Photo by Bob Oliver
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano (left) addresses a small crowd at the Automotive Hall of Fame during his 2014 State of the County address Feb. 18. Ficano spoke about the economic comeback of the county and said he chose a Dearborn location for the speech to remind county residents to visit local museums and attractions and because the city has strong ties to the automotive industry, the largest provider of jobs for the county.
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Using the Automotive Hall of Fame as the setting, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano delivered a State of the County address that compared the financial comeback of the county to that of the auto industry and emphasized future collaborations between local municipalities.
“Like the auto industry, Wayne County has had its share of adversity,” Ficano said. “Like the auto industry, we’ve fought back from adversity and are moving forward again. We’ve restructured, reorganized and rededicated ourselves to serving the people of this community.”
Ficano said the county is still working its way out of the 2008 recession, which has cost the county $353 million just in lost property tax revenue and left 182 cities, villages and townships in the state under the direction of emergency managers.
He said his office has made serious efforts to lower their own expenses to help combat the lost revenue, such as cutting employee salaries, reducing the county workforce by 1,300 positions and reducing health care costs to employees by 50 percent. He said these changes have contributed to the county’s goal of eliminating both their accumulated and annual structural deficits.
“We continue to be creative in cutting expenses,” Ficano said. “But we haven’t just been cutting back, we’re moving forward.”
Ficano also said that since the 2012 fiscal year the county has attracted more than $1.3 billion in new investments. He highlighted a $550 million investment from Ford Motor Co. to upgrade its Flat Rock Assembly Plant and a $71 million plan from Gateway Marketplace to construct a new building near the site of the old state fairgrounds at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road in Detroit as examples.
“If you’re going to call Michigan the ‘Comeback State,’ then you have to call us the ‘Comeback County’ because we’re leading the way,” Ficano said.
Ficano also said the region needs to come together for the advancement of everyone, and cooperation from every municipality is crucial moving forward.
“Some people believe our communities can succeed individually, and in isolation from one another,” Ficano said. “They’re wrong. Others take comfort in the fact that their side of the boat is not leaking. They’re wrong. As a region we need to come together for the advancement of everyone.”
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., who gave the opening remarks at the address, later said he hopes Ficano and Wayne County will stick with that philosophy and work with the cities and townships to offer the best for every citizen.
“I think we really need to work to align the government in a way that makes sense and not just a repeat of what we’ve done traditionally,” O’Reilly said. “The cities, county and state need to stop working independently so much and get together to find the best way to face the challenges we all face.”
He said residents in every city are more concerned with getting better services, whether that is trash pickup or less potholes, and less with who takes credit for the work.
“Citizens want their governments working together and they want things to get done no matter who does them,” O’Reilly said. “They want their quality of life to be at its highest and when the various levels of government aren’t working together those essential services can really suffer.”
The address was Ficano’s 12th as Wayne County Executive. His third term as executive ends in December.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])