Supported by a $428,000 grant from the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, Macomb Community College has kicked off a regional initiative designed to advance the development of the defense sector in the region. 

The initiative will focus on enhancing coordination among regional stakeholders, including the Department of Defense, other governmental entities, employers, educational institutions, professional associations and economic developers, as well as on identifying the major issues and opportunities related to growing the regional defense sector, including workforce development.

“The reality is that fostering sustainable economic vitality in Macomb County is tied to economic development throughout southeast Michigan, and working to grow and support the defense sector in the region will take a broad-based, collaborative approach,” said James O. Sawyer, vice president and provost of Macomb Community College. “This initiative is structured as a partnership between business, industry, government and education, and across county borders, with the goal to capitalize on our existing regional assets and resources while building a more skilled and educated workforce.”   

The backbone of the initiative will be a small working group, the Defense Industry Strategy Taskforce, which will meet monthly to identify, prioritize and develop strategies designed to position the southeast Michigan defense sector for growth. 

The taskforce, convened for the first time late last week, is chaired by Sawyer and includes representatives from Macomb County, Automation Alley, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Macomb-Oakland Incubator, Michigan – Association of the United States Army, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Senator Carl Levin’s Office, Southeast Michigan Community College Consortium and TACOM Lifecycle Management Command. 

The taskforce will be regularly reaching out to seek additional expertise and input needed to further enhance opportunities for regional economic and workforce development collaboration.  And, formally, on a quarterly basis, a larger Advisory Council composed of all interested regional stakeholders will convene to provide ongoing feedback and perspective.

Macomb County government is a key partner in the regional initiative. With more than 500 businesses accounting for 61 percent of the overall value of defense contracts awarded to Michigan companies, the county will hire an economic development specialist who will focus on building the defense sector. 

“The defense industry in Macomb County employs thousands of people in a variety of jobs ranging from administrative and engineering to manufacturing,” said Mark Hackel, Macomb County executive. “It makes sense for us to work together to build on this strength to better position Macomb County as the defense capital of the Midwest.”

The regional defense sector initiative is one of several college efforts concentrated on leveraging opportunities related to the local defense sector.  In March, Macomb Community College issued a report, which was also funded by the New Economy Initiative, focused on the professional and technical work force needs of the emerging southeast Michigan defense sector. In addition, the college is in its second year of a three-year, $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that is providing training to help residents develop skills to prepare them for jobs in the defense industry (see more information at


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