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Posted: 01/23/13

A POSITIVE OUTLOOK. Above, Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College and economist, said during his 2013 Economic Forecast for Macomb County on Jan. 16 that the county is faring better than most of the state and nation in terms of recovery. In his presentation, he said that unemployment should drop to 9 or 8.5 percent and showed that property tax assessments are increasing in northern communities.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Jacobs: Macomb County
faring better than MI

Observer Staff Writer
      Macomb County's recovery from the recession is slow, but is leading the pack amongst other communities.
       Dr. Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College and economist, presented his predictions for the county during the 29th Economic Forecast for Macomb County on Jan. 16 at Zuccaro Banquets and Catering in Chesterfield.
       His presentation included optimism and claims of recovery, and noted some prosperity in the northern end of the county.
       "This is a county which is doing even better than Michigan as a whole and certainly better than the United States in terms of our economic recovery," he said.
       He said housing sales will likely increase but remain at low prices, and unemployment is expected to drop to 9 percent or 8.5 percent. As evidence, Jacobs pointed to data collected from the past decade.
       In the past two years, construction and manufacturing have shown signs of growth in the county. Jacobs indicated the county's labor force number only showed a 1.5 percent decline between 2011 and 2012.
       "What it means is there were about 6,000 jobs created in Macomb County for individuals who are unemployed," he said.
       In particular, he said investments from the Big Three, such as General Motors' expansion of the Tech Center or Ford's $168 million into axle and transmission plants have led to job creation.
       He noted growth in the defense sector as well, with TACOM/TARDEC spending more than $1 billion in local contracts.
       The housing market has improved as well. Projected property tax assessments show a 0.12 percent increase in Bruce Township, a 0.13 percent in Ray Township and a 5.12 percent increase in Washington Township, the largest increase in the county.
       He said the foreclosure crisis still exists, but in past 24 months the numbers of foreclosures in Macomb County have declined. Meanwhile, the average price of a sold home increased by $5,000 to $118,500 in 2012.
       "Overall, the housing market has rebounded in Macomb County somewhat better than in other areas of the country," he said. "We have bottomed out and seem to be moving in a different direction."
       Jacobs contributed a part of the recovery to Macomb County's enhanced image, such as the county executive form of government, the Make Macomb Your Home campaign and identifiers like the defense corridor and Lake St. Clair.
       At the state level, more than 14.5 million vehicles were sold in 2012, a 13 percent increase from 2011. Of those vehicles, 2.2 million were made in Michigan, with more than 100,000 new jobs created in the last two years, half of which belong to the auto industry.
       "Our growth is clearly there, but it is very, very closely related to the growth of the auto industry," he said.
       Jacobs said the 2013 predictions for auto sales have increased numbers at 15.2 million units, with the Big Three showing profitable figures.
       North and south
       Jacobs spoke of the "paradox" of the south end and north end, saying the most economic development takes place in the southern portion, but community issues need to be addressed.
       Meanwhile, growth and development is prevalent in the northern end of the county, which he said needs to happen in the southern end as well.
       "Without a kind of balanced community and housing development we're really going to set up a serious problem for the future," he said.
       After the presentation, Jacobs said the northern end should continue to look at agriculture and agro-tourism and how it connects to people seeking diets or organic foods.
       In particular, he said it's not just the production of food that northern businesses should look at, but the actual processing of foods and other related fields.
       "That's part of a county approach that includes the south end, both people from the south end visiting in the north but it also includes thinking about ways in which revenues that are captured can be shared by all communities," he said.
       Ups and downs
       Even with the good news, Jacobs said not all information has shown leaps in recovery. He said the incomes of those households has a long way to go before hitting medians seen in 1999. Between 1999 and 2010, the average income decreased by 28 percent, about 6 percent more than the state average.
       The number of people needing assistance has declined, but are still at high levels. A total of 45,299 residents sought help from Michigan Works in 2012, and 187,040 individuals received emergency food distribution assistance.
       "We have a recovery, but that recovery is still somewhat a jobless recovery for individuals who often don't have the skill-sets that the employers who are hiring are looking for," he said.
       Jacobs had a number of wild cards that could affect how recovery goes, ranging from how federal policies are resolved, healthcare law changes, the state of Detroit and the low water levels of Lake St. Clair.

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