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 Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivers his ninth annual State of Macomb County address Dec. 4 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivers his ninth annual State of Macomb County address Dec. 4 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Jobs, roads and criminal justice reform highlight Hackel address

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published December 6, 2019

 Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers; Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Yelencich; and Brig. Gen. Rolf E. Mammen, commander of the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base, attend the address.

Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers; Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Yelencich; and Brig. Gen. Rolf E. Mammen, commander of the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base, attend the address.

Photo by Deb Jacques


MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivered his ninth annual State of Macomb County address Dec. 4 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in ClintonTownship, touting six key metrics for success: jobs, housing, income, financial stability, population and educational attainment.

“Together, these six metrics give us an indication of community vitality, and they’re all pointing in the right direction,” Hackel said, adding that the county welcomes “racial and ethnic diversity.”

Nearly 11,000 new residents “made Macomb their home” last year, the largest annual increase in a decade. County population is currently at an all-time high of approximately 875,000 residents.

In the past year, the median household income was about $62,000, whereas a decade ago it was below the state average. Currently, it’s about 10% higher than the state average — leading to more spending power and an enhanced quality of life.

Nearly 5,200 housing units were added over the same period, with the median home value increasing by about $29,000 — a 20% increase compared to the previous year.

In terms of education, about 10,000 new associate, bachelor and graduate degrees were doled out to county residents.

Other tracked metrics include convenient record access to citizens, via the Mobile Clerk’s Office; expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership, by way of a $270,000 state grant, to aid first-time mothers and their children; the Medical Examiner’s Office received national reaccreditation; the Head Start program is viable in 19 of 21 school districts; risk assessments are developed for school safety, with connections to COMTEC; a digital pet tagging system that has tagged more than 12,000 animals; and over 430,000 meals were delivered through the Meals on Wheels program.


Manufacturing at the top if its game
Hackel said Macomb County has become a leader in technology and talent, with a business community that is the “epicenter of product information.”

“Macomb is one of the few places in the world where you can find this concentration of skills and facilities, and the proof is in the numbers,” Hackel said.

It’s become a $43 billion economy, with nearly 18,000 businesses employing around 360,000 people.

Job growth has exceeded state and national averages, with the county workforce representing a bigger chunk than four states. That’s included 10 consecutive years of wage growth.

The county’s manufacturing industry has been a huge $13 billion industry, home to more than 1,600 manufacturers that employ about 71,000 workers. While manufacturing growth has been 3.4% at the national level, it’s been 11% in Macomb County.

A White House study of nationwide productivity and manufacturing ranked the county No. 1 among approximately 3,100 counties in manufacturing job growth.

“Things were bleak eight to 10 years ago, but what a turn of events we’ve seen,” Hackel said.

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has invested in facilities in Warren and Sterling Heights, and the supplier base has invested about $40 million resulting in 700 new jobs, challenges do exist. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are potentially leaving sites vacant in Warren and Romeo.

A big and newer industry in the county has been IT and cybersecurity, employing about 10,000 people. The county’s whopping 84% growth rate exceeds the 9% national average.

Hackel coined Macomb County the “defense capital of the Midwest,” with 650 defense contractors employing 11,000 workers. More than 5,000 defense contracts were approved during the past year, at a record-high $3.4 billion. He said F-35s are still on the radar to be hosted by Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.


Infrastructure, criminal justice and waterways
Roads remain a big story.

The Macomb County Department of Roads is responsible for 1,700 lane miles, with 70% of those roads in “poor” condition. Tack on 41 bridges that need replacement and it’s become a $2.3 billion problem that, at current funding levels, would take 14 years to fix.

“We all know over the next 14 years, this problem is going to compound,” Hackel said. “There isn’t one road or one bridge we can’t fix if we have the funding.”

He implored the Michigan Legislature to reform the 70-year-old Act 51, instead providing funding based on population density, road usage and true lane miles.

Last year’s $97 million grant to improve Mound Road from Interstate 696 to M-59 is estimated to start construction in 2021, following a year of engineering.

“Our objective is to not only rebuild the road, but to develop one of the nation’s most intelligent transportation systems by incorporating smart traffic signals, connected vehicle technologies, safer designs and real-time traffic flow monitoring,” he said.

Currently, the county has 630 connected traffic signals, 260 real-time cameras and 300 roadside units all transmitted to COMTEC.

Opioid deaths and arrests have declined due to what Hackel cited as more awareness propagated by local groups, a change in doctoral prescribing practices, drug take-back programs and marketing shifts.

Criminal justice reform is part of the equation, as the county continues to study a comprehensive plan in relation to how the Macomb County Jail should serve the community moving forward. The average daily jail population is at its lowest level in decades.

“Is this a temporary decline, or the beginning of a new standard?” Hackel asked.

He said that “confinement should not be a substitute for treatment,” citing local judges and court systems for discovering more effective alternatives to incarceration, leading to a 50% reduction in recidivism.

The 33-mile Clinton River was also a highlight of the presentation, where $30 million has been spent over the past decade to remove logjams and debris and provide clean, quality water.

Hackel announced the addition of two new access points, in Clinton and Harrison townships, to the nine access points that currently exist — including four that are universally accessible.


Final thoughts
After his speech, Hackel said that local legislators need to better work for their constituents at the state level in regard to road funding mechanisms, calling it “not an excuse” and “unacceptable” to make residents vote to fix the roads themselves, via millages or otherwise.

“It shouldn’t be about the partisan issue; it should be about the people you’re responsible to serve,” he said. “And in Macomb County, every legislator — that should be their No. 1 priority, is getting their counterparts to fix Act 51. (It’s not) trying to find a way to let counties raise a millage themselves.”

As for the jail millage, it was confirmed to be still pending, but the conversation has “regrouped.” Hackel, the former Macomb County sheriff, said the jail capacity is about 1,230, but currently sits at about 900. He wonders whether the current facility can be renovated and restructured to fit future trends.

He added that the public seems “millaged out” and that just building something bigger in this case may not be the answer.

“I want to look at reform within the system and figure out, are we really addressing the people that are being arrested and brought into the system in an appropriate way to reduce recidivism, or can we find alternatives to incarceration?” he said. “The system is starting to see that.”