With strides in the auto industry, housing market and labor force, Macomb County is expected to fare better than the national economy in 2013, a renowned economist said Wednesday.
Dr. Jim Jacobs delivered his 29th annual Macomb County Economic Forecast at Zuccaro’s Banquets and Catering in Chesterfield Township to a crowd of community movers and shakers.
Manufacturing, defense, housing are bright
“This is a county that’s doing better than Michigan as a whole and even better than the U.S. in terms of our economic recovery,” said Jacobs, economist and president of Macomb Community College.
Approximately 6,000 jobs were created in the past year, with MCC placing about 1,000 workers in the county. General Motors' expansion of the Tech Center meant 1,500 I.T. hires and Chrysler's investment in Warren Assembly led to an additional 1,000 workers. And, Ford Motor Company has invested $168 million at axle and transmission plants, according to Jacobs' speech.
Auto sales nationally and internationally have notable effects in the county's manufacturing hubs like Warren, where the 2013 Cadillac ATS Car of the Year and the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup North American Truck/Utility of the Year are made, he said.
The housing market showed gains in the last year, as foreclosures are tailing off slightly and values are on the rise. Building permits rose to 1,318 in 2012--up from 1,145 in 2011, 933 in 2010 and 346 in 2009, according to the figures.
"Overall, the housing market has rebounded somewhat better in Macomb County than in other places," Jacobs said. "The resurgence of housing has really started."
The defense industry continues to mature in the county, with TACOM spending more than $1 billion in local community contracts. Employment at Detroit Arsenal has increased from about 2,200 workers in 2000 to more than 8,000 employees today.
Meanwhile, branding of Macomb County, including Mark Hackel’s Make Macomb Your Home initiative, has helped boost the area’s clout. The first-ever county executive position, which Hackel serves, also gives Macomb more prominence in the region, along with the county officials' overall commonality in goals.
Additionally, the merger of Beaumont and Henry Ford health systems “creates an important $6.2-billion player with 40,000 employees—headquartered Michigan,” according to the speech.
Challenges remain for future
Still, there are significant challenges in Macomb County, including seriously low levels in Lake St. Clair, residents making less money than they did in prior years and a need for county support in the southern end--where there’s the largest number of residents under 18 and seniors.
Food stamp reliance seems on track to level off but there were about 58,890 households served in 2012—up from 54,023 in 2011 and 44,432 in 2010.
The lake, which is regularly championed as a tourism and recreation attraction, poses a challenge for the county.
“Water levels at Lake St. Clair are at their lowest since 1926,” Jacobs said.
Families are getting by on lower incomes than they had more than a decade ago. In 1999, the average household income was $68,178. By 2010, it was down to $49,160, he said.
Wild cards predicted
According to Jacobs, the wild cards for 2013 are:
- National politics that have been divisive in Washington, D.C., such as the debt ceiling debate, will have an unknown ripple effect for upcoming legislation.
- The Health Care Law implementation and how it will affect employers with part-time workers is uncertain: "I think there will may be a lot of unintended consequences occurring," Jacobs said.
- The future of auto sales and energy costs.
- Recovery of the City of Detroit.
- The state of Lake St. Clair.
Read county officials' reactions to the forecast.