Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett on Wednesday, March 28, gave his 12th annual State of the City address at Stoney Creek High School to talk about good news over the past year and preview things to come.
In keeping with his use of themes each year, and an agenda packed with an evening of entertainment, this year's state of the city address was given under the guise of a concert theme dubbed "Signed Sealed Delivered World Tour." Barnett has a longstanding reputation as mayor of blending the address with humor and entertainment, earning the term "governtainment" by the Michigan Municipal League.
This year's address began with a drum line performance followed by a guitar-wielding Barnett being suspended from the theater rafters and lowered onto the stage to Stevie Wonder's "Signed Sealed Delivered" being played by the evening's house band, "The Rhoedes Band." Dressed in a white blazer and black T-shirt straight out of Miami Vice, Barnett said the show would be a musical explosion before introducing musician Kevin Ottenbacher, who played the national anthem on electric guitar.
While the presentation of the address always follows an entertainment theme, the message once again focused on the successes of the city that make it a premier place to "live, work and raise a family."
Among the accolades the city earned in 2017 Barnett highlighted were recognitions the city earned as the safest in Michigan, according to SafeHome.org and Neighborhood Scout; a ranking by USA Today that found Rochester Hills as being the best city in Michigan to live in, and 14th best in the country.
Barnett also noted the average home value in the city has gone up from about $194,000 in 2013 to about $276,000 in 2018, with only four foreclosures in the city in the past year, bringing the foreclosure rate down 93 percent since 2010.
In terms of business success, he said seven new high-tech companies invested more than $11 million in the city in 2017, bringing the number of companies in the city to more than 1,600, employing more than 35,000 people. He also noted the city's low unemployment number, which at 2.9 percent is 43 percent below the national average. Additionally, Barnett said the city saw another banner year for retail development, with many new businesses opening in 2017 and 2018.
To illustrate the city's high-tech businesses, Barnett played a video taken of a drive he took with Paul Fleck, founder and CEO of Dataspeed Inc., in one of the company's autonomous vehicles.
Barnett recognized the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, which is under contract to provide public safety services to the city, and the expanding staff of the city's fire department. He also thanked the community for its support of Oakland County Sheriff's Deputy David Hack, who is recovering from critical injuries he sustained when he was struck by a motorist while working an accident at Rochester Adams High School earlier this year.
In addition to homes, business, and safety, Barnett said the city's quality school system draws residents who want to raise their families in Rochester Hills. Likewise, he spoke about the city's investment in roads and infrastructure, including its parks. And, for the second year in a row, Barnett spoke about work being done at Innovation Hills, the city's newest park, which received more than $1 million in donations over the past year.
"And we aren't leaving tonight until we raise another million," Barnett said, cutting to a phony shot of chained auditorium doors.
As with other state of the city addresses in the past, Barnett honored two people or entities with Community Excellence Awards. This year's recipients were actress and singer Jana Kramer, originally from Rochester Hills, and businessman Ziad Kassab, who founded the D-Man Foundation, which offers therapy and recording studio time to people with disabilities.
The event, which ran about one hour and 40 minutes, is intended to bring together business leaders, residents and government officials to hear the community's highlights and planned initiatives.