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Posted: 12/11/13

COUNTY-WIDE SUCCESS. Above, from left, Village of Romeo President Mike Lee and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel share a laugh at the State of the County Address on Dec. 4. Hackel's address highlighted growth in the county's industries like defense, manufacturing and agriculture.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Hackel: Macomb County
in midst of resurgence

Observer Staff Writer
      Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel pointed to a revitalized and diversified local economy during his annual State of the County Address.
       Hackel spoke with enthusiasm to a 1,200-member audience during his third address, held Dec. 4 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township.
       The speech, accompanied by videos, celebrated accomplishments in various aspects of the county's economy such as defense, retail and entertainment and manufacturing.
       "We realize that Macomb County is in the midst of an incredible resurgence, a resurgence that starts with the remarkable recovery and diversification of our economy," he said.
       Hackel emphasized agriculture as part of that diversity, an industry prominent in the northern end of the county that brings in $53 million annually.
       In particular, Hackel pointed out the expansion of Blake's Orchard with its hard cider and winery tasting room and Westview Orchard's bicentennial celebration recognized by the state.
       "These events illustrate that our agricultural community continues to diversify its operations and provide incredible experiences for residents and for visitors," he said.
       Surrounded by food from 30 different county restaurants and vendors during the event's Taste of Macomb afterglow, Hackel said the county is looking to help grow and support the 62,000 acres of farmland he considers a mainstay.
       "Even when I say it to people, they look at me kind of funny because they don't really realize that we have 475 farms in Macomb County," he said. "That fact alone gets people's interest or attention, and it's gotten ours as a county."
       In regards to the northern end, Hackel said his offices are working with the state on providing access to M-53 from 33 Mile Road, but needs to make sure there is investment in the area.
       "It would be a great opportunity for investment, and I know there are some people that are looking to invest," he said. "We are working to try to see if we can't make that a reality as well."
       Hackel also alluded to working with state offices to create hunting districts as well as a waterside state park, but didn't reveal their locations. He said these efforts reflect his Blue Water Economy program to provide recreation utilizing lakes and waterways.
       Hackel celebrated the county's ties with manufacturing and the auto industry, boasting that the Ram 1500 assembled in Warren was just named truck of the year by Motor Trend magazine. He said General Motors opened a $130 million IT data center, while Ford is continuing to invest $137 million into its facilities.
       Hackel said the county continues to expand its defense network as well, earning $250,000 in state grants to promote Michigan as the "Arsenal of Innovation."
       "We capture over 60 percent of Michigan's total defense business," he said.
       In education, Hackel said Wayne State University broke ground for its $12 million Advanced Technology Education Center in Warren.
       The presentation also highlighted the county's $631 million budget that eliminated $60 million in deficit spending without using rainy day funds.
       "We here in Macomb County have a budget that is enviable," he said.
       The budget includes a $13.5 million communications and operations center known as COMTEC that will open in less than two weeks. The center brings together police and fire dispatch along with the Department of Roads and emergency management.
       Hackel said the county is monitoring Detroit's bankruptcy and its effects on Macomb. In particular, he said the voter-approved Detroit Institute of Arts millage could be affected if artwork is sold.
       "If they do decide to sell those assets off, the question becomes what legally or technically can we do," he said after the speech. "I know we'll be working with Oakland County on that."
       Attendees included business leaders, educators and elected officials like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.
       Bruce Township Supervisor Richard Cory said he was glad the presentation highlighted rural resources, but also the defense industry since Bruce Township could bring it to its industrial corridor.
       "I think people who are looking to locate in Macomb County are looking at 33 Mile Road," he said. "That is the only place north of 26 Mile Road that has an A-class road, sewer and water."
       Village of Romeo President Mike Lee said Hackel's addresses always rejuvenate his pride in calling Macomb County home.
       "We all go away as youngsters, we want to leave our hometown and go out, but we always know where home is, and that is here in Romeo and Macomb County," he said.

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