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When business cross pollinates: A luxury wedding venue comes to fruit


Initially planned as a greenhouse to supply flowers and plants for commercial building interiors, the Planterra Conservatory has blossomed into an exotic wedding location. Shane Pliska, President of Planterra Corporation, explains how this metamorphosis developed, and shares advice for business owners who are looking to transform their own companies.

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Business students get real-world economics lesson, help community


The Art & Apples Festival® is a staple of Rochester’s annual festival scene, attracting hundreds of artists and tens of thousands of visitors over the course of three days each September. Until the 2016 event, the exact number of attendees and the financial impact of the festival on the greater Rochester area was unknown by Rochester’s Paint Creek Center of the Arts (PCCA), festival organizer for more than 30 years.

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Birmingham's Townsend Hotel named best in Michigan


Whether it’s the Egyptian cotton sheets or world-class Rugby Grille restaurant, everything about the Townsend Hotel stands out.

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Leadership Oakland to explore next generation of leaders in Breakfast of Champions series

Organizations are set to experience a double tsunami within the next 10 years as one large generation of the workforce retires and another is eager to take the helm. The next generation leaders – commonly known as Generations X & Y (Millennials) – have some very different views on what it means to lead and live successfully. What does this mean for organizations as they try to remain competitive and retain talent? And how can they effectively manage leadership development and transition within diverse generational style.

Join Leadership Oakland for the next session of its highly popular Breakfast of Champions (BOC) series on February 21 for the Annual Young Professionals panel discussion. The breakfasts are open to the public. The BOC series will be held at the MSU Management Education Center, 811 W. Square Lake Road, Troy, MI 48098

The cost is $32 for LO alumni association members and $36 for non-members and guests and includes a complete breakfast. Pre-registration required. To register, contact Carol Dendler at 248.952.6880 or register online at: http://www.leadershipoakland.com/breakfast-of-champions/

February 21, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.  
“The Changing Face of Leadership– Young Professionals Panel”

The face of leadership is changing as a new generation begins to ascend. These bright, innovative professionals definitely have some ideas of their own. This is one of our most popular events! In a special panel discussion, they’ll share their views on leadership, success, how to work effectively with them, and what it takes to be an impactful leader. We also will be joined by Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson’s Elite 40 under 40 for this event. 
Jennifer Korman, LOXIX (moderator) – Domain & Change Management Analyst, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services

Talisa Norton, LOXXVII – Co-Owner/COO, All Pro Color
Sara Stoddard, LOXXIV – Chief of Emergency Management, Oakland County Homeland Security Division
Jordan Twardy, LOXXV – Community & Economic Development Director, City of Ferndale
The final breakfast in the series features: 
April 4, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
‘Joyce Jenereaux – Staying Relevant in a Noisy World’

With the world whirling at warped speed most days, how does a leader keep up and stay relevant? Perhaps no one knows that challenge better than Joyce Jenereaux, former publisher and president of the Detroit Free Press and Michigan.com. Joyce successfully navigated the digital revolution to transform the traditional newspaper to meet the needs of today’s hyper-connected society. Recently retired and on to new ventures, she’ll share the leadership and business lessons she learned along the way.
The Leadership Oakland Breakfast of Champions Series is sponsored by: Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, HAP, DTE Energy Foundation, Corp!, Baker College and SMART.

Established in 1990, Leadership Oakland is a 501 (c)(3) organization focused on business and community leadership development. The organization provides a nine-month Cornerstone Program to participants from businesses, organizations and governmental agencies that are selected based on an application process. Leadership Oakland graduates are key business and community leaders serving as catalysts on boards of various organizations throughout the region. 

LOHS students Cell Out for Soldiers


Amidst the wave of red t-shirt-clad teenagers were the typical sights one would expect at a high school: laughter, smiles, conservation, a reluctance to go to class.

What was missing from the scene? The texting, the lack of eye contact – the cell phones.

