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.

Are We The Best?

Summer in Downtown Auburn Hills: Something for Everyone

Posted by – VeRonica Mitchell, Auburn Hills Planning Commissioner

Warm weather?  Check.  Concerts in the Park?  Check.  Downtown Farmer’s Market?  Check.  Summerfest?  Check!

BBQOh yes, it is definitely summer in Downtown Auburn Hills!  Though the planning has been in process for quite some time, the community started seeing real signs of excitement in our Downtown during the week of June 18th.  City Staff were out and about, ensuring last minute details were addressed to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and fun-filled Summerfest event.

They did a fantastic job as usual.  The festivities began on Friday evening.  Events and activities were offered targeting all age groups and a variety of interests.  There were skateboard competitions, a BBQ Cook-Off (even as a vegetarian I appreciated the aroma … mmmmmm), an old-fashioned ice cream social, a wonderful classic car show, vendors, face painting, and my favorite this year – the pet parade!

I was fortunate to serve as one of three judges this year; a task a little more challenging than I thought, but boy was it fun!  Check out the winner of the ‘biggest pet’ category below:

puppy

No competition there!

But the pet parade did not only feature dogs.  This year we saw a returning tortoise (winner of the smallest pet) and two rats. (that’s right, rats … not hamsters … not mice …but rats!)  They took the prize for most unusual pet.

The activities continued into the weekend with live music, lots of snacks, and interesting vendors featuring everything from art work to pampering products and jewelry (my favorite!).

I hope you had an opportunity to partake in the fun.  If not, plan on it for 2014.  Also plan on visiting our lovely Downtown area for one of the future Concerts in the Park.  The concerts are scheduled each Friday evening (excluding July 5th) from 7 – 8:30 PM, at Riverside Park through August 23rd.  Grab a lawn chair or a blanket and enjoy the sounds, along with free Wi-Fi.

Hope to see you there!

Summer in Downtown Auburn Hills: Something for Everyone

New Extended Stay Hotel Proposed Near GLC Outlets

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

We are pleased to report that a new three-story, 80-room Marriott TownePlace Suites Hotel is proposed to be constructed just south of the former Borders Bookstore, which is located adjacent to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.  The investment is estimated at $4.6 million.

Location of the new Marriott TownePlace Suites Hotel.  The project will be developed on the west half of the green area above leaving space for another hotel or restaurant in the future.
Location of the new Marriott TownePlace Suites Hotel. The project will be developed on the west half of the green area above leaving space for another hotel or restaurant in the future.

Marriott’s TownePlace Suites has been recognized as the best extended-stay, mid-price hotel by Business Traveler News for the last two years.  It’s designed for those guests interested in a hotel that offers a full kitchen in each room, complimentary breakfast, an on-site fitness center, and laundry facilities.  The new hotel will be built with studio, one-bedroom, and two bedroom units available depending on the visitor’s needs.

The majority of the units will be "studios" with one and two beds (all include a kitchen) like this one.
The majority of the units will be “studios” with one and two beds (all include a kitchen) like this one.

This will be owner/developer Basil Bacall’s third hotel adjacent to the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.  He built the Hampton Inn in 2011 and the Holiday Inn Express in 2007, which are both located to the north of this site along the Mall’s ring road near I-75.

Rendering of the building's proposed facade.  View looking west from the GLC Outlets ring road.
Rendering of the building’s proposed facade. View looking west from the GLC Outlets ring road.

The Planning Commission will review this new project on Tuesday, June 25th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall in the Council Chamber.

New Extended Stay Hotel Proposed Near GLC Outlets

Busy Day at Auburn Hills University

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Yesterday, the Community Development Department had the opportunity to spend the day with the 6th class of Auburn Hills University (AHU).  Every year a small group of employees meet one day a month, for six months, to learn what each City Department does.

By getting together in AHU, we build our organization by discussing what we do in an informal setting.  Thus, we learn about and from each other.  This helps us become a better team.

We had an action packed agenda as you can see in the photos below.  By the end of the day our feet were sore, but everyone learned a lot.

Facility managers Jim Summers and Mike Willaert gave the class an extensive tour of the Palace of Auburn Hills.  This photo was taken inside the Piston's game day locker room.
Facility managers Jim Summers and Mike Willaert gave the class an extensive tour of the Palace of Auburn Hills. This photo was taken inside the Piston’s game day locker room.
At Riverside Park, Water Resources Cordinator Shawn Keenan talked about how the City protect its water.
At Riverside Park, Water Resources Cordinator Shawn Keenan talked about how the City protects its water.
In Downtown Auburn Hills, builder Dennis Burt talked to the class about the complexities of building the new Graduate Housing Apartment Complex and Parking Structure.
In Downtown Auburn Hills, builder Dennis Burt talked to the class about the complexities of constructing the new Graduate Housing Apartment Complex and Parking Structure.
Walking on the 4th floor of the new Graduate Housing Apartment Complex.
Walking on the 4th floor of the new Graduate Housing Apartment Complex.
The view is nice from the top of the new Downtown project.
The view is nice from the top of the new Downtown project.
Busy Day at Auburn Hills University

A Guest on The View?

