Detroit Is Becoming the Silicon Valley of Smart Mobility Tech

March 5, 2018

By Marcus Amick

Silicon Valley might be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of groundbreaking technology, but there’s another major tech revolution underway some 2,300 miles east. 

Building on decades of experience putting the world on wheels, Michigan has been busily establishing its own reputation as a place for high-tech innovation, from engineering the next level of electric batteries to the development of driverless ride-sharing vehicles. It’s a shift that’s quickly transforming the Detroit-anchored manufacturing hub, long known for its growling muscle cars and massive luxury SUVs, into a burgeoning tech spot that’s poised to drive the future of mobility.

The area’s transformation into a hotbed for mobility ideas is being driven by an expansive partnership across the state with car companies, automotive suppliers, universities, local agencies, startups and others in the public and private sectors, which has created a research and development ecosystem unlike any other in the world.

Playboy recently had a chance to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at some of the collaborative efforts that are leading the charge, touring places like the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and University of Michigan’s Mcity.

Launched in 2016, TRI aims to bridge the gap between research and product development in the mobility space, spanning from artificial intelligence to cutting-edge robotics. The Ann Arbor-based Mcity, which opened in 2015, brings together leaders from the auto sector, government and academia to work on new innovations for practically every facet of self-driving vehicle technology, from pedestrian detection systems to connected vehicles. In fact, later this year, Mcity will launch operations for what is believed to be the first fully autonomous shuttle to be used on a college campus to transport students, faculty and staff.

Michigan also just celebrated the opening of the American Center for Mobility (ACM), a state-of-the-art proving ground for connected and automated vehicle technology. The 500-acre site will provide researchers and engineers with real-world driving dynamics when testing driverless vehicles, and includes a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts.

At the U-M Energy Institute Battery Lab, researchers are working on ways to develop cheaper and longer-lasting energy-storage devices that will make automobiles more efficient in the future. Even the Michigan-based pizza company Domino’s has jumped into the fray, teaming up with Ford Motor Co. to conduct a pilot project in Michigan, where pizza deliveries were made with an autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid, and customers were able to use GPS technology to follow their delivery vehicle with an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker system. Ford is now revving up to apply the lessons learned in the Michigan pilot project to launch its first self-driving vehicle business in Miami and Miami Beach, in a partnership with Domino’s and the food delivery service Postmates.

Trevor Pawl, Group VP of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), an organization helping to connect the dots in the state’s mobility strategy, says it only makes sense for Michigan to take a leading role in the space.

“Seventy-six percent of the American auto industry’s research and development happens in the state of Michigan. Ninety-six percent of the top 100 automotive suppliers in North America have a presence in Michigan. And Michigan has the greatest concentration of original equipment manufacturers in the world,” notes Pawl, who also serves as VP of PlanetM, an arm of MEDC that focuses solely on mobility issues. “If a new vehicle technology is going to be produced for the masses, that technology will likely run through an executive, designer, buyer or engineer in Michigan.”

According to PlanetM, Michigan has led the nation in mobility-related patents over the past five years, and is home to 49 connected and automated vehicle projects—more than any other state. The North American International Show, held in early January in Detroit, devoted an entire area to showcasing some of the strides the city is making in the tech-driven mobility space.

Playboy had a chance to get a more hands-on take on some of that progress, when given the opportunity to test drive the 238-mile-range Chevrolet Bolt EV in Los Angeles, a city in which one gets a true sense of the dire need for smarter mobility. All of the engineering, battery development and vehicle integration for the electric Chevy hatch, which was first introduced at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was done in Michigan. The surprisingly peppy Bolt EV, which starts at around $36,000, is now widely considered to be the go-to example on how to successfully pull off a “true” electric vehicle for the masses, a mark that even the Northern California-based Tesla has struggled with, despite its popularity as a brand.

Still, the idea, Pawl tells Playboy, is not for Michigan to compete with Silicon Valley, but rather to build a more cohesive partnership with California. “Both regions need one another,” he says. “California can leverage Michigan’s production expertise, and Michigan can benefit from Silicon Valley’s software prowess and startup ecosystem.”

