Pontiac, MI, February 1, 2011 - Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced eight new initiatives Tuesday night at his 2011 State of the County address. He also highlighted the successes of well-established programs such as Automation Alley, Emerging Sectors, and Medical Main Street before an audience at the Marriott at Centerpoint in Pontiac.
"We still have the ability to launch new programs that are basically cost neutral to you, or better yet, they actually have the potential of generating badly needed revenue without raising taxes," said Patterson.
1) Cloud Computing: In 2011, Oakland County will position its IT applications out in cyber space so that local governments can use them on an as-needed basis. Cloud Computing will be a real budget saver for local cities, villages and townships. They will not have to buy software nor pay for the servers to host the applications. They simply will pay Oakland County a nominal user fee. The first available applications will be Oakland County’s nationally recognized eHealth software.
2) Wireless Oakland: Nearly six years ago, Patterson announced the concept of Wireless Oakland. This ambitious plan was a victim of the declining economy. Today, a private internet provider from the Thumb area is coming down to the northern and western sectors of the county to provide competitively priced wireless broadband services. As part of the Wireless Oakland initiative, the company, Air Advantage, will have access to the county’s strategically placed towers. In exchange for access to the towers, Air Advantage will offer free Wi-Fi services in some downtown areas. The first three they will target for free Wi-Fi are: Holly, Oxford and Clarkston. Oakland County expects to announce other communities scheduled for free Wi-Fi later this year.
3) Assessment Seminars:
For the first time, Oakland County will hold four assessment seminars for residents during February and March. As real estate values begin to bottom out, residents want to know more about their assessments and what they truly should be paying in property taxes. Residents may go online for more information regarding dates and locations at Equalization Division’s website: www.oakgov.com/equal
Oakland County government has been and continues to be a strong believer in transparency. The Purchasing Division will begin posting vendor contracts online for the public to review. Taxpayers will know who is getting their money, for what purpose, and exactly how much. When the contracts are posted, look for them at Purchasing’s website: www.oakgov.com/purchasing
5) Oakland County International Airport: Michigan's first green terminal will have a new architectural feature when it opens this summer – a living wall. It is an innovative, vertical arrangement of plants that are part of the wall, watered by rain water which is collected from the rooftop. Not only will it be an attractive, unique feature for those who pass through the terminal, but it will be an additional green component that will keep the air in the terminal free from pollutants. Other “green” features of the new terminal will include wind and solar energy, geothermal heating and cooling, fluorescent and LED lighting, and extra insulation.
6) Video Jail Visits: Oakland County will investigate the potential for "Video Jail Visits." It’s a program that would allow families with broadband connection, a computer and webcam to visit an inmate in the jail online for a fee of approximately $6.50, of which $4.00 would go directly into the county’s general fund. With 1,700 inmates and a projected visit of one day a week, the county estimates that video jail visits could generate for the county’s general fund revenues in excess of $1.5 million dollars annually. The program could be expanded to Children’s Village residents. Patterson recommended Governor Rick Snyder take a look at Video Jail Visits as a revenue enhancer for the State of Michigan.
7) Paperless County: The county’s Information Technology Department will look at the long term possibility of Oakland County being the first county in America to go paperless. It would not only result in a huge financial savings for the county, but it would also underscore Oakland County’s role as a leader in technology, as well as protecting the environment.
8) Proud To Be A Vet:
A Veteran’s Day encounter between Patterson and a server at a local restaurant inspired the next initiative. She shook Patterson’s hand and thanked him for his service in the Army in the 1960s – a first for Patterson that left a lump in his throat. As he thought about it later, Patterson decided that every veteran should be able to experience the emotion he did last Veterans Day. So he has created the “Proud To Be A Vet” campaign. A button that says exactly that will be available to any veteran in Michigan or in the nation who wants to let others know, in a very subtle way, that they proudly served their country in uniform. The buttons can be ordered online at www.ProudToBeAVet.com
. A small charge of 50¢ per button will be imposed to cover the costs of production, shipping and handling. The program will be managed by Support Services Director Michael Zehnder and the Veterans Committee of the Oakland County Bar Association.
1) Economic Growth Alliance (EGA): Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who introduced Patterson at this year’s State of the County, announced Macomb County is officially joining the EGA. This growing regional alliance now represents nearly 3 million people, all intent on the same thing: fostering quality growth, attracting good high paying jobs, and supporting a unique quality of life. The EGA encompasses Livingston, Oakland, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, and now Macomb counties.
