Macomb’s Hackel: ‘We could be living the best of times’
An influx of newcomers, technological innovations, developments and infrastructure improvements are positioning Macomb County for even more economic growth, Executive Mark Hackel said Wednesday.
“We could be living the best of times Macomb County has ever seen,” Hackel told some 1,200 guests during his 2017 State of the County Address.
Hackel’s presentation at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts spotlighted some of the accomplishments in the county this year as well looked toward its future.
He touted the county of more than 865,000 residents as an “economic powerhouse” that lures businesses and economic drivers.
Some 18,000 companies employ more than 320,000 people, and automotive companies have invested more than $8.3 billion since 2010, he told the crowd.
Hackel also noted that Amazon has selected Shelby Township for a 1-million-square-foot facility, bringing 1,000 jobs and called Macomb “the defense capital,” boasting nearly 700 contractors and winning some 4,500 contracts this year.
Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township is among five bases nationally competing to house the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, which will replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Air Force’s primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, unemployment is down to an estimated 4.1 percent, Macomb has more than 440,000 people in the workforce — a near historic all-time high — and the county’s median income has climbed 9 percent, the executive said.
The robust economy is drawing more residents to the area. The county’s population has grown by more than 3,000, nearly 1,600 new housing permits were issued in 2016 and about 10 percent of Macomb residents are foreign-born, reflecting immigration increases, Hackel said.
The shift has necessitated initiatives such as Macomb A.C.T., a coalition of more than 30 agencies developing ways to make communities more welcoming to newcomers.
“Our population is more diverse than it’s ever been and initiatives like Macomb A.C.T. are ensuring that our county is welcoming to all,” Hackel said to applause.
“That was tremendous,” said Darnell Blackburn after the event. “It’s inspiring to hear and see.”
Using by projections, video clips and charts, Hackel highlighted other achievements in the county:
- Macomb’s IT & cyber-security jobs, which have grown 136 percent since 2010
- Ascension Health’s St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital’s $48 million expansion and 100 more health care jobs that could be added
- Completion of dozens of major road projects and rehabilitated bridges
- Its advanced intelligent transportation system, including hundreds of connected traffic signals and monitoring cameras, that help make it “These technological advances are making our roads, more efficient and makes us better prepared to deploy connected and autonomous vehicles than anywhere in the country.”
- Plans to update a master plan for parks and natural resources in 2018, its bicentennial
- Plans to pursue lawsuits to recover money from drug manufacturers and distributors
Hackel also mentioned the expansion of the OneMacomb program, which promotes multiculturalism and inclusion efforts,which heartened Michelle Schimelfening, a lifelong county resident from Sterling Heights.
Michelle Schimelfening applauded the executive’s work in improving the county, from connecting with residents at local events to pushing the latest technology. “He’s doing a great job,” she said. “He’s a team player. He’s a hard worker.”
That county’s growth reflects that leadership, said Thomas Snapke, a banker who lives in Shelby Township.
“There’s been a lot of positive change,” he said, adding that Hackel “seems to be proactive on a lot of fronts ... The investment in Macomb is just unbelievable right now.”