Romeo High School to implement college and career academies as first designated Ford NGL district in state

Over the past two years, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development (MCPED) has been working with partners to explore and create a foundation for implementing college and career academies at Romeo High School with support from the Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) network. The result will be standing up various academies that emphasize career exploration, experiential learning and college readiness rather than perfecting the art of standardized test taking. While Ford has NGL communities throughout the country, this will be the first designated district in the state of Michigan.


Our department sees this effort as a way to prepare the next generation to meet workforce demands. This transformation is currently in the planning phase, and implementation is scheduled for the 2019 school year. MCPED serves as the community convening organization. As such, some of our responsibilities include supporting successful government, academic and business collaboration; building credibility in the community and gaining support; and focusing on business and community development.

Over 50 stakeholders make up the program’s steering committee. Our department helps advise this committee about current industry trends and in-demand jobs and promotes the county’s 10 targeted industries (automotive, advanced manufacturing, defense, food and agriculture, health care and social assistance, information technology and cybersecurity, logistics and warehousing, professional services, and retail) to businesses, community organizations, teachers, parents and academia.

Romeo_High_SchoolBy examining the local area, the businesses located there, who is hiring and what kind of talent is needed, a determination can be made as to what career pathways ought to be offered for that specific area. The steering committee is examining these options and will help determine the top career academies best suited to offer in the Romeo community.

While core studies will still be taught in the classroom, they will be incorporated into the larger career pathways. For example, a student in the automotive academy would learn the futuristic technologies of autonomous vehicles through studying a blend of information technology, robotics, computer science and engineering. The result is that students will receive extended hands-on exposure to different careers, empowering them to make informed career choices.

In addition to Ford, other local businesses are a necessary part of this framework. They offer externships to the high school teachers, enabling them to spend time at the business so they can better understand the industry and teach it to students. Industry experts are also welcomed to teach in the classroom, working hand in hand with teachers.

The ultimate goal is to build a model for other schools to replicate, with eventually every district in Macomb County offering some form of college and career academy.

If your business is interested in attending steering committee meetings, or if you are a school looking to enter the exploratory phase of implementing the NGL framework, please contact our department at (586) 469-5285.

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


Your chance to shape Macomb’s future workforce

MFG Day 2016 BManufacturing Day (MFG Day) in Macomb County is one of the largest events in the country introducing high school kids to local manufacturing companies. In many cases, this is their first time seeing a manufacturing facility, which will likely be much different than what their parents have been advising them. There is a huge disconnect between many parents’ perceptions and the jobs that will be available in a highly skilled manufacturing workforce.

The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development has been in manufacturing facilities throughout the county, and we have seen that the majority of the workforce is mature and will be retiring soon. We have heard that there are very few young people showing any interest in this line of work. This must be changed, and it starts with MFG Day.

MFG Day 2016 AThis event allows kids to tour your manufacturing facility, and you will get to talk directly to them to explain the importance of manufacturing jobs in Michigan. You can show these students what you do for a living, the atmosphere you work in, the pay levels and opportunities for advancement. This creates a chance for your company to market directly to the local future workforce.

We know you are busy, but we also know you are concerned about the workforce problem that everyone will face in the future. The work has already been done to get the schools involved and transportation provided. The last step, and most important, is for you to get involved in MFG Day – to put a picture of what manufacturing is today in these students’ minds before they make decisions after high school.

Please join us on MFG Day Friday, Oct. 6. To invest in your company’s future, please be a host. Learn how by going to or contact Maria Zardis at or by phone at (586) 469-5285.

Johns, Jack IMG_0030Jack Johns is a project coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in working with food, agriculture, energy, robotics, autonomous vehicle and retail businesses. If you are a business owner and would like to contact him, email or call (586) 469-6293.


Have your cake and eat it too at The Sweet Shoppe

The Sweet Shoppe is perhaps Mount Clemens’ best-kept secret.

Sweet ShoppeTucked in the corner of Gumbo’s on North Walnut Street, the charming bakery stands ready for business. Like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory, the counters are filled with delectable sweet treats—apple turnovers, lemon poppy seed muffins, cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

Owner Christina Taite is new to the baking world, but she’s already running her business like a pro.

“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Taite says. “I’ve worked here at Gumbo’s with my mother-in-law for years. So when the opportunity arose, opening a bakery here just made sense.”