For Detroit, the state’s shift into the area of mobility has become a pivotal part of the city’s local development strategy, as a means of solving transportation issues for Detroit’s nearly 700,000 residents, and luring more businesses and people to the city.

“Getting from A to B is one of the basic functions of life. And as we grow as a city, both for people that have been here for 50 years as well as potential new residents, both have that same need of getting where they need to go and doing it in a way that’s safe, fast and affordable. And that’s what we are striving to do,” says Mark de la Vergne, the City of Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation. “We need to continue to make investments in transit and make it easier for people to do it. We want this to be able to provide the mobility that allows people to get where they need to be, whether that’s their job, whether that’s a doctor’s appointment, whether that’s their school. It’s important part of life.”

The city’s partnerships with groups like Techstars, a global mentoring and funding network that has an automotive mobility arm in Detroit, are more specifically focused on fostering the other side of that development strategy, namely attracting new startups to the city.

To date, Techstars has bought in a group of more than 30 diverse companies from around the world that are focused on developing new automotive mobility technologies. “A handful came from Michigan. It’s almost all external, companies that actually wanted to come to Detroit,” says Ted Serbinski, managing director of Techstars mobility. “Startups know that if you want to be in automotive, you have to come here.”

Detroit’s positioning in Michigan’s growth as a major mobility development hub is also being fueled by longer-standing businesses such as the Lear Corporation, an automotive supplier that develops high-tech seating systems, which opened a satellite innovation center in the city’s downtown area in 2016.

Stephen Rober, VP of engineering at Lear, says the downtown location gives the company prime access to one of the most critical resources needed when it comes to automotive innovations. “This lets us tap more directly into the city’s infrastructure, the schools that are here, the local universities,” Rober tells Playboy. “It gives us more direct access…to that raw talent.”

Looking to make a more direct connection in its mobility strategy, Ford, which is headquartered on the outskirts of the city, is also gearing up to open a new office in downtown Detroit focused on autonomous and electric vehicles that will house more than 200 employees. The popular ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have been pushing to make a bigger play in Detroit as well. In addition, the University of Michigan startup May Mobility has been using Downtown Detroit as a major hub for testing its new driverless shuttles as part of its future growth strategy.

Of course, the city long known as the “car capital” of the world is nowhere close to abandoning its core tradition of crafting cool cars out of hunks of sheet metal, which has shaped the area for more than 100 years. But it’s clear that the region is more focused on redefining itself for the future of transportation, rather than reveling in its legacy.

“We fully design, integrate, engineer and build some of the most world-class vehicles. But mobility is changing and it has to,” says Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber MICHauto and vice president of the chamber’s Automotive & Mobility Initiatives. “These forces that are hitting us—where people are moving to cities, scarcity of resources…and everything in between—means that we need to use our base platform of innovation in automotive to transform our industry here in Michigan and Detroit to the way the world is consuming mobility.”

This article was originally published on on March 5, 2018. 

Clayton & McKervey manager elected vice president/treasurer of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest -Michigan Chapter

Clayton & McKervey, an international certified public accounting and business advisory firm located in metro Detroit, announces that Gregory M. Schulte, CPA, a manager at the firm, has been elected Vice President/Treasurer for the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest – Michigan Chapter (GACC-MI). He has been involved with GACC-MI since 2015 and previously served as Vice President/Membership.

At Clayton & McKervey, Schulte is a manager in the Small and Mid-Sized Entities (SME) practice, offering accounting, consulting and business advisory services to SMEs in the U.S. and abroad. Conversational in German, and with 15 years of experience in a family-owned tool and die company, Schulte’s client base includes several closely-held German businesses who share a culture and philosophy that is second-nature to him. Schulte is also an adjunct professor of accounting at Walsh College, where he helps students obtain the skills necessary to to use accounting as a business analysis tool.

Schulte holds a Master of Science in Accountancy from Walsh College, a Master of Arts in Communications from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Arizona State University.

