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Author: Amanda Loveland

Homelessness Awareness Week with the Interfaith Shelter

Homelessness is a sensitive topic; it’s something we know is out there, but to what degree? It may be something that comes more to the surface during the colder months, or perhaps when you see a person in need on the street. At the Interfaith Shelter, they average about 65 clients per night. The Interfaith Shelter is not just a place for the homeless to rest their head for the night, they provide temporary shelter and other essential resources to people experiencing homelessness or poverty. Clients can stay at the shelter as long as they are making positive progress toward their goals. For some, this could be a week or two, while others need a few months to secure housing.

All images from the Jackson Interfaith Shelter on Facebook

The Interfaith Shelter is able to provide a variety of resources to get clients back on track. They recognize that the homeless may need assistance with furthering their education, bettering their mental health, or becoming job-ready. Local organizations and churches within Jackson often come to the Interfaith Shelter to share their resources. Some include mental health screenings by LifeWays. Likewise, the Community Action Agency screens clients for housing and offers a weekly finance class. The College and Career Access Center provides help with resumes, GED preparation, and job hunting. Other talents that are shared with the shelter come from chiropractors, barbers, and even weekly job fairs. What the Interfaith Shelter calls Dinner Church occurs every Wednesday, where eight churches rotate and offer a service right at the shelter, and these services are open to anyone.

On average monthly, the shelter has seen 60 out of 76 beds filled per night, 22 of those being children, this year. The Interfaith Shelter has served about 4,707 meals per month, which are open to anyone who needs them, homeless or not.

Homelessness Awareness Week is November 13-19.

There are many ways to get involved, big and small. The Interfaith Shelter is hosting a fundraiser through the Jackson Culver’s located on O’Neil Drive. You can help by stopping by Culver’s on Tuesday, November 15 from 4-8pm to order a meal, dine-in or drive-thru. A portion of the proceeds made in that time will support the Jackson Interfaith Shelter. While you’re there, you may see some familiar faces from the Interfaith Shelter delivering meals to your table.

Dinner Church

Outside of Homelessness Awareness Week, the Interfaith Shelter is always looking for volunteers and donations. Volunteers can be utilized as meal servers and front desk help, which allows the staff to have more one-on-one time with clients. Donations that are always appreciated include blankets, food, scarves, and hats. Clothing is not accepted at the shelter.

Think of the holiday parties you are hosting or attending within the next few months. The Interfaith Shelter would greatly appreciate any leftover dishes that went uneaten. Maybe you bought one extra bag of chips for the tailgate you attended last weekend. They will surely be enjoyed at the shelter.

There are often questions and clarifications needed surrounding the homeless population. A lot of those questions can be answered on the Interfaith Shelter’s podcast, Shelter Together. On the podcast, they host guests and talk about the reality of homelessness in Jackson County.

For more ways to engage with and stay up to date with what’s happening at the shelter, sign up for their weekly emails here. Otherwise, be sure to follow the Interfaith Shelter on Facebook and Instagram to stay informed.

A Conversation with Former Embezzler, Barry Webne, and Peak Manufacturing President, Amanda Hutchings

Barry Webne was once your average employee, facing financial trouble, something most of us experience at some point in our lifetime. With an MBA in accounting, he was titled as the Controller within his company, in charge of all accounting systems. He had reached a point in his life where he felt as if he had his back against the wall financially and was in a position where there was no internal control over him. In 1992, Barry saw an opportunity and took it.

Barry Webne

For four years, Barry embezzled over one million dollars from his company. He described his crime as a sort of addiction, starting small with a thousand dollars here, two thousand there, nothing anyone would ever notice. However, after realizing he could get away with it, it only continued. “Once you start, you can’t stop,” Barry explained, “I was a model employee, everyone was telling their colleagues to be more like Barry.”

After serving six months in prison, he found another accounting job, thinking his crimes were over before he saw the opportunity to steal again. His next crime lasted from 2001 to 2006, when he, once again, embezzled over a million dollars. As a result, aside from spending 63 months in jail, he lost everything, including his family and friends.

Barry is just an example of a crime that occurs all too often. Jackson’s own Peak Manufacturing just experienced a similar situation. A model employee had been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars at the company for years. She was a close friend of Peak Manufacturing President, Amanda Hutchings. Amanda reflects back on the discovery she found in January of 2021 and stated that it felt like a movie; embezzlement is never something you think can happen to you, but after the story came out, a number of companies reached out sharing that they had experienced a similar situation.

