The Greater Ann Arbor Region’s (GAAR’s) Prosperity Initiative announced four challenge grant awards that will support the implementation of the region’s prosperity strategy.

“We are excited to support these organizations as they take on ambitious projects that will help us achieve objectives in our strategy,” said Steven Duke, executive director of the Region 2 Planning Commission. “Each of the challenge grants brings a fresh approach to equipping young people and adults with the skills they need to strengthen the region’s economy while meeting the demands of a highly trained labor force.”

Through a competitive application process, the GAAR management team selected the following organizations for their innovative approaches to grow and retain the region’s talent pipeline.

Bedford Adult Education
Bedford Adult Education—in partnership with Milan Adult Education, the Monroe County Learning Bank Network, and Monroe Community College—will use challenge grant funds to offer a manufacturing boot camp for 60 underserved and underrepresented adult learners. Participants will learn about technical careers in the manufacturing industry and gain employable skills.

Fresh Start Coffee House
Monroe Vineyard Church, alongside volunteers from local businesses and civic organizations, formed a nonprofit organization called the Fresh Start Coffee House. This organization will use challenge grant funds to employ formerly incarcerated individuals in the Monroe County area and provide them with comprehensive support services as they reenter society.

Michigan Works! Southeast
Michigan Works! Southeast will use challenge grant funds to plan and implement an event that involves local employers, nonprofits, and government agencies to showcase in-demand jobs of the present and future. During the event, employers will show middle-school and high-school students the day-to-day realities of various industries and occupations while discussing the needed skills and career growth prospects in their field. The goal is to expose students to these fields and occupations and create internship and job shadowing opportunities.

SOS Community Services
SOS Community Services will use challenge grant funds to deploy a program that will help adults and teenagers experiencing homelessness find and retain employment. The organization expects to serve 30 people, of which 70 percent will experience an increase in income. Employment opportunities will be in high-demand occupations, such as education, healthcare, social services, manufacturing