Free webinar this Friday for system that assists small to mid-size businesses with federal contracting

Nearly 4,000 Michigan businesses are currently serving the defense industry, but according to the Michigan Defense Center, there is room for more. To open up access, the center recently launched the Bid Targeting System (BTS), a web-based tool application that supports companies with government contracting experience and companies which have not done business with the government in the past. Through business intelligence and predictive analytics, the BTS helps organizations quickly identify and prioritize federal contract opportunities and save time and money in the pursuit of that work. The resource also scores companies the way a federal contracting officer would, giving small and medium-sized contractors the same advantages that large primes derive from their in-house experts.

On Tuesday, September 25, the Michigan Defense Center, the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce and the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development hosted the first public training for the Bid Targeting System at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

The session was led by Dustin Frigy, a leader at the Defense Center. He helped attendees gain a thorough understanding of the system and showcased its features and benefits, which include:

Features:

  • Prioritize bid opportunities with custom search filters and criteria weights
  • Automatically match your firm with top bidding opportunities
  • Receive daily email notifications of new bid opportunities
  • Save and manage your favorite bid opportunities with total user control
  • Custom and standard reports, including company specific “Firm Report”
  • Multiple search features: NAICS, Region, SBA Program, Bid Due Date
  • Extracts & integrates business intelligence from various sources
  • Grant funding available to hire professional bid writers

Benefits:

  • Personally manage your bid opportunity search profile
  • Save time and money pursuing federal bids
  • Develop a practical roadmap to becoming a successful federal contractor by leveraging information from multiple sources
  • Understand your firm’s strengths and weaknesses, the same that federal buyers are seeing
  • Customize strategies to improve score and grow your business faster
  • More informed business decision-making on pursuing federal bids

The in-person training proved to be extremely popular so a free online training has been announced for this Friday, September 28. The 60 minute webinar and Q&A session will be hosted by the Michigan Defense Center at 10:30 a.m. If you’re interested in participating in the webinar, please RSVP by responding to frigy@michigandefensecenter.org. And if you know of another individual or company that might want to join, please feel free to share this article.

Lauri Cowhy is a senior communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Bolstered by loyal workforce, Möllertech celebrates 20 year anniversary in Shelby Township

Automotive suppliers from around the world choose to put down roots in the Motor City region because of our collective history, talented workforce and depth of knowledge and insights in manufacturing. Möllertech is no different. The German injection molding moeller_logo_Moeller_Techcompany was attracted to the area for those exact reasons and opened its Shelby Township facility in 1998, bringing more than 250 years of experience with it. A family-owned organization, Möllertech has plants all over the world and three in the United States that specialize in vehicle interiors. At the 110,000-square-foot Michigan facility, parts are made for General Motors and BMW by 75 individuals – an employee count that will likely increase due to new projects on the horizon. But this month, the focus at Möllertech has been the celebration of its 20 year anniversary here in Macomb County; a milestone recently recognized with an open house and BBQ.

I visited Möllertech during their anniversary festivities and was greeted with a jovial atmosphere generated by employees and their families enjoying food trucks, games and activities. There was even a dunk tank for those feeling adventurous. After indulging in a few slices of wood-fired pizza, I was led on an informative tour by a Möllertech supply chain manager, Chuck Gietzen.

The first thing I noticed while walking the floor was the plant’s impeccable organization and cleanliness, which of course, is intentional. Möllertech adheres to Kaizen, a Japanese management concept focused on continuous improvement through visual order and standardization. For management, following Kaizen also means building a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing efficiencies. By doing this, the company ensures a creative atmosphere that prioritizes problem solving and producing the best product possible. A new Cadillac parked just outside the plant demonstrated the outputs of this work. With all four doors open, my tour guide could point out the various parts that the company produced for the car. Back panels, A pillars, B pillars, console side covers – anything plastic is something they likely touched.

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Seeing the product in person and the machines that made it certainly drove home the scale of this supplier. But perhaps the most impressive part of my tour was passing by the Möllertech seniority wall, a display near the entrance to the plant that features the photos and names of workers who have been with the company for years – sometimes 10, sometimes 15. I discussed this trend at length with Gietzen, a 19.5 year veteran of the organization. He was its second employee. And he’s not alone in employment longevity. That seniority wall has a number of names installed. So clearly there’s something about the company that resonates with these individuals, making it easy to stay in the job for a long period of time. From my tour and in learning about Möllertech, I presume that it’s because of two reasons.

