The defense industry has long been a cornerstone of southeast Michigan’s economy. In fact, Macomb County alone has 650 defense companies. These businesses have received more than $36 billion worth of contracts from the federal government since 2000, allowing them to create thousands of jobs and helping our region play a vital role in maintaining national security.
For these reasons, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) actively works to expand and open opportunities for growth within the industry. For instance, we recently partnered with the Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) and the Michigan Defense Center to host the Michigan Defense Connect, a summit aimed at building relationships between Michigan suppliers and defense companies. Held on Thursday, September 26, the free initiative worked to address immediate procurement needs and facilitate connections with qualified Michigan partners.
Janelle Arbuckle-Michael, a senior outreach specialist for MCPED, helped organize and attended the event. In today’s Macomb Business blog, she answers questions about how the event came to be and how your business could be involved in the future.
Q: How did MCPED get involved in the event? What was our role in planning?
A: The summit started because there was a HUGE need in the defense industry for suppliers after some of our largest defense companies received billions of dollars in contracts and they wanted to fill the gaps in their supply chain with Michigan companies. Our role was to partner with PMBC and connect them with defense buyers and suppliers within Macomb County.
Q: Why was the event held? Who saw the need?
A: The event was held to find Michigan suppliers that would fill the needs of defense companies like GDLS, BAE Systems, Sapa, etc. It started with Sapa's request for suppliers and then transitioned into many other defense companies needing to fill their supply chain too.
Q: Is Michigan Defense Connect held every year? Was it invite only?
A: It was invite only this year due to the size of the event space, but this could be a reoccurring event each year if the need is there! As our major defense companies grow, they'll need more suppliers to fulfill their needs.
Q: For those who weren't invited, how can you be invited in the future?
A: Due to the interest in the event, I would imagine we'd find a larger space next year that could accommodate anyone who would like to attend. So if you want to be invited, sign up on PMBC emails by clicking on “Connect with PMBC now.” to receive emails and upcoming summit information. You can also sign up for
Q: Outside of meetings, what else did the event entail?
A: There was an excellent panel that was put on by Women in Defense (WID) discussing the challenges and triumphs of being a woman in the defense industry. The panelists gave great advice to women for how to overcome those challenges and offered advice to men for how they can advocate for women to lead in the workplace. It's often difficult for women in a male dominated field, but these women used their knowledge and found ways to advocate for themselves even when no one else would.
Q: What did you enjoy most about the event?
A: We had a lot of Macomb County companies represented and we're very hopeful many of them will be awarded contracts or be able to partner with these large companies in the future. I loved the panel and enjoyed each panelists' personal narrative for how they've overcome adversity in the workplace and came out on top in their professions- they are all VERY successful and hold leadership roles.
To learn more about Macomb County Planning and Economic Development and its efforts within the defense industry, click here.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for Macomb County Planning and Economic Development.