshest ingredients grown in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The schedule is full of activities at Market on both Wednesday and Saturday, including:

Wednesday, August 10

  • Food Navigator Kid’s Demonstration at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Grace A. Dow Memorial Library will be having story time at 10 a.m.
  • Honeybee Education
  • “Pastries with Public Servants” from 10 a.m- noon.
  • Firetruck & Police Vehicles
  • Live music
  • StoryWalk of Right This Very Minute by Lisl H. Detlefsen

Saturday, August 13

  • Special Community Tables: Dump Your Drugs
  • Kids Corn Shucking Contest at 10 a.m
  • Corn on the Cob Eating Contest at Noon
  • Honeybee Education
  • Live music
  • StoryWalk of Right This Very Minute by Lisl H. Detlefsen

Pastries with Public Servants

Bring your kids to meet local law and safety enforcement officers and enjoy a sweet treat from 10 a.m.-Noon on Wednesday, August 10. A firetruck and police car will be onsite and we’ll be joined by representatives from the Midland Police Department and Midland Fire Department. There will be over 200 treats provided by Leaman’s Green Applebarn, Ignite Donuts and Papa’s Pumpkin Patch (while supplies last).

The Impact of the Farmers Market

Both locally and nationwide, farmers markets make a big impact on their communities. Farmers markets contribute to local economies, promote sustainability and support healthy communities by increasing access to nutritious food. Here are some statistics from the Farmers Market Coalition:
  • The USDA estimates that local food sales from farmers markets, food hubs, CSAs, farm stands and farm to schools programs have grown from about $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014.
  • At farmers markets in low-income areas, 6 in 10 shoppers said that they could find better prices at the markets than at their grocery store.
  • Farmers markets generate $2.4 billion dollars in sales for American farmers according to an estimate based on 2017 USDA Ag Census Data
  • For every dollar of nutrition incentives spent on farm direct purchases, such as at farmers markets, it is estimated to result in a contribution of up to 3 dollars to the U.S. economy
Locally, the MAFM is proud to accept various currencies to give residents of all backgrounds access to fresh, healthy foods. From 2019 to 2021, the Markets’ food assistance impact jumped from $29,810 to $80,206.
Having a strong local bank partner in Isabella Bank allows the Market to offer a wide variety of payment options, including: Cash, check, EBT (tokens), credit or debit (tokens), Double Up Food Bucks (tokens), WIC Project FRESH (coupon), Senior Project FRESH (coupon), Prescription for Health (coupon) and Pandemic EBT(token).

Market Dates and Hours

The Market is a walk-through market located at the Dow Diamond East Parking Lot.
May 7 – October 29
7 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Wednesdays & Saturdays
First three Saturdays in November
9 a.m. – 12 noon
“The Farmers Market is an important part of our community because it helps families from all backgrounds put fresh, healthy foods on the table,” said Emily Lyons, Farmers Market Manager. “We are excited to celebrate Farmers Market Week again this year with our vendors and market goers. Continued support from the community through this year’s weather and location is truly appreciated by all market vendors and staff.”
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Flood Reduction and Resiliency: Momentum Is Growing

Two years ago, our communities were just starting the long, heartbreaking process of cleaning up from the flood. Many of us can remember the shock – and the resolve – that we saw on faces from Edenville to Sanford and Midland. Since then, much progress has been made – including extensive cleanup and rebuilding. But we all recognize that there is so much more to do. This is especially true when we think of long-term solutions to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding.

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Midland Area Farmers Market Announces Hiring of Food Navigator

The Midland Area Farmers Market (MAFM) is excited to announce a new addition to the 2022 Market season: A Food Navigator, Natalie Kea!

Food Navigators can be found throughout the state at many different farmers markets and are available to assist all Market Goers. Their primary focus is helping those who receive food assistance navigate the different kinds available, resulting in a best use of the aid received while still benefitting the local produce farmers. The MAFM Food Navigator position is made possible by MyMichigan Health.

