DB: Where are you?
BP: On Mackinac Island, at the policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.
DB: How are the water department negotiations progressing?
BP: Given Detroit’s bankruptcy, it’s clear the pension and DIA negotiations are moving ahead, but the proposal for Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties to take over the debt and deferred maintenance of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department still needs a lot of work. The department is $6 billion in debt, and (has) $5 billion in deferred maintenance (estimated). I can’t say much because we’re under a gag order, but what I’d like to see come out of this whole process is a reliable water system co-managed by the city and the suburbs at a reasonable price. We need time to examine the operations, and my top two people are working full time on studying all of the issues.
DB: What’s new in economic development?
BP: Our emerging sectors initiative, where we’re attracting com-
panies that work in the 10 fastest-growing sectors of the global economy, is doing very well. Since we started (in 2004), we’ve attracted 275 companies to Oakland County that collectively invested more than $2.7 billion and created 30,000-plus jobs. That won’t make us recession proof, but it will make us much more recession-resistant. We’re getting high-wage, high tech jobs within the knowledge-based economy, and we’re diversifying beyond the automotive industry, but in no way have we stopped working to add and recruit businesses from the auto sector.
DB: What else is new?
BP: For a couple years we’ve been working with local communities on our One Stop Ready program. Basically businesses can’t wait months to get permits; they need them in a matter of hours or days. The program makes everyone more competitive, and helps our economy grow that much quicker.
— R.J. King