About the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest – MI Chapter
The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest – Michigan Chapter is a non-profit membership organization that encourages trade and investment between Germany and Michigan, and forms a part of the worldwide network of Chambers of Industry and Commerce based in Germany. The Michigan Chapter was formed in 1994 and, with more than 300 members, represents the largest membership of any State in the United States

About Clayton & McKervey
Clayton & McKervey is a full-service CPA firm helping middle-market entrepreneurial companies compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world. To learn more, visit


110 Lawyers from Dykema Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018

Dykema, a leading national law firm, announced today that 110 of the its attorneys, in multiple practice areas and markets, have been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018 guide. Additionally, 10 of the firm’s practitioners have been named Best Lawyers 2018 “Lawyer of the Year,” a special distinction conferred upon a single lawyer within a practice area and metropolitan market.

The Best Lawyers in America® is the pre-eminent national listing of outstanding attorneys. This annual guide is derived from exhaustive peer-review surveys in which thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers.

The Dykema attorneys named Best Lawyers 2018 “Lawyers of the Year,” the practice area(s) for which they are being recognized and office location are:

• Kerry T. Benedict – Banking and Finance Law
• Marie R. Deveney – Trusts and Estates
• James P. Feeney – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Dennis M. Haffey – Litigation – Banking and Finance
• J. Daniel Harkins – Litigation – Intellectual Property
• Kathryn J. Humphrey – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Howard B. Iwrey – Litigation – Antitrust
• D. Richard McDonald – Securities / Capital Markets Law
• William J. Perrone – Government Relations Practice
• James M. Truss – Oil and Gas Law
The Dykema attorneys listed in the 2018 Best Lawyers in America guide, identified by office location and the practice areas for which they have been recognized, are:

Ann Arbor, Michigan

• Maria B. Abrahamsen – Health Care Law
• Phyllis G. Adams – Health Care Law
• Marie R. Deveney – Trusts and Estates
• Kathrin E. Kudner – Health Care Law
• Melvin J. Muskovitz – Employment Law – Management; Labor Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• Roselyn (Roz) Parmenter – Health Care Law
• Ronald J. Santo – Employment Law – Management; Labor Law – Management
• Robert P. Tiplady – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Trusts and Estates
• Jill M. Wheaton – Appellate Practice; Commercial Litigation

Austin, Texas

• Keith A. Shuley – Environmental Law; Water Law
• Phillip M. Slinkard – Corporate Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

• Bowden V. Brown – Public Finance Law
• Brendan J. Cahill – Mergers and Acquisitions Law
• Amy M. Christen – Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
• Michael G. Cumming – Trusts and Estates
• Stephen R. Estey – Land Use and Zoning Law
• James P. Feeney – Arbitration; Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Corporate Law; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Adam M. Fishkind – Real Estate Law
• Fred J. Fresard – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Alan M. Greene – Land Use and Zoning Law; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate
• Dennis M. Haffey – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Mergers and Acquisitions; Litigation – Securities; Litigation – Trusts and Estates
• Kyle R. Hauberg – Project Finance Law; Real Estate Law
• Margaret Adams Hunter – Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
• Howard B. Iwrey – Antitrust Law; Litigation – Antitrust
• Joanne R. Lax – Health Care Law
• Gerald T. Lievois – Mergers and Acquisitions Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law
• D. Richard McDonald – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law; Securities Regulation
• Mark A. Metz – Corporate Governance Law; Corporate Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law; Securities Regulation
• Brian M. Moore – Commercial Litigation
• James D. Obermanns – Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
• Sheryl L. Toby – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy
• Stephen L. Tupper – Information Technology Law

Chicago, Illinois

• Ross J. Altman – Construction Law; Real Estate Law
• Michael C. Borders – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Terrence M. Burns – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
• Derek L. Cottier – Real Estate Law
• C. Elizabeth Darke – Real Estate Law
• Michael S. Kurtzon – Real Estate Law
• Robert C. Linton – Real Estate Law
• Andrew P. Scott – Land Use and Zoning Law
• Michael F. Sexton – Real Estate Law
• Ian M. Sherman – Insurance Law

