Oakland County Executive apologizes for controversial comments about group of regional CEOs

Patterson says Detroit city business leaders stealing Oakland County jobs

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

PONTIAC, Mich. - Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has apologized about a controversial statement he made about what he sees as the theft of jobs by Detroit city business leaders.

It's a continuation of a battle Patterson had with Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert years ago. In this suburbs versus the city battle, Detroit appears to have the upper hand.

Patterson invited around a dozen Oakland County Chamber of Commerce CEOs to his West Conference Center to hear a presentation.

He used a chart to show them the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce setting up a so-called "Super Chamber of Commerce."

Patterson is very defensive of Oakland County business and feels that Gilbert and other Detroit CEOs, such as DTE's Gerry Anderson, are looking to poach more of his companies.

When asked if he might join the group, Patterson said, "I'd rather join the (Ku Klux) Klan."

Before this comment by Patterson, Anderson released a statement.

"I understand L. Brooks Patterson's passion for his work and, honestly, we are all after the same goal," Anderson said. "The entire region benefits when investment and jobs come from outside Michigan and the country to Southeast Michigan. The Detroit Regional Chamber, the Regional CEO Group and all the county leadership in Southeast Michigan can make a positive difference when we align and create incremental, good paying jobs for the 11-county region."

Patterson said the 23-member CEO headhunting group is raising $6 million per year to try to bring business to the city. He said it's wrong.

Detroit Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah said Patterson's criticisms aren't based on fact. He said he wants to speak to him personally about the issue.

Patterson released the following statement around 4:30 p.m. Thursday:

"Sometimes when I’m passionate about a topic, I choose sharp words and purposely engage in hyperbole to get my point across. Today, the words I chose offended a lot of people. I apologize for the poor choice of words."

Anderson and Baruah released the following statement Thursday evening:

"We are issuing this statement to clarify the facts regarding the efforts of the Detroit Regional Chamber (DRC) and the regional CEO Group related to regional economic development. At this time no further statements will be given beyond this one.

"The Detroit Regional Chamber reached out to Gerry Anderson over two years ago to begin work on enhancing the 11-county region’s approach to business attraction and marketing to out of state and international companies, including discussing ways to increase financial support to best-in-class levels.

"Earlier this year the CEO Group and the DRC Board, at the Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah’s urging, agreed to form a new, standalone entity to focus on raising and deploying additional resources for business attraction and marketing for the entire Southeast Michigan region. This entity will follow a “by the region and for the region” approach that is consistent with best-in-class models across the country, similar to groups such as Greater MSP in Minneapolis and Columbus 2020 in Columbus.

"This new, combined entity will build upon the Chamber’s existing program and team and will continue to serve all 11 counties. It will never engage in assisting a company relocate from one part of our region to another. Its ethic will be that when one part of the region wins, all in the region win.

"This new entity will be exclusively focused on driving new businesses from outside the region to locate new jobs within the region. As stated by Gerry Anderson earlier today, “The entire region benefits when investment and jobs come from outside Michigan and the country to Southeast Michigan. The Detroit Regional Chamber, the Regional CEO Group, and all the county leadership in Southeast Michigan can make a positive difference when we align and create incremental, good paying jobs for the 11-county region.”

"The Regional CEO Group is grateful for the leadership of the Detroit Regional Chamber for developing this award-winning program that forms the platform for a more robust program and results. The Detroit Regional Chamber appreciates the interest of the Regional CEO Group in this important regional matter and their leadership in securing the resources for this globally competitive effort.

"It is intended that this new organization have representation from the 11-county region, as well as representatives from the greater business community. We are conducting a nationwide CEO search for the most qualified business attraction and marketing executive."

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