First, there’s a culture of respect. According to Gietzen, the management treats employees like family. Which requires more than just hosting employee events and parties – Möllertech listens to its workers and consistently invests in on-the-job training. Management is also very engaged with the day-to-day activities, visiting the plant, walking the floor and monitoring operations. Steve Jordan, Möllertech’s North American president and CEO, is at the Shelby facility at least every six weeks. This type of involvement shows a deep commitment to the employees and to the work they do.

Second, the innovative techniques employed by Möllertech allows them to attract new clients and jobs. For instance, on the factory tour, I saw an outlined space that will soon hold machinery and staff assigned to work on parts for the Maybach, a popular luxury vehicle. Projects like this one are exciting for employees because they allow them to develop new skills and talents. With new work coming in regularly, the choice to stay on at Möllertech would be easy.

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At the conclusion of my tour, I shook hands with Gietzen and thanked him for his time. I then made a pit stop at the edible cookie dough food truck before heading back to the office, reflecting on a great day at a great company.

If this type of work environment is something you’re interested in, stay tuned to the Möllertech website. That aforementioned Maybach work means that the company will need close to 50 new employees at the Shelby facility. And if you’re able to get a foot in the door now, perhaps you’ll be up on that seniority wall for the plant’s next big anniversary.

**Möllertech is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED).  The business development group assists companies in many facets of expanding and growing a company including:

  • Support with accessing state and local incentives and financing options
  • Assistance with workforce recruitment, training and retention programs
  • Identifying available sites for expanding or relocating a business
  • Access to business counseling services
  • Market research and marketing
  • Workshops and networking opportunities

The economic development specialists for MCPED are focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, visit macombbusiness.com or email info@macombbusiness.com.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

The remarkable power of Macomb County’s economic growth

Spanning across terms of presidents, governors and a transition to an executive form of government, Macomb County’s economy continues to shine, adding new jobs and higher wages for nine straight years.

Macomb County’s population is currently 871,375. For perspective, this is bigger than 5 U.S. states and larger than major U.S. cities like Seattle, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Boston and Miami. What some may describe as “just a suburb of Detroit” is actually an economic powerhouse.

Having an economy as large as Macomb’s and growing it consistently and strongly over a long period of time requires careful planning from the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Our region’s success is due in part to our team’s ability to help existing companies grow, attract companies from outside our region and create an environment that is favorable for starting a business.

How we measure progress

When we say that Macomb County’s economy is strong and that there has been nine straight years of growth, what does that actually mean? Well, there are several key barometers that can measure economic health. One indicator – if you weren’t working before and are now, that is progress. Another – if you were working before, but make more money now, that is also progress. There are other signs too – for instance, how easy is it to find a job?

To talk about the growth in the county requires starting from the lowest point in the recession. By the numbers, the county’s economy officially bottomed out in June of 2009, when our unemployment was a staggering 18.3 percent. Nearly one out of five people could not find a job and there were 78,498 people unemployed. To put that another way, the county had a labor force that was 429,356 strong, but only 350,858 people were employed. For those who had jobs, wages were falling and the inflation rate was negative. The two largest employers in the largest industry in the county were in bankruptcy (General Motors & Chrysler), and a national financial crisis was wreaking havoc across all of the other industries. The future was bleak.

Looking at today’s numbers: unemployment in Macomb County for May of 2018 is at 3.5 percent. There are 424,851 people working and only 15,272 people are unemployed. These numbers represent a growth of 73,993 new jobs. For scale, that amounts to a new job for every single person at a sold out Comerica Park, Little Ceasars Arena, Jimmy John’s Field and Freedom Hill. Combined. In only nine years.

Wages in the county are rising as well. In 2009, the average weekly take-home wage across all private sector professions was $853. In 2017 (2018 data is not out yet!) average wages have grown a very robust 22 percent to $1,045 per week.

Since the peak of the recession in 2009, the county has experienced nine straight years of job growth. Nearly 75,000 more people are working, and while that number looks great on paper, it also means 75,000 more families and households can sleep better at night worrying less about making mortgage payments and putting food on the table.

