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.

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Macomb County leaders tout area’s success at Michigan Idea Exchange

Investing in southeast Michigan and positive developments within the region were the ICSC logomain 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.
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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.

Companies interested in choosing Macomb at Select USA

Macomb County recently participated in the Select USA Investment Summit, an event that brings in roughly 1,000 international companies looking to do business in the United States. The conference also attracts economic development officials from across the country who are competing to win the sought after new jobs and investment, which totals $30.7 billion since Select USA first occurred. Overall, our team had a positive experience at the event. And from our conversations with global business leaders, we can tell that Macomb County’s reputation as a great place to do business is growing worldwide.

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Our county economic development team participated in Select USA alongside the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and a contingent of roughly 30 economic developers from various regions across Michigan. Over the course of three days, our group met with companies and business groups from four different continents, including Europe, Asia, North America and South America.  These organizations were interested in Macomb County because of our capabilities in manufacturing, our strong infrastructure of suppliers and our highly-skilled workforce. Being a logistics hub with a major international airport was also a draw for those looking to locate here. And notably, our county’s reputation as the Arsenal of Innovation and it being home to the Michigan Defense Center was a big draw for the team.  We were able to show these companies that our well-equipped economic development toolbox is not only ready to help them get in the door, but to also support them throughout their stages of growth. They also learned that Macomb County is very supportive of business and a great place to live.

As background, pursuing international investment is one part of Macomb County’s comprehensive economic development strategy. The success of this tactic is evident in our increasingly diverse demographics. For instance, nearly one out of every 10 county residents is foreign born and there are more than 80 firms operating here that are headquartered outside of the USA. These international companies are creating great products and paying excellent wages. They include Kuka, Sodecia, Grupo Antolin, Brose and Faurecia, among others. Additionally, Macomb County has facilities for major domestic companies like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, General Dynamics, Fiat Chrysler and Oshkosh Defense. All told, the investments made by both domestic and foreign companies have boosted Macomb County’s economy.  Since the end of the recession in 2009, the county has added 80,493 jobs, increasing from 346,216 jobs to today’s total of 426,709 jobs. This astounding growth is a direct result of an effective economic development strategy, and of course, a great business environment.

To see more of Macomb County’s major investments, click here.

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.

How I accidentally became an economic developer: A message from John Paul Rea for National Economic Development Week

Go to any first grade classroom and ask kids what they want to be when they grow up.  You will surely get a number of inspiring and entertaining responses.  From doctor to dinosaur or professional athlete to astronaut, you can see the wonderment in their eyes when they talk about their futures.  I guarantee you that not a single one of those kids will say economic developer.  Well, that’s what I do (most days).  I am an economic developer, and the fascinating thing about my profession is that most people really don’t know what we do.  Ever more fascinating is that most economic developers really don’t know how they ended up as economic developers.  From the ranks of public administrators and MBA’s, we all kind of meander our way through government and the private sector and find this dynamic profession that links the vibrancy of community building with the innovation of the business.  So, as we celebrate National Economic Development Week, I wanted to give each of you a little bit of insight into how an economic developer helps figure out what a community should be when it grows up.

Economic development is, at its core, a function of government that exists to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for communities. It drives business growth and spurs job growth. It provides services that enhance downtowns, neighborhoods and parks. It offers assistance that helps strengthen the workforce and talent pool.  Altogether, its impact is far-reaching and significant.

As we near the end of National Economic Development Week, it is important to reflect on what economic development has meant for Macomb County and what it will mean for the future of our region. But before we dive into the details specific to our area, let me share some of my background.

I’ve been with the Department of Planning and Economic Development for more than a decade. Three years ago, I was appointed director. In this role, I oversee a dynamic team of professional planners and economic developers who are facilitating a wide range of municipal and business assistance services throughout the county. As you may have seen in a blog shared earlier this week, the work these individuals are pursuing is having a tremendous impact in our communities. We cited investments made by Amazon, Grupo Antolin and St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital to demonstrate the scale – but those are just three examples from a long list of business commitments in Macomb County. To see more of the money invested and jobs created, visit the interactive map that our department developed to show growth in our region since 2014. Needless to say, if you look at the map, you’ll discover that our county is brimming with business activity.

