How to craft a winning nomination for the Macomb Business Awards

The March 15 nomination deadline for the Macomb Business Awards is approaching quickly! So if you know of or work for a business that fits one of the award categories, we highly recommend submitting them for consideration! Categories include:

  • Champion of Work / Life Integration – offering innovative benefits that enable employees to balance work responsibilities with personal passions (Sponsored by MetroParent magazine).
  • Corporate Citizen – providing meaningful support to our community through service and/or philanthropy.
  • Hidden Gem – uncovering a unique Made-in-Macomb product or place that more people should know about.
  • Manufacturer of the Year – in recognition of a manufacturer of any size that is achieving success through its efforts to diversify its customer base, retain employees and/or implement new technologies or efficiencies.
  • Model of OneMacomb – cultivating an environment where diversity is valued as evidenced by inclusive practices.
  • Trailblazer of Future Talent – creating partnerships that provide opportunities for the next generation of our workforce to explore career possibilities and experience work-based learning.

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Now that you know the categories, you may be wondering how you go about creating and submitting a nomination. Which is why we put together a simple guide that will help you along the way! Here’s what you need to know:

Nomination evaluation

Incoming nominations are prepared for a panel of judges with a simple set of instructions for scoring each one:

  • Please rate each 300-word summary on a scale from one to five with five being the highest possible score:
    • 5 = Uses qualitative and quantitative evidence to succinctly describe how company accomplishments fit award criteria. Provides measurable and impressive results.  This company provides a summary that could serve as a “case study” or “blueprint” for others who might be inspired to accomplish similar goals.
    • 4 = Describes how accomplishments meet the criteria using both qualitative and quantitative examples. Results are measurable and admirable.
    • 3 = Provides a description of how company fits criteria but fails to include measurable results.
    • 2 = Provides anecdotal evidence of how company fits criteria. Actual results are unclear.
    • 1 = The summary, as provided, does not clearly communicate a match to the criteria.


As an example of a high-scoring nomination, the following 239-word summary was submitted by the company selected as the 2018 Model of OneMacomb:

When AGS opened a new facility in Sterling Heights, we invested in a building, a community and our employees. Back in the summer of 2013, we needed 150-200 employees to build bumper systems for General Motors trucks. We partnered with Michigan Staffing and Macomb Community College on hiring and training initiatives and were able to establish a diverse workforce that includes many Iraqi refugees. About 80-85% of our workforce is Iraqi or of Arabic descent. There is a strong sense of community at AGS and we feel blessed with this workforce. We want to develop long-lasting relationships because without these employees, we wouldn’t have a business. Since many of our employees do not speak English, AGS translates documents, offers English as a Second Language classes on-site and have hired a full time translator to work in the Human Resource Department.

Our organization strongly believes in promoting within. We are proud of the numerous employees that have moved up the ranks at AGS. All of them started as general laborers making minimum wage, and have developed into leaders within our organization – Team Leaders, Production Supervisors, Maintenance Technicians and Manufacturing Engineers. AGS also partners with the Judson Center’s Disability Service program which helps adults with intellectual and physical disabilities find independence and inclusion in the community by providing meaningful employment. We continue to invest in our core values of team work and cooperation, which will lead to continual success at AGS!

Why it worked

The company explained how they cultivate an environment where diversity is valued. They also offered specific information on their inclusive practices and how those deliver measurable results. They told a great story in less than 300 words.


So now that you know how to submit a winning nomination, visit our easy application and get started today. Remember – March 15 is the deadline for 2019 submissions. Simply fill out the forms, craft your descriptions and your business will be in the running!

For more information on the April 23 event, visit

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

Plans for a Macomb County Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center underway

Almost every industry around the world is benefiting from advancements in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence technologies, including defense, health care, logistics, finance and consumer goods. But these technologies can only go so far. Companies still need a talented workforce alongside their machines.

People in the state of Michigan understand that relationship. For more than a century, this workforce has built, crafted and created everything from cars to pharmaceuticals with the help of machines. And while the recession had a negative impact on the state’s manufacturing sector, it has since rebounded with a dramatic increase in new jobs that incorporate automated and intelligent systems. For instance, in the auto industry, new jobs are being created around self-driving and connected vehicle development programs. However, these roles require new skills and different training than positions in the past. Therefore, if Michigan wants to compete with other global centers of innovation, the state needs to encourage and help the next generation of workers embrace and become experts at new technologies.