Amanda Hutchings, Peak Manufacturing President

The Jackson County Chamber is hosting a Lunch & Learn on November 7 where Amanda will not only be recounting the story of how Peak Manufacturing was embezzled from but talking about specific accounting procedures and policies your business can implement. Barry Webne will also be speaking, sharing the red flags you can spot before the problem gets out of control.

“It could’ve been stopped. It should’ve been stopped,” Amanda continued, “Embezzlement is preventable. You just have to learn all the tricks and tools to prevent it.”

Amanda’s story is truly a microcosm of what is happening more often than business owners believe to be true. Embezzlement, fraud, and theft is happening now and is happening locally. To learn how you can detect and prevent embezzlement from happening within your own organization, join the Jackson Chamber for a Lunch and Learn on November 7, where both Barry and Amanda will be sharing their experiences.

Barry shared that employers are hesitant to ask questions, and he encourages employers and business owners to ask the hard questions, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem. Your business will thank you later.

I think business owners just need a little encouragement; they just can’t trust all their employees. Ask questions.

Barry Webne

This event is made possible by Comerica Bank.

Chamber Announces PAC Endorsements

October 19, 2022

JACKSON, MI – The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (PAC) has announced its endorsements for political office, endorsements are based on legislative leadership and focus on issues concerning the continued growth of our business community.

Jackson has a historic opportunity to choose legislators in newly drawn districts. After interviewing candidates with unique and diverse experience the Political Action Committee (PAC) used parameters such as economic development, infrastructure, workforce development, and regulations as discussion points to determine who best fit the Chamber’s mission and goals.

With these parameters and some debate, the following candidates received the endorsement from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce PAC:

Tim Walberg (US Representative 5th District)

Tim Golding (State Senate 14th District)

Sara Lightner (State Representative 45th District)

Kathy Schmaltz (State Representative 45th District)

James “Steve” Shotwell (County Commissioner 5th District)

Please remember to vote on Nov. 8th!

JACKSON COUNTY OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF PRESENTS JAIL AND MILLAGE INFORMATION FOR NOV. 8TH BALLOT

September 20, 2022

For more information about the below, contact:

Gary R. Schuette, Sheriff 

OurJacksonCounty@gmail.com

517-768-7921

Wesley Street Deficiencies 

The 1978 addition is sinking and pulling away from the main structure. At some points, there is 6 inches of separation.   The Sewer pipes are original and routinely leak raw sewage, often falling on deputies. Several large metal pans catch raw sewage and direct it to buckets which are routinely emptied.   Only 5 of 24 electronic door locks work. Dated equipment cannot be repaired as it is no longer produced.   Radio transmissions by deputies do not penetrate the solid concrete walls creating severe safety hazards.   Heating and cooling is adjusted using vice grips which are propped up by metal poles.   Locks on cell doors are failing and repairs are in the thousands for just one lock.   Security fencing is inadequate and also sinking. The gate has a 2-foot gap when closed.   Costs to repair Wesley Street are higher than a full teardown and replacement of the building.

Millage 

The Chanter Road facility, and the north side addition to Wesley Street, was built using a ½ mill increase to property tax. This millage also accounted for additional funding for operational costs at the Chanter Road Facility.   The ½ mill millage expired in 2021. The last year of collection is 2022.   Costs for building the project are estimated at $51,895,705. ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds can be used for approximately $2 million of the cost.   Millage request for the balance of the cost is for 1 mill over 20 years; this is a half mill increase over the expired millage.   1 mill results in a property tax increase of $1 for every $1000 of taxable value. A house worth $200,000 has a taxable value of $100,000. Therefore, the property owner in this example would pay an additional $100 per year in property tax. The effective increase in taxes is really only half that, $50 per year, because of the previous ½ mill millage.
– $100 per year = 27 cents per day
– $50 per year = 13 1/2 cents per day

Solution

An architectural design firm, specializing in jails, worked with the Sheriff to complete a comprehensive study to determine the needs of Jackson County now and 20 years into the future.   This includes:
– Demolition of Wesley Street Jail;
– A 250 bed jail addition to Chanter Road;
– A new, and much smaller, Sheriff’s Office constructed at the Wesley Street location that includes an enclosed sally port, equipped with an elevator, for securely transferring inmates to court. State law requires the Sheriff’s Office be located in the county seat, which is the City of Jackson.

Interested in a tour? Schedule your tour by emailing OurJacksonCounty@gmail.com

Reach Higher with U.S. Airforce Recruiter, John Riggs

Have you ever thought of the U.S. Airforce to be more than just a branch of the military that flies planes or reminds you of your favorite movie? The Airforce is also an institution that provides education, makes connections, and builds relationships.