Our department is also responsible for a number of other initiatives. In the last year alone we were involved in the following:

  • We provided expanded planning support to our local units of government by assisting with the Utica Master Plan, New Baltimore Parks and Recreations Plan, Richmond Master Plan and Center Line Parks and Recreation Plan.
  • We developed the Mobilize Macomb Non-Motorized Transportation Plan.
  • We launched the Groesbeck Corridor Redevelopment and Reinvestment Community Partnership Initiative and community-driven Groesbeck Corridor Prime Properties Online Mapping Application.
  • We rolled out multiple web-based data and mapping applications via an online GIS mapping portal website.
  • We recruited 58 host sites for national Manufacturing Day, resulting in opportunities for 1,812 students to see the industry in person.
  • We launched Momentum, a semi-annual magazine for residents and business attraction prospects that features interesting stories about the people and places that make Macomb County unique.
  • We successfully implemented the planting of up to 25,000 trees with Green Macomb’s Urban Forest Partnership to help increase canopy cover in targeted communities of Macomb County.
  • We secured funding for several large-scale ecological restoration and recreational projects in the Clinton River watershed and along Lake St. Clair.
  • We hosted the Bassmaster Elite Series for the third time in six years and also landed the FLW Tour for 2018, another renowned bass angling event. These events are broadcast worldwide on ESPN and NBC affiliates.
  • We mined data and worked collaboratively to promote bringing the F-35 fighter jet to Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

This effort makes Macomb County a desirable place for economic investment. It makes opening a business here a good idea. It makes hiring local talent worthwhile. Simply put, it makes our lives better. That’s why I do this work. And that’s why the hard-working, passionate team at the department comes to the office every day. We serve the public, and we care about the community.

All of this to say – I know that the future of Macomb County is bright. Our next 40 years will be driven by innovation built off the legacy we have in producing things. This state, for generations now, has not only been the epicenter of the automotive industry, but also the epicenter of the production of goods. We now sit at the fascinating intersection of digital advancement and technology. This is going to make the state of Michigan and southeast Michigan a true hotbed for talent and innovation in advanced manufacturing. It’s going to help move the needle on how we are preparing individuals in our educational systems and it’s going to challenge us to look at the way that we set up facilities and industrial operations. Most importantly, it’s going to help us build better communities and sustainable economic development models that are going to provide prosperity across many different levels.

I look forward to this era of innovation and know that the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development will be at the forefront of its emergence.

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John Paul Rea is director of the MCPED. He is a board member/trustee for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit (SMART), Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority and Automation Alley. He’s also active on the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Michigan Planning Association. 

Macomb County celebrates National Economic Development Week

From May 7 through May 12, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) will celebrate National Economic Development Week. Created by the International Economic Development Council, the largest professional membership organization for economic developers, the week serves to increase awareness of development programs that enhance local economies.

So what does that really all mean? Well, in the broadest sense, economic development focuses on three major areas:

  • Policies that government undertakes to meet broad economic objectives, including inflation control, high employment and sustainable growth
  • Policies and programs that provide services, including building highways, managing parks and providing medical access to the disadvantaged
  • Policies and programs that are directed at improving the business climate

Essentially, economic development organizations work to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community.

Now you’re probably asking yourself – what does this all mean for Macomb County? And what does MCPED do? In a nutshell, the department helps facilitate public and private investments in the region by providing businesses with free and confidential services, enabling them to thrive and grow.

Since 2014, the department has helped 145 companies invest almost $4.8 billion, creating 16,148 new jobs and retaining 11,267 existing jobs. In 2017 alone, the department reported that its clients invested $417.4 million in new equipment and space while retaining 2,140 jobs and creating 3,729 new ones. Highlights of last year’s investments include:

  • Amazon announced a $70 million investment to build a transportation logistics center in Shelby Township. The 100,000-square-foot building is expected to offer an estimated 1,000 new jobs to the community.
  • Grupo Antolin, an auto supplier headquartered in Spain, invested $63.7 million in Shelby Township to construct a new plant. The suppliers will provide door panels to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for the 2019 Ram pickup truck.
  • St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital announced a $48.1 million expansion to its Warren Campus. The investment will increase the number of private rooms available to patients.

While those examples deal with larger companies and organizations, it is important to note that the department also works very closely with small-business owners. Ninety-five percent of the businesses in Macomb County are defined as a small business, one that employs fewer than 50 people. Working with the Michigan Small Business Development Center, we offer these owners and entrepreneurs assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. We act as their partner, helping them succeed.

