Oakland County’s Team of Rivals

Posted by – Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development & Community Relations

This morning, I had the opportunity to attend the quarterly Oakland County Economic Developers meeting organized by Oakland County’s Economic Development and Community Affairs staff.  Participants included economic development professionals, chamber directors, elected officials, utility representatives and others.  It was a chance for all of us to hear about what’s been going on in Oakland County … and what we can look forward to in the months ahead.

When I looked around the room, I was reminded that these are the very people who make up our Oakland County “economic development ecosystem.”  Even though we represent different communities and are even sometimes in competition for a new company or perhaps an expansion project, we all work together to create a successful Oakland County.

Oakland County’s outstanding staff offer us the logistical and networking support we need to thrive.  We often talk about issues affecting our business community and how we can assist them with their challenges.  Talent seems to be the biggest challenge facing our businesses.  This isn’t just a Oakland County issue, this is a Michigan issue and yesterday it was announced that the training funds for employees in Michigan was increased 60% to $29 million.  This training program has been so successful, that the Michigan Legislature decided to give more Michigan companies the opportunity to participate in this program.

The meeting was also fruitful in that my peers were invited to share what’s going on in their communities, which is always exciting and interesting.  My colleagues continue to find solutions to the challenges our companies are facing and we share those successes with each other, which makes Oakland County a strong team as a result.

Radical Hospitality

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Executive Assistant

What is a One Stop Ready Community?

It’s a town that focuses on the customer.  Whether someone is building a business headquarters or an addition to their home, their needs and schedules come first.  One Stop Ready is an Oakland County initiative that aims to educate its communities in best practices for economic development.

This past Wednesday night, City Manager Pete Auger was invited by County leaders to share the Auburn Hills’ approach to fostering development.  Something we like to call “Radical Hospitality.”

The audience he spoke to consisted of six other Oakland County communities that are also dedicated to improving their own development processes.

Pete Auger speaking at the One Stop Ready workshop this past Wednesday

Pete Auger speaking at the One Stop Ready workshop this past Wednesday

Pete’s advice?

  • Focus on what you are.  Communities have different strengths, so identify your assets and promote them.
  • Utilize available resources and keep the public well-informed.
  • Develop a streamlined, flexible process and guide customers through it according to their timelines.
  • Meet with customers before they apply and make it mandatory that key staff attend those meetings to immediately answer questions and problem solve.
  • Empower your staff to make decisions and give them the resources to do so.

Pete encouraged the audience to be deliberate and diligent in all these efforts.  It is this process that has made Auburn Hills successful.

Great job representing us, Pete.

Are We The Best?

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

It was an awkward question to ask.  You could tell by looking at the expressions of some folks in attendance that they did not appreciate what it implied.

Yes, we strive to be the best we can be.

Yes, we strive to be the best we can be.

We were simply asked a Yes or No question:  Would you consider your community the “best” at facilitating economic development?  How do you answer that question in front of your peers without sounding cocky?

Honestly, I wished for a second that our City Manager Pete Auger was there to stand up and eloquently offer his views.  His leadership and influence on our organization has galvanized us from top to bottom on one common purpose.  We call it “Radical Hospitality.”  But, Pete couldn’t attend, so we answered collectively and unequivocally … Yes!  However, that’s not the whole story.

As a little background, several leaders from the City of Auburn Hills, along with members of six other communities, attended an educational workshop held by Oakland County yesterday for its One Stop Ready Program.  One Stop Ready is a proactive initiative aimed at streamlining the development approval processes in municipalities throughout the County.

Why is this important?  A ton of jobs and tax revenue have been lost in Michigan since 2005, which has created a gaping hole in our budgets of lost money needed to provide the public services people have come to expect.  Thus, we need to do a better job as a region to recruit and retain businesses.  We must let companies know that they are wanted.  Perhaps, first say “Thank You” when someone decides to invest millions of dollars into your community and then work side-by-side to help them do it.

The impetus behind the County’s question was to foster friendly competition between the communities to motivate them to do better.  Their message was ground in the reality that if you don’t want to hustle to recruit or keep businesses, others will – whether in the town next door, or in North Carolina, or in another country – and you will lose.

It has become common place in Auburn Hills to see the world through the “eyes of a developer.”  We have found that they are not evil (most are very nice people) and that they create jobs and pay a lot of taxes, which helps us keep police officers on the street.   Over the years, we have collaborated with hundreds of businesses to make a better community for everyone.  It’s a smart game plan.

However, it’s not just the competition that motivates us to work our butts off on a consistent basis.  Trust me, we are very competitive and like to do well.   But, it’s the love and passion we have for the City of Auburn Hills and the legacy that we wish to leave behind that inspires us.  We have a discernible vision for serving the customer in a unique way, along with a strong emphasis on excellence and quality.  It’s the ethics of our organization.  So, gaining additional tax revenue is simply one of many important bottom lines – a by-product of our desire to serve others.

Author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Pride is essentially competitive.  Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”

Are we the best?  Yes, with the caveat that we’re not good enough and must work everyday to get better.  Our focus is not centered on pride, but on building a better mousetrap.  We’re driven out of the interest of excellence and service to people, not to put ourselves in a position to look down on others.  In my humble opinion, an intentional focus on this type of radical hospitality, if fully embraced, can help Oakland County grow for many generations to come.

Auburn Hills is “One Stop Ready”

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

We get it.  Customer service is key.  It’s in our DNA.

So, we were very excited this past Monday when the Auburn Hills City Council formally approved our community’s participation in Oakland County’s One Stop Ready Program.

Picture1One Stop Ready is an economic development program established by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.  It’s built upon each community evaluating itself, information sharing between participants, and the collection of best practices in customer service from all the participants.

Simply, it’s a proactive initiative aimed at streamlining the development approval processes in municipalities throughout the County.  This is done to better recruit and retain businesses, which in return brings more jobs and a stronger tax base.

Our friends at Oakland County have asked the City of Auburn Hills to lead by example.  We’re prepared to do so, with an intentional focus on getting better.