Master Sergeant John Riggs, Enlisted Accessions Recruiter has been in the U.S. Airforce since 2008. In 2020, Riggs came to Jackson to begin recruiting for the Airforce. His job is to visit schools throughout southern Michigan to attend class talks, career fairs, and events in order to find eligible recruits that may be interested in joining the Airforce. Riggs is the main recruiter in Jackson County and is constantly reminded of the good the Airforce has done for his life.

Riggs is originally from Atlantic City and determined at a young age that he wanted to be part of the U.S. Military. He even shared that his mom recently sent him a picture of one of his second-grade school projects where he answered the classic prompt “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “Army man.” 15 days after his high school graduation, he joined the Airforce.

When going through the process of gaining a recruit, Riggs explained that it all starts with a simple phone call. From there, the recruit starts with MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). All before basic training, a recruit has to pass a series of pre-screenings, as well as armed service, aptitude, battery, and physical tests. This may sound daunting, but it all takes an average of three months before they can move on to basic training.

The Airforce has given Riggs opportunities he had never had before. Education, health benefits, real-world experience, relationships, and lifelong friendships are all something the Airforce made possible for him. As he recruits, he sees himself in the young airmen who are new to the Airforce but is able to give back and provide opportunities to young people who are in the same place that Riggs once was. Riggs has been in the Airforce for 14 years, and now being a recruiter himself, he often reflects on his recruiter when he began his process. He enjoys being a part of the reason former recruits return to their community and come back disciplined, educated, and better overall.

Working for an employer that has several veterans within its own walls, Ron O’Rourke is extremely proud that Monster Motors is sponsoring Jackson County’s recruiting office. Giving back in this way is something that goes beyond a business-to-business relationship. Riggs exchanged an Airforce coin to show respect and thanks for their budding partnership. In the Airforce, the exchange of a coin typically signifies appreciation for a job well done.

Participating in community events has been a large component of recruiting. You may have seen Riggs flying on Aviation Day at the Jackson County Airport, or even volunteering at a local event. If you’re a school looking to have Riggs speak, hosting a career fair or an assembly, he is excited to hear from you.

If you or someone you know may be interested in joining the Airforce, Master Sergeant Riggs is most accessible by phone. Give him a call at 517-945-4218 to set up an appointment to discuss next steps, or simply to see if the military is right for you.

How Experience Jackson Partners with Jackson County

Jackson County is known for a number of unique things: beautiful parks, a bustling startup community, delicious coneys, and an event calendar that is filled to the brim. One of Experience Jackson’s greatest pleasures is being able to build community partnerships to keep that calendar of events as packed as can be. You may have noticed the Experience Jackson logo at the finish line of a race, on the back of a volunteer’s t-shirt, or overheard their name on the mic at an event. You may wonder how those appearances come to be, or how Experience Jackson can partner with your business.

Experience Jackson’s mission is to strengthen the positive perception of Jackson County as a must-visit destination to increase revenues and stimulate economic development and growth for the community.

Photo: Andrew Volk

Bright Walls, in addition to Jackson’s more notable events, is a prime example of what a partnership with Experience Jackson can look like. The financial contribution Experience Jackson has made allows for an artist to paint the back of the shared Experience Jackson/Chamber of Commerce building. Luckily for the Chamber, the entire team and our community get to enjoy the mural on the back of our shared building for decades to come.

With that also comes social media promotion on each end, logoed materials throughout the festival, and other features. Though Bright Walls is showing Experience Jackson a bit of love, Experience Jackson also likes to highlight the organizations and events they sponsor, since it is a partnership after all. Experience Jackson highlighted the Bright Walls Finale in a recent blog, on their social media, and in their monthly newsletter. Sharing who Experience Jackson proudly partners with is one of the many benefits that come with allowing Experience Jackson to get involved in your event.

Photo: Kelli Schweizer

Experience Jackson is also getting involved face-to-face with the festival, with a booth in front of the office and their very own “Chalk Alley,” where children can come to the office the Friday of Bright Walls and create their own masterpieces along the side of the Chamber/Experience Jackson building.

Bright Walls is an excellent example of an event that draws people to Jackson and stimulates economic development. Investing in something that adds another layer of what makes our county great contributes to their mission of attracting people to the area, creating a livelier place to both live and visit.

When a sponsorship opportunity presents itself, the entire Experience Jackson team gets to review it; they decide as a team whether or not they should move forward with a partnership, and in what way. Each partnership is unique and individual and decided on a case-by-case basis. Some sponsorships look like a financial donation, but are not limited to gift baskets, presence at the event via vendor booth, or even an appearance by JACK the Elephant.

