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Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores: Update on The Urban Food Initiative.

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a story about a Detroiter, Raphael Wright who plans on opening a “mission-driven supermarket” in downtown Detroit. Check out the article on NextCity.

Raphael’s idea is sparked by a much needed grocery option in Detroit- particularly for low-income residents.

I love this idea.

A few years back I took my family to New York City. We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoesI love downtown Grand Rapids.

 

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

In February, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

 

 

Specifically, HB 4207 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

 

An update since my last post, in May, the Trade and Commerce Committee recommended a substitute bill, check here.

The Bill substitute changed the name,  Urban Food Initiatives, to “NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR FOOD INITIATIVE”  – thereby broadening the applicability of these community revitalization incentives –  I have bracketed the additional language:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown [OR IN A DEVELOPMENT AREA AS DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF 3 THE CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY ACT] area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

The other substantive revision to the substitute bill would require that at least 5% of community revitalization incentives be awarded to these initiatives. Check out the Bill Analysis from the House Fiscal Agency, for more information.

 

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living, particularly for low-income residents. Check out a previous article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

 

 

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan taking serious their responsibility as community stakeholders and asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Fintech Company “Lemonade” Following Through on Its Purpose Driven Mission.

In the past I have posted on Fintech Companies – and highlighted a few – namely Lemonade.  Below is an update on some exciting things Lemonade is doing.

2015-11-26-13-04-02

 

But as a threshold matter:

What is Fintech?

 

According to FinTech Weekly:

Financial technology, also known as FinTech, is a line of business based on using software to provide financial services. Financial technology companies are generally startups founded with the purpose of disrupting incumbent financial systems and corporations that rely less on software.

 

The idea of a business’ purpose of “disrupting incumbent”…anything is intriguing to me.

Some systems need to be disrupted. I have previously posted my own thoughts on being a disruptive force for good.

To that point, Lemonade seemingly fits the bill. Look no further than it’s mission statement on its homepage: “Instant everything. Killer prices. Big heart.

About Lemonade:

According to its website, Lemonade is the “World’s First P2P Insurance Company” (Peer-to-Peer).

Lemonade provides Renters and Homeowners Insurance to New

Yorkers.

According to a CrowdFundInsider article: “Lemonade has positioned its platform in a David vs. Goliath battle to challenge antediluvian insurance incumbents by providing a far better service at a superior price.”

Who doesn’t root for the underdog?

Technology Driven.

Shai Wininger, co-founder and President of Lemonade, explained to CrowdfundInsider that technology drives everything at Lemonade.

“From signing up to submitting a claim, the entire experience is mobile, sim

ple and remarkably fast. What used to take weeks or months now happens in minutes or seconds. It’s what you get when you replace brokers and paperwork with bots and machine learning.”

Disruptive Force for Good.

Daniel Schreiber, co-founder and CEO of Lemonade. told CrowdfundInsider “the opportunity is unusual. Disrupting an industry that has not changed for a hundred years ”

According to an article posted by Venture Beat:

Lemonade is also setting out to combat existing models through an annual “giveback,” where it donates unclaimed money to good causes.”

Talk is cheap.  Has Lemonade followed through on its actions?

Apparently so – in a very impressive way.

 

Lemonade’s 2017 GiveBack

Lemonade posted today that its Giveback for 2017 was $53,174:

this amounts to 10.2% of its 2017 revenue.

 

The article highlighted one such GiveBack recipient: New Story

“New Story builds safe homes for the homeless, and aims to transform slums into thriving communities in the developing world.”

 

“Through the Giveback to New Story, the Lemonade community built a new home for the Quitéño family, from start to finish. Now, the Quitéño family will have a safe home to return to every day, giving them a stable foundation to improve their health, education, and income.”

 

Conclusion.

Lemonade is doing some innovative work for the social good.

I love the concept of this startup –

a. taking a risk doing something different;

b. disrupting business as usual;

c. for the good of others.

That’s social entrepreneurship at its finest.

If you are a homeowner or tenant residing in New York, this company is worth checking out.

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

More Updates on Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Today is a beautiful day in downtown Grand Rapids. The photo below actually from yesterday. There is something about the sun that just puts me in a good mood.

