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Office of County Executive
Mark A. Hackel

Executive Focus Newsletter Summer 2014

Mark's Message
Making places - locally and regionally
Retiree healthcare updates
Macomb County ramps up for Manufacturing Day
Primary Election to take place Aug. 5
SMART millage to be on August ballot
Macomb County hires PED deputy director

Mark's Message

By Mark A. Hackel, Macomb County Executive

On June 27th, our region welcomed 44 new citizens from 18 different countries right here in Macomb County, at the newly renovated Independence Hall at Freedom Hill. Macomb hosted a naturalization ceremony through OneMacomb, which promotes diversity and cultural understanding in Macomb County, to welcome these 44 new members of our nation.

Reflecting on the Fourth of July holiday, I am reminded of the importance of teamwork and working together. The holiday is an annual celebration of America’s independence, but it’s more than that. This holiday unites us as a nation, encouraging citizens to work together for a greater good.

Whether focusing on agriculture, defense, manufacturing, automotive, education, recreation or the blue economy – Macomb County’s successes have come about because of the teamwork of our citizens and communities. Teamwork is crucial for success. Whether it’s sports or politics or business, unity and working toward a common goal will make us stronger. This was the message I touted at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference. Two separate billboards greeted travelers on I-75 toward Mackinac Island promoting the value of Macomb County on its own, but that we are all stronger when we work together as a regional team.

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend. As always, feel free to contact my office with any ideas or concerns or 586-469-7001.

Making places – locally and regionally

By Melissa Roy, Assistant Macomb County Executive

A part of what makes a great place is the feeling you have while you are there. Some of that is attributable to aesthetics or the atmosphere, the people, the weather or the landscape. Whatever the reason, the dynamics and special nature of those places attract people visitors and inhabitants that enhance their greatness.  Place making is fast becoming one of the most talked about issues in economic development circles for that very reason.

So what makes us special? What makes us great?

For Macomb, we have a number of accessible and affordable assets in a variety of communities everything from urban, to suburban to rural. Macomb is a collection of communities that offer opportunity for almost any income level and life style. We also have a number of regional assets that neighbor our communities and add to that value proposition.

In the last newsletter, we featured an article on responsible regionalism. This article continues that discussion by looking at the total value for regional assets at the local level. Through a change in governance and finance models, the Detroit Zoo, Cobo Hall, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the regional transit system have all become assets into which the region's locals make investments to guarantee their future viability and to have a voice in how those assets are managed.

The political structure of our area lends itself to asset management on a regional basis. In terms of population and economic impact, there is not a dominant city or larger entity around which other counties and municipalities survive. The Detroit area has a pluralistic political base in that Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the greater surrounding localities each have a similar but specific contribution to the region as a whole. Because of this arrangement, this area needs a political management system that is regionally based.

Macomb now has a seat at the table for our major attractions, cultural assets and a part of our transportation system. In addition to the specific programming that we receive locally for these assets, we also have a stake in securing their financial future. Cobo Hall is now a premier facility for conventions throughout the year, but, most importantly, for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which is a kickoff for the year and celebration of our core industry. Regional management for this facility has turned it around and kept the world's automotive stage right here in the Detroit area. And while the NAIAS is in Detroit, the industry reaches every corner of our region.

As we move forward through our current and future challenges, implementing the proper structure for regionalization is key key to long-term sustainability, key to economic leverage and key to properly serving the needs of each of our unique communities in the best way possible.

Retiree healthcare updates

By Peter Provenzano, Macomb County Finance executive director

Historically, Macomb County has offered retiree healthcare to vested employees as part of their benefit package. Unfortunately, in 2004, Macomb County suspended the prefunding of retiree healthcare and money was diverted to fund increased pension benefits instead. As a result, the unfunded liability for retiree healthcare ballooned to $549.6 million as of the latest actuarial valuation.

During the last few years, the county has successfully negotiated reductions in healthcare costs which have helped to slow the growth of the liability. However, the county cannot realistically eliminate the unfunded liability by only reducing costs. The Annual Required Contribution (ARC) to fund retiree healthcare is $45 million per year of which the county is only contributing $15 million. If the county does not begin making the full annual contribution, the unfunded liability will continue to grow exponentially and the county will not be able to pay retiree healthcare premiums in the future.