“The role of a food navigator is a relatively new role across the U.S., and an important one to ensure residents have a better understanding and greater access to affordable, healthy food,” said Mary Greeley, Vice President, Population Health at MyMichigan Health. “This partnership with the Midland Business Alliance is a perfect example of our purpose at MyMichigan Health in ‘Creating Healthy Communities – Together.’ It is these types of collaborations that will keep our communities healthy and strong for future generations.”

Kea, who recently graded with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Central Michigan will begin on June 1. You will be able to find her at Market every Wednesday and Saturday from June 1 – October 29. Kea was previously the Power of Produce Intern at the Frankenmuth Farmers Market, so is no stranger to working with Market customers.

“By partnering with MyMichigan Health we were able to create an opportunity to better support current and future produce growers while creating a thriving marketplace for local food and farm products and its vision that all residents have access to healthy, locally grown food,” said Emily Lyons, MAFM Manager. “This position will support MAFM’s staff and produce famers to expand and support MAFM’s accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Double Up Food Bucks and other food assistance programs.”

Thanks to support from the Market’s financial institution partner, Isabella Bank, the MAFM can accept many types of payment. This includes SNAP/EBT, WIC Project FRESH coupons, Senior Project FRESH coupons as well as Double Up Food Bucks and debit and credit. For more information check out the Isabella Bank booth in front of the Dow Diamond East Ticket Booth every Market day.

“Many markets across the state have Food Navigators and MAFM has been deserving of one for some time,” Lyons said. “Once we closed the 2021 season with more than $80,000 in food assistance spent, it was easy to justify the position. I am so grateful to MyMichigan for underwriting it!”

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Updates from May 12 Newsletter

Revisiting Term Limits for State Lawmakers

You might be old enough to remember, back in the early 1990s, the battle in Michigan to set term limits for state lawmakers. That initiative succeeded, limiting state House members to three, two-year terms, and state Senate members to two four-year terms, with a maximum of 14 years total service between the two chambers.

On and off since that time, we’ve heard about intentions to modify or even remove term limits. With actions taken earlier this week in the Legislature, that issue is going before Michigan voters in the November 8 General Election.

This past Tuesday, both the House and the Senate passed House Joint Resolution R, which will send the question of a new constitutional amendment to the voters in November. If passed, the amendment would limit state lawmakers to serving a maximum total of 12 years in the legislature, but that entire time could be spent in one chamber, or split between the two. Proponents for the amendment suggest that this would allow lawmakers to serve more time in one chamber, rather than moving from the House to the Senate or vice versa. That change would permit lawmakers to build up their knowledge of the issues, build up relationships, and potentially spending less time campaigning.

Getting the issue onto the ballot could have been accomplished via the gathering of voters’ signatures. However, that strategy would have required 425,000+ valid signatures by July 11th. The initiative was spearheaded by Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, which had asked the House and Senate to consider putting the question on the ballot themselves via a vote.

If passed, the constitutional amendment would also include a transparency measure. Michigan is currently one of only two states that does not require financial disclosure for lawmakers. If passed, the amendment would require not only lawmakers, but the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state to provide annual financial disclosures, beginning April 15, 2024.

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New Antennas Expand Internet Access for North Midland Family Center

New antennas installed at the North Midland Family Center (NMFC) at the beginning of March has greatly expanded internet access and speeds.

This was the first project identified by the Midland County Internet Connectivity Committee because it was relatively low-cost and serves Northern Midland County, an area with lower rates of internet connectivity. The cost was covered by a grant from the Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF).

“This project was a success due to the collaboration of many community partners,” said MBA President and CEO Tony Stamas. “From everyone on the Committee to a grant from the MACF, we are grateful to have so many stakeholders committed to making sure everyone in Midland County has access to affordable high-speed internet.”

The new antennas enable internet access not only throughout the North Midland Family Center, but also the parking lot and other outside areas. This allows for a more reliable internet connection to those accessing NMFC resources.

“Greater Midland is an institution in Midland that serves as a community gathering place and provides programs and services that positively promote physical and emotional wellbeing at our locations across Midland County,” said Greater Midland President and CEO Terri Johnson. “We are dedicated to serving everyone in the community and the North Midland Family Center is a critical piece of the puzzle for Northern Midland County. We couldn’t be more thrilled to offer them better internet access.”