A few days ago I did not have a sunny disposition. I was in court during a landlord/tenant docket. I’ll be honest – it was a depressing scene.  Many of the people in the courtroom were in a sad condition – one lady was visibly intoxicated.IMG_1570

Grand Rapids’ Housing Crisis

This morning I read an article on how the Rental Housing Market Leads to Homelessness in Grand Rapids

Clearly, Grand Rapids, and other parts of the State and Nation have an affordable housing crisis. I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

A Community Problem – requires Community Collaboration

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing and the NAACP to provide housing for homeless males ages 18-24.

This effort could not have happened without collaboration between community stakeholders. It also couldn’t have happened without real estate owners willing to put “purpose above profit”.

There are other examples of social enterprises taking action to address affordable housing. One community partner is Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?
Legal Updates – Bills and Lawsuits.

 

A few months back I wrote about a Michigan House Bill introduced that would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on rent control. This Bill seemed to be a “gut response” to the affordable housing crisis that we are facing in Michigan and all across the United States.

Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

A few days ago, Representative Stephanie Chang introduced a few other Bills on Affordable Housing.

On May 31, 2017 House Bill 4686 was introduced that would allow local government  to “adopt an ordinance to limit the rent paid by senior citizens and individuals with a disability to 50% of their household incomes.”

Tie-barred to that Bill was House Bill 4687  which would prohibit local government from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing “an ordinance or resolution that would have the effect of  controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private resident.”

Representative Chang also spoke on the issue of Affordable Housing at a Detroit Housing Summit a few days ago at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

 

DOJ sues City of Jacksonville for refusing to allow development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities.

You can check out the press release from yesterday – Where Cities Can Get in Trouble with Fair Housing Laws

Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued a Press Release concerning an agreement it reached with the City of Jacksonville, Florida. Apparently, the DOJ sued the City concerning “allegations that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to all ow the development of permanent supportive housing for individuals with disabilities in its Springfield neighborhood.”

As part of the settlement, the City has agreed to “establish a $1.5 million grant to develop permanent supportive housing in the city for people with disabilities.”

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

 

 

Trending Towards Social Entrepreneurship: Update on Michigan’s Benefit Corporation Legislation.

October 10, 2016 Leave a comment

2016-07-22 13.10.20

 

House Bills 5710, 5711 & 5712 were introduced on May 31, that would allow BCorps to be formed under Michigan Law.

Although the State House has taken no formal action since June 1, in late September the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis on the BCorp bills, check it out here.

The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.

Education on the “why” for BCorps.

Interested groups and local politicians are educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.

State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps in September:

As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”

BCorp Certification is Trending in Michigan…

Over the last several months more and more local businesses have becoming Certified B Corps through BLabs. West Michigan has the most concentration of BCorp businesses in the State.

Recent headlines in Grand Rapids have brought attention to the need for businesses to ask the question: Am I working to build a better community?

B-Corp certification is one way (certainly not the only way) for businesses to hold themselves accountable to being a good community partner.

Why has it taken so long to get here?

Over the last several years Michigan legislators have introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.

Check out this handout from Rep Barnett several years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.

I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.

Trending Towards Social Entrepreneurship.

The trends all show that millennials and our up and coming workforce want to to be part of business as a force for good in our local community.

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Celebrating Entrepreneurs: National Startup Day

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment

Yesterday August 4 was the 4th Annual National Startup Day Across America.

According to the website, National Startup Day Across America was created to:

“raise awareness of startup activity and job creation and help catalyze support for your local entrepreneurial community.

On the importance of startups in the U.S.:

“Startup companies act as entrepreneurial leaders, innovators, and job creators within our communities.”

An interesting statistic I read today from an article by Recode:

companies less than one year old have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades, fueling both local and national economic growth.”

 

However, according to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council,Entrepreneurship is in decline.

SBE Council’s CEO, Karen Kerrigan is encouraging elected officials to “commit to policies that encourage startups.

We are fortunate to have a thriving and generous West Michigan Business Culture.

So, why not support a startup today?

Go grab a cup of coffee at a local business!

Spread the Word about an Entrepreneur Doing Good work in our community.