A record 1,950 high school students went phoneless on Friday, voluntarily taking part in Lake Orion High School’s third annual Cell Out for Soldiers fundraiser.

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The man who built Detroit: Lawrence Tech offers Albert Kahn exhibits, events

Albert Kahn, the man who designed Detroit’s powerhouse industrial buildings, is the focus of several events and exhibitions at Lawrence Technological University this winter.
In the first half of the 20th Century, Kahn (1869-1942) revolutionized the design of industrial buildings around the world, and his prolific architectural office also saw the production of many commercial, institutional, and residential structures of lasting significance. As the centennial of numerous Kahn landmarks draws near, there is renewed and well-deserved interest in Kahn’s work.
The Albert Kahn Research Coalition is collaborating with the LTU Library and the LTU College of Architecture and Design’s Lectures and Exhibitions Committee to present exciting public programming to highlight this innovative period in architectural history. Other partners in this coalition are the University of Michigan, the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Detroit Institute of Arts,
the Detroit Historical Society, and the Detroit-based design firm that bears the founder’s name, Albert Kahn Associates. The purpose of the coalition is to preserve Albert Kahn’s legacy and educate the community on the importance of his work.
The exhibitions open at Lawrence Tech on Friday, Feb. 3 with “Albert Kahn under Construction,” on display in the UTLC Gallery, 21000 W. Ten Mile Road, Southfield. This digital exhibition focuses on the remarkable archive of construction photographs assembled by Kahn’s firm as they built the powerhouses of American industry, from Highland Park to Willow Run. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and admission is free. This exhibit is curated by Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan associate professor of architecture and history of art, and the LTU College of Architecture and Design Exhibitions and Lectures Committee, chaired by Diedre Hennebury, assistant professor of architecture and design.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., Joel Stone, Senior Curator at the Detroit Historical Society will speak on “The Ubiquitous Mr. Kahn: Albert Kahn’s Architectural Legacy” in the A200 Auditorium of Lawrence Tech’s Architecture Building. This presentation will examine Kahn’s career and the vast legacy of architectural treasures he created for the people of southeast Michigan. A gallery viewing and reception will follow. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.
A partner exhibition will run from Friday, Feb. 17 through March 10 at LTU’s Detroit Center for Design + Technology, 4219 Woodward Ave., Detroit. In this midtown show, LTU’s College of Architecture and Design is partnering with the Belle Isle Conservancy for an exhibit titled “Albert Kahn at the Crossroads: The ‘Lost’ Belle Isle Aquarium and Horticultural Building Blueprints.” This compelling exhibit features several rediscovered blueprints from a private collection. Opened in 1904, the Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in North America and the oldest aquarium-conservatory combination in the world. Independent architectural history scholar, Chris Meister and the Belle Isle Conservancy Historic Preservation Committee will provide a gallery talk Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Detroit Center for Design + Technology. The talk will be part of a ticketed evening event called “Deeper Dive: Albert Kahn” hosted by the Belle Isle Conservancy and will discuss the development of the public aquarium and botanical conservatory as building types. Ticket information is available at www.belleisleconservancy.org/deeperdive.
The culminating program of the Albert Kahn series is the Albert Kahn Research Symposium from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3 at Lawrence Tech. During the morning, Zimmerman will moderate a series of presentations on current research about Kahn. After a luncheon, another panel examines “Restoration and Adaptive Reuse of Kahn Buildings,” moderated by Dawn Bilobran, who has roles with three organizations – the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and Preservation Detroit. Panelists include Chris Meister; Alan Cobb, CEO of Albert Kahn Associates; and Donald Bauman, Director of Architectural Development and Historical Preservation at Albert Kahn Associates. The symposium will also include exhibit viewing, and an open house in LTU’s Albert Kahn Collection, which consists of Kahn’s personal library, originally part of Kahn’s New Center office. Its components were disassembled, moved, and reassembled inside rooms of the LTU Library in 1982. Visit www.ltu.edu/albertkahn or call (248) 204-3000 for information and registration.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