To tackle this issue, Macomb County plans to create a nonprofit Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center aimed particularly at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment.

google-future focused

Why a Robotics Center?
Macomb County is home to a large community that has experience in manufacturing, mass production, supply chain industries and technology and product development. The region is positioned to expand further in this area given:

  • Southeast Michigan’s technology and manufacturing executives being optimistic about growth in revenues, spending and hiring talent.
  • Southeast Michigan being more competitively positioned for technology professionals to build their careers than Silicon Valley because of the lower cost of living, networking opportunities and leading academic institutions.
  • Southeast Michigan being ripe for technology companies to do business due to the region’s ability to retain talent, achieve a greater return on investment and lower the cost of capital.

These factors all help make the case for a center focused on robotics and innovation. Our region is ready, we just need to offer the tools to further train our workforce and build opportunities for the next generation of talent. A robotics center will help us do just that.

What will it do? Who will it serve?
The new facility will launch later this year at the Velocity Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights. Once open, its mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.

“Ultimately, we hope to bring existing engineering talent from major employers across Southeast Michigan into an environment where new ideas and technologies can be created,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “The possible benefits are endless.”

1901 - gathering 1.14.19MCPED, in partnership with the city of Sterling Heights, the Macomb Intermediate School District and Macomb Community College, hopes the center can partner with and serve the following audiences:

  • High school FIRST teams
  • Workforce development agencies
  • Four-year education institutions and community colleges
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative groups (K-12)
  • Regional economic development organizations and chambers of commerce
  • Regional school districts
  • Multiple think tank/research institutions
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Highly active network of venture capitalists and philanthropists
  • Green-mobility cluster initiative
  • Business accelerators
  • Industry

Its success will be evaluated through the following metrics:

  • Measurable impacts
  • Community support
  • Participant progress
  • Education attainment
  • Activities

Ultimately, if positive outcomes are reported and a wide-range of audiences are served, the Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center will become an asset for the community for many years to come. Stay tuned for more details on its launch and to learn how you can get involved.

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

Using a Kooty Key every day keeps the doctor away

Ken Kolb’s “aha moment” came in a McDonald’s restroom. Frequently on the road for his job, the lifelong Macomb County resident often made pit-stops at the fast-food joint. On one occasion, while washing his hands, he noticed that there were only hand dryers in the restroom – no paper towels. Transitioning to this more environmental hand drying method is a fairly common trend for businesses, but for individuals like Ken, who like opening restroom doors with paper towel to protect freshly-washed hands, this causes a bit of an issue. That’s when he got his flash of inspiration. What if there was a tool that would allow you to open doors without touching them? In that moment, the Kooty Key was born.

packageThe Kooty Key is a hook-like product made from reinforced, antimicrobial plastic. It easily attaches to keys or a purse so the user can grab it, take hold of a handle and open a door – all without actually touching the surface and coming in contact with germs. This was the goal Ken set out to achieve after his aha moment. As an Ultimate Fitness Event professional who previously won Mr. Natural Michigan, Ken is a health enthusiast. He understands how healthy living and exercise can have a positive impact on a person. But even with this commitment to well-being, Ken still managed to contract viral meningitis. In 2005, he spent a week in the hospital after being diagnosed with the infection. He’s not sure how he came into contact with the meningitis bacteria, but he knows it can be deadly and he has tried to reduce his risk for future illness by frequently washing his hands and opening public doors and handles with paper towel – what he had intended to do in that restaurant restroom. However, more and more businesses are switching their restroom facilities from paper towels to hand dryers to save costs and reduce their impact on the environment. While this is ultimately a positive move, it puts individuals like Ken in a bit of a pickle. So he developed the Kooty Key as an alternative for himself and others.

Creating the product took time. Ken first sketched out his vision for the tool, handing it off to an engineer friend who created the initial version out of steel. Ken took that to ADAPT Technologies in Rochester so they could help him flesh out the idea and make it slotssomething that could be produced on a mass scale. After applying some physics and printing several 3D models, Ken and the ADAPT team landed on an antimicrobial plastic version that would be able to open a 35 pound door while still being small enough to fit in your pocket. They also added a touch tool that would give users the ability to push keypads and buttons. Ken then took the product to Las Vegas, testing its durability by opening heavy casino doors and pulling slot machine handles. The tool worked exactly as planned so Ken put it into production and began selling it as the Kooty Key.