If you or your business are hosting an event and are excited about the opportunity to partner with Experience Jackson, you can send a request here. Or, if you or your business are hosting an event and want to publish it to Experience Jackson’s Community Calendar, click here.

Meech & Muff Heavenly Foods is Cooking for Change

When struggling with something, people cope in a multitude of ways. Some may go for a walk, others exercise, or even dive into a TV show or book to distract themselves from the world. For Shanice Galloway, it’s getting in the kitchen, turning on some R&B, and starting to cook. Cooking has always been a passion for Shanice, but it has taken on a whole new meaning for her in the past several years.

Meech & Muff Heavenly Foods was originally named after Meech, Shanice’s brother, who was murdered in 2017. Born and raised on the southside of Jackson, Shanice does the work she does to implement change and be an example to those around her. She had begun cooking to cope with the loss of her brother. The business had just taken off, she had purchased a food truck in 2020 with the hopes of being able to serve events on the go. Her momentum sadly took a halt in 2021, just a few short years after losing her brother, Shanice’s fiancé, Muff, was also murdered in 2021. It was a loss that shook the community, especially for Shanice whose life had changed forever. Suddenly losing someone who was loved and admired by everyone she met and having to deal with obstacles no one should have to overcome. From there, Meech & Muff Heavenly Foods came to be, as Shanice continued to cook to cope with the loss of both her brother and her fiancé.

She has used her talents to feed the homeless to get the community back together again. Shanice points out that her community needs to find a solution for the peace and safety of those she loves. Comfort food takes on a whole new meaning when it brings healing and positivity to a community that has been struggling for years, which is something Shanice has witnessed her entire life.

Shanice is best known for the variety of egg rolls she creates, and other delectable creations like southwest chicken and ribs. She provides comfort foods to those in the area and even delivers them herself. Right now, she cooks out of her home daily, specifically what is special ordered by text. In the future, she hopes for her business to grow in a whole new way, where she will be equipped to cater larger events. So far, she has done four events and hopes to continue by doing office parties, birthday parties, or even weddings.

As for now, she hopes to revisit the food truck after she took a step back after the passing of her fiancé. Now, stronger than ever, she hopes to cook food that will not only feed her community but continue to help her to heal. As she is just getting her business of the ground, she and the team at Monster Motors are proud to be working together to make her Chamber Membership possible in order to build connections and grow her customer base.

Soon, she will have a website that will streamline her business practices. For now, she is sharing her menu on her Facebook page and his taking orders by phone, 517-769-4354. She is also available by email for larger events, Shanice.galloway.88@gmail.com.

Rep. Julie Alexander Response to Minimum Wage Increase

Update: 7/26/22

The Jackson Chamber works in partnership with local, state, and federal representatives to keep our Members updated on public policies and stances that affect their businesses. Due to the recent rulings on the Minimum Wage Increase, we asked Representative Julie Alexander to explain the expected appeals process and resources to express concerns. Her response is below.

July 26, 2022

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the state Court of Claims’ recent decision to declare two Michigan laws regarding minimum wage and paid sick leave unconstitutional. I understand many job providers in our community have questions about what this ruling means, and I will continue to closely monitor this issue as the situation unfolds.

In 2018, the state Legislature approved two plans on minimum wage and sick leave that protected Michigan jobs, state workers and their families, and our struggling economy. The issues were brought to light after out-of-state special interests helped bankroll two poorly written petition drives in our state. The Court of Claims recently ruled the Legislature acted unconstitutionally in passing these bills.

First and foremost, it’s important to note the controversial decision is not yet effective. Most civil judgments are automatically postponed for 21 days to give parties time to appeal. The decision was issued on July 19, so Aug. 9 is the first possible but highly unlikely enforcement date. If and when the enforcement date arrives, Michigan law would revert back to language in the original petition drives.

But there is a very good chance the postponement gets extended well past 21 days. An independent team within the Attorney General’s office — whom we support — has already filed a motion asking the court to postpone the ruling throughout the entire appeals process, which could take several years. In case the court denies the team’s motion, the team has also filed a notice of appeal, allowing it to make the same motion quickly in the Court of Appeals if needed.

Even though the laws in question were enacted in 2018, the current Legislature has been actively engaged with this case from the beginning. We intend to participate as much as possible at the Court of Appeals level, as well as at the state Supreme Court.  In the meantime, I can assure you we will continue to engage with impacted job providers to ensure your concerns and positions are heard.

