Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 10, 2022; Legal, Legislative, and Regulatory Insights
- Wayne County Announces $54 Million Fund for Small Businesses
A new $54 million fund to support small businesses, called the Wayne County Small Business Hub, was announced at last week’s Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference (“Mackinac Conference”). It will provide support to new and existing businesses, with a specific focus on minority- or women-owned businesses, and micro businesses with 10 or fewer employees with a focus on technical assistance.
Why it Matters: Small businesses are often the first to be hit when the economy slows, and with credit markets tightening there are likely to be fewer sources of liquidity for small business owners to tap. This new fund, a collaboration between the Wayne County Executive’s Office and New Economy Initiative, will provide needed resources for historically disadvantaged businesses.
- Ford and Pfizer to Make Significant Investments in Michigan
Also at the Mackinac Conference, Ford Motor Company and Pfizer announced significant investments in Michigan. Ford reportedly will spend $2 billion across the company’s Michigan plants, and intends to create more than 3,000 jobs. Pfizer will make a $120 million investment at its Kalamazoo facility.
Why it Matters: With a great deal of economic doom and gloom in the headlines, these announcements are bright spots showing that large companies are still making investments in their businesses—and in Michigan, in particular.
- Concerns Expressed About Losing Another EV Investment in Michigan
But it’s not all good news on the economic front in Michigan. At the Mackinac Conference, John Rakolta Jr., chairman of Walbridge, pointed out that Michigan is missing out on major opportunities in the electric vehicle industry. For example, Stellantis announced last week that it was bypassing Michigan and locating its new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana.
Why it Matters: According to a study by Fortune Business Insights, the global electric vehicle market is expected to grow from approximately $287 billion in 2021, to $1.3 trillion by 2028. To take advantage of this opportunity, Michigan must make itself attractive to companies in the electric vehicle market. As Rakolta points out, this involves more than designing tax incentives. It requires a more comprehensive approach to utilities, zoning and other important business, financial, legal and regulatory issues.
- Unemployment Claimants Get to Keep Pandemic Overpayments
Michigan sought to claw back Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits paid to many Michigan residents who were accused of misreporting their income. Michigan argued that claimants were liable because they entered their gross pay from prior years to determine their weekly benefit amount when they should have entered their net pay. Michigan reversed course and announced that it would no longer seek to claw back the funds after media reports revealed that at least some claimants were asked during the application process to provide total pay—not net pay—which resulted in confusion and overpayments.
Why it Matters: This announcement surely came as a relief to many Michigan residents who were embroiled in disputes with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. More broadly, this situation demonstrates the importance of using precise, accurate language in contracts and other important documents. The alternative is to invite confusion, dispute and litigation.
- Michigan Cannabis Company Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
A Kalamazoo cannabis company, Master Equity Group, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Michigan.
Why it Matters: This case will be closely watched by the cannabis industry, as well as by corporate restructuring professionals. Bankruptcy courts have historically prevented cannabis companies from filing for protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code because, while marijuana is legal in Michigan, it remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. And because bankruptcy courts are federal courts, similar attempts by cannabis companies to file for bankruptcy protection have been disallowed.
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