The business is a family affair. “After working 10-hour shifts at his own job, my husband Craig still comes to the shop to help me out. My daughters visit the Sweet Shoppe every day. Most of the customers know them already, because they grew up in the restaurant,” Taite adds. “It’s my daughters’ dream to own a bakery one day, so hopefully I can build something for them to take over.”

Gumbo’s, owned and operated by the Taite family, is an authentic Cajun/Creole restaurant with some of the best po’boys ever made outside of New Orleans. It’s no wonder, then, that one of Christina Taite’s favorite Sweet Shoppe items are beignets: a traditional New Orleans dessert similar to a fritter.

Sweet Shoppe 2But Taite wants you to know that her shop offers more than just delicious pastries. “We have coffee and tea, as well as floats, shakes, sundaes, and smoothies. My personal favorite is the strawberry-banana, but our mango-pineapple is very popular too.”

Another reason Taite’s products are so scrumptious? They are made with local ingredients.

“Recently I got some freshly picked blueberries from a farm near here, so I decided to make blueberry cobbler with them. And of course, all our floats are made with Faygo. Whenever I can, I try to use Michigan-based products,” says Taite.

Sweet Shoppe 3As for me, I tried the pineapple upside-down cake—warm, melty, and drizzled with caramel sauce—and immediately fell in love-at-first-taste. Now I can’t wait to go back and try everything else on the menu!

The Sweet Shoppe is open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday.  Whether you get dessert after a hearty meal at Gumbo’s or you just pop in for a refreshing smoothie, it’s the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth.

JennaJenna Russell is an intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

Appreciating Lake St. Clair

BoatLeavingMarinaCommunity leaders took to the lake on Wednesday, July 26, for the Macomb County Chamber‘s ninth annual Lake St. Clair Appreciation Day.

This invitation-only event was designed to educate and engage lawmakers, area business leaders and other interested parties about Lake St. Clair’s vitality and impact as a tourism destination, lifestyle epicenter and economic engine for Macomb County.

The program began at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township. Participants received a presentation by Dan Heaton, former public relations director from Selfridge, on the history of neighboring Selfridge Air National Guard Base which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Boats then departed for a cruise of Lake St. Clair to Harsens Island with a stop for lunch there at the Old Club and a presentation about the island’s history.

Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel called Lake St. Clair the “heart of the Great Lakes” and remarked, “There are more boating, fishing and recreational activities here than anywhere else.”

With more than 16,000 boat wells across more than 70 marinas, the area is undeniably one of the greatest concentrations of personal watercraft in the nation.

lake st clairLake St. Clair defines much of the eastern boundary of Macomb County. It is “big water” for southeast Michigan with more than 400 square miles of recreational opportunity and one of the country’s largest freshwater wetlands.

“We are pleased to host this annual event of key decision-makers to keep them up-to-date on the important role that Lake St. Clair plays in our area’s blue economy,” said Grace Shore, CEO of the Macomb County Chamber. “We believe that once you experience Lake St. Clair, you will want to protect and promote Lake St. Clair.”

Event partners are the Macomb County Chamber, MacRay Harbor and the Macomb County Executive’s Office. Sponsors of this year’s event were Kirk, Huth, Badalamenti, and Lange; McLaren Macomb; First State Bank; and United Shore Baseball League.

Penny Carroll is with the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce.

Cabela’s to wow at grand opening

CabelaThe highly anticipated grand opening of Cabela’s in Chesterfield Township takes place this Thursday. In addition to 175 new jobs, the development brings something special to the area, and with that, a lot of excitement surrounds this weekend’s festivities.

The impressive 90,000-square-foot facility features 2,500 square feet of hand-painted murals, 150 wildlife mounts, vintage and modern outdoor photographs, and high-tech interactive kiosks. In addition to aisles and aisles of merchandise that include everything from live bait and sporting gear to clothes and cabin décor, there are plenty of excited employees ready to share their passion for the outdoors, encouraging customers to try out products and participate in live demonstrations.

Cabela a.pngThis is Cabela’s fourth location in Michigan, and it has been tailored to Macomb County. Located near the intersection of Hall Road and Interstate 94, it is minutes away from Lake St. Clair. The store offers a large selection of fishing gear but is especially stocked with items for muskie, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing, since this is what Lake St. Clair is known for. With more than 100 reels to choose from, customers are encouraged to try them out before making their purchase.