2) Automation Alley: Automation Alley has been recognized now by two presidents – George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Bush bestowed an Excellence in Export Award upon Automation Alley and Obama invited Patterson’s Deputy and Automation Alley Executive Director Ken Rogers, along with 129 other business leaders from around the nation, to take part in a White House jobs summit. Most recently, Rogers was appointed to the Industry Trade Advisory Committee by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk.
3) Emerging Sectors: Since its inception, 180 Emerging Sectors businesses that have either come to and/or expanded in Oakland County have invested $1.7 billion dollars with nearly 25,000 jobs created and another 10,000 jobs retained. This initiative is so successful that Moody’s Investors Services cited its success as one of the reasons it recently reaffirmed Oakland County’s AAA bond rating. Oakland County expects to hit the $2 billion dollar level of investment in Emerging Sectors sometime later this year.
4) Medical Main Street: In its second year, Medical Main Street quadrupled sector investment from the 2009 level, and such investment brought an additional 600 jobs in 2010. The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, the first medical school in Michigan in nearly 50 years, is scheduled to open August 11, 2011, with its first class of 50 students. When the school is fully ramped up to between 600 and 700 students, the potential is there for over 10,000 new jobs and an economic impact of over $3 billion dollars.
5) Alternative Energy: Since the inception of Emerging Sectors, Oakland County’s second greatest growth sector has been alternative energy. A total of $345 million has been invested which created over 3,000 jobs and retained more than 800. With the proximity of so many high-tech alternative energy companies, Oakland County will play a significant role in the new Southeast Michigan Advanced Energy Efficiency Center for Excellence – also known as Cleantech – an alternative energy business incubator launching this year in Troy. Cleantech will bring business, educational and government entities under one roof to promote research, development, commercialization and manufacturing of advanced energy efficiency products and technologies.
6) Management & Budget: Oakland County has a budget that is in line item detail and in balance for 2011, 2012 and 2013. The county’s Budget Task Force is already working on the challenges for 2014. Oakland County has reached this pinnacle of financial excellence not just because of the hard work of the Budget Task Force and its staff, but also because of the support and efforts put forth by the other countywide officials and the Board of Commissioners. The county’s budget process continues to be cited by Wall Street as among the reasons it awards Oakland County a AAA bond rating.
7) The Brooksie Way Minigrants:
Since the inception of The Brooksie Way Minigrants last year, 35 grants totaling nearly $37,000 to organizations around the county which promote healthy, active lifestyles. These minigrants are awarded to organizations that are struggling in this economy, such as “Hugs for Horses” in Holly. For more information, go to www.thebrooksieway.com/Pages/minigrants/default.aspx
8) Wellness Program:
In 2006, Oakland County had a 20% spike in the cost of health care for county employees. Patterson’s administration was determined to tame the runaway costs of healthcare. The end result of that commitment was a program that launched in January 2007 called OakFit. It is a multifaceted program that begins with a health screening and a risk assessment survey. There is also a plethora of lunchtime programs available for the county’s workforce. OakFit has been an unqualified success and has drawn national attention on Fox News Channel (watch the interview at www.oakgov.com
). On a simple projection of a 9% increase, Oakland County’s health care costs would have been at $50 million. Today, they are at $38 million. OakFit programs new in 2011 include smoking cessation and stress management for employees.
9) Energy Savings:
Since 2005, Oakland County has saved millions on utility bills by implementing simple energy efficiency procedures and devices around the government campus. Last May, Patterson announced the OakGreen Challenge. He encouraged all of Oakland County residents, businesses and governments to reduce their energy consumption by 10% by the end of 2012, and renewed that call in Tuesday’s speech. (Go to www.oakgov.com/oakgreen
for more details.) Oakland County government has already reached that 10% goal, so Patterson gave his Facilities Management team an additional challenge of reducing the county’s energy consumption by 15% by 2015. Facilities Management has formed a Green Team to identify ways to further reduce energy consumption across our campus.
Website Links Mentioned in Speech
In his concluding remarks, Patterson said he plans to run for re-election in 2012, and jokingly added he may be in for 2016, 2020, and 2024.
"Obviously I'm enjoying this job. I'm surrounded by talented people, and I think we're bringing all of you as Oakland County residents a quality product … and I would like to continue to do so for years to come," said Patterson.
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