ACHC launches the Youth Connections Magazine

The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities (ACHC) announces the inaugural edition of the Youth Connections Magazine. The magazine provides helpful information for parents to navigate the transitional and sometimes difficult stages of adolescence. Today’s teens face challenges unforeseen even just a few years ago, parents need all the help they can get to guide children to succeed in school and life. 
The quarterly publication focuses on the prevention and reduction of substance misuse and violence, while enhancing social, emotional, and mental health support for youth. With the support of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority (OCCMHA) and the combined efforts of coalitions, parents, educators, youth-serving organizations, church and business leaders, the ACHC is working to build a better community. Through these partnerships ACHC is able to provide valuable, evidence-based programs, services, and activities to help youth and families thrive.
“The Youth Connections magazine is another example of the important work ACHC is doing in our communities,” said Christina Nicholas, OCCMHA Administrator of Substance Abuse Services. “This publication is an opportunity to engage and empower youth and families to make positive choices.” 
There is a great amount of activity and excitement that is creating a positive impact. Part of these efforts is this magazine, the ACHC’s inaugural edition of Youth Connections Magazine!  
“With all doing their part to keep youth safe and healthy in Oakland County, our focus is to drive prevention, support, and recovery efforts that make a positive impact,” said Julie Brenner, ACHC Executive Director. “ACHC continually strives to meet the needs of our youth and their family.”
The magazine is published quarterly by the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities. To obtain a hard copy, contact the ACHC at (248) 221-7101. 

The e-edition of the inaugural publication can be found online here: https://issuu.com/edgemarketing/docs/ycmag_achcmi_dec2016_issuu
Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, founded in 2004, is a 17+ coalition prevention partnership based in Oakland County and is funded by Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority. ACHC also represents the Oakland County chapter of Families Against Narcotics (FAN). Together, the members mobilize a diverse group of persons and organizations from all community sectors to take coordinated action in building healthier communities. For more information call (248) 221-7101 or visit www.achcmi.org

Oakland County Executive's 2017 Elite 40 Under 40 class set; public to pick 'best of the best'

