State of the County highlights investment in Macomb

At the fifth annual State of the County, the economic rebound in Macomb County was a major theme for County Executive Mark Hackel during his address.

We have a lot to be proud of recently. Frequently used during the speech was the “b word”: billion. Three major global players have all recently announced plans to invest more than a billion dollars each in separate projects in Macomb County. General Motors is investing $1 billion in its Warren Tech Center that will include new design studios, upgraded R&D efforts and improve the infrastructure in their 600-acre campus, adding 2,600 new jobs. Ford is planning to invest a billion dollars into its two Sterling Heights facilities. Fiat Chrysler is also investing $1 billion into its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

It’s not just automotive. In 2014, defense contractors in Macomb County won more than $1.6 billion in contracts from the federal government.

These are some other great projects that the county executive mentioned:

  • The Paslin Company creating 200 full-time jobs with their investment in a new $20 million manufacturing and engineering center
  • Fori Automation investing in a new $12 million manufacturing and business operations facility in Shelby Township
  • Faurecia investing $8 million to upgrade its Sterling Heights plant
  • Axalta Coating Systems modernizing their Mount Clemens plant, which now employs more than 700 workers and is viewed as a global leader in liquid and powder coating
  • KUKA Systems North America investing $14 million in their Clinton Township facility
  • Triumph Gear Systems spending $15 million to double their facility size
  • $200 million for research overseen by TARDEC in Warren
  • BAE Systems receiving a $100 million contract to provide engineering and program management for a new Marine combat vehicle

Aerospace is also expanding its footprint in Macomb County. Companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter and NASA are actively engaged with Macomb County suppliers.

Many of our department’s initiatives were also highlighted in the county executive’s speech.

Professional baseball is coming to Macomb County. The first pitch will be thrown out in June at Jimmy John’s Field when the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, the Eastside Diamond Hoppers and the Utica Unicorns launch the new United Shore Professional Baseball League at a brand new 4,000-seat stadium in Utica. Jimmy John’s Field will be much more than a place to play ball; it will host a wide variety of community and regional events.

Another point raised by the county executive was the performance of our defense industry. Macomb County is actively involved in virtually every major defense initiative in the state. Our department was instrumental in securing a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense to support the Advance Michigan Defense Collaborative. This initiative will be co-chaired by our Planning and Economic Development Department and the Michigan Defense Center, and Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! will be the fiscal agent responsible for this grant. This collaborative effort spans 13 counties in southeast Michigan.

Another of our major initiatives highlighted during the address was the Blue Economy. The goal of the Blue Economy is to enhance both water quality and water access, which in turn will produce financial benefits as well as enhance the quality of life of residents. The county executive made point of new canoe and kayak liveries on the Clinton River and our ability to attract world-class fishing tournaments on Lake St. Clair. More people than ever before are accessing our waterways. This year’s Bassmaster event held on Lake St. Clair was televised worldwide on ESPN and gave unprecedented exposure to our Blue Economy, while adding $3 million to our local economy.

It’s not just big investments. Our department is working hard to improve the workforce. Referred to in his speech as “our most creative accomplishment” was our department’s efforts in helping to fill the skills gap with Manufacturing Day. This innovative program addresses some common misconceptions about manufacturing. Macomb County had one of the largest coordinated events in the nation – with the support of local school districts, we connected nearly 1,800 students to over 40 local manufacturing businesses.

I speak for our entire department when I say that we are very proud – and humbled – to be recognized for our efforts in front of such a large and influential audience.

Cassin, SteveStephen N. Cassin, AICP is the director of Planning & Economic Development for Macomb County. Cassin has over 40 years of experience in land use planning, community development and economic development. He is a past president of the Michigan Society of Planners. He also is an adjunct instructor at Oakland University.

Retail is big in Macomb

When people think Macomb County, their first thought might be advanced manufacturing or defense, but retail is an often overlooked significant part of the economy.

