Representatives hold their trophies on behalf of business and organizations Feb. 27 following the Macomb Business Awards at Mirage Elegant Banquet & Catering in Clinton Township.

Representatives hold their trophies on behalf of business and organizations Feb. 27 following the Macomb Business Awards at Mirage Elegant Banquet & Catering in Clinton Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Business awards celebrate diversity, workforce development

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published March 1, 2018


MACOMB COUNTY — The sixth annual Macomb Business Awards were a celebration of an array of local entities that are pushing the collective envelope in Macomb County.

The event, which was held at Mirage Elegant Banquets & Catering in Clinton Township, touted a handful of the 18,000 county businesses that employ approximately 300,000 people.

John Paul Rea, director of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said that in 2017 his staff worked with 30 clients, resulting in more than $417 million in new equipment and space. The expansion led to retaining 2,140 jobs while creating 3,729 new ones.

The event, emceed by FOX 2 News personalities Huel Perkins and Charlie Langton, included a keynote address by Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning.

Five judges oversaw the awards process: Rea; Gene Lovell, president and CEO of First State Bank; Macomb Community College President James Sawyer; Leadership Macomb Executive Director Karen Smith; and Digital First Media publisher Jeannie Parent.

The first award, Champions of Workforce Development, honored those who utilize innovative practices for hiring, training and retaining employees. St. John Providence was selected out of four finalists.

Marilyn Cito, regional director for clinical education at St. John Providence, discussed how the health system developed a two-week orientation program to integrate both technical skills and soft skills. That was due to the statistic of up to half of nurses leaving hospitals within their first two years on the job.

“We feel we’re on the right pathway,” Cito said during her acceptance speech.

The Corporate Citizen award honored a business that offers meaningful community engagement through service and financial support. First State Bank was chosen as the honoree.

The bank celebrated its own 100 years in 2017, sponsoring events related to municipal fireworks shows, student scholarships, food drives and summer concert series. The company also awarded $5,000 in donations to six local charities, even empowering employees by offering paid volunteer days — including the ability to designate a $100 gift to a favorite charity.

Lovell, who did not judge in this particular category, spoke about how his employees are an expression of strong civic duties, saying, “When they thrive, we thrive.”

RCO Engineering Inc. was honored in the Diversification Leader category, by way of generating new business by product expansion and tapping into new markets. The family-owned and operated RCO has been a county regular for 44 years, designing, building, testing and producing components and prototypes for leading automotive, aerospace and defense industry brands.

The Model of OneMacomb award, for demonstrated achievement in cultivating an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued, was awarded to AGS Automotive — a company with more than 60 years of experience in the auto parts industry.

AGS has more than 450 employees at three Sterling Heights locations, working with local partners since 2013 to help establish a diverse workforce that includes a myriad of Iraqi refugees — many of whom do not speak English. The company offers English language classes on-site, as well as a full-time translator.

AGS Human Resource Manager Jennifer Rizk accepted the award on the company’s behalf, saying the entire team works diligently to create a diverse culture.

Rose-A-Lee Technologies was chosen as the Start Up Business to Watch, which included businesses in operation for five years or less that have more than two employees.

The company was formed in 2013 by sisters Patricia Lopez and Jennifer Howard, providing expert engineering and prototype manufacturing in areas of defense, automation and consumer goods. By the end of 2017, the company quadrupled its space to 20,000 square feet.

Macomb County’s Economic Development Partner of the Year was the 127th Wing of Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The base, which just celebrated its 100th year, employs thousands and protects freedoms daily.

Throughout the past decade, the county’s Planning and Economic Development Department has worked closely with the base, as well as Brig. Gen. John Slocum — who accepted the award on the base’s behalf.

Rea said “it’s a story of the first 100 years” and that “this did not happen overnight.”

Slocum credited his county counterparts who worked tirelessly for the base to be considered among five total bases to be the home to the new F-35 fighter jet.

“I am absolutely certain there will be F-35s in the future,” Slocum told the crowd, adding that a strategic plan is in place for long-term prosperity. “Mark my words.”

Following the event, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the criteria for the awards evolves each year. He even ruminated on using an Olympic-style system, offering gold, silver and bronze to the top three businesses.

“We’re doing something that’s never been done before, and that’s recognizing the businesses here in Macomb County,” Hackel said.

He said the Corporate Citizen award is difficult because many county-oriented charitable ventures throw their hats in the ring every year. He touted First State Bank, which has won the award three of six times.

As for Selfridge, he said the national recognition that Macomb County received by being one of five locations in the running for the F-35 last year was a special acknowledgement in itself.

“Selfridge really came to connect better with the community when Gen. Slocum took over the reins as being commander of that Selfridge Air Base,” he said. “I say that because he gives it marketing and planning. “It’s not just about the mission; (it’s about) the mission of how it connects and what they do in the community.

“(Slocum) titled it, he dubbed it and appropriately so, ‘our hometown air base,’ and he is so right.”