Chinese delegation tours Macomb County


Jack 1On Monday, Nov. 30, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development had the pleasure of showcasing Macomb County’s assets to a visiting Chinese delegation from Hai’an County in the Jiangsu Province.

I specialize in working with businesses from Asia that are interested in investing in Macomb County as well as with local businesses trying to get their products into Asia. Through our department’s partnership with the Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA), I was able to arrange a tour for Mr. Zhang Yinglai, the party secretary of the CPC Qutang Town Committee in Hai’an; Mr. Guo Hengjun, the chairman of Hai’an Qutang Chamber of Commerce; and Mr. Mao Shihong, the director of the Hai’an Qutang Business Development Department.

The first stop of the tour was at the Michigan Technical Education Center at Macomb Community College. The delegation was able to see students training for skilled manufacturing jobs, ensuring Macomb County will continue to have a very skilled workforce.

Our next stop was the Macomb-OU INCubator at the Velocity Center. They learned about how small businesses can rent space at a very reasonable rate until they grow enough to move out and into their own facility. The incubator provides all the services small businesses need, including assistance with business plans and financing. The delegation had time to talk to one of the businesses there to see if there was a way to work together in the future.

Jack 2The last stop was at COMTEC, which really impressed the Hai’an delegation. They were very interested in how all of the services were housed under one roof because they are in the process of building a facility in Hai’an to bring multiple departments together, just like how Macomb County did.

The day ended with a very nice dinner reception where I had the opportunity to speak to more than 65 business professionals, DCBA sponsors and guests about the business-friendly environment Macomb County offers. Oakland County Deputy Executive Matthew Gibb and Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority CEO Tom Watkins were also in attendance and addressed the delegation before Mr. Zhang gave a keynote presentation detailing the Hai’an investment environment.

Our department reaches out to foreign businesses to bring investment to Macomb County. We can also help local manufactures sell their products in Asia. There are many global opportunities available in Macomb County.

Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.


Employers hiring for top jobs feeling the pressure: Part 1 of 2

Originally published in Crain’s Detroit Business on December 8, 2015

Southeast Michigan workers are benefiting from strong employer demand, which is at a record high following the Great Recession, but employers are having trouble finding the talent they need for success.

In quarter three (Q3) 2015, the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) found that regional employers posted over 137,500 online job ads—a 12.5 percent increase over the previous quarter, and a 60.1 percent increase compared to the same quarter one year ago. For more information, see WIN’s recently released quarter three labor market reports.

While demand for workers has continued to increase for over a year, the lack of aligned worker supply has employers struggling to fill many key open positions. This is in part because the labor force in in southeast Michigan (and the rest of the nation) plummeted during the recession but has failed to recover. Workers have either retired, decided to go back to school/stay in school longer, or otherwise stopped looking for traditional employment. Another reason is that there are simply not enough workers with education and skills that match top-demand occupations.

Some jobs feel the pinch of these dynamics more than others. The supply-and-demand occupation report from Career Builder includes a hiring indicator measuring labor pressure, which determines the difficulty of recruiting for a particular occupation in a specific location compared to all other occupations and locations.[1] Just six of the top 25 of the top in-demand occupations in southeast Michigan had a rating high enough for recruiting to be considered moderately easy or better, meaning that 19 of the remaining top 25 are difficult to hire for. Below are a few examples of the labor pressure metric, highlighting three of the top jobs in southeast Michigan. NOTE: The Career Builder tool examines the ratio of job postings and jobseekers using paid online job ads only.

truck driverssecretariesMech engineersMech engineers (1)

A hiring indicator score in the yellow or red area signals that the occupation is experiencing more hiring difficulty than an occupation with a number in the green. Secretaries and administrative assistants have a hiring indicator of 84, meaning that 84% of all other occupations and locations have more difficulty recruiting talent. In contrast, truck drivers have a hiring indicator of 21, meaning that just 21% of all other occupations and locations have more difficulty recruiting. Nine of the top jobs in southeast Michigan, highlighted in WIN’s Q3 2015 report, had a hiring indicator score lower than 50, signaling that recruiting for these positions was relatively difficult in southeast Michigan compared to all other occupations.

Labor Pressure Q3 2015The table below highlights the labor pressure detail for the top 25 posted jobs in southeast Michigan during Q3 2015.