Dallas, Texas

• Thomas B. Alleman – Insurance Law; Litigation – Environmental
• Mark E. Andrews – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law
• M. David Bryant, Jr. – Commercial Litigation
• William Frank Carroll – Arbitration; Banking and Finance Law; Commercial Litigation; Mediation
• Bob H. Feroze – Real Estate Law
• William B. Finkelstein – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law
• Brian R. Forbes – Real Estate Law
• R. Chris Harvey – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Christopher D. Kratovil – Appellate Practice
• Arlene Switzer Steinfield – Employment Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• Edwin J. Tomko – Criminal Defense: White-Collar

Detroit, Michigan

• J. Michael Bernard – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law
• Robert A. Boonin – Employment Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• Michael P. Cooney – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Samuel C. Damren – Commercial Litigation; Mediation
• Sherrie L. Farrell – Commercial Litigation
• Grant P. Gilezan – Environmental Law; Litigation – Environmental
• Steven E. Grob – Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law
• James F. Hermon – Litigation – Labor and Employment
• Kathryn J. Humphrey – Aviation Law; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Mark D. Jacobs – Environmental Law
• Peter M. Kellett – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – Securities; Mediation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• Joel D. Kellman – Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law
• Jin-Kyu Koh – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law
• Cameron H. Piggott – Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law
• Carl Rashid, Jr. – Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law; Litigation – Real Estate; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Real Estate Law; Tax Law
• Thomas M. Schehr – Commercial Litigation
• Thomas S. Vaughn – Corporate Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law

Grand Rapids, Michigan

• James S. Brady – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: General Practice; Criminal Defense: White-Collar; DUI/DWI Defense; Family Law; Litigation – First Amendment; Litigation – Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy); Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
• John A. Ferroli – Environmental Law; Litigation – Environmental
• Stephen S. Muhich – Employment Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• Brian J. Page – Corporate Law; Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law

Lansing, Michigan

• Richard J. Aaron – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Energy Law
• R. Lance Boldrey – Gaming Law; Native American Law
• Sandra M. Cotter – Administrative / Regulatory Law
• Ann D. Fillingham – Corporate Law; Public Finance Law
• Gary P. Gordon – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice
• James P. Kiefer – Corporate Law; Public Finance Law
• Lori McAllister – Arbitration; Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Insurance
• William J. Perrone – Banking and Finance Law; Government Relations Practice
• W. Alan Wilk – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Corporate Compliance Law; Corporate Governance Law
• Leonard C. Wolfe – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Gaming Law; Government Relations Practice

McAllen, Texas

• Diann M. Bartek – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Minneapolis, Minnesota

• Reed R. Heimbecher – Patent Law
• Timothy D. Kelly – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Mergers and Acquisitions; Litigation – Real Estate
• Brian Melendez – Commercial Litigation

San Antonio, Texas

• Kerry T. Benedict – Banking and Finance Law; Real Estate Law
• Ramon D. Bissmeyer – Employment Law – Management; Labor Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• J. Daniel Harkins – Copyright Law; Litigation – Intellectual Property; Litigation – Patent; Patent Law; Trademark Law
• C. David Kinder – Commercial Litigation
• Wilhelm E. Liebmann – Corporate Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law
• Donna K. McElroy – Employment Law – Management; Labor Law – Management
• Robert W. Nelson – Tax Law
• J. Patrick Ryan – Corporate Law
• Thomas E. Sanders – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – ERISA
• Brett W. Schouest – Commercial Litigation
• James B. Smith, Jr. – Corporate Law
• Phylis J. Speedlin – Arbitration; Mediation
• Daniel R. Stern – Employment Law – Individuals; Employment Law – Management; Labor Law – Management; Labor Law – Union; Litigation – Labor and Employment
• John B. Stewart – Real Estate Law
• James M. Truss – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Litigation – Environmental; Litigation – Real Estate; Oil and Gas Law
• Dan G. Webster III – Corporate Law
• David B. West – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Trusts and Estates
• Deborah D. Williamson – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law
• W. Roger Wilson – Energy Law
• Harry W. Wolff, Jr. – Trusts and Estates

In addition to all of the lawyers listed above, we are proud to note that a few of our recently retired attorneys have earned recognition from Best Lawyers as well.

