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Planning and Economic Development

Focus Macomb


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Message from Mark



Hello and welcome to the April edition of Focus Macomb. This month we finally got a taste of beautiful spring weather, and it was a welcome change for those who love to get outdoors and experience our communities. From getting active at one of our many parks, to going shopping in our downtown districts, people were out and about. If you want to join them, check out for inspiration. There’s something for everyone here.

Now it wouldn’t be spring without the beginning of construction season, which is why we recognized National Work Zone Awareness Week from April 11-15. Over the next few months, you’ll see the hard-working crews from the Macomb County Department of Roads out on projects across our community. Please do your part to protect these workers by slowing down, moving over and avoiding distractions. Find additional safety tips and information in an article from the MCDR below.  

Before I sign off, I want to recognize our Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development – and more specifically their Parks and Natural Resources Division. This group recently marked Earth Day on April 22 with a county hosted tree planting and clean up at Freedom Hill, but they also recently received some big news in that the Consumers Energy Foundation has chosen them as a recipient of $250,000 in grant funding through the Planet Awards! Their efforts make Macomb a healthy and vibrant place to live, work and play and I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. To learn more about this grant funding, click here and stay tuned for updates.


Thank you and take care,





Earth Day tree planting and clean up increases green canopy at Freedom Hill County Park and the Sterling Relief Drain



On Friday, April 22, volunteers from Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) and Consumers Energy cleaned up debris and planted trees at Freedom Hill County Park as part of an Earth Day celebration. The event, which was organized through MCPED’s Green Macomb initiative, is part of a larger effort to increase green canopy in the county.

“In 2016, our team had the foresight to create Green Macomb and to help solve a real issue in southeast Michigan, and that’s the major lack of tree canopy in our urban areas,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “Through efforts like today’s Earth Day tree planting and other programs with our local municipalities, we are making significant progress towards our goal of a greener, more vibrant region. And when we achieve that objective, our communities will feel an impact. Whether that’s a reduction in energy costs or the enhancement of our public spaces, everyone will benefit from this work.”

More than 50 trees and shrubs were planted throughout Freedom Hill County Park and near the Sterling Relief Drain, an area which has been a focus of work for MCPED, the City of Sterling Heights and the Macomb County Public Works Office (MCPWO). Officials are in the process of restoring and enhancing the natural habitat around the drain to improve water quality and drain operations, and the Earth Day tree planting supports that work.

“Our green infrastructure project at the Sterling Relief Drain involved the daylighting of portions of what had been buried pipe, in order to allow Mother Nature to naturally act as a sponge for stormwater, soaking up harmful nutrients and toxins before they have a chance to reach the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller said. “The trees planted today increase the county’s green canopy and along this drain will help to prevent erosion, reduce sediment and absorb phosphorus and nitrogen.”

The Earth Day clean up and planting was made possible with the help of more than 25 volunteers from MCPED and Consumers Energy and the guidance of experts from Cardno.

“We at Consumers Energy believe every day should be Earth Day. That’s why we’re committed to doing good for our neighbors and the planet by investing in efforts that support a cleaner, healthier climate,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, executive director of Corporate Giving at Consumers Energy. “We’re thrilled to support Macomb County in planting trees this Earth Day, as we know this work will benefit us all for generations to come.”

“I’d like to thank Consumers Energy and everyone else who participated in our planting and clean up,” said Gerard Santoro, program director for parks and natural resources, MCPED. “Every event, no matter how big or small, helps us work towards our goal of a Green Macomb. It’s hard work, but the results are worth it.”

Currently Macomb’s tree cover is 26 percent, which falls short of the USDA recommendation of a 40 percent cover or better in urban areas. However, along with residents increasing tree plantings on their properties, promotion and education will help the county reach that goal.

More information on green canopy in Macomb County can be found at Green Macomb.




Macomb County urges motorists to practice work zone safety


Between state, county and local projects, there will be hundreds of work zones throughout Macomb County this year. So to mark National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which took place April 11-15, the Macomb County Department of Roads (MCDR) is reminding drivers to remain alert and practice caution to keep themselves and road workers safe.

“Construction season is underway and we strongly encourage drivers to obey traffic laws and speed limits in and around work zones,” said Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “While road crews perform essential work, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure we all get home safely.”

To help keep the roads safe, MCDR strongly encourages drivers to practice these driving tips:

  • Plan ahead. Expect delays, plan for them and leave early to reach your destination on time. When you can, avoid work zones altogether by using alternate routes.
  • Obey road crews and signs. When approaching a work zone, watch for cones, barrels, signs, large vehicles or workers in bright-colored vests to warn you and direct you where to go.
  • Slow down. Look for signs indicating the speed limit through the work zone. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and follow the posted speed limit.
  • Move over. Most state move-over laws apply when passing work crews and official vehicles parked on the shoulder with flashing warning lights.
  • Avoid distractions. Keep your eyes on the road and off your phone at all times.
  • Watch for sudden stoppages. Don’t make sudden lane changes in front of trucks that are trying to slow down.

“Our team works closely with local contractors and engineers to build some of the safest and most efficient roads in Michigan,” said MCDR Director Bryan Santo. “With the support of the motoring public, our goal is to fix Macomb County’s roads and bridges while keeping our work zones as safe as possible.”

