Patterson says jobs, public health top the agenda

Executive highlights accomplishments, looks to future in State of the County address

Oakland County Health Division launched a new environmental investigation team to respond to emerging or complex environmental concerns including water contamination such as PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances), harmful algal blooms, or water-borne illnesses such as Legionnaire’s Disease, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced in his 2019 State of the County speech which he delivered at the new corporate headquarters for United Shore in Pontiac last Thursday evening.

“Their directive is to leave no stone unturned to identify the source of water-related contamination or illness,” Patterson said. The Health Division launched the environmental investigation team in July.

In addition, Patterson outlined the Health Division’s efforts 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,” Patterson said. “Over a two-year period, the Health Division focused on high-risk individuals.”

The Health Division vaccinated high-risk individuals in the Oakland County Jail, substance abuse treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and warming centers. Out of an abundance of caution, the Health Division also worked with the County’s 4,300 restaurants and even the Renaissance Festival to convince their employees to get vaccinated since they are on the front lines of preventing the spread of infection.

Other new items in the State of the County speech included:

• County executive administration will recommend a reduction in property taxes from 4.04 mills to 4.00 mills in fiscal year 2020.

• 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 in 2020.

• Oakland County will pursue the “Communities for a Lifetime” designation which will recognize municipalities that assess and improve their planning processes to develop “aging-friendly” communities.

• Huron County has joined CLEMIS (Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System) bringing the number of counties touched by the CLEMIS footprint to nine. CLEMIS promotes the sharing of information among a consortium of local, state and federal agencies through innovative computer technology for criminal justice and public safety applications. At more than 200 agencies, it is the largest crime data sharing consortium in the United States.

Patterson’s speech began with his traditional look at Oakland County’s economic might. The county’s economy is so strong it is outperforming some states. Plus, the number of patent filings from Oakland County companies exceeds most counties in the United States demonstrating that Oakland County is a center of innovation.

“If you want to be where the innovation is, Oakland County is the place to be,” Patterson said. “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. Oakland County’s total employment was over 728,000 jobs, better than 13 states. Also, Oakland County’s exports exceeded $14.4 billion, surpassing the total exports of 25 states. That represents one-quarter of all the exported goods for the state of Michigan.

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 a third of all patents filed in Michigan that year. Oakland County ranked 9th out of 3,100 U.S. counties for patents filed that year. Looking back to 2001, 12 out of 15 of those years we were in the top 10 nationwide for the number of patent filings.

Patterson also announced that Oakland County’s Emerging Sectors program to diversify the economy with knowledge-based companies surpassed the $5 billion investment mark in November. From its inception in 2004 until the end of 2018, Emerging Sectors has had 512 successes that have invested more than $5.09 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. Combined, that’s over $8.3 billion, creating or retaining over 129,000 jobs since 2004.

On the small business front, Patterson welcomed Berkley and Royal Oak into Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) which assists local governments with redevelopment of their downtowns into vibrant, successful districts that serve as the heart of their communities. Oakland County joined the National Main Street program in 2000 and remains today the first and only countywide Main Street program in the US. In total, 23 of the county’s 32 downtowns are leveraging the services and expertise that MSOC offers for small business development. Since inception through the end of 2017, nearly $830 million has been invested in Oakland County downtowns creating about 7,900 new jobs and well over 1,100 new businesses and 3.48 million square feet in additional floor space.

Toward the end of the speech, Patterson made a strong statement about how Oakland County supports the region like no other.

“I need to address the misperception that somehow Oakland County does not support our region,” Patterson said. “On the contrary, Oakland County supports the region in ways others do not.”

First, Patterson spotlighted the Oakland County Business Finance Corporation that has assisted 99 companies outside of Oakland County’s borders since 2004. Five business were in Detroit, 14 in Wayne County, and 45 in Macomb County.

Next, Automation Alley, a regional manufacturing and technology business association founded by Patterson in 1999, opened a defense office in Macomb County, helping businesses in Southeast Michigan obtain military contracts and 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.

As mentioned earlier, Oakland County operates and provides support for CLEMIS, a regional effort to keep communities safe.

When requested, Oakland County has sent personnel to both Detroit and Wayne County to share best practices in budgeting, information technology, and more. For Wayne County, Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow helped them determine how to resolve their budget challenges to avoid a state takeover.

Oakland County taxpayers pay the lion’s share of regional taxes, covering 40% or more of the millages that support the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Zoo, and SMART Bus.
To read or watch Patterson’s complete State of the County speech, go to OakGov.com/exec.

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