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February 20, 2013

Five Macomb businesses get awards

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

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Macomb Township resident and Detroit Tigers sportscaster Mario Impemba keynoted the first-ever Macomb Business Awards Feb. 12.

STERLING HEIGHTS —Five Macomb County businesses recently took home hardware from the first-ever Macomb Business Awards.

Four judges narrowed a field of 49 business nominees to winners in four categories: energy efficiency, corporate citizenship, diversification and workforce developments.

Winners included Fori Automation in Shelby Township, for diversification; General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, for energy efficiency; the IBEW-NECA Electrical Industry Training Center in Warren, for workforce development; and Omega Plastics in Clinton Township, for corporate citizenship.

The presentation of each award was given Oscars-style pomp. Video clips were shown on three nominated businesses in each category, followed by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel announcing the winner from that list. The winners were presented with crystal awards.

Macomb Community College additionally received the 2013 Economic Development Partner of the Year award.

The Feb. 12 awards show was highlighted by speeches by WJBK Fox 2 news anchor Huel Perkins, who energetically emceed the event; Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael A. Finney; and Detroit Tigers sportscaster Mario Impemba, who keynoted the event by talking about team-building using the Tigers as an example.

Hundreds of Macomb County municipal dignitaries and business representatives from each of the nominees assembled at the Best Western conference center in Sterling Heights.

Stephen Cassin, director of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said the research shows that, while it’s good to try to attract new businesses from abroad, the vast majority of a region’s economic growth comes from the expansion of companies already located there.

But, besides helping them, the awards ceremony rose out of a desire to promote local business success stories and thank companies.

“They’re the ones that donate. They’re the ones that supply our jobs. They’re the ones that spend money in our community,” Cassin added.

Paul Meloche, vice president of sales for Fori Automation, said it was great to get the recognition for diversification from the Macomb Business Awards.

Meloche said Fori, a supplier of manufacturing machinery, has pushed itself to diversify, whether that means diversifying globally, diversifying its customer base or diversifying its operations across different industries, like the aerospace, agricultural and recreational vehicle sectors.

“Our company has always made calculated risk. Truly, there has always been a strategy in place to diversify,” he said. “As automotive goes up and down, we’re not caught in those troughs. We’ve got other business to sustain us, whether it’s globally, or non-automotive business.” 

For reducing their energy consumption through the use of renewable energy technologies, General Dynamics Land Systems, a defense contractor of military vehicles, was awarded a crystal award for energy efficiency.

John Cox, facilities manager for General Dynamics, said the company began actively focusing on implementing green energy initiatives three years ago. Since then, he said, the benefits have come in the form of having better air quality for employees and seeing an annual cost savings of more than $1 million.

“Green power helps you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions,” Cox said. “You’re a major corporate citizen when you do those types of things.”

And the company is still trying to stay state-of-the-art as new technologies become available, he said.

Omega Plastics Vice President Mike Pavlica said he hopes the company’s award for corporate citizenship inspires other businesses to give back.

“We shouldn’t see the business as being separate from the community, but as an opportunity to support the community,” he said. “We’re surprised and honored because there are so many deserving companies.”

Omega Plastics, a tooling and injection molding company, lends space on its second floor to the Renewal Christian Counseling Center, which over the past several years has grown its staff from one counselor to roughly a dozen, and now counsels about 150 people a week. Omega also gives its employees time to volunteer at the Hope Center in Fraser, helps provide backpacks of food to needy students and hosts food drives, Pavlica said.

“You don’t have to do a lot, but just start small,” he said. “It’s amazing the morale and the benefits when people know you care about them, and then they turn and go out and care about other people. There are benefits to the business, as well as to all of us individually.”

The IBEW-NECA Electrical Industry Training Center also received an award for developing an apprenticeship program and training employees for technological advances.

“I really do believe the people that you have working for you can make all the difference in the world. You can have the greatest product, but if you don’t have the ability to have your workforce support that, and promote it, it’s just going to sit there,” said IBEW-NECA Training Director Gary Polulak.

“With all the wonderful businesses in Macomb County, to be able to be recognized amongst your peers, it’s very, very satisfying — very humbling,” he added.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.