Thank you again for contacting my office. I always encourage your feedback on important issues, as that helps me be an effective representative for our community at the state Capitol.

Sincerely,

State Representative Julie Alexander

64th District

Update on Minimum Wage Increase

Update: 7/21/22

Below is an update regarding the minimum wage, tip wage, and sick time changes happening at the State Level.

Craig Hatch, President & CEO of the Jackson Chamber, also posted an update on Facebook this morning. You can watch that HERE.

Tuesday night, Court of Claims Judge Douglas Shapiro ruled that the adopt-and-amend strategy that was utilized during the 2018 legislative session for the Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave ballot proposals was unconstitutional and that the laws that were adopted before being amended are now in effect. As a reminder, the legislature amended each of the two proposals, making them more tenable for the businesses required to implement them.
 
What does this mean?
While it is unclear at this time what the requirements are for implementation based on this ruling, a 21-day moratorium on the ruling exists, preventing its implementation until August at the very earliest. A summary of the two ballot proposals from 2018 that may be implemented as originally adopted by the legislature are as follows:

  • Minimum wage would be set at $12 per hour; the tipped minimum wage would be set at $9.60 (80% of full minimum wage). In 2023 the minimum wage would be adjusted based upon inflation and the tipped minimum wage would increase to 90% of the full wage and then match it in 2024 and thereafter.
  • Virtually every employer in the state, regardless of size, would be required to provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked (capped at 72 hours for employers with more than 10 employees and capped at 40 hours for employers with less than 10 employees).

What is next?
The state’s assistant attorney general leading the constitutionality argument filed a Motion for Stay on Wednesday afternoon, which would delay implementation of the ruling until all appeals have been exhausted if it is granted. The MRLA, through a quote from Justin Winslow picked up in the Detroit News, was referenced specifically in the motion to demonstrate the chaos and fallout that would ensue if the ruling were to be immediately impacted. If the stay is granted, it would essentially hold in abeyance implementation of the 2018 ballot proposal language detailed above until all legal appeals have been exhausted.

Source: Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association Newsletter, published 7/21/22

Immediately Increasing Michigan’s Minimum Wage

Update: 7/20/22

The MLC has sent out an important update to Michigan’s minimum wage, tip wage and establishing earned sick time. In an effort to update our Membership, we want to make sure you are aware of this change.

See the press release from the Michigan Legislative Consultants (MLC) below. We are speaking with our Public Policy & Advocacy Committee about what the Chamber’s role is on this matter.

Court Rules to Reinstate 2018 Citizens’ Initiated Law – Immediately Increasing Michigan’s Minimum Wage, Tip Wage and Establishing Earned Sick Time 

Late today, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled that the legislature’s 2018 “adopt and amend” strategy was unconstitutional and therefore, the state’s current minimum wage, tip wage, and paid medical leave laws are void and will be replaced with the 2018 citizens’ initiative ballot language. While an appeal of today’s decision is expected, the court’s decision was lauded by Attorney General Dana Nessel and many groups that lead the 2018 citizens’ initiative ballot drive. 

Background:
In 2018, after collecting enough signatures, two citizens’ initiatives were headed for the ballot when the legislature voted to approve of both in order to keep them off the ballot, where they would have likely been supported by voters. Soon after, the Michigan Legislature introduced two bills to amend and greatly reduce the impact of the citizens’ initiative which would have significantly raised the state’s minimum wage, required the tip wage by 100% of the minimum wage by 2024, and established an earned sick leave statute.

Based on today’s Court of Claims decision, the following is an overview of what will be instituted immediately:

Minimum and Tip Wage:
The first citizens’ initiative raised the minimum wage incrementally to $12/hour by January 1, 2022.  Beginning January 1, 2023, and on January 1 of each following year, the wage is adjusted by the rate of inflation with no cap. 

The tip wage was also increased incrementally – beginning January 1, 2022, it is 80% of the minimum wage; January 1, 2023, it will be 90% of the minimum wage; and starting on January 1, 2024, it will be 100% of the minimum wage.

Under the law that was voided by the court today, the minimum wage of $12.05/hour wouldn’t have been reached until 2030 and the tip wage was set at 38% of the state’s minimum wage.

Paid Sick Time:
The second citizens’ initiative expands the state’s earned sick time laws. It created the Earned Sick Time Act, providing workers with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, capped at 72 hours per year. 

While the outcome of the decision and the next steps to challenge the decision are currently unknown, MLC will provide additional updates as we learn more. 

Source: Michigan Legislative Consultants Insider Intelligence, published 7/19/22