There’s No “I” in Team

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Folks ponder this question … When you think of government does the phrase “high performing organization” come to mind?  Probably not. 

Most envision red-tape, lazy workers, corruption, and money mismanagement.  They have images of the “bad guys” you see on TV and read in the newspaper who have spoiled the public’s trust over the years.  Well, it’s the mission of the City of Auburn Hills to defiantly challenge that negative stereotype and be not just good, but great.

Today, the Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce held an inspiring luncheon at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  The program included fun presentations by speakers from Plante Moran, the City of Auburn Hills, and Bayer Science Materials on “how to harness the power of talent to create a high-performance organization.”  It was an excellent event.

Many great ideas were presented at the forum.  City Manager Pete Auger’s comments really challenged and engaged the group as he shared the story of when he was being recruited by the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.  He reminisced about how Bo liked him and thought he could be a “Michigan Man.”

Interestingly, Bo told Pete that he was not fast enough or big enough to be an impact player on the team, but there was something special about him.  What was that intangible? Bo saw that Pete was a real team player.  You see, Bo had three values that were important to the culture of his football program:  TEAM, TEAM, and TEAM.  Although Pete ultimately decided not to attend the school, that experience impacted his life.

There’s No “I” in Team

After telling that story, Pete boldly dared those in attendance to take the word “I” out of their lexicon.  He said start by going four hours … then a day, then a week, then a month without using the word “I” in your conversations and writing.  It will change how you look at the world and how people look at you.   There’s no “I” in team.

So, can you do it?  Can you go a day without using “I”?  Are you willing to take on Pete’s challenge?

Give it a test.  I … oops … We believe he’s on to something here.

There’s No “I” in Team

ABF Invests in Auburn Hills for “The Long Haul”

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

I remember that cold March day when Walter Echols called us with a simple question.

With a friendly southern drawl, Walter politely asked if his company, ABF Freight Systems, Inc., would be allowed to open a new distribution facility in the City of Auburn Hills.  He was eyeing the former Roadway terminal at 3660 Lapeer Road, which had been vacant since 2008.  The site seemed to fit perfectly into ABF’s logistical plans.  But, Walter wasn’t sure if we wanted his business.

I should also mention that ABF wished to invest close to $1 million and employ 25-30 people.  So, can you guess what our answer was?

ABF fixed up this building at 3660 Lapeer Road, which had been vacant since 2008

What is ABF?  Well, they are a LTL carrier.  LTL means “less than truck load” shipping.  They ship smaller freight across the country, but are not like parcel carriers such as the US Postal Service or FedEx.  For example, ABF typically ships goods on pallets containing many boxes shrink wrapped together to form one piece, rather than many individual pieces.

ABF drivers collect freight from various local businesses in the morning “that don’t fill up the whole truck.”  The company serves all types of business from retail stores to auto suppliers.  The drivers then bring back their pick-ups to this new Auburn Hills terminal, which are off-loaded, and then consolidated with other freight onto new trailers for shipment based on the end destination.

Each loaded truck is then sent out from Auburn Hills to larger hub terminals throughout the country.  Once a truck reaches a hub, the freight is further sorted and consolidated for additional hauls.   For example, ABF may pick up some car parts from Chrysler Group LLC, consolidate the goods into a truck headed to Chicago, which will ultimately make it to a distribution center in California.

Businesses like ABF provide a delivery service that is critical to our nation’s economy.  Locally, their logistical expertise help our companies function efficiently.

So, to answer Walter’s simple question:  Absolutely, Yes!  We want ABF here for “the long haul.”  Thanks for partnering with us.

ABF Invests in Auburn Hills for “The Long Haul”

History in the Making

Charging station on our municipal campus.

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of municipal planners about how Auburn Hills is preparing for plug-in electric vehicles at the 2012 Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Planning Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Our partners with the Clean Energy Coalition and OHM explained about how the States of Michigan and Ohio were in the process of completing extensive planning efforts funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to advise and educate communities about the consumer needs of this emerging technology.

My role in the team’s presentation was the fun part.  I was able to give the group real world examples that they could take back home and implement.  Simply, folks are too busy for theory, they just want to know what should be done and how to do it.

On behalf of the City, I essentially offered two lessons learned:

First, uniform standards will be key to public education and acceptance of plug-in electric vehicles.  I gave the example of how people honor the fact that handicapped spaces are reserved for people with disabilities.  This was done using consistent and uniform signs, pavement markings, laws, and enforcement across the country.

Auburn Hills created and implemented similar uniform standards for charging stations.  Experts believe that an important factor in market acceptance of electric vehicles is the creation of a convenient network of charging stations being available for refueling (e.g., not blocked by other vehicles).  Recognizable signage is key to reserving and protecting these spaces for charging only.

