Innovation and diversification were the buzz words Thursday night as L. Brooks Patterson delivered his annual State of the County address.
It was the Oakland County Executive's 19th such address, and this time he delivered it while seated. Patterson, who was seriously injured in a car accident six months ago, used a wheelchair to enter the stage. He then rose up from the wheelchair and with help, walked to the chair where he would sit to deliver his speech.
He alluded briefly to the accident during his speech, pledging that "at next year's State of the County address, I will walk in here and stand at the podium."
A crowd of about 500 inside the auditorium at Detroit Country Day School listened as Patterson talked about jobs, technology and education.
Among the highlights of his address:
- Skilled trades training: "Oakland County learned its lesson in 2008 and 2009: we had an overabundance of our jobs located in one sector — the automotive sector," Patterson said. "And when that sector went south in 2009, it took 60,000 high-paying, Oakland County jobs with it, and we're still trying to recover from that disastrous year." Patterson stressed the importance of skilled trades and announced the creation of a website, www.MITradeSchool.org, that will match people looking for job skills training with trade schools in the region.
- Attracting high-paying jobs: The county's Emerging Sectors program focuses on development of jobs in the healthcare, advanced electronics, advanced materials and information technology industries. "In calendar year 2012, 37 Emerging Sectors companies invested more than $156 million in Oakland County," said Patterson, noting that $2 billion has been invested since the program was launched in 2004.
- Medical company prospects: Patterson talked about the sold-out "Inno-Vention" conference that brought medical companies and professionals together last year in Rochester. That summit produced six business leads that the county is pursuing; this year's "Inno-vention" conference will be in Troy in November and will focus on IT and healthcare.
- China: Patterson stressed the importance of attracting investment from China, mentioning two trade missions that produced great results for the county. Patterson gave a shout-out to Oxford Schools for their relationship with sister schools in China and for their immersion in Mandarin Chinese language-learning. "Oxford Schools currently have more students learning Mandarin Chinese language and culture in a fluency based program than the rest of the school districts in Michigan combined," Patterson said.
Patterson's address began with the announcement of his 2013 Elite 40 Under 40 winner: . Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, as well as Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, were in attendance, along with dozens of city, village and township officials from across Oakland County.
After the address, Oakland County Democrats offered their reaction in the form of the unveiling of a policy agenda — called "A New Way Forward" — that focuses on kids and local economy. “A New Way Forward is about re-imagining our local economy, investing in our future, and reclaiming opportunity for middle class America,” said Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-Bloomfield Hills), Democratic Caucus Chair, in a statement. Read about the plan on Patch.
Did you miss the address? Watch it in its entirety on Civic Center TV.