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When you think about Macomb Community College, what often comes to mind is its role in providing education and training to prepare our residents for meaningful careers. Their affordable tuition that ensures widespread access to higher education, their programs that connect residents to in-demand careers and their training that develops the talent sustaining and growing local business and industry is well known and valued.

For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, attending Macomb for the first two years provides a savings of nearly 75 percent from Michigan’s public universities. The college’s University Center on its Center Campus in Clinton Township brings more than 75 bachelor-degree completion and advanced degrees from 12 senior institutions right into the county.

Macomb’s business and advanced manufacturing programs are considered regional pacesetters. The college’s highly regarded allied health and nursing programs ensure that our community’s health care facilities are well-staffed by competent and caring professionals. And, Macomb’s Public Service Institute trains police, fire and emergency medical professionals that safeguard our communities.

The college reaches those as young as 4 with unique and engaging educational opportunities through its College 4 Kids; offers the largest Early College in the state, giving more than 500 high school juniors and seniors with a meaningful jumpstart on college; and provides senior citizens with learning opportunities geared toward their lifestyle through their SOAR Macomb program.

When you think about the economic engines of Macomb County, what often comes to mind are the array of local companies in the automotive and defense industries. The jobs they provide, the investment they make in our communities and their role in economic development and prosperity is understood and valued.

But Macomb Community College itself is also an economic engine of our community. A dynamic entity, the college not only provides a significant return on investment for its students, but for Macomb County and the region as well.

In fact, a recent economic impact study has showed that Macomb Community College adds nearly $1 billion in income to the Macomb County economy, with 1 in 26 jobs in the community supported by the activities of the college and its students.

Macomb County taxpayers receive $5 in benefit for every $1 they invest in Macomb Community College. And, the college’s students gain a return of $3.50 in higher future earnings for every $1 they invest in their Macomb education.

This meaningful gain in earnings is also evident for those who participate in the college’s short-term workforce training. The economic impact of a college program funded by a federal grant to create skilled employees in advanced manufacturing needed by local industry (CNC machining, mechatronics, production operations and welding/fabrication) was also assessed. Through the program, more than 850 individuals completed the training between 2014-2017. These students experienced an average annual wage increase of $14,240 within the first quarter after completing their training and can expect to earn nearly $100,000 in additional income throughout their working lives as result of this training.

What does this all add up to? Macomb Community College is a key asset to moving our residents, businesses and communities along the path of economic vitality. Not only do our chambers and our members rely on the college for developing a skilled workforce, but the college is also an essential partner in fostering a resilient, vibrant and economically vital Macomb County.

Melanie Davis is president and CEO of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce. Grace Shore is CEO of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce.

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