Our message:  No need to re-create the wheel!  Auburn Hills has developed uniform standards that you can use today.  We all need to be on the same page.

EV charging stations added at Henniges Automotive’s World Headquarters using the uniform sign and pavement markings created by the City of Auburn Hills. Uniform standards are critical.

Second, plan for the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles today, so you’re ready for the market in the future.   I described how Auburn Hills raises awareness and communicates the message to the developers that it’s cheaper and easier to rough-in charging infrastructure during construction, than rip things up after the fact.  Once the infrastructure is in the ground, charging stations can be easily installed in the future when the market demands.

Drivers of plug-in electric vehicles (whether all battery or hybrid battery and gas) have fueling needs that are different from what we’re used to experiencing.  It’s kind of like how a cell phone is recharged.

Charging stations like this one at Magna E-Car will become common at workplaces.

Owners will want to refuel both at home at night while their sleeping and at work while their car is sitting idle.  It’s a paradigm shift that will never replace our existing gas station fueling system, but will slowly become common place over time.

I explained that creating a network of charging stations in a community is similar to developing a community pathway system.  For example, a generation ago we had few pathways in Auburn Hills.

Over many years, developers built pathways along the roadway in front of their projects at the request of the City.  Now, we have a comprehensive system.

Our message:  It will take time to develop a network of charging stations in your community.  Hey planners, you have a role to play in supporting this industry … so start now!

Sharing our testimony at conferences like this one in Columbus is an opportunity to plant seeds for a future harvest.  Each time our message is heard, there’s a chance a town or region will decide to follow.  Auburn Hills is now a national leader on the topic of preparing for the needs of plug-in electric vehicle consumers.  That was our goal when we started this project 17 months ago.  Not bad for a little big town.

To learn more about the City of Auburn Hills’ plug-in electric vehicle experience, click on these blogs below …

  1. Someone’s Talking About Us
  2. Getting “Plugged-In” as a Team
  3. Who Created that Sign?
  4. No Risk, No Reward
  5. California Dreamin’
  6. Plugging Into Opportunity
  7. Planning Ahead: An ‘Electrifying’ Concept
History in the Making

The Green Hornet’s Dilemma – The Director’s Cut

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Here comes everyone’s favorite weed blaster – well, almost everyone’s – The Green Hornet.  He was pretty busy in August.  Apparently, the nefarious schemer who’s been superheating our weather took a break and that’s what we got – a break in the weather.  Lower temperatures and a little bit of rain went a long way to encourage grass growth.

The City of Auburn Hills has a progressive vegetation monitoring program – led by Dales Mathes (a.k.a., The Green Hornet)

The Green Hornet issued 13 Violation Notices and all those warned complied and cut their grass.  In addition, thankfully, nine perviously warned property owners also complied.

However, 21 residential repeat violators had to be cut by Jason (“Residential Man”) and 11 large parcels were abated by Norm (“The Rough Cutter.”).  These stats are down from 2011, which were down from 2010.  All this indicates that more of our citizens, both residential and corporate, are maintaining their lawns regularly every year.

But what about the suspected organization “W.E.E.D.S.” – The Worldwide Ecological and Environmental Destruction System – that was thought to be wreaking havoc with our weather?  The Green Hornet really believed it was them.  But no, he was tricked!

The Green Hornet’s Dilemma

“The Chief” – Code Enforcement Officer Darren Darge – came across an incredible intelligence report yesterday that blew the Green Hornet’s mind.  It turns out that the dastardly villain behind the weather has been leaking false reports about W.E.E.D.S. to throw your trusty hero off the trail.  Puzzling indeed.

Who could be in charge of this operation and how/why has it affected our summer weather?  Stay tuned friends for next month’s exciting episode.

Interested in learning more about the City’s innovative vegetation monitoring program?  Check out these past blogs …

  1. The Green Hornet Rides Again!
  2. Will the W.E.E.D.S Conspiracy Confound the Green Hornet?
  3. The Green Hornet’s Tall Grass Adventures
  4. The Dirty Half-Dozen:  Part III – The Green Monster!
  5. Green, Green Grass of Home
The Green Hornet’s Dilemma – The Director’s Cut

I’ll Take a Life Jacket with that ATV

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Now this is pretty cool …

After 15 years of research and development, Gibbs Sports Amphibians, Inc. recently announced plans to build the first high-speed amphibian vehicle available for consumer purchase right here in the City of Auburn Hills.

This new high-speed amphibian vehicle will be built in the City of Auburn Hills

Coming to dealerships in November, this amazing vehicle called “The Quadski” can travel at speeds up to 45 MPH on both land and water.  Say what?  Yes, it can drive on both land and water.  That’s amazing!

We have been working with the Gibbs team since March to obtain their permits as they renovated an existing building at 50 Corporate Drive into their state-of-the-art production facility.

