Sven Gustafson
Oakland Business Review

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson on Tuesday unveiled plans for a first-ever Oakland County Film Festival in 2010 and named his choice to represent Oakland on the five-member authority overseeing the expansion of Detroit's Cobo Center.

Mike Carroll, CFO and secretary-treasurer of the Pontiac-based general contractor George W. Auch Co., will serve as Oakland's representative on the five-member panel, Patterson announced during his annual state of the county speech in Troy.

But in a copy of his prepared remarks, Patterson signaled his new charge to the panel, which must vote unanimously for any proposal to move forward, may hold the line on any expansion of the aging facility. Patterson argued that the 700,000 square-foot building is in greater need of technology and other upgrades than a $288 million expansion.

"With the North American International Auto Show losing many exhibitors, including Nissan, Mitsubishi, Land Rover, Porsche, Ferrari, and Suzuki, expanding Cobo Hall now makes about as much sense as adding more seats to Ford Field," Patterson said in his prepared remarks. "With the auto show contracting, there is not a good argument at this point in time to expand the facility."

The expansion of Cobo has been a continuing source of contention among Detroit's regional leaders. Organizers of the auto show, the facility's top attraction, have for years argued for the need to enlarge the convention center to ensure Detroit remains a premier showplace on the global auto show circuit.

Patterson's announcement of the film festival coincides with the announcement earlier Tuesday that two Hollywood film-industry companies plan to open a $70 million production studio at a former General Motors Corp. site in Pontiac. The studio, which is being backed by real estate moguls Alfred Taubman and Gary Sakwa, is forecast to create up to 3,600 direct jobs.

The idea for the festival came from state Rep. Gail Haines of Waterford Township, Patterson said. His speech offered few concrete details other than to say officials were forming a committee to assess the scope of the project and how it would be funded.

Patterson also used the speech to launch a number of other new initiatives, including:

• Moving from a two-year to a three-year budget planning cycle to provide more long-range planning. "Contrast this with the state of Michigan and most municipal governments: They budget on a year-to-year basis," Patterson said. "No lookout, no opportunity to engage in deficit avoidance, certainly no room to implement a long term strategy."

• Expanded assistance to displaced autoworkers by teaming with local community colleges and universities and a recently conducted survey of the skill-set needs of hundreds of employers.

• And a new, free subscription service allowing residents to receive via e-mail or text messaging specific information on government services, such as severe weather conditions or boil-water alerts. Patterson said the county is working through its vendor to integrate the service into the Web sites of each of the county's local units of government at no cost.

Patterson also used his speech to highlight the accomplishments of the county's Emerging Sectors program in creating jobs, and he highlighted efforts to grow health care jobs through his "Medical Main Street" (formerly Oakland Medical) initiative.

Patterson said the county is challenged by uncertainty regarding funding from the financially strapped state, declining property values and 9,200 home foreclosures in the county in 2008.

"I want to make it very clear tonight that Oakland intends to do more than just ride out the storm," Patterson said. "We confidently accept the challenge of leading this state out of these dark and desperate days into the sunlight of new growth, opportunity, and prosperity."

Patterson, a Republican, recently threw his name into the list of possible candidates for governor in 2010. He acknowledged Tuesday he was struggling with the decision but asked supporters to "give me max six to eight weeks" to make a final decision.


Post a Comment