When you have a more-than-healthy private sector growing manufacturing jobs with high wages complemented by industries like health care, defense and aerospace, it is no surprise that the demand for retail is going to be big.

EmploymentIncome generated in other industries means that there are plenty of retail establishments to choose from in Macomb County. With 2,369 options for holiday shopping covering the county, ranging from big box to boutique, there is something for everyone.

Nearly 1,600 of these businesses are independently owned, which gives shoppers a chance to have a big impact. Recent research suggests that the multiplier effect on a local economy of patronizing a local independent business is as high as 68 cents, compared to 43 cents when shopping at a chain. When you add it all up, these businesses are doing a lot directly, indirectly and inductively for the local economy.

This shopping season, Macomb County is encouraging shoppers to shop at local businesses. The county has compiled a database of area independent retail locations. It’s filterable by location and category.

These unique retail businesses define Macomb County’s downtowns. Retail growth and activity in Mount Clemens, New Baltimore and Roseville are all helping spark redevelopment into local downtowns.

The outlook is bright too, and there is certainly an opportunity for more investment. Macomb County’s current median household income is $53,435, a number expected to rise to $63,113 by 2020. Additionally, with its 865,570 residents, Macomb County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the state, adding a whopping 24,592 residents just since 2010. If these trends continue, Macomb County will surpass one million residents before 2040. With new revenue comes new spending, painting a bright future for retail in the county.

Businesses have been working hard and fast to keep pace with demand. Since opening in 2007, Partridge Creek has found success along the mega-retail corridor that is Hall Road. Each year, more than $1 billion of goods are sold along the 12-mile stretch of road in Macomb County. Planned for completion in 2016, a new massive luxury outlet mall will bring an additional 330,000 square feet of retail.

In Roseville, Macomb Mall has undergone a nearly $10 million renovation that has revitalized not just the mall property, but an entire stretch of Gratiot. The state of Michigan took notice, naming Roseville as the first city in the state to be designated as a Redevelopment Ready Community.

All it takes is a look at traffic counts along Hall Road (topping out daily at more than 100,000) and the parking lot at Lakeside Mall to see that the 150 retailer destination is thriving as well.  The lure of our region’s retail is so strong, even Amazon wants a piece.

Are you looking to start, expand or grow a retail operation in Macomb County? The Department of Planning and Economic Development can help. From site selection, information and research to traffic counts and other assistance, we have a team of experts ready to assist. Reach out and get started!

Posavetz, Nick IMG_0221Nick Posavetz is a senior planner for Macomb County, providing content for the Macomb Business website. If you have a topic you would like to be featured, reach out to him at This holiday shopping season, the department is promoting efforts to shop local, find what local businesses are doing and share your story.

Macomb County touts aerospace opportunities at international expo

Organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the first-ever National Aerospace Foreign Direct Investment Exposition was an opportunity for states across the country to showcase their growing aerospace industries to international companies.

Department Deputy Director Vicky Rad and I attended the expo in Los Angeles on behalf of Macomb County. Prior to the event, we had been able to secure meetings with companies from Australia, Canada, Germany and Mexico looking to expand or establish a presence in the United States. Once we arrived, we were able to meet with U.S. Commercial Service and Trade & Investment representatives from Switzerland, China, Italy and the United Kingdom.

During each of these meetings, and in conversations with companies throughout the conference, we had the opportunity to enlighten and inform attendees about Michigan’s economic comeback. Moreover, we were able to demonstrate that Michigan is more than automotive – a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report named Michigan No. 2 in the nation for aerospace manufacturing competitiveness, and it doesn’t stop there. Jobs in Michigan related to aerospace have grown 35 percent since 2009, and one third of the top 100 global aerospace companies are now present in the greater Detroit region.

Macomb County in particular has seen impressive growth in this industry, with companies such as KUKA Systems North America and Global Tooling Systems recently investing a combined $15 million and creating nearly 200 local jobs. Macomb County’s aerospace industry has grown 52 percent over the last decade, outpacing both the state at 46.6 percent and the nation at 2.6 percent.

