Census data affirms Oakland County’s move into knowledge-based economy

Oakland County’s 2013 median household income rose by $3,000 – the largest gain in Michigan among counties of at least 65,000 residents, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said the report is further evidence the county’s deep dive into the knowledge-based economy is reaping dividends. The Census Bureau said Thursday that Oakland County’s 2013 median household income rose from $64,336 to $67,202. Median household income means half of the households made more and half made less than $67,202 in 2013.

“Our initiatives such as Automation Alley, Emerging Sectors® and Medical Main Street® are designed to attract sustainable, high-income jobs,” Patterson said. “The latest Census data indicates that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Oakland County gained 65,000 medium- to high-wage jobs over a three-year period ending in 2013, according to University of Michigan economists Dr. George Fulton and Donald Grimes. Last spring, both forecast Oakland County would see an additional 43,000 jobs through the end of 2016, again mostly in the medium- to high-wage category.

Since the late 1990s, Patterson has launched initiatives to diversify Oakland County’s economy from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.

Automation Alley, with 1,000 members across eight counties, promotes Southeast Michigan as a high-tech job hub which competes directly with Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128, and others. Emerging Sectors attracts jobs in the 10 fastest growing sectors in the knowledge-based economy. Since its inception in 2004, 299 companies have invested more than $2.8 billion while creating or retaining nearly 50,000 jobs.

Medical Main Street markets Oakland County as the destination for outstanding health care, life science research, and medical device manufacturing with well over 100,000 workers. Since it launched in 2008, 42 successes have resulted in investment of more than $926 million while creating or retaining more than 7,500 jobs. 

Finally, Patterson announced the creation of Tech248 in his 2014 State of the County address. It will build on the strength of Oakland County’s fastest growing sector – Information Technology.

“These programs have positioned us well for decades to come,” Patterson said. “By 2016, manufacturing will account for only eight percent of Oakland County’s economy, according to Fulton and Grimes.”