Stories indexed with the term ‘small business’

County Micro Loan Program Gets Final OK

After postponing action at their Sept. 18 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to a new countywide micro loan program for small businesses. The action took place at the county board’s Oct. 2, 2013 meeting on an 8-1 vote, over dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2).

Initial approval had been given on Sept. 4, and the item had been on the Sept. 18 agenda for final approval. However, at that Sept. 18 meeting only six of the nine commissioners were present, and supporters of the program didn’t think there were sufficient votes to pass the measure at that time so a final vote was postponed.

Under the county board rules, a resolution requires votes from “a majority of the members elected … [Full Story]

County Micro Loan Program Postponed

Washtenaw County commissioners postponed final action on a new countywide micro loan program for small businesses until their Oct. 2, 2013 meeting. They took the vote at the Sept. 18 meeting with only six of the nine commissioners present.

Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) made the motion to postpone, but did not state a reason during the meeting and there was no discussion on the item. When queried after the meeting by The Chronicle, LaBarre indicated that with three commissioners absent – Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) – it was unclear whether there were sufficient votes to pass the measure. Under the county board rules, a resolution requires votes from “a majority of the members … [Full Story]

County Board Debates Infrastructure Issues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Sept. 4, 2013): A five-hour meeting was dominated by two debates: funding for a new software system for the Washtenaw County trial court, and the future of county-owned property on Platt Road.

Charles Beatty Jr., Washtenaw Head Start, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Charles Beatty Jr. attended the Sept. 4 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting to accept a resolution in honor of his father, Charles Beatty Sr. The board supports naming the Head Start building at 1661 LeForge in Ypsilanti – owned by the county – in honor of the late Charles Beatty Sr., who was influential in early childhood education. (Photos by the writer.)

For the site at 2260 and 2270 Platt Road – the former juvenile center – staff have proposed a process that focuses on possibly using the site for affordable housing. A $100,000 planning grant is available to explore that option. However, several commissioners – while expressing support for affordable housing in general – wanted to look at a broader range of alternatives, including the possibility of selling the site, which some believe could be worth $2 million. After more than an hour of debate, the board voted to postpone action until its Sept. 18 meeting, directing staff to prepare an alternative resolution to consider.

Another lengthy debate focused on the funding mechanism for new trial court software, estimated to cost $2.3 million. The vendor of the current system went out of business several years ago, and replacement is critical. Donald Shelton, chief judge of the trial court, told commissioners: “If this [software] system goes down, our judicial system in the county simply stops operating.”

Some commissioners wanted a more formal mechanism to repay the county’s investment in the system, which includes nearly $1.3 million from capital reserves. The board eventually passed a resolution stating that revenues from the court’s electronic filing fees will be used to reimburse the capital reserves. E-filing fees – likely to be $6 per filing – are expected initially to generate only about $45,000 in revenues. The e-filing will start with civil cases, with phased roll-out to other cases, including criminal and probate. At some point, e-filing might become mandatory.

A range of other significant action items yielded far less discussion. The board gave initial approval to a new micro loan program for small businesses, to be managed by the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development. Also getting initial approval was a range of grants administered by the county’s office of community & economic development, as well as a resolution that would give blanket approval in the future to nearly 30 annual entitlement grants received by the county totaling an estimated $8.8 million, beginning in 2014. Currently, each of those grants requires separate annual approval by the board.

Commissioners also gave initial approval to strengthen the county’s affirmative action plan, as well as other nondiscrimination in employment-related policies. The primary change adds a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Community activist Jim Toy and Jason Morgan, who serves on the board of the Jim Toy Community Center, spoke during public commentary to support the changes.

Other items receiving an initial vote from the board include: (1) adding three new full-time jobs for stewardship of the county nature preserves; (2) adding a new 10-bed treatment program for female teens in the county’s youth center that will create a net increase of 5.46 jobs; and (3) budgets for the county’s public health and community support & treatment service (CSTS) departments.

During the meeting, the board also honored the nonprofit Dawn Farm on its 40th anniversary, and recognized Bill McFarlane, the long-time Superior Township supervisor who recently announced his resignation due to health issues. Commissioners also supported renaming the county-owned Head Start building in Ypsilanti in honor of the late Charles Beatty Sr., a pioneer in early childhood education.

Topics that emerged during public commentary included a plea to urge state legislators to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law. Board chair Yousef Rabhi indicated his intent to bring forward such a resolution on Sept. 18 – similar to one passed by the Ann Arbor city council on Aug. 8, 2013. Rabhi also plans to introduce a resolution on Sept. 18 advocating for stronger cleanup standards of 1,4 dioxane – the contaminant in an underground plume caused by Pall-Gelman’s Scio Township operations. The Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution on Sept. 3, 2013 related to this issue.

