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Executive Focus Newsletter Summer 2015

Mark's Message
Macomb at Mackinac: Four days of policy, progress and fudge
Businesses find success in Macomb County
Assistant executive represents Macomb County in China
Macomb County's Blue Economy summer events in full swing
Macomb County's 2015 summer road construction schedule

Mark's Message

By Mark A. Hackel, Macomb County Executive 

There has been a lot of positive government and business news since I last reported to you in our March issue.

For starters, there have been a few new additions to the leadership we have here in Macomb County. In April, a new assistant county executive, John Paul Rea, joined my team. JP, a lifelong Macomb County resident, had worked in our Planning and Economic Development Department for nine years. JP is one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to Macomb County, and we’ll all benefit from his leadership. We also welcomed a new finance director, Steve Smigiel. Smigiel, who has served as interim finance director for Macomb County since September 2014, has guided the county through the largest bond sale in its history when, in March 2015, $263 million in bonds were issued to secure retiree health care obligations for the future. In our Health Department, Krista Willette is replacing Gary White as the new deputy health officer now that White has retired after 37 years of service. Each of these individuals have a wealth of experience that make them the natural choice for their respective positions and I welcome each of them.

As far as other government departments go, many continue to bring home many successes for Macomb County. Macomb County Animal Control has officially become a nonprofit organization, allowing those who would like to contribute to improving the lives of the animals being cared for by the Macomb County Animal Control to make tax deductible donations. Additionally, the Macomb County Health Department was awarded a $45,000 grant which will aid in the creation of a three-year strategic plan to reduce obesity and other chronic diseases at the local level. Also, the Macomb Community Action has been awarded an over $1.6 million federal grant to expand Early Head Start program services to Macomb County residents. Early Head Start serves infants and toddlers under the age of 3 and pregnant women with early, continuous, intensive and comprehensive child development and family support services, obviously offering a valid resource in Macomb County.

Business development also continued to flourish in the county this spring. Two companies were welcomed as tenants to the International Landing Zone at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights: NFC Group (UK) and Vigurus (Canada). Both of these companies offer a product or service related to the defense or homeland security industries and we are excited to have them here in Macomb County. Moreover, it was announced that KUKA Systems North America will invest $14.4 million in its Clinton Township operations to meet increased demand for products. The expansion is expected to create 116 new jobs in Macomb County. KUKA Systems is a global supplier of assembly and welding systems, as well as other related machinery, for the automotive, aerospace, alternative energy and manufacturing industries. This is great news for Macomb County and I’m thrilled this type of development is happening.

We have an exciting summer ahead chock full of endless activities that promote Macomb County’s amazing blue economy. I’ll check back in with you in September to let you know how the season went! Enjoy your summer! 

Macomb at Mackinac: Four days of policy, progress and fudge

By John Paul Rea, Assistant County Executive for the Macomb County Executive Office

Each spring as the state of Michigan shakes off the last of the winter chill, thousands of leaders from the public and private sector make the pilgrimage to an island known for its fudge, horse drawn carriages and a great white hotel. For 35 years Mackinac Island has been home to the famed Mackinac Policy Conference, an annual gathering of key decision makers across the state and nation. Hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, this four-day policy scrum unites individuals across the political and industry spectrum. From governors to startups, and everyone in-between, the Mackinac Policy Conference is a uniquely open, honest and refreshing forum to discuss and develop major public policy.

At this year’s conference, the chamber developed an agenda that was focused on three main policy pillars: talent, urban revitalization and cohesion. Throughout the week there were keynote addresses, panel discussions, think tanks, casual conversations and good spirited debate surrounding each of these topics. Gov. Rick Snyder highlighted Michigan’s resounding economic comeback. Mike Rowe from CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” illustrated the necessity for skilled trades and developing a talented and diverse workforce. The Honorable Sandy Barauh, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, discussed the true force and impact of the policy conference providing a historical perspective on what has been accomplished. As each session ended conference attendees were left with a feeling of optimism and a newfound objective.