• Eric Thomas Carver – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates
• Jaime Ramon – Litigation – Labor and Employment; Labor Law – Management

About Best Lawyers
Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer review evaluation. More than 83,000 leading attorneys globally are eligible to vote, and we have received more than 13 million votes to date on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

About Dykema
Dykema serves business entities worldwide on a wide range of complex legal issues. Dykema lawyers and other professionals in 13 U.S. offices work in close partnership with clients – from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies – to deliver outstanding results, unparalleled service and exceptional value in every engagement. To learn more, visit and follow Dykema on Twitter at

Detroit Drives Degrees Gleans Lessons from Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland to Increase Local Graduation Rates

Last month, the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted representatives from the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland to gain insight on establishing a community-wide compact to improve education attainment. The Chamber is exploring the development of a similar pact in Detroit through its Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) initiative.

The success of the Cleveland Compact is promising: Since the initiative began in 2011, Cleveland Metropolitan School District students have seen a 13 percent increase in on-time high school graduation rates and has made progress in increasing graduation rates from four-year universities.

Maggie McGrath is the executive director of the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland. Over the past five years, she has worked with Cleveland leaders to improve college readiness, access and success. Through the Compact’s public dashboard, the community can track their progress, better understand challenges within the education system, and develop solutions to address those challenges. The Compact has earned the support of the mayor, community colleges, universities, and a range of community partners.

The D3 Leadership Council, which is comprised of regional leaders in education, business, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, is excited about adopting the Cleveland model in the Detroit region with the aim of generating similar gains in degree attainment. D3 staff will lay further groundwork for this project and continue discussions with partners about next steps this summer.

The goal of D3 is to increase the number of individuals with postsecondary accreditation to 60 percent by 2025. Currently, 43 percent of working-age adults in Michigan have a quality postsecondary credential. The only way to accomplish the 60 percent goal is by advancing access to postsecondary opportunities, strengthening student success and graduation rates, and improving both talent retention and attraction. The lack of educated talent in our region has a major impact on the local economy. Research shows that just a 1 percent increase in the four-year college attainment rate is associated with a $1,100 per year increase in average incomes throughout a metropolitan area.

For more information or to get involved contact Melanie D’Evelyn, D3’s manager of education attainment, at

IAMC Spring Forum: Taking a Closer Look at Industrial Real Estate Trends

Last month, the Detroit Regional Chamber, in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), represented our 11-county region at the Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC) spring forum, “Industrial Real Estate in the 21st Century” in Tampa (pictured). IAMC is the leading association of industrial asset management and corporate real estate executives and site selection consultants in the United States.

The Chamber spent April 8-12 meeting with site selection consultants and real estate professionals to promote Michigan’s manufacturing and talent assets.

“What’s enticing to a lot of these site selectors working with clients in the manufacturing and automotive industries is our high concentration of engineering talent,” said Brian Bilger, senior business development representative for the Chamber. “Additionally we’re seeing a lot more positive word-of-mouth marketing about Detroit’s revitalization. Everyone is curious about the momentum surrounding self-driving cars taking place in Michigan.”

Both the opening of the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti next year and the state’s passage of the SAVE (Safe Autonomous Vehicles) Act give Michigan a leg up in the competition for talent and global investment, Bilger said.

“Attending events like IAMC are critical to putting Detroit and Michigan at the top of the list for site selectors,” he said. “Michigan has a lot of competition from Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania but when it comes down to it, the brainpower is here. The amount of engineering and IT students we have is a major advantage.”

The forum also helped shed insight on key issues and trends voiced by industrial real estate developers, such as a growing trend of big box store closures.

“What’s the impact on the community when these stores close? From an adaptive reuse perspective, do these empty buildings meet the needs of companies looking to expand? What types of incentives are available? These are all questions we have to get ahead of when site selectors come to us with a proposed project,” Bilger said.