The mission of the Midland County Internet Connectivity Committee is to provide high-speed internet in Midland County which is critical for our community to thrive. The goal is to provide all Midland County households, businesses and schools with access to affordable, quality broadband. Beginning with northern Midland County, we will work with industry experts to identify high-priority areas and cost-efficient measures to deliver high-speed internet to significant portions of the population helping to close the digital divide. A list of all committee members can be found here.

A survey conducted in 2021 collected data from 1,438 residential broadband surveys and 44 business broadband surveys to develop a plan that addresses the pain points and opportunities for Midland County’s internet needs. The committee meets regularly to determine areas of need.  If you’d like your location to be considered an area of focus, please contact Tina Lynch at tlynch@mbami.org.

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Updates from April 28 Newsletter

Long-Sought Deposit Into Unemployment Fund Comes to Fruition

The State of Michigan’s Unemployment Compensation Fund got a big boost earlier this month.

House Bill 5525, signed into law by Governor Whitmer on April 11th, poured an additional $140 million into the fund with the primary purpose of targeting potential future fraud. This legislation, now Public Act 61 of 2022, will fund dozens of additional employees at the agency to help spot fraud and abuse. Some funding may also be shared with the Attorney General’s office to pursue cases of fraud.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan paid out an estimated $4.5 billion in fraudulent claims, and 54 people have been charged with fraud; an additional $43.7 in attempted fraud was spotted before it could be carried out. The vast majority of the money paid to fraudsters seems to have come from federal sources.

In addition to fraud, Michigan incurred $4 billion in overpayments. Though the state initially asked erroneously overpaid individuals to reimburse the payments, many beneficiaries have already received waivers, and the state has opted to pause collections on other overpayments until at least May.

By law, when the state’s Unemployment Compensation Fund drops below $2.5 billion, Michigan employers’ payments into the fund are increased. With record unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis, the fund took a huge hit, dropping from a balance of $4.6 billion down to $500 million, in just one year’s time. Fortunately, PA 61 diverts the need for Michigan businesses to incur those increased payments.

The $140 million payment into the Unemployment Compensation Fund came from three sources: Nearly $107 million from federal funding, $24 million from the state’s general fund, and nearly $9 million from the state’s restricted funds.

Establishing an adequate level of funding in Michigan’s Unemployment Compensation Fund is one of the 12 priorities on the MBA’s current Legislative Priorities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2021 Midland SmartZone Small Business of the Year Announced

Agrolytics Corp has been recognized as the 2021 Midland SmartZone Business of the Year, honoring their innovative technology solution for indoor farming. Agrolytics Corp will receive their recognition at the Michigan Celebrates Small Business gala in early May alongside three other Midland County small businesses.

Established July 2020, Agrolytics Corp is an agri-tech solution provider of indoor farming technology and data analytics for commercial farmers, nonprofit organizations, and boutique farmers. Their Recipe-based Ecosystem for Agricultural Processes (REAP) technology will help eliminate food shortages by allowing growers to operate closer to the consumer, in secured locations, urban food deserts and extreme climate with a vision to enable any crop to be grown anywhere.

“Agrolytics is dedicated to improving Michigan’s economic landscape by accelerating their innovative technologies,” said President + CEO of CMURC Erin Strang. “The team really utilized all of the resources available through the MEDC SmartZone network to support the growth of their company – including space, programs and investment.”

In 2021, Agrolytics partnered with the Saginaw Youth Development Corporation (YDC) to build an automated indoor farm pilot. The pilot will be the basis for a future, and much larger scale indoor farm, to be built for YDC’s Food Scarcity Initiative.

“Securing a three-year agreement with YDC was huge for us,” said Bob Cummer, President and CEO of Agrolytics. “The agreement, valued at greater than $1.2 million, is an opportunity for Agrolytics to install our revolutionary REAP indoor farming ecosystem in several underserved Michigan communities; thus, helping to eliminate food deserts by providing these communities with pesticide-free produce year-round.”