This growth in wages and in the number of new jobs is having an extremely profound impact on the spending power in the county. Total countywide wages in 2009 were $10,325,458,011 ($10.3 billion!).  In 2017, that number grew more than 50 percent to a total of $15,915,245,824 ($15.9 billion!). This is fantastic news for those of us looking to spend money and for those of us in the business of selling goods and services.

While 2009 may seem like a distant past – the fact that we emerged is an accomplishment to be celebrated.

A deeper dive into key industries

Economic development may be a voodoo pseudo-science to some, but in Macomb County data drives the decision making. Looking at the economy through the data already mentioned and through deeper metrics like location quotients, we can identify nine targeted industries as the driving industries in the county.

These industries are selected on their power to not only spur growth in their sectors, but to also drive growth across industry borders. They represent some of the highest wages and earnings potential in the county. They also represent the future for our workforce. For instance:

  • The number of jobs in the IT and Cybersecurity fields within the county has more than doubled since 2010.
  • Since 2009, Macomb County has nearly doubled its number of Professional Services workers, growing from 12,000 to 23,000. This is triple the state average and more than six times the nation’s rate of growth!
  • Manufacturing jobs continue to be the foundation of the county’s economy and are some of the most lucrative career opportunities available.
  • Because of our manufacturing superiority and strategic location near a major international border in the Midwest, logistics and warehousing – the industry of storing and moving goods – is also a major economic sector within the county.

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Right now, there are more than 20,000 unique jobs available in the county. Anyone looking for work can connect with these jobs by going to the Michigan Talent Bank. They may also seek career counseling or assistance by reaching out to a local Michigan Works! office.

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For the full details, check out the reports on each of these industries on the county’s website.

Why this matters

The perks of becoming employed after a period of unemployment, or getting a raise, are obvious. However, even if your job or salary have not changed, you are benefiting from this stronger Macomb County economy. The community benefits gained by a healthy economy are massive. Tangible effects include:

  • Reduction in poverty. With fewer people unemployed and wages rising, there are fewer people living in poverty. Less people in poverty is obviously a good thing. Whether you’re feeling the direct impact (as a person formerly of poverty that no longer lives in poverty) or enjoying the social impacts of lower poverty – lower crime, less blight, fewer foreclosures – the benefits to the community are very real.
  • Improved public services. As more of us earn wages, and as our collective average wages grow, state and local governments are seeing their bottom lines improve. For instance, Macomb County’s economic growth is leading to higher tax revenues. This allows the government to provide better services that lead to a higher quality of life – such as improving parks and offering more services in the community. It also helps the government invest in our economy – with funding for schools and roads. (BONUS perk: As government fiscal health continues to rebound, issuing bonds to pay for these services becomes even cheaper, allowing for even more to get done!)

Looking Ahead

Macomb County is on solid ground. Looking ahead to the future, regardless of where you shop for groceries (a term coined by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Director John Paul Rea on finding sources of economic data) the future is bright. Macomb County can, at least for the foreseeable future, expect continued job and wage growth.

The county is also undertaking a massive effort to make sure that it is ready for jobs of the future. Current estimates say that that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. And of course, these jobs will need candidates with advanced skill sets. Macomb County is prepping hard for this. With facilities such as Macomb Community College and its M-TEC program, Wayne State’s Advanced Technology Education Center and Romeo’s Ford Next Generation Learning facility, and with groups like MADCAT preparing folks for cyber careers, and with events such as Manufacturing Day  – the future in the county is extremely bright.

How this can benefit you

Are you a company in Macomb County? Now is a great time to reach out to our department. We have a team of experts that can offer free and confidential services to connect your company with the resources you need to grow. Our team can help incentivize growth in your physical space, connect you with hiring resources and access to workforce development and provide business development solutions. Our toolbox is sharp and honed by the dozens of service partners we work closely with to make sure your business has what it needs.

Are you someone looking for a job or to advance in your career? Companies in Macomb County right now are competing hard to find you. We can pair you with the job opportunities that are on the market right now or help connect you with the training to take your career to the next level. If you have been on the fence about taking the next step – now is absolutely the right time to do so.

Nick Posavetz is an economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development and is focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, reach out to the department at info@macombbusiness.com or 586-469-5285.

