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.

Baker College: Choosing the Path to Employment in Macomb County

bakerct-entrance-2.jpgSince 1990, Baker College of Clinton Township has maintained its role in the community by offering one of the most affordable 4-year  public or private college experiences in Michigan, including certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level degrees. We graduate diligent, dedicated students that are ready to work, and whose academic experiences have been molded by Michigan employers. Our curriculum is influenced by employer advisory boards consisting of professionals in the field, which ensures the support of real-world programming that matches the ever-evolving demands of the workforce. Students can also meet the challenges of busy schedules by taking advantage of course offerings though our Online campus to supplement their on-ground studies.

Baker College students live in the community, have a desire to work locally, and therefore have a vested interest in seeing their environment thrive. They are taught to think on their feet, identify problems and formulate efficient solutions by completing Career Experience as part of their degree requirements regardless of major. Our Career Experience partners in all degree areas, especially Health Care, Management, IT and, Business Services, offer cutting edge experiences in areas that are focused on industry trends and areas of growth. Additionally, over 36% of our students accept offers of full-time employment at their Career Experience site.

Our small class sizes contribute to student success.  Passage rates for graduates of Baker College programs which require licensure are higher than state and national averages. In reporting from June 2017 graduates earned 100% pass rates in nursing, dental hygiene, radiation technology, and surgical technology. Tests are not the only measure of success. Baker College has been defending their Cyber Defense Championship title since 2008, with six State, two Regional and two National Championships. We were voted to have the #1 Nursing Program in Michigan for 2016, by registerednursing.org, with a 100% percent pass rate of state boards and a 100% employment rate. We also take great pride in serving our community as hosts of the premier Dental Hygiene clinic in the Baker College system that is open to the public, providing low cost dental services including cleanings, x-rays, fluoride treatment and exams to children and adults in Macomb County. Call (586) 790-5238 to make an appointment.

In addition to our robust academic programs, Baker College offers 100 degree programs including those through our Auto Diesel Institute and the Baker College Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM). A CIM student has won the Michigan Chefs De Cuisine Association Student Chef of the Year for three consecutive years. Furthermore, the CIM boasts a talented and accomplished group of alumni, including the latest winner of Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Kimberly Ann Ryan recently demolished the competition on the popular reality TV competition, scoring an esteemed position with The Venetian’s Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Las Vegas — worth approximately $250,000.

Even with the growth in populous and business in Macomb County, savvy investors in their own education should be motivated to choose an institution with affordably priced tuition, career-focused curriculum and an easy campus commute. By selecting the premier four year college in your backyard, Baker College makes it easy to take the path to employment in Macomb County. After all, Baker College does not graduate students–we graduate BakerProud© students.

 

Lincoln High School unveils enhanced CAD/CAM program

Our department was privileged to join with county officials, district personal, former students and business leaders at the Lincoln High School Center for Career and Technology in Warren. The gathering was to celebrate new machinery which will enable students to prepare for high-demand careers in manufacturing.

Press Event 087A DMG MORI 5-axis CNC machine, valued at $250,000, was given to Van Dyke Public Schools on a two-year, no cost lease from DMG MORI. Based in Japan with locations across the globe, DMG MORI is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of CNC machines.  The gift will enable students to hone their computer aided drafting (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) skills through the school’s career technical education program.

Dr. Masahiko Mori, president of DMG MORI, flew in from Japan to be part of the celebration.  It was obvious from his remarks that he and his company are happy to support educational programs that produced trained and ready individuals to run their machines.

Rick Hecker, President and CEO of Eifel Mold & Engineering of Fraser, chairs the school’s business advisory committee for CAD/CAM. He is credited with securing the donation. When he shared the good news with committee members, others stepped forward to make sure that the equipment would be installed and serviced at no cost to the district:

  • Metro Air Compressor of Roseville offered the necessary air compressor and installed it.
  • Powertran Transformers of Ferndale offered a transformer
  • Autodesk, a software developer from California, will provide 75 Powermill licenses for use by students and instructors
  • Spectron Electric of Fraser finalized installation with materials provided by Grant Industries, also of Fraser

Press Event 073During the event, the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) presented a check for $10,000 from the American Mold Manufacturing Advancement Fund (AMMA Fund) to cover additional expenses.