Also on Sept. 18, a public hearing will be held to get input on a proposed increase to the Washtenaw County tax that supports services for indigent veterans and their families. The current rate is 0.0286 mills – or 1/35th of a mill. The new proposed rate of 1/30th of a mill would be levied in December 2013 to fund services in 2014. It’s expected to generate $463,160 in revenues. The public hearing was scheduled by commissioners at their Sept. 4 meeting. [Full Story]

County Acts on Micro Loan Program

A countywide micro loan program for small businesses was given initial approval at the Sept. 4, 2013 meeting of Washtenaw County board of commissioners. The resolution, which will likely receive a final vote on Sept. 18, would authorize the county’s office of community & economic development to contract with the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development to manage this program. CEED already handles a smaller micro loan program focused on the eastern side of the county. [.pdf of CEED micro loan proposal]

Dan Smith (R-District 2) cast the sole vote of dissent against this program, saying he objected to using taxpayer dollars for a program where funds are allocated without the opportunity for input at public meetings.

Micro loans would … [Full Story]

Behind the Counter of a Local Jeweler

Abracadabra is located across from the federal building and post office, between Chelsea Flower and Sams

Abracadabra is located on East Liberty across from the federal building and post office, between Chelsea Flower Shop and Sam's Clothing.

Steven Lesse has some stories to tell – making a necklace out of a gall stone is just one of them.

The co-owner of Abracadabra Jewelry and Gem Gallery has seen a lot since opening his downtown Ann Arbor shop in 1974. Originally located in the building that now houses Herb David Guitar Studio, Abracadabra moved to its current location at 205 E. Liberty in 1976 and has remained there ever since. Lesse, who co-owns the business with his wife Katherine, fell in love with Ann Arbor when he set up a booth at the art fair during the summer of 1973.

“I was tired of the gypsy lifestyle – it was like being in a rock band,” Lesse said. “You were always traveling around city to city, art fair to art fair. It was a fun lifestyle when you’re not attached and you don’t have own a house.” Soon after he visited, Lesse rented his first building in Ann Arbor and opened his first gallery, which also became his apartment. [Full Story]

Behind the Counter of a Vacuum Repairman

Dick Sampier, in his epymonious vacuum sales and repair shop.

Dick Sampier behind the counter at his vacuum sales and repair shop at 2165 W. Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor.

Boxes upon boxes filled with vacuum parts and accessories pack Dick Sampier’s small shop behind Stadium Hardware, a shop so off the beaten path that it might go unnoticed unless you were looking for it. But customers find it because they are looking for it – Dick Sampier Vacuum Sales and Repair is one of the last remaining vacuum repair stores in the Ann Arbor area.

Sampier, who opened the business in 1985 and is the sole employee, can often be found in the back of the store, either answering customers’ questions or working on one of the 10 or so vacuums he fixes each day. Sampier says he considers himself more of an artist than a mechanic, and he’s earned a reputation as someone who can fix even the most tricky mechanical problems.

So how does someone end up starting a vacuum repair business, and then stick with it for nearly 25 years? [Full Story]

Electric Vehicles to be Produced in Scio

Guy rolling a red electric motorcycle into place

Erik Kauppi rolls the red electric motorcycle around for a better view.

“We need more data, let’s go launch something!” George Albercook of Rocks and Robots was talking about a reconfigured trebuchet beam. He and his colleague Katie Tilton had reinforced a PVC pipe with Kevlar thread, after a failed first attempt at the A2 Mech Shop open house Saturday afternoon.

But Albercook’s enthusiasm for the empirical applies equally well to any number of the enterprises grouped under the umbrella of A2 Mech Shop, LLC, which is housed in around 3,500 square feet of space on Parkland Plaza, just south of Jackson Road. They’ve had the keys since November 2008, and set up in January.

One example of an A2 Mech Shop enterprise is REVolution Electric Vehicles, a subsidiary of Electric Vehicle Manufacturing, which expects to begin producing electric maxi-scooters as soon as July 2009 at a not-yet-finalized Scio Township location. That location will also serve as a retail storefront, explained EVM’s chief engineer, Erik Kauppi, while the A2 Mech Shop space will continue to serve as a research and development facility.

The A2 Mech Shop can be loosely described as a co-working space with shop tools. It encompasses more than just research and development on electric scooters, but that’s where we’ll start. [Full Story]

Making Alfajores, and a Business

The final step in making an alfajor, a traditional South American cookie, is dipping it in chocolate.

The final step in making an alfajor, a traditional South American cookie, is dipping it in chocolate.

Maite Zubia lifts a cookie with her fork, a cookie she’s just dipped in slippery melted chocolate. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asks. “It’s simple, but it’s beautiful.”

She’s in the basement of an Eighth Avenue home on Ann Arbor’s Old West Side, which is also set up as a commercial kitchen, showing The Chronicle how she makes these traditional South American cookies, called alfajores. She’s also telling the story of how she’s growing her business, Maitelates: “It’s been a story of support.” [Full Story]