Macomb Community College’s entrepreneurship courses offer business owners a path to success

There are many resources available for entrepreneurs here in Macomb County. From consultants to courses, business owners have access to a wide variety of assistance that will help them succeed. Recently, Macomb Community College announced several non-credit classes and workshops aimed at this demographic. Seven continuing education courses, which are sponsored in cooperation with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Macomb Community College, were created for the new entrepreneur and those who want to stay in business. They contain the skill development critical to the success of any business and provide information on topics ranging from marketing to financing.

We sat down with Don Morandini, former director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, to discuss several of the classes that he will be teaching.  He shared some background on who should enroll in these courses and why they are relevant.

Q: Who should attend this course and what will they learn? 

A: Current business owners and new business owners.  Students will learn about:

  • Your industry and customers
  • Where your customers are
  • What could make a business successful

Q: What do you find is the number one issue most entrepreneurs encounter while starting up a business? 

A: The number one issue is understanding who customers are and what they want.  Entrepreneurs need to think like their customer.

Q: How does this course work to address that? 

A: Students put a plan together and do the research in constructing that plan by:

  • Knowing the customer and who their potential customers are
  • Considering the customer by how much they might pay and location
  • Considering how customers want to buy, either online or in-store

Q: Why are continuing education courses (like this one) important for business owners? 

A: The entrepreneurship continuing education courses offer value for the dollar and continuous growth because learning about entrepreneurship helps you understand your competition and stay relevant.

Q: Do you have any anecdotes that you could share from previous courses you have taught? Any success stories that demonstrate why entrepreneurs should attend?

A: An existing entrepreneur doing residential cleaning expanded their business by offering commercial cleaning.  Also, a retiree opened up a clothing retail business, which has been up and running for over 5 years now.

Individuals interested in these courses can sign up over both fall and winter semesters. The program is not offered in the spring/summer. For information or to enroll, contact the program coordinator at 586-498-4121 or continuinged@macomb.edu.


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

SMT Automation provides a solution for workforce shortages

Finding a talented workforce is top of mind for every organization. But sometimes there are barriers to getting the right people in the right positions. Especially for industries that require specialized employees, like manufacturing.

pexels-photo-1216589One of the main issues for employers in that field is a massive shortage of skilled workers. This is a problem across the country, but here in Michigan, where manufacturing makes up 87 percent of the state’s GDP, it’s become very serious. According to recent reports, there are 80,000 jobs that cannot be filled because of the scarcity of trained workers. The effects of this shortage can be very negative for profits, and if not addressed, it could lead to businesses shuttering their facilities and moving elsewhere.

That’s where Macomb County-based SMT Automation comes in.  They offer specialized staffing solutions to meet the needs of manufacturers. These teams of contracted individuals will then provide on site design and engineering services, hardware selection, implementation of control systems, support for starting machinery and commissioning and advice in control systems – services that are certainly resonating with Michigan businesses.

Behind the business
The leaders behind this successful venture are husband and wife team Marco Santana and Elena Morales. They started SMT in 2017, several years after moving from Mexico for Elena’s job. Marco, a controls and automation engineer, heard over and over from Michigan manufacturers about their workforce shortages. Given his advanced degrees, experience and connections, he felt he could find a solution to the problem and after many discussions with Elena, they established their business.

Getting started was not always easy and it required round-the-clock commitment to the job. But the couple, who have been together for 15 years, persevered and manufacturers came calling. SMT now counts several industry leaders as clients. They love the services SMT provides, which are somewhat similar to those offered by a traditional staffing agency. But it’s also completely different. Marco and Elena run an international firm that identifies engineering and automation talent around the world. They then recruit, train and manage the process for getting these individuals to the United States. Once here in Michigan, SMT employs the foreign workers and contracts out their services. But rather than just place a temporary worker, SMT places an entire team on site at the client’s facility. This team is trained in localized processes and procedures to ensure expert handling of projects in a timely manner. At the end of a job, the SMT workers are transferred to whichever client is next on the list for services.

pexels-photo-544965So how might this work in a real world situation? Say that you are a local manufacturer that is installing a new machine in one of your facilities. You have limited capacity to get that piece of equipment up and running, so you contract with SMT to bring in a knowledgeable and trained team to handle the job. This team then works on site for a determined period of time to get the assigned project done. They manage all troubleshooting, programming, design and engineering – allowing you to continue to focus on your day-to-day activities. When the job is complete, the SMT team moves on. However, if their support is needed long-term, they can stay on board.

