Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Advocacy In Action Roundup: County Executives Give Outlook on Regional Transit, Talent Shortage

Advocacy In Action Roundup: County Executives Give Outlook on Regional Transit, Talent Shortage

May 12, 2022
On May 11, the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted the county executives from Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to discuss the significant business issues of the region. Hosted at the Mint Conference Center in Lathrup Village, this was the first time that all three were in-person together since early 2020 when they last held an event to discuss regional transit. Carol Cain, senior producer and host for CBS 62 Michigan Matters and columnist for the Detroit Free Press, led the conversation.



Leading Through COVID-19 Brought Valuable Lessons on Problem Solving

Cain started with the topic of what the past two and a half years have been like as a county executive dealing with COVID-19 and the fallout in their communities.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter said nothing really prepared him for this job. He lamented that there’s “hardly ever a training manual for your job, but you will do just fine if you let your values and style guide you.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said that Wayne County, and he personally, faced “difficult and troublesome” times, but he was able to learn from the situation.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel looked at COVID-19 as an insightful experience, learning who would “step up and address the current problems, instead of sitting back and creating more problems.”


Unified Regional Transit Services Have “Larger Price Tag” But Should Introduce More National Opportunities

The topic of discussion quickly shifted to regional cooperation and a transit system to service Metro Detroit.
Coulter pointed out that the pandemic highlighted the need for regional transit and that it “holds the region back” from more significant events like hosting the Super Bowl again.

Evans agreed with a unified approach to transit but said that the solutions could be “hard to swallow due to their larger price tags.”

Finishing the group off, Hackel pointed to Macomb’s “all in” approach with transit. Every community in Macomb is a SMART community, paying an annual mileage to the transit service. Hackel believes that a regional transit system would exist if the other two counties opted entirely into SMART, saying it would be “SMART-er.”


To Solve Talent Shortage, Schools and Employers Must Strengthen Requirement Coordination

Later in the discussion, the topic became the talent shortage that the region is currently facing.
Coulter wants to connect Oakland County employers with Michigan’s colleges and trade schools to ensure students graduate with the relevant experience employers seek.

Evans pointed to some of the extreme requirements employers put on potential job seekers, saying that some testing and education requirements may be “too strenuous in this employment market.”

Macomb County currently has 35,000 job openings, for which Hackel blamed a lack of coordination between schools and employers.


“Economic Competitiveness” and Infrastructure are Expected Conversation Topics at Mackinac Policy Conference

Wrapping up the event, Cain asks what issue they hope to discuss on the porch of the Grand Hotel during this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

Coulter finds that our economy should be the number one topic. He says we need to focus on site readiness and economic competitiveness as a state.

Evans agreed with the economy being a central point of discussion but instead primarily focused on the backfilled tax losses with the new investment that the region is receiving. Evans specifically pointed to all of the investment coming to the airport.

Hackel joked that the topic of discussion should be three things: “sustainable funding for roads, roads, and roads.” Finishing off the discussion, he warns if the region “does not get serious about infrastructure problems now, it will be too late in the future.”

Watch the full discussion below.