Gibbs plans to employ approximately 150 production, engineering, and management employees at the site.  The facility is expected to produce around 20 Quadskis per day with full production beginning next month.

Like something out of a James Bond movie, The Quadski will be able to switch from land to water use (and vice versa) in less than five seconds.  It’s essentially an ATV that converts into a jet ski.  At the press of a button, the vehicle’s wheels retract when entering the water and deploy when approaching land.

It took 15 years of research and development to create “The Quadski”

We are especially proud that Gibbs, which is headquartered at 2046 Brown Road, chose to expand their partnership with the City of Auburn Hills and open this production facility.

The future has arrived.   Who knows, maybe pigs will fly next?

I’ll Take a Life Jacket with that ATV

Astonishing Efforts, Monumental Results

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

On the cold Saturday morning of September 8th, a large group of energetic volunteers gathered along the banks of the Clinton River to participate in this year’s clean up effort.  A total of 53 people participated in the project.

Two separate sites were selected.  The City of Auburn Hills coordinated activities at the first location at River Woods Park and the Skate Park.  For the second year in a row, Peninsula Plastics demonstrated its continued commitment to the community by coordinating the second site located along Auburn Court.

23 dedicated employees from Peninsula Plastic successfully removed from the river a construction barrel, tire, and 4 bags of trash filled with an assortment of trash such as food wrappers, bottles, and flip flops. This group also mustered the strength to remove a large tree that had fallen into the river causing a log jam.  Removing log jams like this is not an easy task; it takes a great deal of effort, strength, and teamwork.

The 30 enthusiastic volunteers that gathered at River Woods Park consisted of folks from the City of Auburn Hills, Genisys Credit Union, Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment (City engineers), and Oakland University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.  A number of citizens living within the watershed also joined us.

They were up to the task of collecting all the debris that accumulated in and along the banks of the river at River Woods Park and the monumental task of removing one major log jam located at the Skate Park.  The pile of wood from the jam when stacked on land measured six feet high, 48 feet long, and 15 feet wide.  Pretty amazing!

These volunteers also removed over 30 bags of garbage, six tires, car parts, tractor parts, cinder blocks, and other construction material from the river.

On behalf of the City of Auburn Hills and the growing number of citizens in the region who fish, kayak, and canoe the Clinton River, we wish to thank you for taking the time on a Saturday morning to do this.  Your efforts are much appreciated.

Astonishing Efforts, Monumental Results

My “Stylon” Experience

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

What the heck is a stylon?

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost three years since I first heard the word.  I will never forget the experience.  City Manager Pete Auger and I were meeting with Nico Schultz from Taubman about his company’s desire to rebrand the Great Lakes Crossing Mall.

Nico explained that his company wanted to improve the sales productivity at the center and establish it as a premier outlet shopping destination for the region and beyond.  Most importantly, they needed the City’s help in creating a new sign presence on I-75.

After a few pleasantries, Nico pulled out a drawing which displayed a 50 foot tall monument sign and said “What do you think?  We are calling this a stylon.  It’s something new that no one else has ever done in our industry.  We would like to put up eight of them along I-75.”   Nico continued to further explain that many people just drive by and don’t realize what the center has to offer … or that it’s even there.

With a little hesitation, my first reaction was “um … that’s kind of tall.”  I was trying to keep an open mind, but I was pretty sure the City Council wouldn’t like it.  A few years before, the Council decided to change all of our zoning laws to discourage tall signs.   I had lived through past zoning battles over signs like this.  The idea was really outside the box.

Pete’s reaction to the proposal blew me away.   He said, “I kind of like it … let’s keep an open mind.”   Looking back, we were in the heart of the Great Recession and businesses were struggling.  Pete explained to me that we had an obligation to help the Taubman Company improve the mall for the sake of the City.   A failing center meant lower tax revenues, increased police activity, and a bad image for the community.  I will never forget his words … “we must partner with them, our success is based on relationships.” 

It was an immediate “ah-ha” moment for me.   In retrospect, I couldn’t see the ‘forest for the trees.’  I got so caught up in the small details that I had failed to grasp the bigger picture.

Instead of seeing things through the eyes of a leader, I was looking through the lens of a zoning technician.   That experience had a profound impact on me and how I approach my job today.

As a result, we worked hard as a team with the Planning Commission and City Council to draft new zoning rules and help the Taubman company obtain approvals to install these iconic signs.  I am so glad we did.

The stylons are a symbol of the rebirth of Great Lakes Crossing and serve as a signature gateway to our community.

We partnered with Taubman to help their business and improve Auburn Hills.  It was an intentional decision because “it’s all about relationships.”  More than a mantra, it’s how we roll.

My “Stylon” Experience