Auburn Hills might make you think basketball first, but it’s a booming business hub Featured

7:01pm EDT January 31, 2012
Laurie Johnson Laurie Johnson

Auburn Hills is known to the nation as the home of The Palace of Auburn Hills, the arena where the Detroit Pistons have won three NBA titles dating to 1989. The Palace is certainly important to the city — it counts as Auburn Hills’ third-largest corporate employer.

But if you only think basketball when you think Auburn Hills, you’re selling the city short. Located in eastern Oakland County, Auburn Hills is a business hub with resources including five colleges and universities, and access to major transportation routes and facilities.

“We have a great location,” says Laurie Johnson, the city’s economic development coordinator. “We have access to M-59, I-75 and two major airports, and that’s one of the big reasons why the city is 80 percent business. Usually, a city like ours will be close to a half-and-half mix of business and residential, or lower on business, but business is what we are built on. We know business here.”

Business also thrives in Auburn Hills because of the educational support structure provided by the quintet of higher-learning institutions that operate in the city: Oakland University, Oakland Community College, and satellite campuses of Central Michigan University, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which have helped construct training programs used by area corporations.

The city’s government has also taken proactive steps to make it easier for businesses to start or relocate. Auburn Hills Advantage is a program that helps streamline the process of providing businesses new to the city with the resources they need. The city’s leaders also implement state tax abatement acts to drive growth.

“With Auburn Hills Advantage, what we do is bring everybody together in a meeting,

 Johnson says. “We find out what exactly the business’ needs are and what needs to be done, so that when they walk away to submit their building application or site plan, it’s going to be so streamlined, they’re not going to have to come back and do things a couple of times. We’re going to walk you through it.”

The tax incentives include Michigan’s Public Act 198 and Public Act 328. Act 198 is a 50 percent abatement on property tax for a new structure or addition to an existing structure, and a 50 percent abatement on personal property taxes. Act 328, usually reserved for larger projects, is a 100 percent abatement on personal property tax.

Of course, to build, you need space, which Auburn Hills has in the form of 22 business and technology parks.

“One site was just recently purchased, and we have had two new buildings built,” Johnson says. “They broke ground in May 2010, and were up and running by that October. That gives you an idea of how fast we are, and how well we work with our businesses.”

Quick info:

County: Oakland

Population: 21,400 (2010)

City manager: Peter Auger

Area: 16.6 sq. mi.

Notable businesses: Chrysler, Volkswagen/Audi, Delphi, BorgWarner, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, The Palace of Auburn Hills

Phone: (248) 370-9400