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I’m proud to say this month we were involved with helping out several businesses who have played a key role in Macomb County’s economic development. The condition of one of our main industrial park’s roadways, Executive Drive, was hampering how these businesses could manage their transportation needs. The road, which runs parallel to I-94 in Harrison Township, hadn’t been improved in its 43-year history and was officially rated a one on a scale of 10, with 10 being the best quality.
In order to ensure these businesses continue to make Macomb their home, our Department of Roads worked along with MDOT to garner funds to pay to complete the much-needed road project. In 2015, MDOT awarded a Transportation Economic Development Fund grant of over $1.6 million to rebuild Executive Drive. The grant, matched by $700,560 from the Department of Roads, made way for a manufacturer to expand in Harrison Township while vastly improving the road for other businesses within the industrial park. Work began on April 4, 2016 and included removal of the existing road and its base, replacement and installation of an enhanced drainage system to prevent flooding, installation of a continuous sidewalk as well as drives to adjacent businesses, and upgrades to fire hydrants and the municipal fire suppression system.
The importance of completing this project is underscored by the fact that the promise to make improvements to the road resulted in an investment of $56.6 million by China-based Yanfeng Automotive Interiors to occupy and renovate a vacant building. Investment is expected to create up to 519 new jobs over three years! These are jobs that will directly and positively impact the lives of so many of our Macomb County residents.
I can’t believe I’m saying this already, but it is back-to-school time. It’s amazing how it seems like the summer goes by faster and faster each year. I would just like to make everyone aware of a great opportunity to help our local students in need. Right now, Toys“R”Us and the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) are sponsoring a Stuff-A-Bus fundraiser to support the MISD’s Homeless Education Project. At this time in particular, the donations most needed are new backpacks and school supplies. If you would like to assist, donations can be placed in boxes located throughout Toys“R”Us stores during their regular store hours until Sept. 1. To learn more about how to donate to this cause, read more about it in one of our latest Make Macomb Your Home blogs.
Dori May – Human Resources and Labor Relations
By Sarah Cormier, Macomb County Executive Office
There are many reasons why we all sought to work for Macomb County government. Maybe there was a great job position available, or you felt like the medical benefits were perfect for your family. Perhaps a short commute or more steady work hours piqued your interest.
But if you’re Dori May, HR assistant in the county’s Human Resources and Labor Relations (HRLR) Department, you came to work for Macomb County government because you were inspired.
May had been applying to a variety of open county jobs for five years before she got the phone call she was hoping for in August 2000. She would start off as an account clerk one in HRLR doing mostly data entry.
However, May’s story with Macomb County starts a couple of years before she began working here. May has two children, a 23-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter. However, when her daughter was just 18 months old, she was diagnosed as having an immunodeficiency disorder, which means she didn’t have the antibodies to adequately fight infection. The little girl ended up having 28 sinus surgeries to try to clear up those infections, and as a result, a Broviac tube, which is used to administer medication directly into the bloodstream, was put in her chest. Although medically necessary, the Broviac tube was uncomfortable for May’s daughter when she was playing with other children as it was easy for it to get pulled at.
Noticing the issue, one of May’s daughter’s teachers at Macomb County’s Head Start, where the girl was a student, decided to help out. She assisted in getting her special T-shirts that adapted to the tube and covered it so it was less likely to get in the way. That teacher’s name is Maralyn McNally, and she is now a Macomb County Head Start program manager. To this day, May is still so extremely grateful for how much McNally helped her daughter, and that has inspired her to carry that same type of work ethic on to her job.
“I wanted to work for Macomb County and work for others like she did for us,” said May. “I want to be able to help other people and do what I can to assist.”
In the 16 years she has worked for HRLR, May has worked her way up through a few positions and is now HR assistant. This means that she oversees the paperwork surrounding so many of the benefits Macomb County employees have: workers compensation, health care, leave of absence, long-term disability, etc. Some of the main departments she oversees are the Sheriff’s Office, Health, Macomb Community Action and all of the courts – circuit and district.
“Dori is very knowledgeable of our benefit plans and does her very best to help our employees understand their benefit options,” said Eric Herppich, director of HRLR. “I once told Dori at an open enrollment meeting that I could videotape her helping our employees and use it for excellent customer service skills training. She is a great asset for county employees.”
May believes it’s a blessing the job she did receive with Macomb County is with HRLR as her past experience with her daughter’s health issues allows her to feel passionate about helping employees with their benefit concerns.
“No two people are the same. Human resources is definitely my field,” she said. “I’m a huge people person, and I get my joy from helping people and getting to know them.”
The lifelong Macomb County resident loves living here.
“I have always lived in Macomb County, and I will as long as I live in Michigan,” she said. “Macomb County is growing so much.”
When not working, one of May’s main goals is losing weight. She said, in the past seven years, she has lost 155 pounds, and she has about 40-45 pounds left before she is at her goal weight. When she retires, she wants to work with children who battle obesity, something she had to deal with when she was young.
“I want to make sure kids don’t go through what I went through,” she said. “That’s where my heart is: to help people.”
Macomb County’s Japanese internment workers during WWII
By Cynthia S. Donahue, Facilities and Operations
Did you know that during World War II, between 110,000 and 130,000 Japanese Americans were interned and relocated in camps surrounded by barbed wire and policed by armed U.S. soldiers? And approximately two-thirds of them were United States citizens? Did you also know that several of them ended up working right here in Macomb County?