Nearly 400 applications and nominations were reviewed by a panel of judges, looking for the top 40 young professionals and thought leaders who live or work in Oakland County. The 40 honorees have achieved excellence in their field and contributed to the quality of life in their communities. 
"I am continually amazed at the caliber of young leaders we have,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “We think the whole class is superb and the top three are outstanding. The future of our county is very bright and the region is in good hands.”
The members of the 2017 Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 Under 40 class are:
  • Hallie Armstrong, 36, Senior Naturopathic Doctor, Beaumont Health
  • Matthew Baumgarten, 32, Berkley City Manager
  • Andrea Carollo, 37, Realtor, Max Broock Realtors
  • Richard J. Chalmers, 36, Director of Family Medicine Residency, McLaren Macomb Hospital
  • Alicia Chandler, 37, General Counsel – Continuing Care, Trinity Health
  • Nathan Clinton-Barnett, 32, Vice President of Clinical Services, Safe Balance LLC
  • Alex Delavan, 34, Director of Sponsored Programs, Oakland University
  • David DeLind, 30, Principal Marketing Specialist, DTE Energy
  • Derek Dickow, 37, Founder, Steward Media
  • Matt Einheuser, 31, Watershed Ecologist, Clinton River Watershed Council
  • Joanne Forbes, 34, Department Chair of Art, Design/Humanities, Oakland Community College
  • Sean Forbes, 34, Co-Founder, DPAN.TV The Sign Language Channel
  • Kristin Griffith, 30, 2nd Grade Teacher & Elementary Technology Educator, Auburn Hills Christian School
  • Anthony Grupido, 21, CEO, Handsleight LLC
  • Sherikia Hawkins, 35, City Clerk, City of Pontiac
  • Michael Hohf, 31, Sr. Vice President & Financial Advisor, Advance Capital Management
  • Adam Jahnke, 33, Principal and Co-Founder, Vault Equity Partners
  • Yasser Khan, 37, Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer, IBM Miraclesoft
  • Jessica Knapik, 38, Program Analyst, Walsh College
  • Anjan Kumar, 38, Assistant Director of Medical ICU, Pulmonary & Critical Care Associates – St. John Hospital & Medical Center
  • Andrew Kurecka, 29, Manager of Outcomes Research, MedNetOne Health Solutions
  • Samantha Mariuz, 25, Director of Authorities, City of Auburn Hills
  • Sam Marzban, 34, Detective Sergeant, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office
  • Tylar Masters, 37, President, Tylar & Company
  • Dustin McClellan, 26, Pontiac Director, The Power Company Kids Club
  • Maureen McGinnis, 38, Judge, 52-4 District Court
  • Shaun Moore, 38, Director of e-Learning, Oakland University
  • Tany Nagy, 37, Owner, Pulse Design Studio
  • Jeena Patel, 36, Partner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
  • Emily Paula, 26, Human Resources Business Partner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Katya Pruett, 37, Manager Public Relations and Communications, BorgWarner Inc.
  • Katheryn Rohrhoff, 34, Staff Nurse, Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital
  • Carrie Schochet, 37, CEO/Founder, Purple Squirrel Advisors
  • Pratheep Sevanthinathan, 36, Owner, Seva Law Firm
  • Kayla Smith, Executive Director, 26, Hazel Park Promise Zone Authority
  • David Tessler, 34, VP & Co-Owner, Rain Marketing Inc.
  • Leyanna Torres, 32, Principal Product Engineer NAOSS Packaging Manager, ZF TRW
  • Kathryn Tuck, 37, Director of Foundation Giving, Leader Dogs for the Blind
  • Brooke Wilson Vitale, 29, Owner, Love & Buttercream LLC
  • Danielle Zuccaro, 34, Director Human Resources, Common Ground

Spring 2017 Master Gardener Volunteer training class

The Michigan State University Extension Office in Oakland County will be offering a spring class to train Master Gardener Volunteers in 2017.

Classes will be held  from March 9 - June 15, 2017 on Thursdays from 5:30 – 9:30 pm at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center on 2100 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford.

Do you love gardening and sharing your experience with others? 

Consider becoming a Master Gardener.

Being in the Master Gardener Program requires a passion for gardening and a willingness to commit to sharing gardening knowledge to educate future generations on a wonderful, healthy hobby.

Applicants attend 14 weeks of training classes to learn basic horticulture principles and environmentally sound practices.
Each weeks session will cover a different area of horticulture. Topics will include: Plant Science, Soil Science, Lawn Care, Annual and Perennial Flowers, Woody Ornamentals, Tree Fruit and Small Fruit, Vegetables, Household and Nuisance Pests, Indoor Plants, Gardening Practices to Protect Water Quality, and Diagnostics.

Once the program is completed, at least 40 hours of community-based service is required, before they earn the title of certified Extension Master Gardener.

Over the last ten years, 1001 local residents participated in Master Gardener training classes with the Oakland County office of the M.S.U.Extension..

Applications must be completed by February 24th 2017.  
Cost of the program is $300 (there are no other out-of-pocket costs). Payment is required at the time of enrollment.
Link to Application

More information about the M.S.U. Master Gardener Volunteer program can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/master_gardener_volunteer_program  

Questions about the Oakland County Master Gardener classes can be directed to Deirdre Hope at 734-546-8657 or hopedeir@anr.msu.edu.

Oakland County Prescription Drug Abuse Partnership recognized as 2017 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized the Oakland County Prescription Drug Abuse Partnership as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas in Government initiative. The Partnership is part of a cohort that includes programs from all levels of government — school districts, county, city, state, federal agencies, and tribal nations, as well as public-private partnerships — that represent the next horizon in government work to improve services, solve problems, and work on behalf of citizens.

"Addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic requires partnerships at every level to strengthen education, prevention, and treatment," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “I applaud the work of the Health Division and our partners as we look forward to continuing ongoing efforts to halt drug addiction.”

The Oakland County Prescription Drug Abuse Partnership was convened March 2015 by the Oakland County Health Division and is comprised of multidisciplinary members who actively work to prevent prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths. Partnership members include local physicians, pharmacists, substance abuse treatment and prevention agencies, court judges, law enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney’s Office, public health, academia, and grassroots organizations.

The Partnership is led with in-kind resources from OCHD staff, including a director, administrator, health education supervisor, and a health educator. Staff time includes planning and implementation of trainings, meetings and events, correspondence, coordination of promotional campaigns and subcommittees, and research. Achievements include creating and sustaining a diverse partnership, implementing a Drug Death Review Committee with Oakland County’s Medical Examiner, providing SCOPE of Pain trainings to more than 160 physicians, reaching over 300,000 residents via transit advertising, and establishing three subcommittees.

“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “Small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”

This is the fifth cohort recognized through the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. For consideration as a Bright Idea, programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching, have sufficient operational resources, and must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions.

Please visit the Government Innovators Network at http://innovations.harvard.edu for the full list of Bright Ideas programs, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

For up-to-date public health information, visit www.oakgov.com/health, find Public Health Oakland on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter @publichealthOC or call the Health Division’s Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu. For more information, contact Daniel Harsha, Associate Director for Communications, Ash Center at 617-495-4347.

Consumers Energy partners with Judson Center and donates over $200,000 in support of programs

Since 2012, Consumers Energy has partnered with Judson Center and supported their mission and programs through the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview. This year’s involvement in the Charity Preview has surpassed expectations with a total of $217,200 given throughout the five years of support.
“Consumers Energy truly embodies the spirit of Judson Center’s community of caring. With their support, we are able to help over 8,000 children and families in southeast Michigan and throughout the state.  We are very grateful for our partnership and their compassion in our shared community. Their unwavering support not only helps, but does make a difference as it enhances our services for children who have been traumatized, for children who have an autism diagnoses, for families who are looking for therapy to help cope with a trauma and for young adults with developmental disabilities who deserve and are able to work.  They care as much as we care,” said Lenora Hardy-Foster, Judson Center CEO.
“We are committed to the Michigan communities we serve, and that starts with providing opportunities for families and the next generation of children in our state,” said David Mengebier, Consumers Energy’s senior vice president of governmental, regulatory and public affairs. “We are pleased to support the Judson Center in making a difference in the lives of Michigan families over so many years.”
Judson Center is a non-profit human service agency that provides expert, comprehensive services in  southeastern Michigan that strengthen children, adults and families impacted by abuse and neglect, autism, developmental disabilities, and mental health challenges so they are successful in their communities.  Since opening its doors in 1924, Judson Center has grown to change the lives of 4,000 children, adults, and families each year. Judson Center has five regional offices in Genesee, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne. Headquarters are located at 4410 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073. 

International companies boost Oakland County economy for third straight year

More than $1 million a day of new international investment fueled Oakland County businesses in 2016 as foreign direct investment increased for the third consecutive year, totaling $371 million, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Wednesday.

Foreign direct investment – investment from a company that is headquartered outside the United States – accounted for 46 percent of the county’s total private business investment of $810 million in 2016. The county has realized foreign investment in the past three years of $899 million. Coupled with 2014-15 totals of $1.5 billion for overall business expansion, attraction and retention investment, the county has had $2.3 billion of new development in three years – a hefty figure that even surprised Patterson.

“I knew it was going to be good; it’s well beyond good,” Patterson said. “Look at the countries where the investment originated. It’s encouraging to see 11 successes from China. We’re finally getting into that lucrative market.”