The design of the scaled farm demonstration is made possible through SmartZone support services provided by CMURC in partnership with the Midland Business Alliance (MBA). CMURC and the MBA were awarded Business Accelerator Funds (BAF) to provide additional professional services on behalf of client company Agrolytics. The Michigan Celebrates Small Business program is administered by the Michigan Small Business Development Center in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“Agrolytics work directly ties in with the YDC’s socially focused efforts to impact food insecurity in their community, and is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to solving a critical issue both locally and across the globe!” said Nicole Wilson, MBA Vice President of Economic Development.

To learn more about Agrolyics, click here.

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MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure Celebrates $1.65 Million in Federal Appropriations for Mid-Michigan

After passing in the U.S. House and Senate last week, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2022 was signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 15. The Midland Business Alliance (MBA) Advisory Committee on Infrastructure is celebrating $1.65 million in funding and a significant policy change included, thanks to the committee’s work with local partners and legislators.

“Thanks to our representatives in Washington, D.C. – especially Congressman John Moolenaar and Senator Debbie Stabenow – our specific requests for fiscal year 2022 were included and passed in the final omnibus bill,” said Tony Stamas, President and CEO of the MBA. “These funds will help with mid-Michigan’s rebuilding and restoration after the 2020 flood – and will help build resiliency for the future.”

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Updates from March 17 Newsletter

State Issues Latest Guidance on COVID-19

This past Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated their COVID-19 guidance. The announcement comes as the state continues through what the MDHHS refers to as the recovery (post surge) phase of the pandemic. The state entered this stage in mid-February.

The MDHHS offers specific guidance on both masking and isolation & quarantining.  In a nutshell, only those individuals who test positive for COVID-19 now need to quarantine; those exposed, simply need to monitor for symptoms for 10 days, as well as potentially utilize a face mask, based on their specific situations.

In Michigan, our average daily new cases have dropped to about 770, and are approaching the low, low numbers we witnessed this past summer. Hospitalizations are well under 1,000 (after peaking at 5,000 in January), and fatalities have dramatically dropped, as well.  As of March 15th, the positivity rate as of March 15th was 2.5%. The state has long aimed for a positivity rate of 3.0% or lower. You can view the most recent statistics as this Bridge Michigan website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Midland Blooms is Back for 32nd Year

The MBA is excited to announce that Midland Blooms will be back again for 2022 with planting day on Saturday, May 21.

The MBA has coordinated the program since its inception in 1989 with the assistance of a volunteer committee comprised of community members and business representatives, as well as City staff members.

The program typically brings over 500 community residents and businesses together for a one-day volunteer service project planting flowers on Midland’s Eastman Avenue corridor providing community ownership residents can be proud of as well as community beautification. This year, red petunias will be planted on the 2.5 mile stretch on Eastman from Wackerly to Buttles.

“The flowers we plant for Midland Blooms not only offer a warm welcome to visitors all summer, from the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational to Riverdays, but show that we all take pride in our community,” said Tony Stamas, MBA President and CEO. “Midland is already a beautiful place and this program enhances it.”

Thanks to Our Community Supporters

For the second year, Corteva Agriscience is the premier business sponsor for the program. To recognize this new partnership, the MBA launched a new Midland Blooms logo last year featuring Corteva and will display signage along the planting route.

“Corteva’s Values are to Enrich lives, Stand tall, Be curious, Build together, Be upstanding, and Live safely,” said Sarah Brooks, Operations and Site Communications Manager. “Through this partnership with the MBA and Midland Blooms, Corteva and our employees are able to showcase these values. We are glad to be a part of the Midland Community and are proud to support the Midland Blooms program that we look forward to each year.”

Additionally, the MBA would like to thank those who have committed to participate in Midland Blooms this year as well as the many organizations and businesses that provided resources to make this year’s program possible. The MBA couldn’t implement this program without the City of Midland, Boehler’s Greenhouses, Primrose Retirement Communities, Garber Chevrolet, Midland Ford Lincoln, and Coffee Chaos. We are grateful to the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Dow Foundation, CBM Services and Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau for funding the project as well as Hemlock Semiconductor Operation who donated to offset the cost of flowers this year.

