PONTIAC – Oakland County remains Michigan’s leader in economic development, applied technology, fiscal practices, and quality of life, said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson during his 2012 State of the County address at the Centerpoint Marriott in Pontiac Wednesday night. Patterson highlighted that all of Oakland County’s economic development programs have accrued $4.404 billion in investment creating 66,451 jobs and retaining 18,397 jobs since each program’s inception.
“The overriding issue facing all of us in this room, in this region, and in this state is, of course, the economy,” said Patterson. “Let me focus on Oakland County’s leadership in trying to improve the economy through initiatives that my administration has launched.”
Patterson’s Emerging Sectors job growth and retention initiative remains among the driving forces behind Oakland County’s long-term economic expansion and diversification. It is expected to reach the $2 billion investment milestone within a month.
Medical Main Street, Patterson’s strategy to market Oakland County as a destination for world class health care, life science research and medical device manufacturing, will have a banner year in 2012.
Patterson announced big news about a partnership between the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. The Medical School Dean Dr. Robert Folberg and Oakland County Public Services Director Mike Zehnder have worked out a memorandum of understanding between the university and county. The mutual understanding will lead to the involvement of academic and educational activities that provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with physicians and scientists in the Medical Examiner’s Office on a variety of important research projects. Oakland University and Oakland County will consider appropriate opportunities to create programs that may include university students, including medical students, being taught pathology and neuroscience.
“We are honored – and I underline the word honored – to have signed this memorandum of understanding that hopefully will allow us in the future to play a small part in the education and training of Oakland University medical students,” said Patterson.
Next, Oakland County will host a Medical Main Street Conference in the fall focusing on medical devices and highlighting Medical Main Street hospitals and device companies.
“There is expressed interest from around the country already for this conference and it will be an excellent opportunity for us to showcase Oakland County and Medical Main Street,” Patterson said.
In addition, Medical Main Street is joining forces with William Beaumont Hospitals to support and promote a unique, ongoing Beaumont program. It’s called “Healthy Heart Check,” which is made up of volunteer cardiologists that go to local high schools to screen student athletes for undetected heart conditions that endanger a student athlete’s life.
This program was brought to the attention of Oakland County by Medical Main Street Board Member State Representative Gail Haines (R-Waterford). In the audience Wednesday evening was the Gillary family of Troy. Back in April of 2003, they experienced the tragic loss of their daughter, Kimberly, who suffered cardiac arrest while playing in a water polo game for Troy Athens High School. Mrs. Gillary has agreed to be a spokesperson on behalf of free cardiac exams, not only countywide, but eventually statewide.
Since its inception in 2007, “Healthy Heart Check” has screened more than 8,000 high school athletes – 49 of whom have been stopped from playing sports due to the screening results, potentially saving their lives.
Automation Alley continues to play a significant role in developing the high tech sector not only in Oakland County but throughout southeast Michigan. In June of 2011, Automation Alley released its 2011 Technology Industry Report compiled by the Anderson Economic Group. In the report, Anderson highlights the strengths of the region, such as:
• Southeast Michigan has the highest number of advanced automotive industry jobs, accounting for 9 percent of all advanced automotive jobs in the U.S.
• Despite negative media coverage that has painted metropolitan Detroit as a declining region, Southeast Michigan is positioned ahead of Boston, Seattle, and Austin in almost every measure analyzed.
• And, Southeast Michigan is second only to San Jose’s Silicon Valley region in the number of people working in architectural and engineering occupations.
The full report is available at www.automationalley.com.
Automation Alley will conduct seven trade missions this year, including to Brazil, a burgeoning market for fuel resources and technology. Some of those trade missions will be virtual trade missions, using the power of the internet to align southeast Michigan companies with potential clients around the globe.
Oakland County continues to lead Michigan in applied technology, Patterson said. In his 2011 State of the County speech, Patterson said Oakland County was entering a new realm: the realm of “cloud computing” – the positioning of IT applications out in cyber space so that other governments can use them on an as-needed basis. The first community in Oakland County’s cloud is the Village of Wolverine Lake.
The village’s contract with its internet service provider was ending and it was going to be without a web presence. Realizing the urgency of the situation, Oakland County worked with Wolverine Lake to keep them online by becoming the first community in the cloud. Since November 1, 2011, the site has had over 16,000 page views.
Now, Oakland County’s cloud expertise is going national. Oakland County and the National Association of Counties will enter a first-of-a-kind partnership to create a national catalogue of applications available for use by other public entities around the United States through “cloud computing.” It will create opportunities for state, county and local governments to collaborate and to lower the cost of using and owning technology and will be an income generator for Oakland County.
“This is the ultimate in shared services,” said Patterson. “No longer does our thinking need to be about what we can accomplish on a local or regional level. We are turning our attention to the best of what others have to offer throughout the United States and leveraging that technology in a way that will allow any local, county or state government to deliver better customer service at a lower cost.”
Oakland County’s fiscal practices continue to pay big dividends for taxpayers, including retaining a AAA bond rating. Because of its three-year line-item budgeting and five-year outlook, Oakland County had accumulated $201 million in equity by the close of Fiscal Year 2011.
“This hefty reserve is the result of a balanced three-year rolling budget, accompanied by a five-year lookout which has allowed us to manage declining revenues with essentially no layoffs while maintaining exceptional services to our residents,” said Patterson.
OakFit, the county’s employee wellness program, continues to show outstanding results. In 2007 Oakland County was spending $38 million on healthcare. Last year, because of the impact of the OakFit program, the county’s healthcare costs actually dropped to $37 million.
“Had we not instituted the OakFit program, our costs today for our self-insured healthcare program are projected to have been at $56 million. Therefore, we avoided a potential $19 million of additional costs, a real savings to you, the taxpayers,” said Patterson.
Finally, Patterson wrapped up his speech with an announcement about a new quality of life initiative. Later this year, Oakland County will launch an art contest called “MI Great Artist.” It will be an online art competition for visual artists living, working or attending school in the six-county region of the Economic Growth Alliance – that’s Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Livingston, Lapeer and Genesee counties.
“It will encourage and showcase creativity by engaging our regional artists to paint, sketch, or draw original works. Participating artists will be able to upload up to five images and descriptions of their work to the “MI Great Artist” website for public voting – think ‘American Idol,’” said Patterson.
The top 20 artists by public vote will be submitted to a panel of arts professionals to determine the five semi-finalists. Those artists will have their works framed and exhibited at Park West Gallery in Southfield. During the group exhibition at Park West, the “MI Great Artist” winner will be announced.
“MI Great Artist” prizes will include a $2,000 cash award; entrepreneurial training opportunities through the Oakland County Business Center; the winner’s artwork will be featured on a poster to promote one of Oakland County’s signature quality of life events; and several solo exhibitions over the course of a year at select venues throughout the Economic Growth Alliance region for other communities to enjoy.
Patterson concluded, “When you look up the word ‘excellence’ in the dictionary … there’s a picture of Oakland County. Well, ok, there should be. My administration strives to put forth programs and initiatives that support my claim that Oakland County leads the State of Michigan in economic development, technology, fiscal management, and quality of life. My team and I have worked hard over the years to make you proud.”
To read Patterson’s complete 2012 State of the County address, go to www.oakgov.com/exec. To watch the speech, go to YouTube and enter key words “Brooks Patterson.”