Open Arms: Oakland County Services Focus on Streamlining Development Process

Oakland County Services Focus on Streamlining Development Process

As a Michigan leader for economic and population growth, Oakland County’s continuing success is built on the simple concept of making it easy for businesses to open, relocate and expand here.

The results speak for themselves. According to the county’s 2018 Economic Outlook Report, Oakland County welcomed 119,100 new jobs between 2010 and 2017, with an average annual growth rate of 2.6 percent — higher than both the national and state averages. The county is attracting higher-wage employers and is on pace to replace all the jobs lost from between the spring of 2000 and summer of 2009 sometime in 2020 — a total of 173,304 jobs.

New economic investment in the county totaled $1.4 billion in 2017. That’s $502 million more than in 2016, and an average of nearly $3.8 million each day. It should be noted that those figures only represent the projects in which the county was involved in attraction, expansion or retention. Many other businesses locate and grow here without direct county assistance.

Streamlining the Process

When it comes to helping companies do business in the county, “It depends on what their needs are,” says John Wolf-Meyer, a business development representative for the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.

The county’s eight-person business development staff assists companies in identifying business sites, attracting financing, coordinating state and local economic and tax incentives, navigating the permitting process and identifying and recruiting the workforce they need to succeed. Even established companies, including successful foreign firms, depend on county staff for help.

“Even though a lot of these foreign-owned companies have a large parent company overseas, they essentially come here as a startup,” Wolf-Meyer says.

Bmax USA is one example. A subsidiary of French tech company I-Pulse, it placed its first North American operation in Pontiac in 2015. Bmax expects to invest $4.3 million in its Pontiac facility. Bmax showed off its advanced manufacturing solutions, including next-generation forming and welding, at a December 2017 open house.

“Bmax is doing pretty well,” Wolf-Meyer says. “They’re new to the market, so they’re working on identifying sales opportunities.”

Bordrin Motor Corp. is another success story. An offshoot of a Chinese-owned firm that focuses on electric vehicle manufacturing in four locations worldwide, the company started out in Southfield.

“They’re now expanding in Oak Park with 100 employees and plan to add at least 62 more,” Wolf-Meyer says.

Home and Growing

On the job at Midwest Glass Fabricators Inc. Photo courtesy of Midwest Glass Fabricators Inc.

Homegrown companies also benefit from county efforts to help businesses stay and grow here. Family-owned Midwest Glass Fabricators Inc., founded in Walled Lake in 1989, is getting help with a $5.6 million, 55,000-square-foot expansion that will more than double its footprint in Highland Township. With the addition, the company is expected to add 65 manufacturing jobs and 12 sales jobs.

“For Highland Township, that’s a big deal,” Wolf-Meyer says. “It’s a big win for us because they have another site in Louisville, Ky., that was the competition for this project, and they easily could have gone there.”

The county helped Midwest Glass obtain a $186,000 business development grant and create an industrial district in Highland Township so the company could receive tax abatements. The county is also providing recruitment and training support.

“The support of the county and the local businesses is a large part of why we continue to grow in our current location,” says Jim Iaquinto, Midwest Glass owner and president. “The county is very business friendly and has been there to help us through the process of establishing our manufacturing plant in Highland and is still supporting us as we expand.”

This article, written by Brian J. O’Connor, originally appeared in the 2019 edition of Oakland County Prosper magazine.