The best part of the evening was near the end of formal presentation when Lincoln graduates of the program were invited to make remarks. Many of them are currently employed in the industry and were proud to share their success story with the crowd of more than 50 people.

Each of them credited their instructors, Mr. Fred Cook and Mr. Mike Zainea for inspiring them to be the best they can be.

Manufacturing Day is gearing up in Macomb County!

DSC_1586Two weeks from today, 57 of Macomb County’s leading manufacturers will host tours for nearly 2,000 students from all 28 public high schools. These tours are designed to provide students with a chance to see advanced manufacturing in action and introduce them to a variety of interesting careers.

Last week, more than 150 people gathered to prepare for the big day.  See photos from the MFG Day Orientation Breakfast, sponsored by the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) here on our Facebook page.

A highlight of the event was a new video, produced by the MISD, featuring past participants who discovered manufacturing as a career possibility:  https://youtu.be/uwgHi67eLYc

Newly revised, the website www.ManufactureMyFuture.com provides a wealth of information about events throughout the region; including information for Macomb County students (and parents); current information about hot jobs in the industry; and it also lists out all of our host sites this year.

As a follow-up to national MFG Day, the department is partnering with Macomb Community College to offer the Careers in Manufacturing & Technology Expo. The event features hands-on opportunities to interact with tools and simulators used in the industry; opportunities to hear from recent students who are now gainfully employed in the industry; learn about educational pathways that lead to career success; and meet with area companies to learn about their hiring priorities. The event also features special guests, free concessions and door prizes.

The Careers in Manufacturing & Technology Expo will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Weds. Dec. 6 at Macomb’s Sports & Expo Center.

Macomb County was one of the first in the nation to organize a countywide celebration of Manufacturing Day. Since 2014, more than 5,500 high school students from throughout Macomb County have had a chance to see manufacturing in action and meet people who make things. It has taken the dedication of many, including an active planning committee and a generous group of sponsors including Dominion Technologies Group, PTI Engineered Plastics, Fori Automation, Futuramic Tool & Engineering, L&L Products and Siemens.

Spotlight on big investments at annual State of the County Address

2016 was a major year for business investment in Macomb County. Last night at the sixth annual State of the County, the continued and remarkable economic rebound in Macomb County was a central theme for County Executive Mark Hackel during his address.

Macomb County is in the midst of seven straight years of job growth. The number of people working in Macomb County has swelled by roughly 55,000 to more than 410,000, which is the most in 15 years and near our historic high watermark.

These job gains have been fueled by Macomb County’s standing as a world-class advanced manufacturing hub. Since 2010, the mobility industry has directly invested more than $6 billion in Macomb County. This year alone in Macomb County, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles committed $1.4 billion to the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant; General Motors located their autonomous vehicle development team at the GM Tech Center; and Ford has tripled its autonomous vehicle fleet and is currently testing its Ford Fusion hybrids in Bruce Township at the Michigan Proving Grounds. Macomb County government has done its part and stepped up, expanding our intelligent transportation infrastructure at COMTEC. These investments have made Macomb County better positioned, more than any other county in the nation in fact, to deploy connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

The same kind of transformation is happening in our other key targeted industries of defense, information technology, aerospace and agriculture.

In defense, our military installations and network of more than 600 prime defense contractors continue to push the limits of innovation. This past year, Macomb County companies were awarded more than $1.4 billion in defense contacts. TARDEC teamed up with General Motors to develop the hydrogen-powered Chevy Colorado Z-H-2. This futuristic military-concept vehicle was created right here in Macomb County and went from contract to concept in less than a year. TACOM continues to be an integral piece of our Army’s command.

