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Automotive Experts: In Mobility Race, Michigan’s Leadership Dependent on Talent Access

By Carlotta Gmachl

Michigan is well-positioned to lead in the mobility race but risks losing its foothold without access to a pipeline of highly skilled talent and a renewed effort to attract entrepreneurs. That was a key message that automotive and technology leaders outlined during a panel discussion at the Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) Annual Conference last week in Holland.

Led by Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto, the panel “The Future of a Driverless Society” also included eLab Ventures’ Paul Brown, Warner Norcross & Judd’s Randall Peck, and InfiniteKey’s Kevin Virta.

Key takeaways include:

  • Talent remains the biggest challenge for startups in Michigan.
  • Most students are interested in joining big corporations and are overlooking their opportunity at a newly founded business. This is particularly true for engineers who are in high demand.
  • While Michigan excels in vehicle mass production, Silicon Valley is known for being strong in product development. Because of this, entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and Michigan see the opportunity to cooperate.
  • Amongst the biggest obstacles for Michigan entrepreneurs is the lack of an established entrepreneur community.
  • Taking risks requires a strong backbone and a community that supports those risky decisions — something Michigan is lagging on.

Panelists also highlighted the importance of Michigan as an attractive state for startups, particularly when it comes to the convergence of technology and mobility. The overarching message of attracting talent reinforces the importance of key tenants of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy: increasing post-secondary degree attainment and increasing mobility-related projects.

“It is clear that Michigan has a challenge and an opportunity to continue to develop our mobility startup ecosystem and to continue to lead in next-generation mobility,” Stevens said.


Carlotta Gmachl is a Business Attraction and MICHauto coordinator at the Detroit Regional Chamber.