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Just call me Hollywood.

Today, I had the opportunity to speak on the “early adopters” discussion panel at the The Workplace Charging Workshop held at the NextEnergy Conference Center in Detroit.   The goal of the workshop was to educate business leaders on how to incorporate plug-in electric vehicle charging stations at their facilities.

It felt like I was a guest on The View.

Panel with folks from U of M, (I'm 2nd to the left), Compuware, Greenlots, Garden Fresh Salsa, and GM
Panel with folks from U of M, (I’m 2nd to the left), Compuware, Greenlots, Garden Fresh Salsa, and GM

As part of the session, the official Michigan sign (that Auburn Hills created) for designating and identifying charging stations was highlighted.

Don Grice, Deputy DPW Director holds up the Michigan regulatory sign for EVs
Don Grice, Deputy DPW Director holds up the Michigan regulatory sign for EVs

It was a unique experience and excellent opportunity for us to tell the Auburn Hills Story.

A Guest on The View?

The Thrill of the Grill

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

Father’s Day is this Sunday which means fathers around the State have emerged after a long winter from their man caves with a desire to get outside, not to do yard work but to fire up the grill.   Yes, the thrill of cooking with fire is a pastime most dads enjoy during the summer.

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One way you can show your appreciation of all your dad has done for you over the past year is to get him something related to his favorite summer pastime, BBQ.  There’s a wide range of items you can choose from that are available at a number or your favorite Auburn Hills stores.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Bass Pro Shop – Grills, smokers, BBQ sauces and rubs, flavor injections, books and BBQ accessories.
  • Advanced Cabinetry – Ceramic cooker called the Big Green Egg and BBQ accessories.
  • Home Depot – Grills, smokers and BBQ accessories.
  • Aco Hardware – Grills and BBQ accessories
  • Meijer – Grills, smokers and BBQ accessories
  • Target – Grills and BBQ accessories
  • Bed Bath and Beyond – BBQ Accessories and instant read meat thermometers
  • Kitchen Collection – BBQ Accessories and instant read meat thermometers

Auburn Hills BBQ Cook Off Logo FinalAnother gift he might like would be to bring him to the Auburn Hills State Championship BBQ Cook-Off on June 21-22 located in Downtown Auburn Hills.

There he could pick up some barbecue tips from some of the State’s top pit masters that will be competing for the title of Grand Champion and a chance to enter the two largest invitational BBQ contests in the world, the American Royal, in Kansas City, and the Jack Daniel’s World Championship BBQ Invitational, in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Hey, he might even get a chance to meet Michigan’s very own Motley Que Crew who won the Grand Championship at the 32nd Annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue Invitational.

So, come see the BBQ experts next weekend right here in Auburn Hills.

The Thrill of the Grill

Conduit for Success: Feds and Auburn Hills Collaborate on EVs

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Jan Waun - Chevy Volt driver and visitor to Auburn Hills City Hall yesterday
Jan Waun – Chevy Volt driver and visitor to Auburn Hills City Hall yesterday

It’s great to hear others tell the Auburn Hills Story.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the City of Auburn Hills was named a partner in the prestigious Workplace Charging Challenge.

The announcement was made by DOE’s Assistant Secretary, David Danielson, during his keynote speech at the Electric Drive Transportation Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

DOE staff told us that Mr. Danielson specifically highlighted Auburn Hills as success story in his speech to the industry leaders gathered for the event.  As you can imagine, it’s very rewarding for us to be recognized by ‘the’ experts in the field that we’re on the right track.

What is the Workplace Charging Challenge?  It’s a collaboration between the federal government and leading American organizations to accelerate the development and commercialization of the next generation of plug-in electric vehicles and its associated charging infrastructure.  What’s the goal?  Increase the number of American employers offering workplace charging by tenfold in the next five years.  This plan of action has now been become a key national strategy to provide a linked network of charging stations throughout the country for these unique vehicles.

Why do this?  Workplace charging provides visible access to fueling opportunities, so that potential car buyers can become more comfortable with the product.   These cars will fuel differently than people are used to seeing.  However, in the decades to come, it will become common place for drivers to charge their electric cars at night in their garage (while their sleeping) or at work while idle; similar to charging a cell phone.

In addition, employer-provided charging stations serve as an attractive employee benefit, enhance corporate sustainability efforts, and signal corporate leadership in adopting advanced technology.  This helps a business’s image and ability to attract good talent.

The City of Auburn Hills was invited by the DOE to become a partner based on its strong leadership on the topic.  When we started the project in 2011, many Auburn Hills’ businesses were unaware of how easy it was to plan for charging stations and how they were needed to support this new market not only locally, but nationally.  Today, it has become a routine and accepted part of our site plan review process.  It’s a pretty simple concept and smart urban planning.

EV charging stations added at Henniges Automotive
EV charging stations added at Henniges Automotive

Now, the next step for us as a City is to continue to be leaders and facilitators in the technology’s adoption nationwide.  It’s an awesome opportunity.

Conduit for Success: Feds and Auburn Hills Collaborate on EVs