Primrose Retirement Communities will be hosting a sit-down pancake breakfast outdoors for volunteers following planting.

Get Involved with Blooms!

Do you love Midland Blooms? An endowment fund has been established with MACF to keep Blooms going strong. Please consider supporting the program on May 3 during Give Local Midland. Visit www.givelocalmidland.org to learn more.

Join nearly 500 of your neighbors for this one-day volunteer effort! We are looking for teams of 8-10. Click here to learn more about volunteering for Midland Blooms.

On behalf of the Midland Business Alliance and the Midland Blooms Planning Committee, we would like to thank the community for their support and commitment to Midland Blooms.

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Laying the Foundation for Flood Reduction: 2021 in Review

Op-ed by J.W. Fisher and Lee Ann Keller, Co-chairs of the MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure

As co-chairs of the Midland Business Alliance (MBA) Advisory Committee on Infrastructure, we are proud of the progress the task force and community partners made last year. We know there are many years of hard work ahead to meet our goal of reducing the frequency and severity of flooding and increasing mid-Michigan’s resiliency when faced with future flood events. We think that the 2021 efforts started laying a solid foundation for the region’s future success.

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Updates from Feb. 17 Newsletter

State Issues Updated Mask Guidance

Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated their masking guidance to align better with the current state of COVID-19. The state of Michigan now enters what is being phrased a “post-surge recovery phase.” Going forward, the state will divide their responses by three key descriptions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is still recommended that individuals still mask up in high-risk, congregate living settings, and while they are isolated or quarantined.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is also considering altering guidelines, in response to falling case rates across the nation.

MBA’s Legislative Priorities Get a Refresh

At their February 14th meeting, the MBA Board of Directors approved updates to our Legislative Priorities document. You can view the updated document here.

Our advocacy efforts are guided by input from the members of our Business Advocacy Council, our long-standing Legislative Policies document (includes broad language supporting business-friendly public policy in areas like labor, taxes, education, and more), and our Legislative Priorities document. The latter is updated on a yearly basis to keep it fresh and responsive to current conditions. We formally present the document to our elected officials on an annual basis.

“Our Legislative Priorities document provides a clear roadmap of what public policy areas are currently most important to our business community. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we continue to focus on the devastating effects of COVID-19, dam failure flooding in our community, enhanced infrastructure, and sound governmental practices,” said Tony Stamas, President & CEO for the MBA.

You may contact Diane Middleton, Vice President of Advocacy, at dmiddleton@mbami.org, with concerns that could help to inform our work in the public policy space.

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Updates from Feb. 10 MBA Newsletter

Lansing Highlights

This week’s big story out of Lansing is Governor Whitmer’s FY23 budget proposal. We can expect significant back-and-forth between state lawmakers and the Governor’s office before all is said and done with the FY23 budget. You can view the annual timeline here, from the Senate Fiscal Agency.

However, our state Legislature is still working on plenty of legislation that has the potential to impact business. Here’s a rundown:

Unemployment reform package of bills:  This is a package of eight bills that would reform practices of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, aimed at increasing transparency and more streamlined customer services. Included in the package is HB 5528, which prohibits the UIA from charging an improperly paid benefit to an employer’s account.

The package has been approved in the House, and is awaiting discussion in the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

Fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the state’s unemployment insurance agency an estimated $8.5 billion. In related news, Governor Whitmer’s FY23 budget proposal includes funding to replace the software utilized by the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Tax cuts for business: SB 768, introduced in early December and approved (with a substitute) by the Senate Finance Committee in late January, would reduce the corporate income tax rate from 6.0% to 3.9%. The total tax cut is estimated at about $2 billion. Of course, the bill still needs approval from the full Senate and House, and the Governor’s signature. A provision of the bill that also decreases personal income tax from 4.25% to 3.9%, and provides a $500 non-refundable credit for each dependent under age 19 sweetens the pot for lawmakers who might otherwise oppose. It is uncertain when the next action on the bill is expected.

Funding for businesses most significantly impacted by COVID: HB 5524 has already passed the full House, and now moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The bill would provide $186 million total in funding to businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, theaters, CVBs, etc., plus would waive fees to the Liquor Control Commission and some specific licensing fees.