Initially, Ken sourced his manufacturing in China. But after a round of disappointing product arrived at his door, he made the choice to move everything to Michigan. Now made through Molding Experts in Chesterfield, Ken can say his product is entirely “made in Michigan.” He’s proud of that, but it also makes fiscal sense for him. Sourcing locally means that Ken can meet his product managers in person; they’re in the same time zone. He can also see his product on the line, which gives him the ability to personally ensure its quality. This results in five-star reviews from Kooty Key customers. According to one individual: “This is an awesome product! I feel much more confident when I go to public places now. With the flu out of control, I use my Kooty Key everywhere.” And another: “This was a great gift for my grandmother who was always wrapping her hands with her shirt or coat to open doors.”

As that customer stated, the Kooty Key is the perfect tool for individuals concerned with their health or who have suppressed immune systems. It is also suitable for individuals who work in environments where germs are prevalent, like teachers or nurses. It could even be a great gift for young people going away to college.

While there are a variety of individuals who might find this product helpful, the end result is always the same – peace of mind. Customers who use Kooty Key always say that they feel better about being out in public because the tool offers them some protection from the germs and bacteria that contaminate everyday surfaces. Ken agrees. Since he created the product and started using it, he says he’s never been sick. His family feels the health benefits too, which is certainly positive as they help run the business and have never needed to call in sick.

Knowing this, I’m personally giving the Kooty Key a try. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than coming down with a cold or the flu, calling off and then falling behind at work. So if there’s something simple I can do to reduce my risk of becoming sick, I’m going to test it out. Who knows what the result will be, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for an illness-free year!

For more information on Kooty Key and to purchase the product, visit

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

Another Macomb Business Awards breakfast is in the books! Next year’s date is…

Department director John Paul Rea welcomed nearly 400 guests to The Mirage in Clinton Township on Feb 27 for our 6th annual event. He introduced keynote speaker Cheryl Carrier from Ford NGL who provided an inspiring overview how a community can coalesce to help our young people discover careers that match their abilities, interests and desired lifestyle.

Emcees Huel Perkins and Charlie Langton did a stellar job as Mark Hackel and Deputy Director Vicky Rad presented crystal awards to this year’s recipients.

This year’s recipients were

Champion of Workforce Development
St. John Providence

Corporate Citizen
First State Bank

Diversification Leader
RCO Engineering, Inc.

Model of OneMacomb
AGS Automotive

Startup Business to Watch
Rose-A-Lee Technologies

Watch the video profiles of each of our finalist – .  Scroll through photos from this years event!

Aside from the nominated and reviewed organizations, the department also awarded the “Economic Development Partner of the Year” to the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

The department has always worked closely with base personnel but 2017 was an exceptional year! When we learned that the base was one of five being considered to home the new F-35 Fighter Jet, department staff worked closely with Brigadier General John D. “Odie” Slocum and his leadership team. Our objective was to build public support. One of the first accomplishments was to create a dedicated website with the help of HunchFree.  Once the website was ready, an all-out social media and advertising campaign was launched to create buzz.

Together, the team solicited support from the entire state of Michigan at the annual Mackinac Policy.  The department also created a 144-page prospectus for incoming evaluators from the U.S. Air Force. Although many were surprised and disappointed to learn that Selfridge had not been selected, our entire department remains confident that Selfridge will continue to be an important partner in economic development well into the future of Macomb County.

The Macomb Business Awards was sponsored by Automation Alley, Clark Construction Company, Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals, Jarvis Property Restoration and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation with support from First State Bank, Omega HR, the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber and many others.

SAVE the DATE! Next year’s awards program has been scheduled for Friday, February 22, 2019 Nominations for next year’s awards program will open in October. Stay tuned for details!

Cheryl Carrier, Ford Next Generation Learning, will offer a keynote address at the Macomb Business Awards – Reserve your spot today!

carrierWe are pleased to announce that Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL), will present the keynote address at the 6th Annual Macomb Business Awards Breakfast on Feb. 27, 2018 at The Mirage in Clinton Township, MI.

Cheryl Carrier is the Executive Director of Ford NGL, the signature education program of Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services.

Cheryl leads the team responsible for developing and managing the innovative Ford NGL program, which is designed to engage educators, employers, and community leaders in the common goal of preparing today’s high school students for the careers of tomorrow. Through community engagement, Ford NGL provides a proven framework to develop high school academies that are career-themed and provide students with opportunities to engage in relevant, academically rigorous, authentic learning opportunities.

Currently, there are 40+ communities across the country that are using the Ford NGL framework and are supported by Ford Motor Company Fund. Several schools across Macomb County have or are in the process of converting to academy base learning.  Romeo High School will be the first Ford NGL certified program in Michigan.

Cheryl works closely with business executives, government/civic leaders, and economic development and workforce development intermediaries to help align education with the skills needed by companies and the local region.

