ROCHESTER HILLS — Sashaying across the stage with a team of ’80s-style dancers in tow, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett wowed the sold-out crowd with his flashy 13th annual State of the City address.

ROCHESTER HILLS — Sashaying across the stage with a team of ’80s-style dancers in tow, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett wowed the sold-out crowd with his flashy 13th annual State of the City address.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Barnett takes it back to the ’80s for State of the City address

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 1, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Sashaying across the stage with a team of ’80s-style dancers in tow, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett wowed the sold-out crowd with his flashy 13th annual State of the City address.

Barnett took guests back to the decade of “totally rad fashion, fun music and funky style” to celebrate the city’s 35 years April 25 at Rochester Adams High School.

“We are going to tell our story and celebrate like no other community — I can promise you that,” Barnett shared.

To assist him in keeping the packed house entertained, Oakland University’s Gold Vibrations took to the stage with a themed a cappella performance, former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley played the national anthem on a piano synthesizer, various dance groups performed, and Oakland University graduate and DJ Joey Namou — better known as “Joey Radio” on Channel 95.5’s “Mojo in the Morning” — played a variety of hits from the ’80s from behind a giant neon LED boombox.

“It is an honor, an absolute honor, to boldly say the state of our city is exceptionally strong and thriving,” Barnett said, sporting an Atari shirt and a black suit. “Or to keep it in tune with our theme this evening, it’s big-time bodacious and radically tubular.”

The success of Rochester Hills is off the charts, according to Barnett.

The housing market in Rochester Hills is “absolutely on fire,” he said.

Last year, 118 homes were built in the city, with the average cost of those new homes up nearly 27%, to almost $446,000. Home values in Rochester Hills have risen an average of 48% since 2013, and foreclosures dropped to historic levels to just 18 in 2018 — a 95% decrease.

The city’s commercial and industrial growth, he said, has been just as robust.

“In 2018, the city welcomed another seven new high-tech companies and helped many others expand their operations, resulting in over 450 new jobs and over $70 million into investment,” Barnett said.

Over the years, the city has grown into “a regional economic powerhouse,” according to Barnett, with over 1,600 companies employing more than 42,000 people.

Rochester Hills has also benefited from international investment. German-based automotive parts supplier KOSTAL Kontakt Systeme will invest nearly $58 million to construct a new North American headquarters and production facility on 16 acres on Adams Road, along M-59, next year. French auto parts supplier AdduXi Inc. — which opened the first factory outside of its home country in Rochester Hills in 2014 — also recently expanded its presence in the city, opening a new facility on Research Drive.

The city’s total business vacancy rate — which combines the industrial, flex, retail and office uses — is at 4.7%, down from 6% last year. The city’s unemployment rate is at a record low, Barnett said, at just 2.7%, 48% below the national average.

A few new city projects were highlighted during the speech.

The $12 million Auburn Road corridor project, Barnett said, will improve safety while creating a downtown district atmosphere — including more parking options, outdoor seating, lighting, a pocket park and the city’s first splash pad — along Auburn Road, between Culbertson Avenue and Dequindre Road, this summer.

The city’s first new park in 25 years, Innovation Hills Park, on Hamlin Road, east of Adams Road, “has stolen my heart,” he said. Barnett announced that over $1.8 million in donations, grants and in-kind support has been raised for the park to date. The 114-acre park will include over 4 miles of woodland and boardwalk trails — some illuminated by solar glow-in-the-dark path pavers — two ponds, a gazebo, a kayak landing pad on the Clinton River, a community gathering space, shelters, overlooks, observation points, a sensory garden, the region’s largest universally accessible play area, and more.

Barnett said his team “straight up nerds out” when managing the city’s finances.

“While not raising your taxes, we have harnessed innovation to improve service delivery and again finished the year well under budget. In fact, in 2018, we kicked in almost $1.8 million into our general fund balance just because of our team’s diligence,” Barnett noted.

The city was named the sixth-safest in the United States and the safest city in Michigan by Safe Home.org; it was ranked one of the best places to live in Michigan by Niche.com and one of the best college towns in Michigan by CollegeSnacks.com. It was recognized as the eighth-best small city in the United States to start a small business by Verizon Business, among other accolades.

“We are experiencing the very best years in our history and have achieved the enviable position of setting the bar for excellence in local government,” said Barnett. “While we appreciate the recognition, it doesn’t take our laser-light focus off of our mission to be the preeminent place to live, work and raise your family anywhere in America.”

Barnett awarded a Community Excellence Award to NASCAR driver and former city resident Brad Keselowski — who was honored for his charity, the Checkered Flag Foundation, which has helped over 250 organizations supporting veterans and first responders.

“Rochester Hills is such a great town. I’m proud to be from there and proud of this recognition,” Keselowski said in an on-screen appearance.

Girls of the Crescent, a nonprofit started by Rochester Adams High School students and sisters Zena and Mena Nasiri, also received a Community Excellence Award from Barnett, who praised the sisters’ efforts to increase the number of books featuring female Muslims in school media centers. Through their nonprofit, they have collected 200 books to add to 21 school media centers and libraries across the U.S.

Rochester Hills resident Mark Warren, who attended the State of the City address for the first time this year, said he enjoyed Barnett’s performance.

“I was very thrilled,” Warren said. “I knew the city was very well-run, but now I see the detail. I’m very impressed, especially with how well-run the city is financially and the vision for the city.”

Warren complimented Barnett on his overall performance.

“It was a very professional delivery, but he wasn’t a stick in the mud. He really stood out,” he said.

Residents can watch the 2019 State of the City address at www.youtube.com/rochesterhillstv.

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