Hiring for the top in-demand jobs in southeast Michigan may be made more difficult for several reasons, including technical skill and higher qualification requirements. For example, two-thirds of the top 25 occupations during Q3 2015 required a bachelor’s degree, a credential that just one-fourth of Michiganders hold. Of the six occupations with relative ease in recruiting, just one—sales representatives, non-technical non-scientific products—required a bachelor’s degree.

Quarter three is historically when employment and employer demand peaks for many counties in southeast Michigan, and the data collected often points to upcoming trends. In this case, anticipated trends include continuously high and growing employer demand and relatively low labor force participation. Should the labor force in southeast Michigan (and the nation, for that matter) continue to maintain lower education levels and a mismatch in technical skills and experiences, employers will continue to have difficulty finding talent to fill their open positions and employment growth with slow.

***The follow-up blog in this series will dive deeper into the educational attainment and training requirements of the top jobs in the region.

This blog was developed with data and research compiled by Hector Acosta, research and data analyst at WIN.

[1] The hiring indicator score is calculated using data from CareerBuilder, a third party aggregator, and Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl (EMSI).

Showcasing aerospace and manufacturing in Macomb


Nov. 1 through 4, Luke Bonner, Bonner Advisory AG and I traveled to Chicago to meet with site selection consultants to discuss Macomb County’s assets, impressive workforce and robust manufacturing community.  A site selection consultant is a specialist who is hired by corporations or business owners to identify the best location for new facilities based on a number of criteria and factors that merit investment within a community that would support its growth.

The goal of the meetings was to make introductions and cultivate relationships within the site consultant community, to tout Michigan’s comeback story and, in particular, to discuss Macomb’s growing aerospace industry. In fact, in 2014 Macomb County was the third highest ranking county in the country for manufacturing growth and the second ranking county for new jobs in the aerospace industry.  According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, during the current economic expansion, through August 2015, Michigan’s job creation rate of 11.5 percent has outpaced the U.S. average of 8.6 percent during the same time period.

While in Chicago, we shared the news of recent company expansions and discussed the region’s tooling capacity in manufacturing. Nearly 20 percent of Macomb’s workforce is dedicated to the manufacturing industry. We also met with the German American Chamber of Commerce Consulting Services Group, the investment directors from the Australian Trade Commission and the state government of Victoria, Australia.

All in all, the trip was a success. We met with nine site consultants and introduced the audience to all that Macomb County has to offer: quality of life, advanced manufacturing and the clustering of aerospace companies landing in Macomb. We pride ourselves on our large talent pool, R&D and engineering capacity.  We still build things in Macomb, and we’re proud of that heritage.

Connors, Mike IMG_0145


Michael Connors is the program manager of Economic Development Services with the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.


Dubai Airshow: Commercial and defense spending in aviation to grow domestically and abroad

Seven thousand miles separate Detroit from Dubai, but within this span, there is a vast amount of opportunities between these two regions.  Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the Dubai Airshow, promising to hold the most significant airshow in the world.  Even though this year did not topple the 2013 record breaking $200 billion in sales orders, there were many indicators on where the world is heading in aviation.

znV7AjM2pWuc_6b-7lcdaU9LP3q572uYQzgucJER6gwI was fortunate to be able to join Automation Alley on this trade mission to the Middle East and was joined by three other Macomb County companies, Alpha Precision Aerospace, Hydra-Lock and Mobile Data Holdings.  Other regional partners included Detroit Airport Corporation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MAMA and Wayne County.  My strategy on this trip was very different than other business attraction missions, as I went there specifically to talk about the mature aerospace and defense market in Macomb County and to explore export and supply chain opportunities.

There are many opportunities for aerospace parts, tooling and automation manufacturers to become immersed in this market as Boeing and Airbus struggle to fulfill back orders on new aircraft platforms.  These production orders will dominate the global commercial aviation market and the trend is expected to continue over the next 10 to 15 years.  Couple this with the growing demand for maintenance and repair of existing aircraft, Macomb County aerospace companies have the ability to join the supply chain – on a global scale.

One of my meetings in particular was with a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian airlines where I learned about a major aircraft repair and overhaul facility planned at Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia.  They are seeking repair and spare part component manufacturers.  In Abu-Dhabi, the giant investment partner, Mubadala is investing in companies that can bring new manufacturing technologies to the market. And the big news was UAE’s space program strategy which has an aggressive mission to send unmanned probes to Mars by 2021.

The big theme that emerged from the Dubai Airshow is commercial and defense spending in aviation is here now and will continue to grow both domestically and abroad.  Companies looking to expand into this market will need to strategically grow their international presence and their global footprint in the Middle East and Asian markets.  Trade missions such as this provide us a window to meet and build relationships with decision makers who can bring these opportunities front and center for our businesses.

Radd- Vicky IMG_0001 LOW_RES


Vicky Rad is the deputy director for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.


State of the County highlights investment in Macomb

At the fifth annual State of the County, the economic rebound in Macomb County was a major theme for County Executive Mark Hackel during his address.

We have a lot to be proud of recently. Frequently used during the speech was the “b word”: billion. Three major global players have all recently announced plans to invest more than a billion dollars each in separate projects in Macomb County. General Motors is investing $1 billion in its Warren Tech Center that will include new design studios, upgraded R&D efforts and improve the infrastructure in their 600-acre campus, adding 2,600 new jobs. Ford is planning to invest a billion dollars into its two Sterling Heights facilities. Fiat Chrysler is also investing $1 billion into its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

It’s not just automotive. In 2014, defense contractors in Macomb County won more than $1.6 billion in contracts from the federal government.

These are some other great projects that the county executive mentioned:

  • The Paslin Company creating 200 full-time jobs with their investment in a new $20 million manufacturing and engineering center
  • Fori Automation investing in a new $12 million manufacturing and business operations facility in Shelby Township
  • Faurecia investing $8 million to upgrade its Sterling Heights plant
  • Axalta Coating Systems modernizing their Mount Clemens plant, which now employs more than 700 workers and is viewed as a global leader in liquid and powder coating
  • KUKA Systems North America investing $14 million in their Clinton Township facility
  • Triumph Gear Systems spending $15 million to double their facility size
  • $200 million for research overseen by TARDEC in Warren
  • BAE Systems receiving a $100 million contract to provide engineering and program management for a new Marine combat vehicle

Aerospace is also expanding its footprint in Macomb County. Companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter and NASA are actively engaged with Macomb County suppliers.

Many of our department’s initiatives were also highlighted in the county executive’s speech.

Professional baseball is coming to Macomb County. The first pitch will be thrown out in June at Jimmy John’s Field when the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, the Eastside Diamond Hoppers and the Utica Unicorns launch the new United Shore Professional Baseball League at a brand new 4,000-seat stadium in Utica. Jimmy John’s Field will be much more than a place to play ball; it will host a wide variety of community and regional events.

Another point raised by the county executive was the performance of our defense industry. Macomb County is actively involved in virtually every major defense initiative in the state. Our department was instrumental in securing a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense to support the Advance Michigan Defense Collaborative. This initiative will be co-chaired by our Planning and Economic Development Department and the Michigan Defense Center, and Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! will be the fiscal agent responsible for this grant. This collaborative effort spans 13 counties in southeast Michigan.

Another of our major initiatives highlighted during the address was the Blue Economy. The goal of the Blue Economy is to enhance both water quality and water access, which in turn will produce financial benefits as well as enhance the quality of life of residents. The county executive made point of new canoe and kayak liveries on the Clinton River and our ability to attract world-class fishing tournaments on Lake St. Clair. More people than ever before are accessing our waterways. This year’s Bassmaster event held on Lake St. Clair was televised worldwide on ESPN and gave unprecedented exposure to our Blue Economy, while adding $3 million to our local economy.

It’s not just big investments. Our department is working hard to improve the workforce. Referred to in his speech as “our most creative accomplishment” was our department’s efforts in helping to fill the skills gap with Manufacturing Day. This innovative program addresses some common misconceptions about manufacturing. Macomb County had one of the largest coordinated events in the nation – with the support of local school districts, we connected nearly 1,800 students to over 40 local manufacturing businesses.

I speak for our entire department when I say that we are very proud – and humbled – to be recognized for our efforts in front of such a large and influential audience.

Cassin, SteveStephen N. Cassin, AICP is the director of Planning & Economic Development for Macomb County. Cassin has over 40 years of experience in land use planning, community development and economic development. He is a past president of the Michigan Society of Planners. He also is an adjunct instructor at Oakland University.