Diane Pearson knew she wanted to open a business. She just had to find the right place.
“I wanted to stay in Rochester Hills because I was raised there,” Pearson said.
She got her wish when she found a space formerly occupied by a Blockbuster store, on Rochester Road near Barclay Circle. She opened a 24-hour 7-Eleven store there in December.
“Rochester Hills does have a very good business base, especially a small business base,” said Pearson, who lives with her husband Steve in Clarkston. “They’re a tight-knit community, and I think the business owners support each other very well.”
Steve Pearson, who retired from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office last year after 34 years of service, said he and his wife are grateful for the employees at the new store.
“(They’re) well-trained and very professional,” he said.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who was at the store’s March 15 grand opening, said there’s a reason for the city’s growth.
“When you have good municipal government coupled with low taxes, you attract new businesses,” Patterson said.
Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said that with businesses like the Pearsons’ and others moving in, “we’ve had a tremendous number of companies moving into the city over the last 12 months, so much so that our vacancy rate is the lowest it’s been since we began keeping track of the number in 2002.”
On the residential side, about two new construction homes were sold every week in the city last year, Barnett said, with an average value of $410,000.
“Home construction and the housing market is absolutely on fire right now,” the mayor said. “We’re hearing about multiple offers on homes and homes selling in less than a week for more than the asking price. I’m hearing that almost daily now. We’re really excited to see that and hear that happening in our community.”
2013 is projected to be the year that the city’s property tax assessments rise for the first time since 2008, Barnett said.
“New business and new residents are really positive for us, and help us make up the difference in what we’ve lost in property values in the last several years,” he said.
The state’s 15th largest city is a unique one in many ways, Barnett said.
“We’ve consistently been a unique story in southeast Michigan for a community of our size that’s continued to grow,” he said. “Most of the cities our size have continued to go in the other direction in terms of population, especially in the last five or six years.”
Rochester Hills, a city of about 70,000 people, has an unemployment rate of about 4 percent, according to the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
New businesses that have opened or are planning on opening soon include Pearson’s 7-Eleven store, All American Pet Resort, Dr. Tari Kern’s business Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets and a Tim Horton’s on Rochester Road.
The City of Rochester, to the north, has seen about 15 recent new business openings.
“Investment is happening in the greater Rochester area, and (it) continues to be very strong in business growth and development,” said Sheri Heiney, president of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“We have excellent community leadership, along with strong business growth. The Rochester area has a lot to offer (to) both a company and residents, which really makes our communities an easy sell. Businesses need the quality of life to attract great workers, so it is a community effort, from our schools (and) recreation (to our) health and cultural experiences,” she said.
The chamber hosted 40 ribbon-cuttings the area it covers — Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township — last year, Heiney said, and is on track to do the same in 2013.
At the northeast corner of Adams Road and Walton Boulevard, about 50,000 cars come to the Village of Rochester Hills shopping center every week, said Scott Aikens, the mall’s vice president of leasing.
“We feel that it’s a great market, and we work hard to bring new business in to best serve that market,” Aikens said.
The mall was built on the site of the former indoor Meadowbrook Mall and will celebrate its 11th anniversary this fall. The Village of Rochester Hills has 300,000 square feet of retail space and approximately 50 stores, with Carson’s, formerly known as Parisian, and Whole Foods Market as its anchors.
Douglas J. Aveda Salon, Massage Entity, Noodles & Company and Subway all opened at the mall late last year, Aikens said, and Yummy Yogurt is a new addition planned for this spring.
“We work hard to make the Village a point of civic pride,” Aikens said.
Pearson, who began the process of opening a 7-Eleven franchise two years ago, said her store is doing well.
“I wanted to reinvest in the community (my parents) raised me in. It was important to me,” she said.
Dustin Blitchok, The Oakland Press.