Public health was at the forefront of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s 2019 State of the County speech, which was delivered Thursday at the new corporate headquarters for United Shore in Pontiac.
The Oakland County Health Division has launched a new environmental investigation team to respond to emerging or complex environmental concerns including water contamination caused by polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, and harmful algal blooms. It will also respond to water-borne illnesses such as Legionnaire’s disease. The investigation was launched in July.
“Their directive is to leave no stone unturned to identify the source of water-related contamination or illness,” says Patterson.
The division also is working to fight the largest hepatitis A outbreak in U.S. history. The Centers for Disease Control declared that Oakland County was no longer an outbreak county in November.
“The tough climb out of outbreak status is due to the extensive outreach efforts of Oakland County’s public health team and their overall commitment to go above and beyond the call of duty,” says Patterson. “Over a two-year period, the health division focused on high-risk individuals.”
These individuals were vaccinated in the Oakland County Jail, substance abuse treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and warming shelters. The division also worked with the county’s 4,300 restaurants and the Renaissance Festival to get employees vaccinated.
The speech began with a look at the economy. The number of patent filings from Oakland County exceeds most counties in the U.S. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there were 1,821 patents filed by Oakland County inventors in 2015, the last year for which there is published data. These accounted for one-third of all patents filed in the state that year.
“If you want to be where the innovation is, Oakland County is the place to be,” says Patterson. “Oakland County drives the Michigan economy.”
Oakland County companies paid their employees about $45 billion in 2017, surpassing the total wages earned in 16 states. The county’s total employment was more than 728,000 jobs, and its exports exceeded $14.4 billion, representing one-quarter of all of the state’s exported goods.
The Emerging Sectors program, designed to diversify Oakland’s economy with knowledge-based companies, surpassed the $5-billion investment mark in November. From its inception in 2004 until the end of 2018, the program has had 512 successes that have invested more than $5 billion, creating 51,662 jobs and retaining 37,337.
In that same period, the county has seen 345 traditional business successes investing more than $3.24 billion, creating 18,318 jobs and retaining 21,701 jobs.
Patterson also welcomed Berkley and Royal Oak into Main Street Oakland County, which assists local governments with redevelopment of their downtowns. The initiative now encompasses 23 of the county’s 32 downtowns. Oakland County joined the National Main Street program in 2000 and is the only countywide Main Street program remaining in the U.S.
From inception through the end of 2017, nearly $830 million has been invested in Oakland County downtowns, creating about 7,900 new jobs, more than 1,100 new businesses, and nearly 3.5 million square feet of additional floor space.
Patterson also highlighted how Oakland County supports the larger region.
The Oakland County Business Finance Corp. has helped 99 companies outside of the county’s borders since 2004. Of the businesses, five were in Detroit, 14 were in Wayne County, and 45 were in Macomb County.
Automation Alley, a regional manufacturing and technology business association in Troy founded by Patterson in 1999, opened a defense office in Macomb County, helping businesses in the region obtain military contracts. It also established an office in downtown Detroit to give businesses in the tech-focused Madison block easy access to programs and services. Automation Alley is now independent of Oakland County.
The county also operates and provides support for CLEMIS (Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System), a regional effort to keep communities safe. Oakland County has sent personnel to Detroit and Wayne County to share best practices in budgeting, information technology, and more.
Oakland County taxpayers cover 40 percent or more of the millages that support the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Zoo, and SMART Bus.
Other parts of the speech highlighted the fact that the county executive’s administration will recommend a reduction in property taxes from 4.04 mills to 4 mills in fiscal year 2020.
Finally, Patterson and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren, chair of the Oakland County Bicentennial Committee, unveiled the logo for the county’s bicentennial celebration, which will take place in 2020.
To read or watch Patterson’s complete speech, click here.