As communities across America’s Heartland continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn, state and local leaders are working to position their communities as part of the modern, high-tech, global economy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Metro Detroit, where cities famous for being the pillars of America’s auto industry are working to use their global connections to power the next iteration of Michigan’s economic success story.
In the northern Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Mayor Bryan Barnett has been working to highlight his community as a preview of what a high-tech and globally connected Michigan economy can look like. This leafy city of over 75,000 people in Oakland County punches above its weight and has been looking to drive economic development and change from the ground up. Despite its size, the city is home to over 50 global companies and is at the forefront of attracting foreign investment to the state of Michigan. The clear benefits of working and engaging with the rest of the world are on full display in the city. In the above video, Mayor Barnett talks about how Rochester Hills is now, according to Barnett, the “Robotic Capital of the Continent”. A focus on high-tech manufacturing jobs and creating an environment to attract foreign companies to invest in southeast Michigan is helping Rochester Hills’ economy lead not just in Michigan but on the global stage.
In addition to a globally connected and integrated economy, Rochester Hills also has many other global connections. The city is twinned with Tuzi, Montenegro and is also home to Oakland University, which enrolls well over 1,000 international students. The community is also positioned between Detroit and more rural parts of Michigan, allowing it to benefit from Michigan’s agricultural sector led by companies such as Cargill and from the manufacturing and commercial sectors based in Detroit. This unique location further positions the city as a hub for a globally connected Michigan.
As Michigan and the United States as a whole move towards a new economic future—building robots and electric cars—it’s clear that Rochester Hills is working to position itself at the forefront of such advancement. With a solid bedrock of international connections from sister cities to internationally recognized academic institutions and a history of being connected with the rest of the world it’s clear that Rochester Hills deserves a spotlight as a globally engaged city in America’s Heartland.