The countries of origin for the 2016 international business successes include 14 from Germany; 11 from China; five from Japan; two each from Canada, France, Italy and Spain; and one each from Australia, India, Ireland, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. The new investment created nearly 6,400 new and retained jobs. Oakland County has more than 1,050 global firms from 39 countries.

Significant international investment in 2016 came from Ireland-based Par Sterile Products; Germany-based auto suppliers BorgWarner and Jenoptik Automotive North America; Daifuku Webb Holding Co. of Japan; Switzerland-based Autoneum North American; TREMEC of Mexico and Martinrea International Inc. of Canada. The total investment from those companies was $222 million, resulting in 2,683 new and retained jobs.

“This is a sector of our economy that doesn’t get a lot of attention but this is a significant source of jobs and tax revenue,” Patterson said. “Oakland County gets more investment than many states and rest assured we’re going to press forward with this program.”

The $810 million in 2016 is investment in which the county’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs played a role in landing. Patterson estimated the actual economic impact is millions of dollars more because of other sizeable investment in which the county did not play a role. 

Business development trips which tout the advantages of locating in Oakland County are planned to Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland in 2017. The county will send a delegation to Washington D.C. in June for the Select USA Summit to meet with international companies interested in expanding into the United States. The county attended the 2015 Select USA Summit and attracted two international companies to Oakland County as a result and is working on three additional leads from 2016, said Irene Spanos, economic development director for the county.

The centerpiece of the county’s business attraction effort is the Emerging Sectors® business development strategy, which was created in 2004 to diversify Oakland County’s economy – an economy which had been heavily dependent on the automotive industry. The strategy targets international companies that are interested in expanding operations into North America and North American companies that view Oakland County as the right business location.

Targeted sectors include advanced electronics, advanced materials, alternative energy, information technology/communications, aerospace and defense/homeland security.

The county’s Business Development Team works closely with Emerging Sector companies, providing assistance in such areas as site selection, workforce development, financing strategies, and coordinating state and local incentives. Team activity focuses on Emerging Sectors companies as well as more traditional businesses such as automotive. Of the 47 international successes in 2016, 24 were either new to Oakland County or have expanded within the county. 

Since inception, Emerging Sectors has had 424 business successes resulting in total investment of about $3.8 billion; 40,558 new jobs and 25, 518 retained jobs. A success is a company that is either new to Oakland County or expanded here when it considered moving to another state or country. 

The most successful sectors in total investment are health care/life science (Medical Main Street) at $1.1 billion, IT/communications (Tech 248), at $668 million; alternative energy about $631 million and advanced electronics at $625 million.

Hiking makes you happier: Let your 2017 trail adventures begin!

Winter weather may appear frightful, but a hike with good friends is nothing short of delightful. Hiking is good for you too and offers more than the sights, sounds and scents of nature. It’s an easy and effective cardio workout that lowers blood pressure,blood sugar levels, reduces risk of heart disease, strengthens muscles, helps control weight and boosts your mood. It’s also a great way to make new friends. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, former president of the American Hiking Society, “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” Perhaps 2017 is the year to remember that we humans were born to hike.

My love affair with nature goes back to my barefoot days as a 3-year-old running rampant in rural Connecticut, chasing bugs, hugging trees and searching for wild beasts found only in my imagination. Not much has changed, but more often than not, now I wear hiking boots when trekking, have some idea where I am going, and preach and practice a degree of situational awareness when stepping off an established trail in distant lands, or on the wilder side of Oakland County. Big trees still taunt me to climb their low-hanging branches, small streams fascinate me, frozen woodlands entice me, and wildlife tracks tempt me. Even a simple ten minute walk in the woods leaves me smiling.