A shout out to some of the great organizations that support small business and encourage entrepreneurship in West Michigan:

Start Garden

LocalFirst

GRIN

GRAPE

LinkedUPGR

Grand Rapids Chamber

Small Business Association of Michigan

– Happy Startup Day!

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Another West Michigan Business becomes a Certified B Corp

July 22, 2016 2 comments

Happy Friday!

Yesterday MIBiz reported on the latest West Michigan Business to obtain B -Corp Certification The Highland Group becomes certified B Corp.

I’ve previously posted on West Michigan’s Thriving Culture of Social Entrepreneurship

in Michigan, the biggest concentration of the B-Corp businesses are in the Grand Rapids area, where there are 11 — twice as many as in Metro Detroit

This list  of “B Certified” companies includes Cascade Engineering, The Image Shoppe, & 616 Development, among others.

Welcome to the club, Highland Group!

Recent headlines in Grand Rapids have brought attention to the need for businesses to ask the question: Am I working to build a better community?

B-Corp certification is one way (certainly not the only way) for businesses to hold themselves accountable to being a good community partner.

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

About Propaganda Doughnuts’ Closing and West Michigan Business. Working to Build a Better Community.

July 13, 2016 9 comments

A few days ago MLIVE posted about Propaganda Doughnuts’ closing on South Division in Downtown Grand Rapids.

I was a fan of Propaganda Doughnuts. Occasionally on Sundays after church my family would pick up some doughnuts and go to a park with some friends. I am sorry that I won’t be able to do that any more.

Polarizing Comments.

According to MLIVE, “Propaganda Doughnuts posted to Facebook – then apparently removed – an explanation for why it has closed after two years operating on South Division Avenue. A screen shot is being shared on social media:

‘It was too much to ask our customers to accept being harassed and approached by panhandlers. Customers were also having to walk past intoxicated and passed out people on the sidewalks and in the doorways.”This area is no longer acceptable for customers who just want to stop in and get some great doughnuts and coffee.'”

Kind of a polarizing statement. I understand why the post was apparently removed. You will find people who completely agree with the author’s sentiment, and others who don’t.

If anything, Propaganda Doughnuts’ departure from downtown Grand Rapids and its comment provide an opportunity to ask questions.

Personally, I think a relevant question businesses can ask in similar  circumstances was identified by Thomas J Curry of the OCC. Mr. Curry addressed a crowd talking about the great community development work going in in Detroit. He asked this question:

“Are you working to build a better community?”

Don’t hear me wrong – the Problems are Real.

Propaganda Doughnuts had a legitimate complaint. Homelessness, crime and poverty are realities in downtown Grand Rapids.

A few months ago for National Reentry week the US Attorney General issued a press release citing:

“Every year, more than 600,000 people return to our communities after serving time in federal and state prisons…another 11.4 million cycle though local jails.” 

For more information, check out the Department of Justice’s Fact Sheet issued in connection with its first ever National Reentry Week.

These real problems don’t always have readily visible solutions.  However, local businesses should pause and ask the question: “Am I working to build a better community?”

Business Doing Good. Social Entrepreneurship.

More and more businesses are finding their identity in doing good for their community. Michigan is gearing up to pass legislation to allow for the formation of Benefit Corporations.  B-Corps are for-profit businesses that are committed to social good.

A few weeks back I authored a post titled  West Michigan and its Thriving Culture of Social Entrepreneurship.

This list  of “B Certified” companies includes Cascade Engineering, The Image Shoppe, & 616 Development. These are West Michigan companies committed to creating a material positive impact on society and the environment.

Businesses asking the Question.

Many businesses are continually asking the question posed by Mr. Curry: “Am I working to build a better community?

These businesses are socially minded. Purpose Driven. Whether B-Certified or not. I think of Express Employment Professionals in Grand Rapids as one example.

In conclusion: a call to local business.

Local businesses – I encourage you to partner with local non-profits. Work together to build a better community.

If you aren’t familiar with the leaders in a particular organization, introduce yourself.

You don’t need an excuse to invite dialogue on some difficult issues affecting our community.

Connect with Mel Trotter Ministries – A standing invitation from me – join me for lunch.

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka