Investing in southeast Michigan and positive developments within the region were the main topics of discussion during the Michigan Idea Exchange on Thursday, July 12. Held at Cobo Center by the International Council of Shopping Centers, the event provided an opportunity for local governments to speak to individuals in the real estate industry and for those individuals to share ideas, ask questions and network.
Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel attended to speak on two panels. The first, the event’s keynote, saw Hackel alongside two other leaders from Oakland and Wayne Counties. Together, the three discussed the strengths of the region and its collaborative partners. They also pinpointed what they believe sets their individual counties apart. For instance, Deputy Oakland County Executive Phillip Bertolini said that balanced finances and the county’s AAA bond rating are its biggest asset. In Wayne County, Khalil Rahal, the executive director for the county’s Economic Development Corporation, said that downtown Detroit and Metro Airport are what makes that region stand out. And then in Macomb, Hackel pointed to the more than $10 billion of investments made by the automotive and defense industries as the factor that differentiates his county from its neighbors.
When asked what issues needed to be addressed in the tri-county area, all three leaders stated that roads and infrastructure are the top priority. And in Macomb County, progress on that matter is already underway. In June, the county and the cities of Sterling Heights and Warren announced a major boost to its efforts in rebuilding Mound Road – one of the most important corridors in southeast Michigan. Innovate Mound, a public-private collaboration focused on restoring the roadway, was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a recommended Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant project to be funded by Congress. The $97.8 million grant will help fund the $184.6 million total cost of reconstruction and in 20 months, the project to fix Mound and make it a smart and connected roadway will begin.
The keynote panel closed with the three leaders committing to further collaboration to ensure positive growth for the region as a whole, with Hackel stating that we need to highlight our assets together and unite who we are and what we are.
The second panel of the day focused exclusively on Macomb County, with County Executive Hackel joined by John Paul Rea, director of MCPED, Kathleen Lomako, executive director of SEMCOG, Scott Adkins, city manager of Roseville and Gene D’Agostini, from D’Agostini Companies. The discussion, titled “Macomb County’s P3 Momentum: From Principles to Practices,” showcased how the county has achieved success in the field of public-private partnerships. Together, Hackel and Rea talked about breaking down barriers for businesses and working to come up with creative solutions for investors. Because according to Rea: “We never want to be in a meeting with developers and hand them a stack of regulations. We are moving to empower and to be a convening agent. We want to be a part of a project and not stop its progress.” Rea cited the construction of Jimmy Johns Field in Utica as an example of this work. In this instance, developers, the city of Utica and Macomb County officials worked together to turn an unlicensed landfill into a state-of-the-art minor league baseball stadium.
This example led to the story of Gene D’Agostini, who years ago wanted to make a major investment in Macomb County, but needed the government’s help. During the recession, D’Agostini purchased Cherry Creek Corporate Park, a 220-acre industrial area in Shelby Township owned by Lehman Brothers. He wanted to build on the property, but he required the support of township and county officials to ensure his vision and timelines could be accomplished. D’Agostini said that after purchasing Cherry Creek, his first call was to those individuals. They cleared the way for him to construct his plans and today, the company has built eight plants totaling roughly 1.2 million-square-feet of manufacturing space. The project even attracted other business to the area, with Grupo Antolin, a Spanish automotive interior supplier, announcing in spring 2017 that it would invest $61.2 million into a 360,000-square-foot building in the park and create 430 jobs. D’Agostini said that none of this would have been possible without the assistance of the township and county officials – who reorganized and fast-tracked to help move the project along.
Stories like D’Agostini’s show how Macomb County is evolving to keep pace with an ever-changing business world. Our leaders want to ensure that this area is economically strong and providing good jobs to its residents, so they will work collaboratively and creatively to make that happen.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.