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MICHauto emerges as economic development force for state auto industry (with video)

From the Detroit Free Press

By Brent Snavely

September 24, 2013

One of the first things Sandy Baruah noticed about Michigan before he was named CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber in 2010 was the lack of a unified voice for the state’s automotive industry.

“There wasn’t one organization in Michigan speaking on behalf of Michigan, and other states had these very organized delegations,” said Baruah, who worked in the Bush administration when General Motors and Chrysler hit rock bottom in the fall of 2008.

Tom Manganello, a partner with the law firm Warner Norcross and Judd, founded MICHauto in 2007 along with other high-ranking automotive executives. Manganello works out of the firm’s Southfield office.

But when the recession hit, survival needs forced most interested parties to put volunteer efforts on the back burner.

“We all had other jobs to do and we were spending too much time on this organization,” Manganello said.

On Wednesday, MICHauto will hold the inaugural Michigan Automotive Summit at Cobo Center in Detroit. The organization expects more than 900 will attend a lunch session sponsored by Inforum with General Motors CEO Dan Akerson as the speaker.

Manganello got the idea to form MICHauto after attending a manufacturing conference in Alabama in 2006.

A number of Southern states, including Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, have associations that promote their own state’s automotive industry and seek to recruit additional investment from the automotive industry.

Michigan is home to GM, Ford, Chrysler and 61 of the top 100 largest North American suppliers, but in the past there was a perception within the industry that the state’s economic development leaders took them for granted.

“The question is how do we ensure that Michigan continues to be the epicenter of the global auto industry?” Manganello said.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.