Macomb CountyJune 6, 2012
County, chamber join with local company to promote Macomb
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
MOUNT CLEMENS — In the past, officials say, Macomb has been metro Detroit’s forgotten county, with unsung resources even its own residents knew little about.
“Macomb has always been the quiet county of the region,” said Grace Shore, the CEO of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce. “We have a lot of assets. We just have to tout what they are.”
County Executive Mark Hackel, a lifelong resident of Macomb County, said even he was unaware that the county’s defense corridor manufactured more military equipment than any other part of the United States.
“If Oakland had (the defense corridor), you’d know about it,” Hackel said. “If Wayne County or Detroit had it, you’d know about it. You know they’d be loud and proud about that.”
When elected as the county’s first executive, Hackel said one of his main goals was to better market Macomb County, much like he promoted the county’s sheriff’s department when he ran it.
On May 29, Hackel, the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce announced the “Make Macomb Your Home” marketing plan.
It includes a new website that Wayne Oehmke, the Sterling Heights regional chamber president, described as a “one-stop shop” for everything Macomb County.
The two chambers also purchased three billboards advertising the new website. Two were bought in Macomb County and one was placed along Interstate 75 en route to the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference that was held at the end of May.
Hackel wanted the billboard along the interstate to create a Macomb County buzz that would trump the discussions that normally revolve around Detroit.
“You’d be amazed at the buzz about Macomb (at the conference) because of that sign,” Hackel said during a phone interview from Mackinac Island.
The marketing plan is twofold, several county sources said. First is to let current Macomb County residents know what the county has to offer, and second is to act as a digital advertising brochure that can be viewed around the world.
To implement the creative portion of the plan, Hackel turned to Mad Habit Media — a two-man operation in existence for less than a year and operating partially from their Macomb Township homes and partially from a nearby Biggby Coffee shop.
“This is our north office,” Tom Lehrer, 41, joked while leaning against a desk in the home of Tom Nahas, 39.
Together, the co-founders spend several nights in Nahas’ second-floor study, editing and re-editing short films while still working their day jobs.
A year ago, the two collaborated on a short movie called “Amendment.” When it came time for putting together the credits, the two realized they had no name for their media production company. So they sat down one night and the name Mad Habit Media was born from a smorgasbord of words tossed between the two.
In August 2011, their names were passed via a network of friends to Hackel, who was already looking to better promote the county. Lehrer and Nahas met the county executive at a coffee shop and began to hash out ideas on how to better promote the county.
“He’s got so much energy,” Nahas said. “We sat with him for two hours, and it probably could have been four.”
Hackel immediately wanted to get started on a set of videos, they said. “He really was anxious to get the story out,” Lehrer said. “He wanted to get Macomb out there.”
Mad Habit accepted the task and knew they didn’t want to produce a pair of public address clips. “We don’t want it to be just an informational ad,” Lehrer said. “We want to make it cinematic. There’s always a story to tell.”
The end result was two, one-minute long videos inspired by the introduction to last year’s Monday Night Football game in Detroit that starred Barry Sanders.
Just as Sanders did for Detroit during the introduction, Hackel narrates over a series of clips highlighting different parts of Macomb.
The two videos bookended Hackel’s State of the County address in December 2011.
Mad Habit’s next task was to design a website for the county that made available the information that appeared in the commercials.
For that, the company laid out the format and allowed county department heads to add information.
For leaders of Macomb’s chambers of commerce, the timing for such a marketing endeavor could not be more perfect, considering the population growth the county saw over the last decade.
“I think you have to create a sense of pride in where you live,” Shore said.
“Not everyone that lives in Macomb knows everything it has to offer,” Oehmke added.
Beyond that, he said, the two billboards the chambers purchased — one on Hall Road near Van Dyke in Sterling Heights and another in Warren at I-696 and Sherwood — will catch the eyes of commuters from Oakland and Wayne counties.
Hackel said the launch of the website is just the beginning of a public-private sector relationship he plans to continue harnessing.
For Mad Habit, the publicity that came with the launch of the website and the videos has Nahas and Lehrer looking at making the media production company a full-time gig.
“We weren’t expecting this to take off as quickly as it did,” Lehrer said. “Now we really need to start thinking about the future and how we grow it.”
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