Because hunting is also a popular pastime here, another large portion of the store is dedicated to firearms. This is the first store to have a digital firearm kiosk that allows customers to easily sort through a vast catalogue of guns, pulling up information on weight, capacity, caliber and much more. With assistance from an employee, a sample firearm can be filled with CO2 and fired at a target on the screen. In addition to getting a feel for the grip and pull of the trigger, the interactive kiosk tracks and reports your movement. There is also an archery range in the store where you can get in a little target practice with a number of different bows.

Cabela 1With a mission to bring the love of outdoors to everyone, Cabela’s offers something for every member of the family. This is evident by the products they carry, such as toy fishing rods and kid’s tackle boxes, and even by their shopping carts which include baby seats and motorized carts. Kids will not only be amazed by the mounted wolves, deer and moose in the displays, but they can also learn about the animals and their habitats by using a touchscreen kiosk.

The grand opening takes place Thursday, Aug. 3. Crowd entertainment begins at 7 a.m. and includes giveaways, live music performed by Lucas Hoge and several speakers. At 9:45 a.m., there will be a dramatic ribbon cutting ceremony where an employee will shoot an arrow to break the ribbon. Doors officially open at 10 a.m., and the shopping can begin! The first 500 customers in line (18 and over) will receive a gift card valued from $10 to $500. The party continues with more festivities and giveaways throughout the entire weekend.

Cabela’s is located at 45959 Towne Center Blvd. in Chesterfield Township. More information can be found on their website at

Cabela 4

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

Romeo-Washington Chamber shoots for the stars, honors John Paul Rea

When it comes to celebrating one’s hometown, perhaps nobody does it better than Romeo.

Between Tillson Street trick-or-treating, the Michigan Lavender Festival, and of course the Michigan Peach Festival, Romeo residents have a lot to be proud of. There’s even more to celebrate, though: The town also has a fantastic array of cuisine, art, and music made by locals.

That’s what Night Under the Stars is all about.

For the 6th year in a row, the Greater Romeo-Washington Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual Night Under the Stars celebration. The event features local music, art, food, and wine, as well as a keynote speaker known as a “hometown success story.”

This year that honor goes to none other than John Paul Rea, director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

“We were really excited to choose John Paul. He was class president back when he graduated Romeo High School in 2001, and he’s had so much success since then, while staying local at the same time,” said chamber Executive Director Kelley Stephens. “He’s got an interesting story.”

In his keynote address, Rea will discuss his journey from Romeo to where he is now.

“We’ve had keynote speakers from all different fields—arts, literature, film, sports—but we’ve never had someone from the political sphere until this year,” Stephens said.

Around 140-180 people attend the event every year—so get your tickets soon.

“This is one of my favorite events that we do,” added Stephens. “The money that we raise funds scholarships for graduating high school seniors, so it’s a way to celebrate the community while giving back.”

Night Under the Stars takes place from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Aug. 4 at the Historic Douglas House. Tickets are $25 per person or $40 per couple. To reserve your tickets, call (586) 752-4436 or visit


Jenna Russell is a summer intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

Networking and baseball with the Consular Corps of Michigan

What started off as a stormy and humid Thursday turned into a warm evening with a slight breeze and an enjoyable time at Jimmy John’s Field. Under the third baseline pavilion, members of the Consular Corps of Michigan gathered with Macomb County’s economic development team to discuss business attraction and international investments while the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers played against the Eastside Diamond Hoppers.

Corps 1According to the Consular Corps of Michigan website, their mission is to “sustain an environment in which trade, investment and cultural relationships flourish between member nations and the United States of America…” Representatives from Barbados, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom were all on hand to hear remarks from County Executive Mark A. Hackel and Chairman and CEO of General Sports and Entertainment Andy Appleby.

Hackel promoted bringing business to Macomb County and the services we offer under our economic development program. Appleby discussed how his dream of designing and operating a baseball field came to life with hands-on assistance from our department. As part of the festivities, guests were given a behind-the-scenes tour of Jimmy John’s Field. Many partner agencies joined the meetup, representing the Macomb County Chamber, OneMacomb and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Corps 3The key takeaway: Macomb County is a great place for international companies to call home. With access to waterways and international borders, Macomb County has the proximity as well as the talent and expertise to assist these businesses. Fostering and building these relationships with our international partners is fundamental to the county’s expansion and growth goals, and we welcome them with open arms.

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