Cheryl joined Ford in 1978 and has held positions in Engineering, Finance, Business Strategy, and Investor Relations. Cheryl assisted Ford Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., for many years, including a special assignment with the Detroit Lions, as the Human Resource Director, where she was responsible for developing human resource policy.  Cheryl retired from Ford on December 31, 2013 and has been retained by Ford Motor Company Fund to continue as the Executive Director of Ford NGL.

Cheryl serves on the boards of Alignment Nashville, Advance CTE Education Foundation and Future Plans.  She resides with her husband in Petoskey, MI.

Reservations for the breakfast – one of Macomb County’s largest gatherings of leaders in business, education and government – can be made until February 20.


Industry preview days a golden opportunity for local companies

Each year, the North American International Auto Show opens its doors to crowds of roughly 850,000 members of the public, eager to see the latest and greatest in what the world has to offer. While the public prepares to take in what is sure to be a spectacular 2018 show, companies in the industry have a chance to come for a preview.

2017 NAIAS - Show HighlightsLast year, nearly 40,000 automotive professionals and analysts representing over 2,200 companies from around the world spent days connecting and sharing insights at the industry preview days. This valuable and unique networking and professional development opportunity brings together the key decision makers, designers and leaders responsible for the cutting-edge products, technologies and services on display at NAIAS.

In addition to the displays at the NAIAS, also included is AutoMobili-D, which features 150,000 square feet of dynamic display communities in the Cobo Center atrium overlooking the international waterway and the adjoining Planet M hall. In 2017, AutoMobili-D featured more than 180 brands, ranging from automakers, to suppliers, to tech startups as well as universities and government organizations.

According to the organizers of the NAIAS, there is no other event in North America that provides an international platform for this vast array of companies, organizations and thought leaders under one roof. The 5,000 journalists expected to attend the 2018 NAIAS preview days from more than 60 countries across the globe will have plenty to write about.

2017 NAIAS - Show HighlightsAlso a major part of the industry preview days are the more than 40 hours of mobility-focused announcements and discussions. These educational presentations are both a great way to learn about the latest in mobility and to connect directly with the companies at the forefront of developing these next-generation tools and technologies.

During the 2017 show, 17 vehicles made their worldwide debut. This is ground zero for companies looking to become suppliers and build relationships for new product lines that will be the future staples of the auto industry.

Are you a company interested in attending the industry preview days at the NAIAS? Tickets are available! Click here for more information and secure your attendance for 2018!

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 what resources are available for your business, reach out to him at

New Ram truck to debut

ramIf you live or work in Macomb County, you may have already spotted a heavily camouflaged vehicle on our roads. It is rumored to be the 2019 Ram 1500, and anticipation has been growing for the redesign to be revealed. The vehicle is expected to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, and it will be manufactured here in Macomb County at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

SHAP is a great example of a success story in Macomb County. It was slated for closure during the recession, but has made a remarkable comeback. Massive improvements have been made at the facility in recent years to retool it to build the next-generation Ram pickup.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has invested $1.48 billion and created 700 new jobs to support the manufacturing of the new truck and future growth of the Ram brand. This commitment is part of FCA’s effort to increase production capacity of trucks and SUVs in the U.S. to match demand.

Don’t miss the unveiling of the new Ram at 9:05 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15 at the NAIAS, and see what our Macomb County workforce is able to do!

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in business outreach and communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Perks of participating in Macomb Business Awards

DSC_0003The Macomb Business Awards is the perfect opportunity to network, exhibit your company’s expertise, and if you’re lucky, you may even get some national publicity. This was the case for Bakes and Kropp after winning an award in 2016.

Bakes and Kropp is a custom cabinetry company that designs and manufactures luxury kitchens, vanities, libraries and closets. Their high-end cabinetry is built in a 30,000-square-foot production facility in Mount Clemens and sold at three showrooms in the New York area as well as through a dealer in Plymouth, Michigan.

According to cofounder Paul Kropp, one of the benefits of being located in Macomb County is the area’s talented workforce and solid work ethic. Traditionally an area dominated by automotive manufacturing, Kropp says he sees the excitement employees have to work on something different. Also because of the auto industry, Macomb County also has no shortage of experienced metalworkers for Bakes and Kropp to reach out to when they have chrome plating or metal fabrication needs, enabling them to create truly unique wooden and metallic products.

At the end of 2015, Bakes and Kropp was nominated for the Macomb Business Awards in the category of Startup Business to Watch. As a growing business that had been operating for less than four years and had more than two full-time employees, they fit the qualifications for the category. The awards ceremony was held in February 2016.