PPT exemption deadline extension:  Did your business miss the filing deadline in 2021 for personal property tax exemption, due to COVID-19? A package of bills (SB 805, 806, and 807)under consideration in the Senate Finance Committee is seeking to provide a one-time extension of this deadline.

You’re in Good Company

As a small business owner, there’s plenty to keep you awake at night. Are they valid concerns? Probably so! The Small Business Association of Michigan recently released results of a January survey that sought to identify small business owners’ greatest concerns. You can see the results here. This kind of data can help drive public policy that benefits the business community. Of course, we always welcome your input, as well. You may contact Diane Middleton, Vice President of Advocacy, at dmiddleton@mbami.org, with concerns that could help to inform our work in the public policy space.

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MBA Announces New Director of Events

The Midland Business Alliance (MBA) is pleased to announce the hiring of Heather Watson as its new Director of Events.

In her role, she will oversee all MBA events and programs and is responsible for developing and implementing large-scale events. Popular MBA events include WakeUp! Midland, Mulligan Masters Golf Outing, MBA Holiday Party, as well as the annual State of the City and State of the Business Community luncheons.

She previously served as the Operations Manager for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Her responsibilities included overseeing the offices and team members of the region’s destination marketing & management organization (DMMO), three county-level DMMOs, and the Quality of Life Foundation, collaborating regularly with sales and marketing teams while engaging in a strong emphasis on community advocacy in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“Heather has a proven track record of serving and promoting our region so we are thrilled to have her as a part of the MBA team,” said Tony Stamas, MBA President and CEO.

Heather proudly holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Saginaw Valley State University as a first-generation student. Watson grew up and currently resides in Essexville, Michigan. In her spare time, Heather takes pleasure in volunteering and advocating for animal welfare at the Bay County Animal Shelter and pursuing her passion for travel by exploring our beautiful Great Lakes State with her German Shephard, Ray.

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Who Is the Midland County Broadband Committee? Staff Update and Renaming Announced

The Midland County Internet Connectivity Committee, formerly known as the Midland County Broadband Committee, is pleased to announce that the Midland Business Alliance (MBA) now has a staff member dedicated to the project: Tina Lynch.

The mission of the committee is to provide high-speed internet in Midland County which is critical for our community to thrive. The goal is to provide all Midland County households, businesses and schools with access to affordable, quality broadband. Beginning with northern Midland County, we will work with industry experts to identify high-priority areas and cost-efficient measures to deliver high-speed internet to significant portions of the population helping to close the digital divide.

 Full-Time Staff Member Dedicated to Project

In late 2021, the Midland County Board of Commissioners approved $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to go to the MBA to support broadband initiatives. Stamas appointed MBA staff member Tina Lynch to a newly created role to support these efforts. Lynch has been an integral part of the MBA team since 2013, leading programs such as Midland Blooms, WakeUp! Midland and Global Networking as well as economic and workforce development efforts. Her new title will be Director of Broadband Initiatives.

“We are excited to have Tina in this critical role,” MBA President and CEO Tony Stamas said. “She has been a valuable member of our team and is the right person to continue moving the project forward. Making sure everyone in Midland County has access to affordable high-speed internet is crucial for both business and households.”

 Members of the Committee
The committee is a collaboration between the MBA, Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF), Midland County and other community representatives. It includes:

  • Chris Cantrell, Midland County
  • Bridgette Gransden, Midland County
  • Terri Johnson, Greater Midland
  • Helen Myers, Dow Retiree/Community Volunteer
  • Sharon Mortensen, Midland Area Community Foundation
  • Jonathan Myers, Midland County Road Commission
  • Tim Dempsey, Public Sector Consultants
  • Heather Gallegos, Dow
  • James Mallory, Midland County ESA
  • Jack Robinson, Dow Retiree/Community Volunteer
  • Jenny Bruzewski, Midland Business Alliance
  • Tina Lynch, Midland Business Alliance
  • Tony Stamas, Midland Business Alliance

What’s Next?
Stay tuned for additional updates from the committee as it identifies projects and targeted areas of need within Midland County.

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