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Oakland County updates economic development plans

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Oakland County officials announced Monday parts of an economic development strategy to prompt local investment, business growth and opportunity through digitized manufacturing, regional collaboration, environmental sustainability, and increased workforce education and training.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter said the efforts were started before the recent pandemic but will be essential in promoting short-term and long-range economic recovery.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter gives his keynote address at the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference held at Motor City Casino. Coulter, discusses a regional collaboration and a shared vision on how Oakland County can better work in partnership with neighboring counties.

 “Oakland County’s economic development strategy has not been updated since 2004,” Coulter said. “This is a rapidly changing landscape, and our focus must be intentional and directed."

Coulter said the county is interested in becoming more involved in defense and aerospace contracts. Autonomous land vehicles, as well as aerial unmanned vehicles are also areas to receive focus, he said, and county-owned airports, including in Lyon Township, are expected to play a role in those efforts.

Stabilizing and supporting small business, helping to digitize small businesses across the county, are viewed as essential, officials said Monday. The county has invested $74 million into 15,000 small businesses and $1.7 million into 22 chamber of commerce groups.

Shelly Kemp, director of the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce, said support has been crucial for the survival of businesses and encouraged county residents to "Shop Local. Eat local. Spend local."

County strategy efforts include:

--Oakland80, which Coulter introduced in February during his State of the County address, set a goal of having 80% of county adults attain a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential by 2030. This initiative makes the county an attractive destination for employer relocation or expansion and to help sustain and grow investment.

--Hiring our Veterans seeks to connect retiring veterans with good-paying jobs, should the veteran return to Oakland County. The county’s Veterans’ Services division is being moved to the Workforce Development division.

--Mobility: The county and southeast Michigan have a high concentration of engineers, making the region competitive with Silicon Valley in the race for supremacy. Oakland County will work with Macomb and Wayne counties to create mobility corridors for autonomous vehicles.

--Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township and Oakland/Southwest Airport in New Hudson: Leverage the use of county-owned airports to support autonomous aerial platforms and programs, which are expected to grow rapidly because of Amazon’s expansion in the county.

  --Promote Entrepreneurial Spirit and Innovation: The county recently received a $3 million grant from the federal government with a matching award of $1.3 million from Oakland County to support small entrepreneurs impacted by COVID 19, which includes the promotion of minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned companies.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319