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. 

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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.

Discover Leadership Macomb

Discover how graduates are transformed both personally and professionally by enrolling in the Leadership Macomb XXII 2018-2019 program which runs Sept. 19, 2018 through June 5, 2019. The application deadline is July 1. Junior Leadership Macomb applications are also now being accepted. This program is offered for high school juniors in Macomb County. Visit leadershipmacomb.org for more information.

For 20 years, the organization has been instrumental in helping both emerging and accomplished leaders expand their network and enhance their knowledge of local systems, assets and issues as well as their individual commitment to work toward the common goal of strengthening Macomb County. Leadership Macomb graduates are invaluable resources and key contributors to the entire region.

Leadership Macomb is the ultimate platform for bringing private, public and nonprofit sectors together to experience the county, connect and collaborate with each other, and become engaged locally and beyond.

Prospective candidates for the program are welcome to join LM Alumni on June 6, 2018 to learn more about the program at our graduation for class LM XXI! Learn more or register at www.leadershipmacomb.org/events.LM

Diane Banks is the program director for Leadership Macomb.

Barbeque restaurant in Romeo is no joke and plenty of smoke

bbq2I headed out to the northern part of Macomb County to a quaint little village called Romeo. A village with good-hearted people and a good share of restaurants of all types that many small towns would be jealous to have. My heart was set on a great barbeque sandwich, and that is exactly what I found.

I ran into Denise and Sarah Stanko, a couple of locals looking to make a purchase at the Jayell Smoke House at 221 ½ N Bailey in Romeo. I decided to ask them, “Why this barbeque restaurant?” They turned to me with big friendly smiles and said they have literally tried everything there, and it is all good. They really like the place because Dave or his wife Erin are the ones making the food and waiting on them. The service and food are always consistently good. They really like that it is family-owned and that they sell many Michigan-made products.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dave Leidlein, the owner of Jayell Smoke House. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and I was happy to be inside smelling great-tasting barbeque and having a cold black cherry cola out of a bottle. You have to go with a glass bottle when drinking ice cold pop, and Dave had plenty to choose from. I’m sorry to all my aluminum can and plastic bottle friends, but that is no way to have a black cherry cola. It is like putting a fine wine into a sippy cup – how dastardly!

A fun fact is that Dave actually was going to school for political science since his grandfather and father were in politics, and this brought him to southeastern Michigan. Lucky for all the barbeque food lovers, Dave did not get into politics and started to follow his passion for food.  He made the decision to get into the food industry, first working for a distribution company in sales and then catering out of a business in Macomb County. He finally pulled the trigger after being on the news with his product line of rubs and BBQ sauce, and Dave opened Jayell Smoke House in July 2017.

He started with about five rubs and BBQ sauces and grew really fast to 12 sauces and 40 rubs. They work with Sherwood Brewery for the Roger City Porter BBQ sauce and IPA rub. They have good customer traffic and want to be part of the beautiful community. They had the patio open for the Romeo Peach Festival, and try to include themselves in any fun event downtown.

They are known to use Michigan landmarks for their BBQ names like the Romeo Peach Habanero which is the No. 1 seller. On the website, you can purchase rubs and BBQ sauces along with joining the rub club to have products sent to your house once a month. Tell me that is not a perfect present for your Uncle Billy who thinks he is a pitmaster with rib meat that falls right off the bone.

The mostly takeout restaurant has a great feel with metal and warm, dark wood and enough space for about three people to sit down to have a quick sandwich. In the summer, you can stretch your legs more and dine outside on their patio which sits back far off the road. You can relax and talk with your friends while having a great meal and at times listen to some guitar playing from a local musician. They also do special menu pricing and events. For example, on Jan. 7 they had special pricing on a slab of ribs. How lucky where those customers when they found that out?

The most important thing for you to know about this fine story is that when I ate that cut brisket sandwich, I had a huge smile on my face and actually said out loud, “This is amazing.” Somebody told me once that anybody can make a pulled pork sandwich, but only people who know what they are doing can make a good brisket sandwich. Well I’m here to say Jayell Smoke House is doing it right, and if you know what’s right, you’ll make your way out there!

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Jack Johns is a project coordinator within the economic development services group. He specializes in serving the food and agricultural industry as well as automation, robotics, connected vehicles, energy and retail businesses.

Macomb County ready to incentivize your business growth

Summit Plastic Molding breaks ground in Bruce Township

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It was a sunny November day, the best you could hope for, when Summit Plastic Molding held an outdoor groundbreaking ceremony in front of the crowd in attendance and the local media. The buzz was for a brand-new facility that would employ 80 people in Bruce Township. It was a day of celebration. For the company. For Bruce Township. And for the employees that will be able to provide for their families. It was a celebration that is the culmination of an effective partnership between the business and the team at the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

One of the most important business decisions a company will make is choosing where to locate. Our team of professionals here at the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development have the resources to guide a company through all steps of the process including incentivizing a company’s growth.

These services helped Summit Plastic Molding secure a 12-year tax abatement on their new facility, a 22.41-acre parcel on 33 Mile Road, east of Van Dyke. The overall investment, including new equipment, is expected to be close to $10 million with two additional industrial buildings planned for the future. To secure the abatement, our team assisted with the following:

  • Identified which local and state-level resources were appropriate for the development and fit the criteria of the project and industry.
  • Established an Industrial Development District with the local community for the development site which is a requirement to apply for an abatement.
  • Completed the necessary paperwork required to request an Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption (a tax abatement).
  • Presented with the company to the township board at their local meeting to secure required local approval for the abatement request.

As a result of these services, Summit Plastic Molding’s new 64,200-square-foot building will serve as the company’s new headquarters and manufacturing facility. The building will be a state-of-the-art facility that provides efficiencies in energy, logistics and automation.

The services our economic development team provided Summit Plastic Molding to aid their growth can be utilized to help your business grow as well. Summit Plastic Molding joins a growing list of companies that we have successfully been able to help incentivize growth for in Macomb this year. Others include Amazon, Cabela’s and Grupo Antolin Michigan Inc. You can see who and where we’ve helped on  our interactive GIS map!

If you’re a company thinking about growing or locating in Macomb, reach out to us. We can connect you to resources and programs that can support all aspects of your expansion. We look forward to celebrating your groundbreaking as well!

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick 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 about what resources are available for your business, reach out to him at posavetz@macombgov.org.