That’s unfortunate, and to a large degree unfair. Macomb has been the fastest growing county in Michigan this decade. It now has about 840,000 people. That’s considerably more people than live in Vermont, Wyoming, or either of the Dakotas.
Macomb County was farm country until after World War II, when the great suburban explosion and expansion came. But for a number of reasons, professional workers tended to move northwest out of Detroit, to Oakland County.
Blue-collar workers tended to move northeast, to Macomb. Warren was the fastest growing city in America in the 1950s.
Macomb became the land of tool and die shops, and marinas on Lake St. Clair. For a brief time in the 1980s, Macomb County became nationally famous as the home of the so-called Reagan Democrats. The national media flocked to Warren to interview lunch-bucket types who wore hard hats, worked on the line, and had started to vote Republican for President.
The spotlight was on Macomb County because, back in 1960, it had been the most Democratic suburban county in the nation, voting almost two to one for John F. Kennedy, who narrowly won Michigan that year.
That was back when people largely voted by class, and the white ethnic and mainly Roman Catholic residents of Macomb no more thought of voting Republican than of buying a Japanese car. Of course, there weren’t any Japanese cars then.
Journalists focused on the changing voters in Macomb in the 80s as a way of illustrating the very real problems Democrats were having with some of their traditional voters. But there was always something condescending in the coverage.
There was always the implication that many of these blue collar Reagan voters were selfish, anti-intellectual, and racist. That was never completely true. But what remains true is that Macomb is a county without a four-year university. Michigan is a state where the number of residents without college degrees is significantly behind the national average. And the number of Macomb residents without degrees is significantly below the Michigan average.
So does Macomb County need a new college capable of granting four-year degrees? I am not sure it does.
That is, I am not sure that Michigan needs to create another institution with all its layers of bureaucracy.
What Macomb residents certainly do need is more access to higher education. If we have a U of M Flint and a U of M Dearborn, wouldn’t it make sense to have a U of M Macomb?
Maybe we should expand nearby Oakland University‘s mission, and to have a renamed school vigorously service both counties.
There are other possible solutions. We need to get going on some of them soon. But what I do know is that the emphasis should be on fulfilling needs, not building fiefdoms. If we can get that done, Macomb may even be happy to see the national media come back.