Patterson (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)
TROY -- Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Tuesday night that long-term financial planning and projects slated to create new jobs will help the county weather the recession.
In his State of the County address, Patterson highlighted several bright spots on the horizon: a multimillion-dollar film studio slated for Pontiac, an affordable expansion of Cobo Center and the launch of a new e-mail/text message service for county residents to get notice of events, emergencies and programs.
In his address, Patterson did, however, paint a realistic picture of a county that -- despite being the richest in the state -- has not been immune from the subprime mortgage mess and statewide belt-tightening. As many as 1 in 47 homes in the county are in foreclosure.
"I want to make it very clear tonight that Oakland intends to do more than just ride out the storm. We confidently accept the challenge of leading this state out of these dark and desperate days," said Patterson, during a speech delivered at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy.
He said the expected opening of Motown Motion Picture Studios, scheduled for the site of General Motors' former truck plant, will bring 4,000 new direct jobs.
In order to continue the county's record of balanced budgets, county officials plan to switch from a two-year to a three-year budgeting process, said Patterson, who is considering a run for Michigan governor in 2010.
And as auto companies continue to downsize, county officials expect more laid-off workers in 2009. The county, along with area colleges, will expand programs to retrain, educate and re-employ displaced workers.
Michael Lakatosh, 64, of Rochester Hills was heartened by what he heard. "Oakland County is actually taking positive steps," said Lakatosh, owner of a technology firm in Bingham Farms. "The economic conditions are bad, but we're not looking at that as a reason to lament."
In his usual form, Patterson threw a jab at Granholm.
He chafed at what he said was the governor's leak to the press of details on the arrival of a film studio to Pontiac. Granholm and Patterson had agreed to co-announce the news at their respective addresses Tuesday night.
"The governor got so excited about the news -- you remember, she lived out in Hollywood for a few years -- she couldn't contain her girlish enthusiasm and let the cat out of the bag in morning television and newspapers," he said.
Liz Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman, said Tuesday night that it was Patterson's advance copy of his speech to the news media that led reporters to confirm it with independent sources.
Patterson called state legislation last year that cleared the way for the expansion of Cobo a "key win" for county taxpayers, capping costs at $288 million.
"Over the past five years of tough negotiation, my staff and I have been vilified and painted as 'obstructionists' on the Cobo Hall issue," he said.
"They said we were not 'regional players,' if you will. All because we had the audacity to question the internal operations of Cobo and, most importantly, its spending practices."