In this fast-paced setting with 1,600 attendees, dozens of programs, endless networking and a handful of social gatherings, it can be difficult for an organization to stand out. However, one of the most important aspects of the Mackinac Policy Conference is that it is a unique setting to showcase the value, impact and true passion of your organization. If you are one of the lucky few to be given a chance to present on the theater stage you have a captive audience, but outside of that you are left to the masses.  So, the question is how did Macomb County standout?  As in years past County Executive Mark A. Hackel developed a creative strategy that leveraged multiple forms of media to focus on Macomb County.

Macomb County was on full display on I-75 as conference attendees traveled north of the 45th parallel with a series of billboards. One billboard promoted Mobilize Macomb a new transportation initiative launched by the county which is focused on developing safe and efficient ways to move people around.  Another billboard sponsored by Advancing Macomb, a newly formed philanthropic group, asked motorists “Do You Know Macomb?”  Right off the bat conference goers and media were talking about Macomb County. This provided the Macomb County delegation with a solid foundation to engage the media and engage perspective partners in dialogue. As Executive Hackel was approached for interviews and attended receptions, it was refreshing to see so many individuals talking about Macomb County, showing an interest in what we were doing. Another subtle element of Macomb County’s Mackinac presence was the distribution of thousands of coasters. This creative and cost effective form of “gorilla marketing” utilized coasters at restaurants around the island that promoted Make Macomb Your Home and illustrated interesting facts about the county. It was so successful WXYZ ran a story about them.

It was an eventful four days on the island. There were contacts made, agreements explored and ideas shared. I am proud to say that Macomb County was not simply a part of the conversation, but in many respects was helping lead it. Ultimately, we were successful in connecting more individuals, businesses and organizations to the many opportunities in Macomb County. 

Businesses find success in Macomb County

By Nick Posavetz, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development

From start-ups to family owned companies that have spanned generations, Macomb County is known for our businesses successes. Our companies are household names, with brands and products consumers trust.

These successes don’t just happen by accident. Our region is home to a rich and diverse talent pool ready to put nose to the grindstone to get the job done.  

In Macomb County, we celebrate success. Read about how companies from different industries and different sizes are succeeding in Macomb County. Ready to join this list? Reach out to see how we can help you.

General Motors Tech Center: General Motors will invest $1 billion in its Warren Technical Center and add about 2,600 jobs over the next four years.

Approved tax abatements will enable GM to earn a return more quickly on its upgrade of the 710-acre campus where the bulk of its engineering, advanced technology and safety research is focused. The U.S. Department of the Interior last year certified the tech center as a National Historic Landmark.

The massive project is the first widespread upgrade of facilities at the 326-acre complex. It was designed by world-renowned architect Eero Saarinen and it opened in 1956. It includes:

• Construction of new design studios and a new parking deck for design employees.

• Rebuilding and renovating some existing research and development facilities.

• A new multi-story information technology building adjacent to the current Michigan IT Innovation Center and a new parking deck.

• New testing areas at the Advanced Energy Center.

• Extensive office upgrades.

KUKA Systems North America:  Aerospace supplier expands in Macomb County

KUKA Systems North America will invest more than $10 million in its Clinton Township operations to meet increased demand for products. The expansion will created more than 100 new jobs. 

KUKA Systems is a global supplier of assembly and welding systems, as well as other related machinery, for the automotive, aerospace, alternative energy and manufacturing industries. Its parent company, KUKA Group, was founded in Germany in 1898. Today the company has more than 3,500 employees in 15 countries worldwide.

Staff from the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development worked with company officials to help them achieve their goals for growth. Together, they identified possible assistance and incentive programs. 

As a result, the Michigan Business Development Program awarded a $900,000 performance-based grant to the company. The Charter Township of Clinton offered a property tax abatement. The Macomb-St. Clair ton Township Workforce Development Board will help to find and screen candidates for the new jobs to be created.

Fiat Chrysler Automotive:  Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP)

Originally slated for closure in 2010, SHAP has been completely transformed after receiving an investment of more than $1 billion to build a new paint and body shop and retool the assembly line.

The plant is now one of the most flexible and state-of-the-art in the company, with nearly 5 million square feet of manufacturing space. As a result, SHAP is now capable of building multiple vehicles on two unique architectures.

 With the launch of the Chrysler 200, SHAP has been able to add another 800 jobs as a result of in-sourcing of several critical processes, the additional content of the all-new 200 and the implementation of World Class Manufacturing (WCM).

Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems: International companies investing big in Macomb County

Yanfeng, which established its first location in Harrison Township in 2010, decided to expand and promised to invest $56.6 million to renovate a previously vacant building on Executive Drive. The expansion is expected to create 519 jobs over the next years. Yanfeng currently employs about 130 workers, county planning officials said.

Yanfeng USA has been operational in the U.S. market since 2010 with two facilities in the state of Michigan: Harrison Township and Warren. These facilities currently support Chrysler and GM programs. Yangfeng USA’s parent company, Yanfeng Visteon, employs more than 30,000 associates and operates more than 100 facilities around the world, including in China, USA, Germany and India. Yanfeng Visteon is a leading automotive component supplier, founded in 1994 as a joint-venture between Ford and Shanghai Automotive Industrial Company. The company’s US sales are approximately $7.2 billion in 2012. Its product solution categories range across interiors, seating, electronics, exteriors and safety systems.

Assistant executive represents Macomb County in China

By Pam Lavers, Assistant Macomb County Executive 

The whole group!

Recently, I was invited to join the St. Clair Shores Lake Shore Public Schools administration (my alma mater) on a trip to China. Metro Detroit has some 18,000 residents who were born in China, and many, many more whose parents or grandparents were born there. Persons born in China constitute Metro Detroit’s fifth most populous immigrant group. In Macomb County specifically, Asian/Pacific Islanders constitute the third largest population. The trip provided insight, appreciation and understanding of the Chinese culture as well as the opportunity to learn more about Lake Shore’s eight-year relationship with Haidian Foreign Language Shi Yan School in Beijing. 

Beijing nightlife

Students from Lake Shore’s middle school and high school as well as teachers and other administrators attended the trip. The Haidian campus is impressive and quite large. It has kindergarten through high school with approximately 4,000 students.  Some campus highlights: a kindergarten building and grounds that look like something out of Disney World, a zoo, a waterfall and beautifully landscaped ponds, 180 pianos for private lessons, outdoor tennis and basketball courts, indoor ping pong, gymnasiums and swimming pools. The Chinese students live on campus through the week and are dropped off on Sundays and picked up on Fridays. The younger students are not allowed out on high smog index days, which happened when we were there.

 

Haidian Foreign Language Shi Yan School in Beijing

One of the most memorable experiences on campus was our participation in their flag raising ceremony where more than 3,000 middle school and high school students stood on the field, in their uniforms, all lined up in rows and columns along with our students and administration. Lake Shore Public Schools Superintendent Chris Loria addressed the school students and thanked them for the eight-year relationship. It was very moving to see a representative of Macomb County Public Schools be a part of educating Chinese students through their exchange program, which ultimately helps shape our future leaders of the world. 

Temple of Heaven

We visited many landmarks in China including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, Shanghai World Financial Center and Oriental Pearl Tower – many with ancient history and all of which displayed unique beauty, exuding the culture of Chinese style or tradition.

Tiananmen Square

Great Wall

Some of the cultural experiences included wonderful meals at fine restaurants and an array of Chinese specialty snack items and street foods such as squid, beetles or fried scorpions for the more adventurous. We visited the home of one of the administrator’s family members which highlighted the demands on space and living accommodations for the 20 million people living in Beijing. I learned about basic lifestyle items such as not having dryers and the large cost (over $15,000 American money) for car registration. There are certain days that residents are not allowed to drive on the road based on the ending license plate number to help control traffic volumes. 

Beijing snacks at Wangfujing Street 

When you take a closer look, China is still developing as a country with an obvious clash of new and old, rich and poor, historical and modern. For many days, we did not see blue skies because of heavy pollution. Face masks are part of everyday life. Our group was there for two weeks, but we could immediately feel the effects of pollution in our eyes, nose and lungs.

As Pat Donohue, principal of Kennedy Middle School in St. Clair Shores, has stated, there is no such thing as personal space in China. If you don’t like many people surrounding you, you may very well have a panic attack within five minutes of being there. Also, smoking is a national pastime. If smoking doesn’t kill you, then the secondhand smoke might. You can find Pat’s blog and other pictures of the trip at lakeshoreschoolschinatrip2015.weebly.com.

