Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivers the 2023 State of the County address at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivers the 2023 State of the County address at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

Hackel talks about projects at State of the County

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published December 8, 2023


MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel took to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts stage on Dec. 6 to deliver his 11th State of the County speech.

For 2023’s presentation, Hackel’s pitch for a county on the rise focused upon various projects being worked on or developed. Projects were tied into several points meant to show how the county was responding to the needs of residents: public safety, neighborhood stability, economy and talent development, infrastructure and quality of life.

The main public safety projects mentioned were the $130 million central intake and assessment center at the Macomb County Jail and the $10 million Sheriff’s Office Marine Division headquarters, the latter opening days prior to the speech.

Infrastructure was highlighted through the various projects being undertaken by the Macomb County Public Works Office, and the upgrading of the county’s digital footprint, including a new website. Central to this point was the Innovate Mound project, which Hackel said would be completed and open by Christmas.

Quality of life centered on pet and animal care, with the county taking the first steps toward building a new animal control shelter.

“With the leadership of our animal control division, the financial support of our Board of Commissioners and the insights of our animal advocates, we have begun the process of imagining what a new animal shelter would and should look like,” Hackel said. “We are committed to building a modern facility which will replace the outdated one. This will help us meet the needs of our communities and, most importantly, help us better care for our animals.”

Economic and talent development tied into points made earlier in the evening about the county’s economy. Hackel reported a county workforce that’s 460,000 people strong and a 3.9% unemployment rate, as well as average incomes rising 15% over the past five years. Hackel went on to claim the county’s economy is valued at $48 billion with 48,000 open jobs, which the county government is creating programs to fill.

Supporting the county’s industries was central to Hackel’s pitch on Macomb County being business friendly, and particular care was given to the defense sector. The past year saw more than 41,000 civilian and military workers take part in the defense industry, built on the back of 4,200 contracts awarded to county-based contractors, bringing in $3 billion. The future of Selfridge Air National Guard Base was a key part of the county’s defense industry plans. County, state, federal and military officials are working to bring a fighter mission to the base to replace the outgoing A-10 program. As Michigan’s congressional delegation works to make F-15EX fighter jets available for the base, the state is committing $13 million for a northward runway expansion.

“From the Curtiss ‘Jenny’ to the A-10, Selfridge has had a legacy of keeping our country safe,” Hackel said. “Together, we need to keep Selfridge safe because of how important it is to our nation’s defense.”

Other points Hackel brought up were population, housing and fiscal stability. Hackel reported the county’s foreign-born population was close to 100,000. With the 2022 figures from the United States Census Bureau, about 11% of Macomb County’s roughly 874,000 people were born outside of the United States. With people needing somewhere to live, about 2,400 homes have been built throughout the county over the past two years. The residents of those homes are steadily becoming more educated, as about 60% of the county’s residents hold a degree, certificate or another type of post-secondary education.

On fiscal stability, Hackel praised the county for having a balanced budget for 13 years in a row and maintaining an AA+ bond rating.

His comments about supporting defense in the county were well received by U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew Brancato, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.

“(Hackel) is very supportive of our future, so my perspective on it is we have a ton of talent and experience that we want to make sure has a future at Selfridge,” Brancato said at the Taste of Macomb reception event. “The engagement and support we get from the community is very important to our fight for a future fighter mission. … I’ve never been in a base with more community support than here in Macomb County.”

The jail upgrades were received positively by Clinton Township Clerk Kim Meltzer. While located in Mount Clemens, the jail is on the border between the county seat and Clinton Township.

“I think it’s a service to our county as a whole so it will be a benefit to Clinton Township,” Meltzer said. “I like the fact it didn’t cost the taxpayer any extra dollars … we’re not going to see any type of millage increase on our taxes, so in that regard I think that’s a very good plus and benefit.”

Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest had a positive outlook on Hackel’s remarks, making an observation on his long tenure as county executive being a stabilizing factor for planning.

“I think some of the things that we’re seeing happen are the result of consistent leadership in the county executive office in excess of a decade,” Verkest said. “You can form a plan, you can put things in place and you can execute it. I think a lot of it is due to Mark’s leadership and I think he’s doing a great job.”

Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp was pleased with Hackel’s address, drawing a connection between the county’s growth and Mount Clemens’ own.

“The county itself is growing and Mount Clemens, for the first time in many years, is seeing exponential growth from infrastructure and from new businesses,” Kropp said. “I think when the county seat is doing well and we see the health of that increasing, then we know the county is in good shape.”