When I step outside into nature, I’m stepping into a world of health and happiness, freed (at least temporarily) of world worries, and I’m constantly reminded of the timeless words of John Muir, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I am lucky, for I discovered that secret years before I stumbled upon his writings in college, and I quickly surrendered unconditionally to the world of nature.The first week of the New Year is drawing to a close, but that leaves us with fifty-one more weeks to set out on a trail in Oakland County. Hundreds of miles of easily accessible public trails are found here. Parklands and trails add richness and value to the landscape of the county. There are numerous looped trails where getting lost is not possible, as well as primitive footpaths in our hilly and expansive State Recreation Areas that can be both physically and mentally challenging for those that are not prepared. The websites of Huron-Clinton Metroparks and Oakland County Parks have details on many of our most popular parks and trails. Local municipalities promote city and village trails, and their nature related events, as do our nature conservancies. Six Rivers Land Conservancy hosts winter hikes and cross country ski events across the county and beyond, and The Solar Club offers hikes, trips and classes for outdoors people in all of Southeast Michigan. North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy and Headwaters Trails focus on rural events, including winter owl walks. Heavner Canoe Rental even offers winter paddling  on the Huron River and has special kayaking events in partnership with Kensington Metropark, combined with visits to their farm center.

I started my 2017 hiking season at Proud Lake State Recreation Area, a multi-use wildland with over twenty miles of trails managed by the Michigan Department of Resources as a participant/observer in their New Year’s Day celebration cosponsored by Heavner Canoe Rental and local MeetUp groups including the Michigan Adventures Club. Over 100 outdoor enthusiasts attended this annual event, and that’s where all the accompanying photos were captured. Some hikers just took short meanders around the River Annex building after sharing in a bountiful potluck feast and happy camaraderie, while others hiked for three or four hours and stayed for an early evening campfire. A few dozen people opted to paddle on the Huron River. I joined a group of hikers that first circled wetlands along the Marsh Trail and then crossed over the Huron River at a popular pedestrian/kayak crossing and went for another six or seven miles along heavily wooded trails. The first day of the New Year was a delightful day of smiling happy people, whom at times were slipping along on icy boardwalks and climbing up fallen forest giants. The nature lovers among us admired skunk cabbage emerging through ice, and the round-lobbed hepatic that will flower soon after the snows of winter melt.

Don’t wait for spring to hike. Find a trail and make it your goal to trek about the Wilder Side of Oakland County and I predict it will make for a healthier and happier New Year.

Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

For the latest county news and events, visit our website and use #OaklandCounty on our FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn pages.

Radon test kits are half price during National Radon Action Month

Oakland County Health Division encourages residents to purchase radon test kits for only $5 during National Radon Action Month in January to test their homes for the potentially harmful gas.

“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, but it is preventable,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Oakland County Health Division is offering radon test kits at half price to help Oakland County families protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The Health Division recommends testing homes for radon during the cooler months as windows and doors remain closed.

“You cannot see or smell radon, and people tend to ignore the possibility that it might exist at high levels in their homes,” said Kathy Forzley, Health Division health officer. “Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon.”

Radon test kits for homes are available for purchase at Health Division offices in Pontiac and Southfield:
  • North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph, Building 34E, Pontiac
  • South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield
Office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. To purchase more than 10 radon kits, please call 248-858-1312 to preorder. Please note that Health Division offices will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16.

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible, odorless gas that is usually harmless outdoors. When the gas is trapped in a building or home, however, it can be a health hazard. The Environmental Protection Agency says there is moderate potential for elevated radon levels in Oakland County homes.

If high levels of radon are found, contact Health Division’s Environmental Health Services at 248-858-1312 in Pontiac or 248-424-7191 in Southfield. Visit www.oakgov.com/health or www.epa.gov/radon for more information.

For up-to-date public health information, visit www.oakgov.com/health, find Public Health Oakland on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter @publichealthOC or call the Health Division’s Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533.

Record 1.7 million visit Detroit Zoo in 2016


The Detroit Zoo drew nearly 1.7 million visitors last year, setting a new all-time high record and increasing the number of people coming through its gates for the 11th consecutive year.

Read more.
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