Our information technology (IT) and cybersecurity sectors are undergoing massive expansions. Macomb County is now home to nearly 400 IT firms, which employ approximately 9,000 individuals. Over the past five years, the county has experienced a 116 percent increase in our IT employment which, when compared to a national average of less than 12 percent, shows our tremendous progress. Macomb is also leading the way in cybersecurity with the Velocity Hub of the Michigan Cyber Range opening. We continue to look for ways to deepen our workforce talent pool and have been bringing industry experts together with MADCAT to continue to find innovative ways to prepare for future needs.

Macomb County is also making impressive gains in aerospace. The world’s largest aerospace companies are now doing business within our borders. Names like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter and NASA are working with an ever growing number of prime suppliers. Contract after contract, they are flocking to Macomb County because of our advanced precision tooling and adaptable workforce.

Even agriculture and food processing are being transformed. Lipari Foods just announced a new $36 million state-of-the-art food processing facility in Warren, which will incorporate some of the most advanced food processing capabilities in the state. Century-old orchards such as Blake’s, Miller’s Big Red and Westview are also making big investments, transforming themselves in to wineries and family entertainment centers. Several craft brewers are making Macomb their home, including the $1.3 million investment at Kuhnhenn’s Brewery in Clinton Township.

Our business investments are also greatly improving our quality of life. This past year saw the opening of the much anticipated Jimmy John’s Field and the start of play for the United Shore Professional Baseball League. The ballpark’s first season was a huge success: Most of the games were sellouts, attendance averaged 3,100 over the 75 game schedule, and eight players were picked up by major league organizations. The league has announced expansion plans to add a fourth team next year.

All of these developments are telling us the same story – Macomb County is a preferred destination for transformational economic investment.

This all contributed to what was a successful 2016 for our department. I’m very proud of the dedicated staff that make up our team of professionals who were able to help these businesses grow and thrive in Macomb County this year. Our staff was responsible for the following investments within the county this year:

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I am very proud Executive Hackel recognized our department for our efforts in a significant way in front of such a large and influential audience. If you’re a business thinking about starting, locating or growing in Macomb County, we want to help you. Please contact our department, and together we can help you be the focus for next year’s event!

rea-john-paulJohn Paul Rea, AICP, is the director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Courting foreign direct investment in Germany

Over 4,000 miles away from Detroit, KUKA Germany’s CEO Dr. Till Reuter shook hands with Gov. Rick Snyder at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair. In this same space, KUKA Germany, KUKA Systems North America, as well as KUKA subsidiaries from around the globe, converged for this one week, meeting with business clients – past, present and future.

Germany.jpgTheir booth footprint was massive, impressive and interactive. However, their true presence was much more profound all over the showroom floors, as system integrators demonstrated how their products aligned with KUKA’s automation and robotic technologies.

KUKA Systems North America, headquartered in Macomb County, was one of the many companies that made the trip to Hannover, Germany. I joined as part of the Automation Alley trade mission, along with other Michigan-based companies, two from Macomb County: Omnico AGV and JAAN Technologies. This year was unique because the U.S. was the Partner Country for the Hannover Messe Fair, welcoming President Obama at the Opening Ceremony.

More than 465 U.S. companies exhibited at Hannover Messe, a much larger presence than in previous years. It was easy to get lost on the floors which housed 5,200 exhibitors spread out over 27 different halls. In total, the show brought in over 190,000 visitors from all over the world. Many languages were spoken, and the meetings I had were rich in investment and growth opportunities.

My mission was to meet with companies seeking a U.S. location for expanding their market and production capability. Michigan, especially Macomb County, is prime for these types of foreign direct investments, especially with our rich roots and strong workforce in advanced manufacturing for the automotive, aerospace and defense industries. In total, I walked 56,000 steps over the four days I attended the Hannover Messe Fair – each step bringing these opportunities closer to home.

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