Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced five new major initiatives during his 20th State of the County address Wednesday evening before an audience of about 500 individuals at Centerpoint Marriott in Pontiac. The coming year will see developments in connected car technology, information technology, improving healthcare resources for homeless individuals and families, the creation of G2G Marketplace, and the next iteration of his Count Your Steps program.
Patterson has launched a task force of industry leaders whose aim will be to make Oakland County the first in the world to deploy connected car technology throughout the county. A connected car will be able to transmit data about the vehicle and its location to other cars and to the road infrastructure. These transmissions, known as “heartbeats,” will be able to send location data that will dramatically reduce auto accidents as well as assisting emergency responders during an accident or crisis.
“If successful, I will be placing Oakland County on the global map as the first county in the world to initiate a countywide connected car ecosystem,” Patterson said. “This initiative demonstrates our bold thinking and the potential for job growth is staggering.”
The next major new initiative involves information technology – Oakland County’s second largest and fastest growing Emerging Sector. About 20 IT companies from Pontiac, Royal Oak, Southfield and Ferndale have banded together to create an IT focus group, called “OakTech Connect,” which will be modeled after Medical Main Street and Automation Alley.
“The idea will be to leverage our growing strengths in IT to attract more IT companies to the region and promote ourselves as a premiere destination for the onrushing digital age,” Patterson said.
Of the 258 Emerging Sectors® companies that have come to Oakland County since 2004, 102 are in IT. They’ve invested $572 million creating almost 10,000 jobs and retaining over 5,700 jobs. There are a total of 2,800 IT firms in Oakland County, including half of the app companies in Michigan.
Patterson’s third new major program is the Oakland County Homeless Healthcare Collaboration. The county’s Department of Health and Human Services has brought together more than four dozen healthcare and service agencies to identify the barriers and gaps in delivering adequate healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. The primary goal is to reduce the number of hospital admissions and return visits to emergency rooms.
Individuals who are homeless tend to go to hospital emergency rooms for basic medical care. The hospitals must absorb the cost of treating them from simple illnesses to more complex afflictions. There are times when they are admitted over the course of several days and hospital bills can run in the hundreds of thousands. Hospitals can only release persons living with homelessness back to the street or a shelter. Because there has been no “step-down” care available, those who are homeless often return to the ER for further treatment because of recurring illness, infections, and complications which often result in costly readmissions and lengthier hospital stays.
Pontiac-based Hope Hospitality and Warming Center, led by Elizabeth Kelly, is one of the only shelters offering individuals who are homeless step-down care. Patterson put out the call to the medical community to support Hope Hospitality and Warming Center and the formation of a more permanent facility. It has the potential to save hospitals millions of dollars in uncompensated care.
“I’d like to get the ball rolling with a $1,000 donation from our employee Casual Day fund. The money is collected throughout the year and is available to assist those in need and I’m sure that Elizabeth Kelly can tell you that the homeless are in desperate need especially in this most bitter winter,” Patterson said.
Next, Oakland County’s G2G Cloud Solutions has launched the G2G Marketplace. It will offer solutions from our government partners and approved vendors to other government agencies through an online store experience. The goal of this initiative is to provide governments with an easy way to research, purchase, and implement technology solutions and professional services.
“It will simplify the purchase and licensing process so government agencies can utilize technology and services quickly. The G2G Marketplace is a free service available to any government agency including municipal governments, counties, courts, schools, or any other chartered government agency to provide better solutions and services for their citizens,” Patterson said.
More information on this initiative can be found at www.G2GCloud.com.
Finally, among Patterson’s successful quality of life initiatives is Count Your Steps, a program to fight childhood obesity. Each year, thousands of Oakland County third and fourth-graders receive a pedometer for one month in the spring and they count their steps. From its inception in 2004, more than 200,000 kids have walked 18 billion steps or 341 times around the earth.