Kropp said at the time, he wasn’t sure if his company would win because of the other great competing businesses, but when their name was called, he was thrilled.

“I enjoyed the whole process,” said Kropp. “The ceremony was well done, and it was a huge morale booster for the company.”

After receiving the award, the Bakes and Kropp was mentioned in several local newspaper articles and also listed on our website, Because of the nation’s interest in Macomb County during the presidential campaign, NBC was looking for a venue here to host a roundtable for NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. They discovered Bakes and Kropp on our website and chose them to be the host site, and an employee even participated in the roundtable. Kropp said it was exciting to meet a celebrity and receive exposure on a national level.

While there is no guarantee your company will be mentioned in national news, you can count on a delicious breakfast, an inspirational guest speaker and the chance to take home an award. Time is running out to be a part of this year’s Macomb Business Awards. Today is the deadline for nominations. Simply go to our website to nominate your company.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in business outreach and communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.


Opioids and the impact on our workforce – New workshop planned for employers

Opioids-in-the-Workforce-FlyerAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an average of 90 people die of an opioid overdose every single day in the United States.  In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. In the same year, an estimated two million people suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 591,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (which are not mutually exclusive).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

To offer help to area employers, our department is partnering with CARE of Southeastern Michigan, the Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse, Families Against Narcotics, and Butzel Long to offer a workshop especially for them.

“Employers across the region face problems not only with employees who may be struggling with a substance abuse problem but also the family members and loved ones of employees.” Said Monique Stanton, Director of Care of Southeastern Michigan. “This workshop will provide information about resources and tools that can help employers provide relevant and current information to employees.”

Speakers include the Honorable Linda B. Davis, 41-B District Court and President of Families Against Narcotics; Monique Stanton, President and CEO and Susan Styf, Chief Program Officer for CARE of Southeastern Michigan and Brett Miller, Senior Associate for Butzel Long.

The workshop will be held from 8-10 a.m. on Friday, Sept 15 at the Velocity Center (6633 18 Mile Road in Sterling Heights, MI.  There is no charge for this event but pre-registration is required.  Visit for more details and a link to register.

How can Michigan’s economy boom if we don’t have the right workers?

17_AM_Cover_GraphicMichigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) held their annual conference in Holland this month. Between attendees, sponsors, speakers and guests, nearly 200 members of the economic development community were in attendance.  A record breaking year for MEDA.  But from the opening reception to the closing remarks, I heard the same problem in every session I attended.  Businesses are struggling to hire people with the right skills.

On Wednesday evening, the president and a chief executive officer from competing businesses joined each other on stage to discuss the need to fill the pipeline with the qualified and dedicated talent.  Franco Bianchi of Haworth, Inc. and Brian Walker of Herman Miller, Inc. agreed on one thing, if we ignore the need for talent here in Michigan and throughout the United States, companies will have to outsource their work internationally in order to meet the demands of their growing business.

A common thread heard throughout the three-day conference was that businesses are willing to train and educate dedicated employees with a desire to learn. Many of these jobs are for highly skilled positions paying top wages, not the “factory” jobs our parents and grandparents held.   These jobs require creative thinking and problem solving.

Douglas Patton, executive vice president and engineering division chief technical officer for DENSSO International America, Inc. offered a presentation on the future of driverless society and discussed the immediate need for software developers and cybersecurity professionals.  These jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree to begin.  With an associate’s degree from a community college and an on-the-job training program, these individuals will be helping develop the future of driverless society while making comfortable wages. Individuals in these entry-level positions can advance within a company through lifelong learning opportunities. In many cases, employers are willing to help with these expenses.

Where does filling the pipeline begin?  It begins in elementary school. During the session on Building Tomorrows Talent Through Meaningful Engagement, topics were discussed on the need to show young students how their math, science, English, and technology all relate to the real world and to get kids excited about careers. For instance, a student struggling with math might make a better connection to the skills needed if they can apply math problems when developing code for a video game. .

It also begins at home. Every parent wants their child to be successful. However, a four-year college degree is not the right fit for every individual.   The average cost to complete a bachelor’s degree in Michigan is more than $50,000.  An associate’s degree, earned at a community college, can be earned for a fraction of the cost and lead to a rewarding career or additional educational opportunities.

Instead of suggesting that a four-year degree is the only way to be successful, perhaps we should be helping the next generation of our workforce discover their talents and aptitude and make a plan to follow an educational pathway that leads to career success.  For more information on these high skilled, high wage jobs in Michigan check out Going Pro, Michigan’s campaign designed to elevate the perception of professional trades and to showcase opportunities in a variety of rewarding careers.

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