As of January 2016, the retiree healthcare plan will be closed to newly hired employees. This change will have a dramatic positive effect on the retiree healthcare liability. It is estimated that closing the plan will help to reduce the county’s unfunded liability from $550 million to $270 million. Furthermore, the ARC will be reduced from approximately $45 million to $30 million.

While the lower unfunded liability is still staggering, it is now possible to fund the ARC. The County Executive’s Office has proposed to prefund the future ARC for the next 50 years by depositing $340 million into an Interim Trust. The sources for this initial deposit will be a bond issue for the unfunded liability as allowed by Michigan Public Act 329 of 2012, as well as a one time General and Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund contribution. The $340 million set aside is expected to earn an annual rate of return of 7.5 percent, similar to the pension fund, and will allow the Interim Trust to make the required ARC payments without further subsidy from the operating funds.

The debt service on the bond issue will be paid by the operating funds for the next 25 years at which time the bond issue matures. The total debt service is estimated to be $18 million per year which is approximately the 2016 budgeted amount for retiree healthcare premiums. Therefore, the $18 million debt service payment will have a minimal impact on the budgets of these operating funds.

The Board of Commissioners is currently reviewing this proposal and should they decide to issue bonds to fund retiree healthcare, the county is required to deliver the bonds to investors before Dec. 31 when the law authorizing this type of bond issue expires.

Macomb County ramps up for Manufacturing Day 2014

Businesses invited to participate

Stephen N. Cassin, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Executive Director

Staff from the Department of Planning and Economic Development are working to celebrate national Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) on Oct. 3 in a big way. Plans are underway to provide opportunities for students in all of Macomb County’s 28 public high schools to see today’s manufacturing environment up close and personal. The goal is to expose students to the type of work Macomb County manufacturers do, the types of well-paying jobs associated with the industry and the educational pathways that lead to meaningful careers.

Last year, Macomb County was one of eight organizations in the state to host an official event in honor of MFG Day. Nationwide, more than 880 events were organized to help dispel misperceptions about today’s manufacturing environment while creating greater awareness about the career possibilities within the industry. A cross-county tour of manufacturers, led by Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel, received great media coverage. Afterward, a group of Macomb’s leading manufacturers joined together for a roundtable to discuss industry concerns.

One of the overarching messages heard from employers was that there are not enough young people interested in manufacturing. With the average age of today’s manufacturing employee closing in on 55, this is a real concern.

“I have spent a lot of time talking with our manufacturers to get a better understanding of some of the challenges they face,” said Executive Hackel. “What they tell me is that they are concerned that there aren’t enough young people entering the field.”

In response, the department reached out to the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) to explore the possibility of engaging students. MISD Superintendent Mike DeVault offered his support and recommended that district superintendents be offered a chance to see manufacturing in action.

On Feb. 28, a special field trip was coordinated for officials from 11 of Macomb’s 21 districts. The purpose of the day was to offer a peek at the high-tech world of today’s manufacturing environment and to create a better understanding of the industry’s workforce development concerns.

The group boarded a bus and made several stops throughout the county.

Their first visit was to PTI Engineered Plastics in Macomb Township where they saw the product life cycle in action as well as had an opportunity to speak with the workers who make it all happen. Next, the group visited the SKF-USA plant in Armada where they once again mingled with workers and learned more about their passion for their work.

The day culminated in a roundtable discussion at the Romeo’s Engineering & Technology Center where c-level executives from Avon GearDynamics PlasticsElite PlasticsFori AutomationHard Milling SolutionsKUKA Systems North AmericaProper Group InternationalRCO Engineering and Triumph Gear gathered to share their perspective. Several of our state and federal legislators either attended or sent a representative for this portion of the day.

Currently, a planning committee has been formed to work out the logistical needs to make the upcoming event a success for all involved. Committee members include business leaders from the manufacturing industry, school district superintendents and career technical education directors, workforce development professionals and post-secondary education institutions.

One of the committee’s most important action steps is to recruit manufacturers with high-tech processes to open their doors for supervised tours of high school students. The group estimates that approximately 30 companies will be needed to accommodate an estimated 1,200 student participants.  (Each plant would be asked to welcome two groups of approximately 30 students during the day) Interested in getting involved? Please contact Maria Zardis at (586) 469-5285 or or complete this quick survey.