We have a great story to tell at Macomb County, and it’s only getting better. As we continue to travel the country (and world!) to promote our county’s assets, we have the opportunity to change perceptions about our region’s competitiveness, growth and future potential.

Tracey, Alyssa IMG_0194Alyssa Tracey is a senior economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.


Macomb manufacturing continues to grow with latest development

The largest development in Sterling Heights since Lakeside Mall was recently announced. Sunnybrook golf course, located along 17 Mile Road near Van Dyke, will be developed into a 144-acre state-of-the-art manufacturing site along with two new hotels. This news is exciting and continues to showcase how important manufacturing is to Macomb County’s economy.

While exciting, the fact that new manufacturing continues to grow in Macomb is not a surprise. This is a trend that has been clear since 2009. In fact, in 2014 Macomb County was third among all counties in the nation for manufacturing growth.

Manufacturing Jobs
Manufacturing jobs in Macomb County have rebounded since 2008

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel calls this development “another example of how this city and Macomb County are leading the greater Midwest as the hub of advanced manufacturing.”

This rings true across a number of statistics: More than 30,000 workers are engaged in R&D at 350 local labs and facilities, in a region that graduates roughly 12,000 engineers and science degrees annually. We are home to a full quarter of the world’s advanced manufacturing workforce. (Want to learn more? View our targeted industry brochure.)

Companies are seeing this and taking advantage of what Macomb has to offer. Major investments by long-time industry leaders are complemented by new investments from companies eager to tap Macomb County’s talent.

The outlook continues to be bright. The big three are seeing constant double digit growth. Rises in new orders and production are boosting the industry in the U.S.

Are you a manufacturer looking to grow or locate in Macomb County? Reach out to our economic development professionals. In 2014, clients of the department invested nearly a quarter billion dollars and created more than 1,600 new jobs.

Finally, if you’re worried about the state of golf in the county, fear not, for there are still ample great opportunities to get out and enjoy a round.

Nick Posavetz is a senior planner for Macomb County, providing content for the Macomb Business website. If you have a topic you would like to be featured, reach out to him at 

Top Five Reasons to Nominate Your Business for a Macomb County Business Award

By: Maria Zardis, Program Manager Communications & Outreach

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Only one nominee in each category will take home an impressive crystal award, but every nominated company is a winner! With just two short weeks until nominations close, now seems an appropriate time to talk about the top five reasons to nominate your company (or organization) for a Macomb County Business Award:

  1. Your company has achieved success in building a strong workforce; tapping new sources of revenue; achieving efficiency; giving back to the community; getting started; or creating a diverse and welcoming workplace.
  2. Nominating your company is a great way to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of your employees to implement a successful solution.
  3. The process is online and simple: provide background information along with a 300‐word summary about the company and why it fits the selected category.
  4. Being nominated offers exposure – all nominees are featured on our website and a description of each will appear in the event’s program book.
  5. Nearly 400 people attended last year’s program to network, hear from interesting speakers and see the awards presented. Every nominated company will receive two complimentary tickets for the Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 breakfast event.

Nominations will be accepted until 11:50 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12.  Please visit to learn more!

Maria Zardis is the program manager for outreach and communications. Contact her at to learn more about the Macomb Business Awards and for sponsorship opportunities

Ethel’s Edibles: An example of opportunities for new businesses in Macomb County

Update: Since winning the Macomb County Startup Business of the Year award in 2014, St. Clair Shores-based Ethel’s Edibles has proven to be a company to watch! This maker of gluten-free baked goods has rapidly expanded with successes that include increasing revenue by over 100 percent, doubling production space, adding more full-time positions, boosting employment base by 30 percent and partnering with both Whole Foods Midwest for distribution in 8 states and Warren-based Lipari Foods for distribution in 12 states.

“It’s been an exciting 18 months and we are working on accomplishing more,” said CEO and Founder Jill Bommarito.

Continue reading to find out how this enterprising company got its start.