Additionally, some things are just suggestions, such as no smoking signs or how much does it cost, how long will it take to get there and what is it? I learned that there are many ethnic minorities that exist in China. The Chinese were celebrating a holiday while we visited called Qingming, aka tomb-sweeping day, where the Chinese people tend to the cleaning and sweeping of family graves. 


Engagement photos for a wedding

The trip was educational, enlightening and inspiring. I would like to send my sincere appreciation to Lake Shore Public Schools for providing me the opportunity to visit China. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but as the old saying goes, home is where the heart is, and I am so proud that I live in America and find much comfort in making Macomb my home.

Pam Lavers is a Harrison Township resident who serves as assistant county executive for Macomb County. 

Macomb County's Blue Economy summer events in full swing
By Amanda Minaudo, Senior Planner, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development 

Macomb County is home to 32 miles of Lake St. Clair coastline and the Clinton River, which winds through several of the our local cities and townships. These tremendous water assets offer a variety of fun summer events for county residents and visitors. Throughout the months of June, July, August and even September, there is a festival or activity every weekend in one of these waterfront communities. Events range from art festivals and carnival fairs, to fireworks and concerts. Visit Utica, Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores, Harrison Township, Mount Clemens or New Baltimore this summer and experience the county’s water assets at one of these unique, fun-filled events:

Downtown Utica River walk Festival (June 17 – 20)

New Baltimore Bay-Rama Fish Fly Festival (June 24 – 28)

City of New Baltimore Fireworks Show (Thursday, June 25)

Anthony V Morocco Clinton River Canoe Classic (Saturday, June 27)

The City of St. Clair Shores Fireworks Show (Friday, June 26)

Lake St. Clair Metropark Fireworks Show (Tuesday, June 30)

Belle Maer Harbor and MacRay Harbor Fireworks Show (Saturday, July 4)

St. Clair Shores AquaFest on the Nautical Mile (July 17 – 19)

Sterling Fest on the banks of the Clinton River at Dodge Park (July 24 – 26)

AquaPalooza, the in-water concert on Lake St. Clair (July 25 – 26)

New Baltimore Little Camille’s Music by the Bay (Saturday, Aug. 8)

Bass, Brew and Barbeque at Lake St. Clair Metropark (Aug. 27 – 30)

New Baltimore Art on the Bay (Sept. 5 -6)

The Boating and Outdoor Recreation Festival at Lake St. Clair Metropark (Sept. 18 – 21)

Also, don’t forget to visit the local Farmer’s Markets for fresh produce and Michigan-made products: Sterling Height’s Farmers Market in Dodge Park (Thursday afternoons), Mount Clemens Farmers Market (every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), New Baltimore Farmers Market (Sunday mornings).

Macomb County's 2015 summer road construction schedule
By Bob Hoepfner, director Macomb County Department of Roads

The Macomb County Department of Roads has begun their construction season throughout the county. Several construction projects from last year are currently underway with completion expected this year, including:

·         Hayes Road from 21 Mile to 23 Mile, reconstruction and widening

·         34 Mile Road from Campground to Fisher, paving gravel road

·         Mound Road from 18 Mile to Hall Road/M-59, concrete pavement repair

Construction to rehabilitate the roadway and add a center turn lane on Gratiot Avenue from 26 Mile to New Haven Road in Lenox Township will begin soon at a cost of $450,000 to the county and is tied it to a larger project being conducted through the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) at this location. The reconstruction and widening of Metropolitan Parkway from Groesbeck to Gratiot is slated to begin in July with a price tag of over $7 million.

While federal funding remains uncertain early in the construction season, several important construction projects scheduled by the Macomb County Department of Roads this year are being delayed to a hopeful start in the fall. This includes the widening of Van Dyke from West Road to Campground in Washington Township at a cost of $2.3 million with $1.5 million to be covered with federal funding; Mound Road concrete repairs from I-696 to Rinke in Warren at a cost of $1.7 million with $1.1 million slated for federal funding; as well as Garfield concrete repairs from Millar to 17 Mile Road in Clinton Township for almost $1 million with federal funding to cover $650,000.

The North Avenue widening from Hall Road to 21 Mile Road in Macomb Township has also been moved to 2016 due to delays in approval of the environmental assessment. This project is expected to cost over $4.1 million with $3.3 million to be covered by federal Transportation Economic Developing Funds.