The Department of Roads annual construction and maintenance operations are underway, which includes significant work across the region. The 2022 construction program includes 12 primary and local road projects and eight bridges and culverts, in addition to more than 20 asphalt resurfacing and concrete pavement repair projects as part of MCDR’s county-wide pavement preservation program. Work planned also includes six township residential streets as part of the Department of Roads subdivision reconstruction program.

For a complete list of 2022 projects, maps and information, visit You can also sign up to receive email and text alerts for construction and traffic updates at For more information regarding work zone safety and NWZAW, visit


Macomb's Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center announces new name, website


The Macomb County Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center recently launched a new name, logo and website. The center, which provides STEM opportunities focused on automation and robotics for young people, made the announcement at a FIRST Robotics District Competition on April 1.

“Working in collaboration with education and industry partners, the Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center — now doing business as MARZ which stands for Macomb Automation and Robotics Zone — provides opportunities for industry professionals to mentor and meet students interested in robotics,” said Vicky Rowinski, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development and board vice president for the Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center. “We are a connection point between students who want to tinker and play, and a community of professional adults who want to give back and mentor.”

MARZ is located at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights. Its mission is to advance the STEM fields locally for several reasons, including:

  • The fastest-growing occupations in Sterling Heights are in the engineering sector and are growing anywhere from 38 percent to 70 percent.
  • Sterling Heights ranks fourth in the U.S. for concentration of engineering jobs–following such high-tech centers in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Lexington Park, Maryland; and Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Sterling Heights is home to major facilities for all three U.S. automakers, General Dynamics, and substantial tier-one suppliers.

“MARZ is more than just a place. It is an environment where we inspire the next generation for careers in high tech and high demand fields,” said Rowinski. “From an economic and workforce development perspective, Macomb County has one of the most talented, and diverse, workforces in the U.S. We have more than 1,600 companies that employ almost 40,000 highly-skilled workers who specialize in designing, prototyping, producing and managing the supply chain across STEM fields — but despite these positive statistics, there are more than 1,100 open STEM positions.”

To overcome these challenges, MARZ is working to build programming and opportunities at its facility. However, it is in need of materials, mentors and money. To learn more about the center and to find out how you can get involved, visit




K-Block’s Fire Pit BBQ announced as the winner of the Best Mac in the Mac contest


After two weeks of bracket-style voting by the public, K-Block’s Fire Pit BBQ was announced as the winner of the second annual Mac Madness: Best Mac in the Mac contest. The initiative, which was organized by Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED), sought to highlight housemade macaroni and cheese at locally owned and operated restaurants. Sixteen establishments went head-to-head in the competition, with K-Block’s coming out on top.

“We had such a great response to the second year of the Best Mac in the Mac, and we’re thrilled to see K-Block’s Fire Pit BBQ announced as the winner,” said Vicky Rowinski, director, MCPED. “Our department is always looking for creative ways to promote Macomb County businesses, so we were so excited to see our community once-again rally around this contest and our restaurants. Ultimately, we hope that our work inspires people who voted, or simply saw the initiative, to go out and try all different types of local macaroni and cheese!”

K-Block’s Fire Pit BBQ is located at 66880 Van Dyke in Washington Township. The restaurant promotes itself as serving the best barbeque in Michigan, with time tested family recipes and proven techniques which deliver a variety of meats and sides to customers. Brian Knoblock is its pitmaster and owner. His winning dish, called Piggy Mac, features pulled pork, with a small costing $8 and a large at $10.

As the winner of the Best Mac in the Mac contest, K-Block’s will receive:

  • A $2,500 grant from Macomb County
  • The Mac Madness: Best Mac in the Mac plaque
  • Bragging rights

Grants will also be awarded to the runners-up - including:

  • A $1,000 grant for the second place restaurant Bath City Bistro, located at 75 Macomb Place in Mount Clemens
  • A $500 grant to each of the runners up, including: Simple Palate, located at 27380 Van Dyke in Warren, and Octopus' Beer Garden, located at 152 N. River Rd. in Mount Clemens

Though the contest has concluded, the public is encouraged to get out and taste test entries from all of the restaurants that participated. Find those restaurants, and additional details and information, at



Business Development Spotlight


Jack Johns, a project manager for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, has been named a Top 50 Economic Developer in North America for 2022 by Consultant Connect.

Consultant Connect is an economic development organization that bridges the gap between leading economic developers and location consultants, creating a platform for invaluable feedback and lasting business relationships. Each year, they ask their site selector community and economic development partners to nominate individuals they feel are top-notch and worthy of the Top 50 title. They announced their list in early April. Congratulations Jack on receiving this incredible recognition!

To get in touch with Jack and the rest of the Macomb County business development team, visit


Job Shadow Opportunity


Want to help a high school student see what a "day in the life" looks like in a career path they have selected? Consider hosting a "Job Shadow" for an 11th grade student from a participating program. More details here.






Watch Live!


A pair of Peregrine Falcons have established a nest with four eggs on the Old Macomb County Building - and an EarthCam is livestreaming the birds 24/7 so you can watch them in real time! Tune in here.


Macomb in the News


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Macomb Business Blog


How to host a job shadow experience

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