Patterson Blends Realism with Optimism In 2009 State of the County Address

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Troy, Mich., February 3, 2009 – Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was upbeat but realistic in delivering his Annual State of the County Address to a packed auditorium of invited guests at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy tonight.

Patterson told his audience it would be hard for him to stand before them and say everything is alright with the state unemployment rate at 10.6%, with the loss of 560,000 manufacturing jobs over the past seven years and home foreclosures reaching 9,200 in Oakland County alone last year.

But by the same token, Patterson said he wasn’t going to use his speech to “hang crepe and wallow in an orgy of doom and gloom.”

The county executive, now in his first few weeks of his fifth four-year term, said: “Our talent and experience will trump the vexing problems brought on by a seven year single-state recession.”

With an air of optimism, Patterson told his audience the signs of survival and revival are evident everywhere. For instance, he pointed out the county’s budget is balanced and future budgeting challenges are manageable because of the county’s long range planning.

Patterson used his remarks to chastise the U.S. Congress for treating the Big Three automakers unfairly, pointing out some lawmakers had a short memory. He said that during World War II Detroit carmakers halted production of autos and converted to producing war materiel. Patterson said he didn’t recall the Big Three ever asking Congress for any payback guarantees or restructuring plans. As he put it – “They just saw what needed to be done and did it.”

After praising his Department of Management and Budget team for their excellence in guiding Oakland County through some pretty tough financial challenges, Patterson took the opportunity to announce a major change in the county’s budgeting process.

“I’m pleased to announce tonight that Oakland will be the first county in Michigan, and we believe in the United States, to move to a triennial budget,” Patterson said. “We will project line item detail out three fiscal years; the current fiscal year, plus 2010 and 2011, as an example.”

Patterson said going from a biennial to a triennial budget will provide more advanced notice, more long term planning and more opportunities to react before a crisis arises.

During his nearly hour-long speech, Patterson recited a litany of things Oakland County is doing to help displaced workers who have lost their jobs. He said his Workforce Development Division has been actively involved with Chrysler Corporation in offering workers who took buy-outs or were laid off career management services, employability workshops, financial workshops and skill training.

On other topics:

  • 106 Emerging Sectors companies have either located in Oakland County or expanded here over the past 4½ years resulting in $1.3 billion in new investment and the creation of 14,762 new jobs
  • Automation Alley, on the strength of a 17% increase in membership last year, has hit the magical 1,000 membership mark
  • Main Street Oakland, dedicated to giving a facelift to downtowns, has generated $563 million in new investment since 2001 along with creating 2,782 jobs and establishing 344 new businesses
  • Mandarin Chinese, which Patterson urged to be taught in all 28 Oakland County school districts in his State of the County speech two years ago, is now on the curriculum of 24 districts while Mandarin history and culture are being taught in all 28

Patterson also boasted that the Oakland County government website, www.oakgov.com, was named the number one government website in the nation by the Center for Digital Government in 2008 from among 3,300 government websites that competed in a nationwide contest.

“Oakland County will continue its commitment to the environment in 2009 by constructing a new green terminal building at the Oakland County International Airport,” Patterson said. “The new facility, to replace the old building, constructed some 50 years ago, will be smaller and will use wind power generated technology to create electrical power.”

Patterson added the geothermal wells will be used to heat and cool the building and rain water will be captured for landscape irrigation.

One of the new programs on the agenda for 2009 is Medical Main Street, an effort to brand Oakland County as a “medical tourism” destination.

Patterson said the mission of Medical Main Street is to take all the medical related entities in the county – hospitals, nursing facilities, medical schools, pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical devices manufacturing – and roll them into a branding initiative that will attract patients, investment, additional medical facilities, medical suppliers and clinical research from around the globe.

Patterson also unveiled the creation of a “Technology Planning Toolkit” guidebook to assist local government agencies within Oakland County in facilitating future technology investments in their respective communities.

Also in the nascent planning stages, Patterson said it’s the first ever Oakland County Film Festival in 2010.

“It makes sense to try and capitalize on Michigan’s efforts to attract Hollywood filmmakers to the state,” Patterson said. “What better place to host a top drawer film festival in Oakland County which already is a leader in quality of life events.”

Patterson followed up that announcement with word that Oakland County may soon be home to the state’s largest film studio. The proposed multi-million-dollar investment would create 3,600 new jobs immediately directly related to movie and film production, which as he put it, would make Oakland County synonymous with the new burgeoning film industry in Michigan.

The local investment group heading up the project is lead by noted developer Alfred Taubman and includes Grant Sakwa and Linden Nelson.

Patterson said the investment group has brought in Raleigh Studios of Hollywood, California, a division of Raleigh Entertainment, the largest independent studio operator to manage the studio operation. Hollywood talent agency, Endeavor, brokered the deal and will represent the studio.

“More details on the new studio will be forthcoming in the days ahead,” Patterson said.  “But stay tuned since I’ve been told that they want to get their first film into production within the next 90 days.”

On the subject of Cobo Hall expansion, Patterson said he got most of what he wanted in the final bill approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. Like the five-member governance authority which will give one vote each to Wayne, Macomb and Oakland Counties, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. It will require a unanimous vote of the board to move an agenda item which will protect the financial interests of taxpayers in Oakland County and the tri-county region.

Patterson said he feels the first order of business regarding Cobo is attending to the laundry list of deferred maintenance items including the antiquated loading docks, heat, air and light infrastructure and the crumbling parking deck.

“With the North American International Auto Show contracting, there is not a good argument at this point in time to expand the facility,” Patterson said.  “Let’s wait and see what happens with the auto industry before we plunge full steam ahead with a costly expansion program.”

In closing, Patterson addressed the issue of his exploratory look at running for governor in 2010.

“It would take a lot for me to walk away from the programs you’ve heard me talk about tonight and to leave behind so many good people in Oakland County that I truly do respect and truly love working for,” Patterson said. “Within the next couple of months I will look at the race for governor, not because I’m dissatisfied with what’s going on here, but more so because I’m dissatisfied with what’s happening in the State of Michigan, which unfortunately impacts all of use here in Oakland County.”

For media inquiries only, please contact Bob Dustman, Media and Communications Officer, at (248) 858-1048.

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