Oakland County Executive David Coulter on Oct. 26 launched a new economic development strategy for the county. It aims to spur innovation, investment and growth through a focus on digitized manufacturing, regional collaboration, environmental sustainability and increased workforce education and training.
The new strategy operates under the premise that Oakland County is an inviting global destination for world-class talent, investment and jobs. It will be data driven through equitable and inclusive development, with the county involved as a catalyst for collaboration locally and across the region. Key focus areas are educational attainment, mobility, digitizing manufacturing and supporting small businesses.
“Oakland County’s economic development strategy has not been updated since 2004,” Coulter said. “This is a rapidly changing landscape, and our focus must be intentional and directed. For example, we have more than 2,200 manufacturers employing 69,000 people and generating $5.7 billion in goods and services. The engineering talent found in Oakland County is second to none and we must leverage it to ensure we solidify our status as the mobility capital of the world.”
The county, with more than 1,000 international firms from 39 countries, has an international diversity that many states can’t match — an advantage the strategy seeks to further develop. The strategy sharpens county efforts to help local companies attract lucrative aerospace and defense contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security. It strengthens the mobility/autonomous vehicles sector, helping small manufacturers through Industry 4.0, which brings them into the world of digitized manufacturing, 3D printing, advanced materials, robotics, cybersecurity and internet of all things.
Oakland County recently invested $10 million in Automation Alley to help the county become more resilient to pandemics such as COVID-19, and less reliant on foreign manufacturing for essential goods such as protective equipment for first responders, hospitals and health care workers.
Strategy highlights include:
- Oakland80, which Coulter introduced in February during his State of the County address, set a goal of having 80 percent of county adults attain a post-secondary degree or industry-recognized credential by 2030. This initiative makes the county an attractive destination for employer relocation or expansion and to help sustain and grow investment.
- Hiring Our Veterans seeks to connect retiring veterans with good-paying jobs, should the veteran return to Oakland County. The county’s Veterans’ Services division is being moved to the Workforce Development division.
- Mobility: Silicon Valley and Oakland County/Southeast Michigan are competing to own this space. The county and Southeast Michigan make a strong case for supremacy because of the high concentration of engineers in the region. Oakland County will work with Macomb and Wayne counties to create mobility corridors for autonomous vehicles.
- Oakland County International Airport and Oakland/Southwest Airport: Leverage the use of county-owned airports to support autonomous aerial platforms and programs expected to grow rapidly because of Amazon’s expansion in the county.
- Promote Entrepreneurial Spirit and Innovation: The county recently received a $3 million grant from the federal government with a matching $1.3 million from Oakland County to support small entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19, which includes the promotion of minority-, woman- and veteran-owned companies.
Environment & Sustainability: Oakland County has over 90,000 acres of parkland, more than 1,400 freshwater lakes and 65 miles of trails for hiking and biking. The strategy acknowledges the county’s fiduciary duty to be stewards of these natural resources and ensure their preservation and viability for future generations.
- Local Small Businesses: COVID-19 hit every business hard, especially small businesses with less than 50 employees. The county invested over $74 million in 15,000 small businesses, and $1.7 million in 22 local chambers of commerce.