Primary Election to take place Aug. 5

By Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds

Voters across our state, and right here in Macomb County, will make their voices heard in the primary election on Aug. 5 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

In addition to the governor race, the partisan section of the ballot is where voters decide their party’s nominee for the U. S. Senate, U. S. House of Representatives, State Senate and Michigan House of Representatives, County Executive and County Commissioners. Precinct Delegates will also be elected for both major parties.

The proposal section has one statewide ballot proposal regarding the state use tax and a Macomb County Public Transportation Millage. In addition, there are local proposals on the ballot in Eastpointe, Mount Clemens, Chesterfield Township, Clinton Township, Harrison Township and Macomb Township. Voters in the Almont, Rochester and South Lake school districts will be asked to weigh in on school proposals.

Macomb County Chief Elections Clerk Roger Cardamone and our team have made several improvements to the elections process including:

Macomb County’s campaign finance reporting system is the most transparent in Michigan for reporting county and local political money, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a Lansing campaign finance watchdog group.

Provides email and text alerts that update voters throughout the night as election returns come in, when the results are complete and even as the lead changes in certain races throughout the night. Using Google Maps, the system makes it easy for voters to see who won in the specific precinct in which a voter voted and does not require voters to know district or precinct numbers.

Launched Michigan’s first online absent ballot verification system, which allows voters to track their own absent voter application and ballot and confirm that local clerks have processed them, similar to tracking an overnight package. Our system was so innovative that it is now used statewide by the Michigan Secretary of State.

Created a prototype online voter registration system to reduce the risk of fraud and save money. You may try the prototype here:

Started training a new generation of poll workers by hiring more student election inspectors to officially work in polls on Election Day.

Introduced a competitive bid system for election supplies that saved more than $500,000.

Please get out and vote on Tuesday, Aug. 5, and remember, your vote is your voice.

To check your voter registration, find your polling location and view a sample ballot, visit:

If you are not registered to vote, use this form:

If you are already registered to vote but need to change your address, visit:

To download an absent voter ballot application form, visit:

To view a list of candidates and ballot proposals, visit:

To view county and local campaign donations, visit:

To see a list of campaign committees with unpaid fines for violating rules, visit:

To see election results on Election Day, visit:

SMART millage to be on the ballot in August

By John Hertel, SMART general manager 

SMART is southeast Michigan’s only regional public transportation provider, offering convenient, reliable and safe transportation for Macomb County residents. For many, SMART’s fixed route and small bus service is a lifeline, getting people to their jobs, school, shopping centers and critical doctor appointments. SMART also provides municipalities funding to operate local community transit buses for seniors and people with disabilities. SMART helps keep people employed, healthy and active.

Since 2008, SMART has lost almost $50 million in revenue due to lower property tax values. Without hesitation, SMART made more than $11 million in annual budget adjustments including wage and benefit concessions, cuts in spending and increased bus fares. SMART also contends with old buses – 80 percent of the buses have over 500,000 miles, well beyond the recommended useful life. There is no extra money to replace these buses.

On Tuesday, Aug. 5 residents will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot proposal to renew and increase the SMART millage from .59 mills to 1 mill. If voters approve the millage at 1 mill, SMART will be able to stabilize its budget and eliminate deficits of $5 million annually. Additionally, SMART will invest in new, efficient buses.

However, if the millage vote fails, SMART services will be cut in the county by the end of the year. Without SMART, thousands of Macomb County residents will be lacking reliable transportation to work, medical appointments, dialysis treatments and grocery shopping. This would significantly impact the lives of our residents as well as the economic recovery Macomb County is experiencing.

Macomb County hires PED deputy director

Stephen N. Cassin, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Executive Director

Vicky Rad has been promoted to deputy director for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Rad first joined the department as a senior economic development specialist for business attraction in January 2013. She is credited with managing a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that resulted in the formation of the Michigan Automated Systems Collaborative, a regional group of professionals engaged in advancing Michigan’s robotics industry. The grant also provided funding to develop a new marketing campaign for Michigan’s defense industry and a series of training events for employers interested in developing a veteran hiring program.

A seasoned economic development professional, Rad formerly worked for the Detroit Regional Chamber and also the Macomb Regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

Rad earned a Master of Science in Administration (MSA) from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree from Baker College. She also holds a master’s certificate in Government Contracting Administration from George Washington University.