Optimism Fills Coulter’s State of the County Address
Pontiac, MI – In a room full of folks from around Oakland County and from both sides of the aisle, County Executive Dave Coulter gave his annual State of the County Address at M-1 Concourse in Pontiac. The speech focused on recovery efforts from the pandemic, including economic growth and quality of life for residents, with a five year plan and a new tagline “All ways, moving forward.”
The five-year strategic framework commits Oakland County to “All ways, moving forward,” by making a real and measurable impact in three primary areas: a strong economy, healthy and safe communities, and opportunities for residents to live their best lives.”
Among the economic initiatives is the Business Forward Program which has a team of nine business consultants who work in different areas of the county to connect with entrepreneurs to share resources and advice. “We expect this team to support ten times the number of businesses than we’ve reached in years past,” Coulter said.
The County has also created a revolving loan fund that “will help start-up companies, and minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses with the resources they need to follow their dreams of becoming successful entrepreneurs.”
Another effort is a grant program called Project Diamond, in collaboration with Automation Alley. This gives businesses access to technology to have more efficient manufacturing. Air and Liquid Systems in Rochester Hills is a business that received a 3-d printer through the program. “Company owner Jim Miller says advanced manufacturing technology is a game changer. Where a simple fastener used to cost the company $98 apiece to produce, the hi-tech printer allows Jim to cut that cost to roughly $2.45. The company is now more competitive and capable of securing new contracts and with those contracts, new workers.”
Coulter also celebrated success by riding into the speech in an electric vehicle – GM’s Chevy Bolt EVU which is produced in the Orion Assembly Plant in Northern Oakland County. The major auto manufacturer recently announced a $4 billion investment to build the Chevy Silverado EV and electric GMC Sierra at the plant, adding 2,300 new jobs and retaining over 1,000. “Orion is now etched in GM history as part of it’s largest ever single investment,” he said. “It also places Michigan as the recognized hub of innovation in the US for EV development and EV manufacturing. That distinction is truly priceless.”
The vehicular grand entrance was also appropriate as the speech took place at the site of another impactful investment – The M1 Concourse which boasts not only an event space, but driving tacks and over 250 garages for the storage of high end and racing vehicles. The site, at Woodward Avenue and South Blvd, was home to auto manufacturing starting in 1905. “General Motors built everything form cars and buses to World War II vehicles before shuttering the facility in 2008. Thanks to the Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, 80 acres of contaminated land have been transformed into productive space,” Coulter said.
In addition to the health of businesses, the County has been focusing on the health of residents. The CVOID pandemic and the response of testing and vaccinations has been an obvious big task. But there have been other investments in health as well, including the expansion of Health360 clinics in Pontiac and Southfield and partnering with Honor Community Health to provide services.
Another effort was to provide hearing tests to 45,000 students last year. “That might not seem like a big deal. But for one student – 10-year-old Evan from Troy – that hearing test proved to be lifesaving. His test led to the discovery of a dangerous cyst that was growing right next to his brain that doctors – thankfully — were able to remove to prevent catastrophic hearing loss,” Coulter said.
The Executive also touted nearly $13 million in funding towards mental health services, $2 million of which went to create a Health Navigators program that works with Oakland County Schools to increase mental health services for youth.
They’ve also invested in efforts to help adults get their GEDs and secondary college or training. One example from Holly is that of Asia Jefferson who worked part time as a phlebotomist drawing blood. Now, thanks to a Michigan Reconnect and Oakland80 tuition scholarship, Asia is working towards a nursing degree. And thanks to American Rescue Plan funding through Oakland County, she also has assistance with books and childcare. “Soon Asia will be joining the workforce with her brand-new nursing degree and an opportunity to help her family live their best lives,” Coulter said.
The American Rescue Plan brought $244 million in relief funds to Oakland County. “Some of those dollars have already been spent on what we call acute needs – such as COVID vaccinations, worker assistance and mental health,” Coulter said. “Now, we’re shifting our focus to long-term investments. These new investments must focus on chronic problems – issues that have challenged the county for decades and have been compounded by the pandemic: Worker training and education. Support for young people and students. Care for the environment. Small business development. Health care.”
Coulter acknowledged this opportunity, as well as the fears people have. “We’ll always face hard issues. The lingering pandemic is keeping us from what we’ve comfortably known as normal. Residents are anxious about everything from inflation, education, a worker shortage to the Russian invasion in Ukraine.”
He said “Our administration has a reputation for fiscal responsibility through prudent management, balanced three-year budgets, and innovative services. Maintaining fiscal discipline and ensuring the county lives within its means is a fundamental principle of good government.”
What that government means is summed up by Coulter as this:
“Here’s what I’ve heard: Residents want a strong economy, and training programs to help prepare workers for high-paying, in-demand jobs. They’ve asked for accessible health care – including mental health – and affordable housing. They’ve told me that we need to help our kids catch up in school. And they want Oakland County to be a place where people feel safe, heard and welcomed. In other words, they want the County to be All ways, moving forward. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The event was attended by officials, county employees, and others who partner with the county. Among them was Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessell and Congressperson Sandy Levin. Oxford Township Supervisor Jack Curtis was recognized during the speech as his community had been devastated by the deaths of Oxford High School students Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin and Justin Shilling in a school shooting late last year. Oxford high school student Ava Swift sang the national anthem for the event.
Also in attendance were some of the 40 individuals selected for the 40 Under 40 Program which helps connect and mentor younger members of the community who are already doing great things. Coulter recognized them as well as the County Commissioners who take the votes on important topics for the county. He thanked Chairperson Dave Woodward and Minority Chair Mike Spisz. “I couldn’t ask for two better partners in government. Dave with his relentless ideas and determination, and Mike with his engineer brain and attention to detail. They represent their parties well, but they represent Oakland County even better.”
Coulter said with the help of the recognized leaders “and thousands of others in our communities who are committed to service, community, humility and inclusion, I am certain that we will keep Oakland County All ways, moving forward.”
For the full speech, video, and more information, visit https://www.oakgov.com/pages/news.aspx#/coulter-unveils-5-year-roadmap