As you can see, the work done by MCPED is impactful and far-reaching. We take great pride in what we do and will always continue our efforts to enhance the region that we all call home.

Later this week, we will post a piece written by John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. He’ll share some insights into his role as director of the department and give his perspective on what’s on the horizon in Macomb County. Stay tuned for that blog and other posts on our social media accounts and website. We’re excited to celebrate this week and hope you will join in by sharing your thoughts, comments and ideas around economic development in our community. Please post in the comment section below or on Facebook using ##EDW2018 #EconDevWeek #QualityofLife. We’d love to know what you think.

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

I want to go back to college and finish my bachelor’s degree . . . as a working adult with family obligations, can I find the time?

PrintYes! Designed for busy adults, Oakland University – Macomb is offering four accelerated bachelor’s degree completion programs at the OU Anton/Frankel Center in Mount Clemens:

  • Bachelor of Science in General Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Marketing

Classes are offered in the evenings in an accelerated, eight-week sessions that combines classroom work with online assignments.  That means a full-time student would only need to attend class two evenings per week and could complete their degree in two years or less.Finish Line 480x320

“As a single mother working full-time, any free time is a bonus,” says Nakisha Scruggs, a recent graduate. “I wanted to be an example to my daughter and show her that if you want something bad enough and apply yourself, you can do anything.”

If you have some college or are interested transferring, OU-Macomb will offer a Fast-Track Open House on Thursday, April 19 from 5:30-7pm. To learn more, visit www.oakland.edu/macomb.

Macomb County has been an integral part of Oakland University’s growth since the institution’s founding 60 years ago. OU is committed to making an impact in Macomb County by enriching lives through expanded access to higher education, nurturing college-bound youth, supporting economic development and engaging with alumni and the local communities.

It’s a wrap; Food and agricultural businesses gather to learn about the benefits of a “Farm to Fork” ecosystem

The Macomb Food Collaborative hosted the All about Food: Farm to Fork Conference here in Macomb County last week.  The conference attracted participants from across southeastern Michigan.

The morning started with a five person panel talking about their experiences in the industry.  They talked about services for business startups, growth, economic development and resources available to people looking to expand a business. The panel consisted of:

  • Jack Johns – project coordinator for Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. Jack pecializes in servicing the food and agricultural industry. He helps attract, retain, and grow businesses in Macomb County
  • Terri Barker – Economic/Community Development Analyst, Agriculture Development Division for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Terri works with businesses to help them expand utilizing state programs and services.
  • Jess Youngblood – Owner of Youngblood Vineyard. Although the vineyard (first-ever in Macomb County) and winery is not open for business just yet, Jess discussed how her longtime dream is coming together. She discussed the struggles and joys of starting their own business. Youngblood Vineyard plans to open to the public next year.
  • Andy More – owner of Cap n’ Corks discussed how he has grown his business from a local beverage supply store and will soon be opening Caps N’ Corks brewing which will produce their own beer and wine.
  • Patricia Moore – Brown Iron Brewhouse discussed how the business has grown so much over the last three years and how they have been able to give back to the community.

The day was filled with a wealth of information during the breakout sessions.  The topics ranged from food safety; starting a business; vegetable gardening; soil health and testing. Several sessions were demonstrations about cooking, healthy eating and local gardening.

macomb food colaborativeSeveral students from L’Anse Creuse’s Pankow Center presented how to make a bubble bucket, best management practices, growing your own herb, harvesting and preserving. Students presented a powerpoint, while showing participants how to build their bucket, and test for nutrient requirements. Students brought their lavender, lettuce and basil plants for participants to see how well anyone can grow herbs in their own home.

Lunch included homemade specialties from Henry Ford Health SystemsDorsey Culinary SchoolWestview Orchards and the Clean Plate.  The products served were amazing and Westview Orchards and the Clean Plate would love to see new customers stop in and visit their family-owned businesses.

Check out more event photos at  facebook.com/MacombFoodCollaborative/ 

The event was hosted by the Macomb Food Collaborative, a non-profit organization that works to ensure access to safe, fresh, fair and healthy food for all. It promotes a vibrant, local food economy, sustainability and good nutrition through education, outreach and support.

For more information on starting or growing your food and agriculture business in Macomb County – contact Jack Johns.  He can connect you to the resources you need.  He specializes in Food and Agriculture, as well as automation, connected vehicles, robotics, energy and retail businesses.

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