Originally published March 4, 2014

By: Jill Bommarito, President & CEO of Ethel’s Edibles

Ethel’s Edibles, a gluten-free baking company, was born out of the idea that crazy good food should be available to all. Celiac disease has been in our family for over 30 years, so I was familiar with the choices and obstacles for the gluten intolerant. Our idea is to get our fresh baked goods to the customers where they shop, as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Ethel’s Edibles President & CEO Jill Bommarito displays the goods in the Kitchen. Visit their website to find out how you can get some!

Never having designed a commercial kitchen, let alone worked in a commercial kitchen prior to the church, presented challenges. I was very dependent upon the city, county and Michigan Department of Agriculture, who oversees the licensing of bakeries, for their input and guidance. Every single contact at the city and government levels from St. Clair Shores, Macomb County and the Department of Agriculture, was more than willing to help in any way they could. There was not a single stumbling block for us, and for that, we are extremely grateful. We made the move the first week of December 2012, and it felt like home immediately.

Shortly after our move, the Macomb Department of Planning and Economic Developmentreached out to us to see how they could help. Jack Johns from their team toured our facility, then sat down and spent time going over programs, grants, and collaborative relationships that may benefit our effort. This was a whole new territory for me. Jack’s assistance and accessibility have made all the difference. We’ve applied for and received grants to add equipment that lead to increases in efficiency and production capabilities. We received coaching in hiring and training. We’re meeting with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) to increase our lean manufacturing practices. We are getting assistance with hiring interns. Our new knowledge of Michigan Works will aid us with adding human capital. Every day presents a new opportunity.

We are looking forward to the growth opportunities for Ethel’s Edibles that lie ahead. With the collaborative efforts of Macomb County, along with the state of Michigan and City of St. Clair Shores, we feel our potential is boundless. Jack helped open doors for us. This will enable us to forge ahead this year, expand into a larger production facility and share our goodness nationwide.

About the author: Jill is President and CEO of Ethel’s Edibles, a business she founded in 2011. The idea came from Jill’s love for sharing great food, which everyone deserves to have.  She has two grown children and enjoys camping and traveling with her husband and children.  Ethel’s Edibles was chosen by a panel of judges as the Start-up Business of the Year at the 2014 Macomb Business Awards banquet.

Macomb County making connections at international Army conference in D.C.

The AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition is the largest U.S. Army-based conference. It draws in both national and international firms who are interested in growing their defense market. For Macomb County, this conference is ripe with decision makers and potential business attraction prospects.

Recently, staff from the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, including Director Stephen Cassin, Project Coordinator James Ahee and myself, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the conference. Also in attendance was Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin and representatives from the Michigan Defense Center, Detroit Regional Chamber and Butzel Long.

We visited all the international pavilions at the event. Countries like Turkey, Israel, Germany, Korea, UK, Canada and Australia were represented. We informed them about Macomb County’s defense assets such as TACOM LCMC, TARDEC and Selfridge Air National Guard Base and about major prime contractors in the region.

_EPP9023While speaking with these international companies, we also extended an invite to attend our Arsenal of Innovation Reception to hear from Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commanding general of TACOM LCMC, and Brig. Gen. Michael Stone from the Michigan National Guard. This year, we invited BAE Systems’ vice president and general manager of combat vehicles to speak on why they are located in the Defense Corridor.

Approximately 175 guests attended this reception sponsored by the Michigan Defense Center, Butzel Long and our department. This is our fourth year hosting a reception at the AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition, and we are seeing the benefits.

As a result of our participation in the conference, an Australian company reached out to us for a tour of our International Landing Zone (ILZ). They heard about the ILZ through a contact at BAE Systems who was in attendance at our Arsenal of Innovation Reception. Also, the government of Australia is looking to come to Michigan in the springtime with a delegation of Australian companies. Furthermore, we are working to schedule an Israeli defense delegation visit. These visits are excellent opportunities for our department to show international companies why they should locate their business in Macomb County.

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