Now Count Your Steps will transition into its next phase. Oakland County will be the first local government in Michigan to join schools across the country in implementing the largest in-school wellness program: “Fuel Up To Play 60,” a program founded by the National Dairy Council and National Football League in collaboration with the USDA. It empowers students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school and in their communities. Students can win rewards, like an NFL player visit or Super Bowl tickets, for choosing nutritious foods and getting active for at least 60 minutes every day. They can track their own progress using motivating tools such as an interactive online tracker and personalized webpage.
“What excites me most about this program is it energizes youth to take action for their health similar to Count Your Steps. Activities are youth led and are school tested. The program is easily customizable and non-prescriptive – you choose what works for your school and to which degree you are involved,” Patterson said.
In the coming months, Oakland County Health Division and a team of community partners will begin targeting about 93,000 elementary school students in K-5 with our new efforts. They will provide schools with hands-on technical assistance, training and one-on-one support to start or expand existing Fuel Up To Play 60 efforts.
Meanwhile, Patterson highlighted how Oakland County’s leadership is having a positive effect on Southeast Michigan throughout his speech.
Automation Alley: Automation Alley opened an office in Detroit in 2013. Located inside the new Grand Circus training institute in the historic Broderick Tower, the office provides businesses in the city with easier access to Automation Alley resources and programming. Automation Alley is also making great strides in helping the Defense Department connect with local companies out of its Macomb County location. Patterson also announced that Automation Alley will be independent of financial support from Oakland County in a few years.
G2G Cloud Solutions: Oakland County’s leadership in the cloud has a geographic footprint that spans five counties – Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Livingston and St. Clair. These five counties encompass more than 2.8 million residents across more than 3,300 square miles. G2G positions the county’s leading-edge software in the cloud so these governments can use its technology. G2G currently provides three types of services in the cloud: over-the-counter payments, online payments, and its web publishing suite.
Management & Budget: Oakland County’s three-year budgeting practices and efforts to sustain its AAA bond rating have become ingrained in the county’s government culture. The county’s managers have become so astute at finding structural savings, that there was a nice surprise at the end of fiscal year 2013. Last year, the county planned to spend down $40 million of its fund surplus. Instead, the county generated additional surplus. Its departments underspent by about 10 percent. As a result, the county budget is balanced through 2018. The county’s budgeting practices are starting to be emulated in the region. The Department of Management and Budget worked with Washtenaw County to show them its best budgeting practices. Now, Washtenaw is budgeting on a four-year cycle.
Patterson also updated other initiatives and delivered positive economic news.
Medical Main Street, Oakland County’s largest Emerging Sector, continues to grow unabated. About half of the county’s top 15 employers are health systems while at least two of them –Crittenton Hospital in Rochester and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac – expand their facilities this year. The untold story of Medical Main Street, however, is its thriving medical device manufacturers and the success of the INNO-VENTION Conference. In two short years, “Demonstration Alley,” where medical device manufacturers show off their products to attendees, has become the hottest spot at the conference. Oakland County is already preparing for the next INNO-VENTION Conference Oct. 21-22.
Lastly, there are some positive numbers that indicate Oakland County is moving strongly in the right direction. Foreclosures in Oakland County are about half of what they were in 2012 – 2,800 in 2013 compared to 5,100 in 2012. At the same time, property values are trending upward. Property values are expected to increase 6 percent each year for 2014, 2015 and 2016. In addition, taxable values will rise 2 percent in 2014, 3 percent in 2015, and 4 percent in 2016. And Oakland County’s Business Finance Corporation closed a record 42 business loans in 2013, the highest number in a single year since the BFC began granting loans in 1981.
To close, Patterson quoted President Abraham Lincoln:
“Some of you may have noted that today is President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He is arguably one of our greatest presidents. I couldn’t think of a better man to quote in my closing tonight. When he spoke these words, he could have been speaking for me: ‘I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.’ Well said, Mr. President.”