What’s the Attraction? Just About Everything

Oakland County outperforms many states when it comes to wages, business infrastructure and connections, lifestyle and more


Since the music and sound design business Yessian Music was established in 1971, it’s opened offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Hamburg, Germany. Its clients include international names that range from Audi to Aerosmith. But its biggest office is in Farmington Hills, where the company started — and where it will stay.

“I’d rather live here than have to move out to New York or L.A.,” says owner Brian Yessian. “Lifestyle and cost of living play a big role in how we’re able to keep talent based here in Oakland County.”

Yessian is just one of many business owners who have discovered myriad advantages to making their home in Oakland County. By numerous metrics, the county drives Michigan’s economy. Earnings in Oakland County surpass the totals earned in 16 U.S. states. Its total employment is higher than 13 states. It also exports more goods than 25 states and represents one-fourth of all exports in Michigan.

What’s drawing all this business activity to Oakland County? Laura Lawson will tell you it’s the people. She’s the chief people officer for United Shore, the mortgage company that in 2018 opened a new, 600,000-square-foot headquarters in Pontiac. That move was necessitated by massive growth at United Shore, which has added 1,200 employees for a total of 4,100 — just since making the move.

United Shore mortgage company has created a state-of-the-art facility in Pontiac designed to enhance its employees’ experiences and creativity. Photo courtesy of United Shore

United Shore has been in Oakland County since it started as Shore Mortgage in 1986, and Lawson says the company is excited to continue hiring locally. She proudly notes that
United Shore recently hosted a career fair that drew 2,000 local attendees, and it was looking to hire another 500 people in 2019.

Lawson says those employees give back to the community through paid volunteer work. Employees earn points and the company donates to a charity of the employee’s choosing. “We’re here for a greater intention,” she says. “We’re not just that company that’s closed off, closed doors. We’re 4,100 people. Those are Oakland County’s people as well.”

Another appeal of Oakland County is the expansive network of existing businesses and suppliers. Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) President and CEO Rick Haas says the county has “an automotive infrastructure unlike any other on the planet.” In fact, that’s what caused MANA to choose the county over sites in places like San Francisco and Tokyo.

A subsidiary of India-based Mahindra and Mahindra, MANA is one of the numerous international companies representing 39 different countries that have a presence in the county. Mahindra’s North American Technical Center is in Troy. It recently added a manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills. Haas says it’s invaluable to MANA to have so many original equipment manufacturers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, automotive-centric university programs, testing facilities and automotive professional organizations in proximity.

“That’s why you come to Michigan,” he says. “It’s not because it sounds cool to say, ‘I’m in the Motor City.’ It’s because, from a dollars and cents, nuts and bolts standpoint, it’s actually the right place to locate.”

This article originally appeared in the 2020 edition of Oakland County Prosper magazine.