On April 1, 1942, just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans in military
areas (California and most of Oregon and Washington) were evicted from their homes and held in inland internment camps across the country. Approximately 70,000 of them were “Nisei,” second generation American-born Japanese with U.S. citizenship. Additionally, some American citizens of German and Italian descent were also interned in much smaller numbers.
In February1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of Japanese American citizens with Executive Order 9066. Japanese were required to report to assembly areas – primarily fairgrounds and racetracks in the California area. As no camps had yet been built to accommodate the evacuees, families were forced to live in horse stalls and other substandard housing until the camps could be built.
As discrimination against the Japanese increased, it became difficult to find placement for the interned. Communities were assured the evacuees would be shipped back to the Pacific Coast after the war and would not be allowed to stay in their neighborhoods. Additionally, many were concerned about the government “codling dangerous Japanese” and the cost of maintaining the evacuees, causing their daily food consumption to be limited to 50 cents per day.
By 1943, the resettlement and employment of the evacuees at the war’s end became a concern of the U.S. government, and it was determined that some evacuees would be allowed to leave the camps if they were gainfully employed. About this time, with many of their young men off to war, Michigan and Ohio were suffering from a farm labor shortage, and so the government created a program where the evacuees could work in agricultural areas.
The first Japanese intern workers in Michigan came to Benton Harbor in October 1943, and the cities of Decatur, Berlin, Romeo and Mount Clemens soon followed.
(Story continues below after photos.)
(Photo above) Letter from Japanese Internment worker Eddie Hiroshige while he was working at the Mount Clemens Rose Gardens in 1943. He states that “it’s a fairly good place, this Michigan, hardly any discrimination, and mostly nice people…”
Records show that at least two Macomb County businesses engaged in the internment program – Mount Clemens Rose Gardens and Mountain View Orchards of Romeo. Some of the internment employees at the Rose Gardens, owned by the Weiss family, were David Ikkanda, Yoki Ikegami, Yuki Sagara, Jack Miyake, Motozio Shoda, Eddie Hiroshige and George and Fumiyo Sagara, while two of Mountain View Orchards’ Japanese employees were Sei Shoda and Shig Nishio.
Former Rose Garden worker George Sagara, today a resident of Kalamazoo, still gives lectures on his family’s experience during the war. According to Sagara, “skilled workers earned $16 per month and unskilled workers got $12.” His family chose to stay in the Detroit area after the war.
Mount Clemens Rose Gardens owner Frederic Weiss sponsored an all-Japanese baseball team with the exception of one American as the catcher – Harry Bates of Mount Clemens. Ironically, Weiss’ son, Paul, and Bates’ daughter, Mickey, were wed 45 years later.
Basketball was also a favorite sport. In 1944, the Rohwer Outpost reported a basketball team called the “Nisei Five” of Mount Clemens that defeated a “white squad” in three games out of five.
The Weiss family formed a lasting bond in particular with the Sagara family and continues to meet with them every Christmas Eve for a Japanese family meal together.
The first census record showing a person of Japanese descent in Macomb County was in 1920, with very little increase by 1930 or 1940. Rose Gardens worker Hatchiro Kitamura was probably the first homeowner of Japanese descent in Macomb, purchasing a home on Van Dyke in Shelby Township in 1942 under his American wife’s name, Edith (Reed) Hatchiro. Hatchiro, or “Hatch,” was a member of a famous theatrical group from Japan that excelled in acrobats, juggling and magic. The “Kitamura Trio” performed all over the United States. Hatch later worked at the Dodge Plant in Detroit.
The U.S. government eventually paid detainees approximately $20,000 each. For further information regarding the Japanese internment program, the following link provides a copy of an interesting short film entitled Japanese Relocation, filmed by the U.S. government’s Office of War Information Bureau of Motion Pictures in 1943: https://archive.org/details/Japanese1943.
Today Macomb County has a highly-diversified population, hosting a rich conglomeration of ethnicities drawn here by economic and religious reasons. Foreign-born residents are a part of nearly every community in southeast Michigan, with Warren and Sterling Heights attracting the most newcomers in Macomb. According to the Macomb Intermediate School District, there are currently 92 different languages spoken in the homes of Macomb’s residents.
For Your Benefit
Macomb County is pleased to announce that our new Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for our employees and their families provided by Ulliance will be available Oct. 1. Ulliance is able to help employees find practical solutions to life’s everyday problems and concerns free of charge.
Ulliance can help employees face challenges like being overwhelmed at work or at home or experiencing a recent shift in family dynamics that is starting to impact work-life balance. Ulliance can provide someone to talk to who can really listen and provide good objective feedback.
The Life Advisor EAP will provide completely confidential, short-term counseling services to Macomb County employees, their spouses or partners, their children and legal dependents. Ulliance counselors can help with many issues, such as:
- relationship and family concerns
- death of a loved one
- substance abuse
- financial or legal referrals
- anxiety and depression.
The issue does not have to be a serious one. Maybe an employee is interested in returning to school part time or is on the lookout for professional development opportunities that will help achieve that promotion at work. Ulliance can help with these goals too.
There is no cost to an employee or his/her dependents for Ulliance services, which will be available to Macomb County employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week starting Oct. 1.
In the coming weeks and months, Ulliance posters, brochures, wallet cards and magnets with additional information will be available. Thomas Tilton is the dedicated Ulliance account manager for Macomb County.
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