Why do all this? Well, as previously stated, there is a trained worker shortage in Michigan and manufacturers cannot wait for the local talent pipeline to recover. So they have to turn to different labor pools and looking internationally has become an important option. This makes contracting with SMT appealing as it reduces the risk for companies that want to employ foreign workers but are wary or unsure of the process. And all told, clients of SMT are thrilled with the results of their partnerships. Some clients even want to poach SMT talent.

Recruiting a talented workforce
With SMT talent in demand, it is imperative that Marco and Elena continue their efforts to find educated and trained individuals for their workforce. Currently, they are looking to double their employee count, which will require a change in their international business model. The couple now plan to shift from hiring foreign talent to hiring right here in Metro Detroit. They want to find people with the right degrees and the right experience. But they also want employees with a positive attitude. And for Marco and Elena, this might be the most important skill of them all. They need people who will go in and get the job done. People who are up for a challenge. People who will deliver on promises made to clients. This is what sets SMT apart and makes them a vital resource for manufacturers.

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On top of finding these skilled and good-natured workers, SMT also plans to grow its footprint in Macomb County. Current operations for the business are housed in Clinton Township, but Elena and Marco are looking to expand into a larger office in the near future. With this new space, the couple can work towards their ultimate goal – giving back to their community by giving young people more employment opportunities. They wholeheartedly believe in helping the next generation of manufacturing talent get that first foot in the door, because when that demographic finds meaningful work, they contribute to the well-being of our economy. This idea is certainly part of the solution to fixing the overall workforce shortage in manufacturing. Young people need to be given the chance at these skilled careers and they should be supported in their efforts in the industry.

SMT is not alone in this mission. Macomb County leaders are making big strides in this area as well by collaborating with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose the next generation to science and technology-related education and careers. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

These efforts, combined with businesses like SMT, can perhaps put us on a pathway to solving the talent crisis in manufacturing. And furthermore, a mindset like Marco and Elena’s that prioritizes giving young people their first career opportunity, will hopefully ensure a positive economic future for the entire state.

For more information on SMT, visit their website here.

**SMT Automation is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. To learn how our services can help your business grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Macomb County has strong presence at annual economic developer conference

Every summer, economic developers in Michigan gather for three days to share knowledge and strengthen their toolbox at a conference hosted by the Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA), a group with nearly 500 members in the economic development profession statewide. The location of the conference varies by year, a good way to expose economic development professionals to diverse communities throughout Michigan. This year’s conference was in Frankenmuth and was the organization’s largest attended annual event.

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Macomb County is at the forefront of key issues impacting economic development in the state and was represented strongly in the agenda for the conference, presenting on topics that are at the core of economic and community planning issues.

The county’s Planning and Economic Development Director John Paul Rea joined Tom Kelly, executive director and CEO of Automation Alley, to discuss Industry 4.0 and how government and industry organizations are working collaboratively to equip companies for the latest industrial revolution. Using Macomb County as an example, the pair presented on equipping local production facilities with the tools and skillsets needed to compete in a global environment – something that will be essential to our region’s ability to compete moving forward.

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Pictured: John Paul Rea

John Abraham, of the Macomb County Department of Roads, presented alongside Kirk Steudle, director for the Michigan Department of Transportation, on traffic and public safety with connected and autonomous vehicles. Macomb County was chosen as a local partner to present alongside the state’s top transportation official because of our county’s strong mobility infrastructure. Together they covered how Macomb County and Michigan are working to position the state as the country’s leader in mobility; a place that is safe and attractive for new companies looking to test their equipment and run their business.

Autonomous vehicles was also the topic for a panel moderated by Nick Posavetz, economic development specialist for the county. The discussion featured several leaders in the mobility industry, including Craig Hoff, dean for the College of Engineering at Kettering University, Michele Mueller, sr. project manager for connected and automated vehicles at the Michigan Department of Transportation and Trevor Pawl, group vice president for PlanetM at Pure Michigan Business Connect and MEDC International Trade team. The panel shared how the state is working to ensure that Michigan remains a leader in the automotive industry as vehicle and transportation technologies continue to change. They also discussed how local communities can get involved.

In all, the conference spanned three days and offered nearly 30 sessions, panels and events – each with opportunities to learn from subject matter experts in their field. Our county’s participation and the knowledge we gained will certainly benefit our region in the future.

Nick Posavetz is an economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development and is focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.