Bilger said following the forum, the Chamber has remained in contact with site selectors representing companies from Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey and South Carolina that are exploring options in Michigan. Several are planning visits to Mcity in Ann Arbor and participating in the state’s familiarization tour in September, designed to build interest in Michigan’s manufacturing and industrial real estate market.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita S. Harris at or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Legislative Update: Brownfield Bills Will Spur Region’s Transformational Development Projects, Attract Talent

Earlier this week, the Michigan Senate approved legislation to expand the state’s Brownfield TIF Act (Senate Bills 111-115) to provide gap financing for large, transformational projects. Michigan’s growth and prosperity depends on attracting and retaining talent who seek vibrant urban places to live and work.  Development projects in our urban cores continue to face significant economic gaps, as market rents fail to support major ground-up construction or rehabilitation of large, distressed historic structures.

Passing this critical legislation will unlock billions in new investment in every corner of the state, including potential projects such as Arcadia Commons West in Kalamazoo, the Grand River Rapids Restoration project in Grand Rapids, and the Silverdome in Pontiac.

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s advocacy team continues to actively engage lawmakers on this issue and serves as a leading member of the MI Thrive coalition, supporting this key component of the region and state’s continued revitalization. The coalition consists of 40 community and economic development leaders and chambers of commerce across the state.

Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards Testimony

This week, the Detroit Regional Chamber joined the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards in support of maintaining rigorous career- and college-ready standards in order for Michigan to remain competitive in the 21st century. The Chamber’s government relations team testified against the passage of House Bill 4192, which would repeal and replace Common Core standards in classrooms across the state. Repealing Common Core would be detrimental to Michigan students and undo important progress made in recent years. The coalition includes statewide education and business leaders, parents, teachers, principals and military families.

Read the full testimony:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in opposition to House Bill 4192.

In addition to speaking to the views of each of our respective organizations, we are also testifying on behalf of the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards. This coalition is a statewide partnership of education and business leaders, parents, teachers, principals and military families, committed to maintaining clear and rigorous academic standards for all Michigan students.

The ultimate goal of our K-12 education system is to prepare our students to succeed after high school graduation – no matter what their future holds. We oppose House Bill 4192 because it would be detrimental to Michigan students and undo important progress that we have made in recent years.

Our opposition comes down the three main factors. First, rigorous career- and college-ready academic standards are important for student success. Second, changing academic expectations for students and teachers now would undo recent progress. Finally, students and educators need certainty and consistency – not further change.

Career- and College Ready Academic Standards are important for student success.

Michigan moved to our current academic standards after recognizing that too many of our students did not have the skills and knowledge to succeed after high school. Far too many students graduate, but were unprepared to enter the workforce or begin credit-bearing coursework in training and degree programs.

Our current academic standards were designed to build seamlessly from kindergarten to 12th grade, preparing students to succeed in the next grade, and eventually in career, college and life. Unlike prior standards, they focus on real-world skills like critical thinking, problem solving and deep comprehension, rather than simple memorization.

Changing standards now would undo recent progress.

The shift from our old standards to our current standards was not easy and did not happen overnight. Our teachers have been asked to teach at much higher levels, and our student have had to learn at higher levels. Countless hours have been spent by teachers and districts preparing for this shift, implementing higher standards and developing standards-aligned curriculum.

All of this effort has paid off as students are graduating better prepared to succeed in their path after high school. Over the next several years, we expect this progress to accelerate.

Students and educators need certainty and consistency.

Finally, over the past several years, there has been tremendous change within Michigan education, including the challenging work of implementing much more rigorous academic standards. While these changes have been difficult for our school and teachers, they have been absolutely necessary for preparing our students to succeed in the next grade, and eventually in careers, college and life.

Michigan educators and students have stepped up to this challenge and we are beginning to see these efforts pay off. Now, students and educators need consistency and time to meet – and exceed – our higher expectations.

Unfortunately, this legislation would stall the progress that has been made over the past several years and add volatility and uncertainty for our students, educators and families. As a result, we are strongly opposed to this legislation.

Our broad and diverse coalition recognizes the importance of having clear and rigorous academic standards that help students build toward future success. We are making important progress and need to continue doing so. For the reasons discussed today, we are opposed to House Bill 4192.

Thank you for your time.

Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards


For more information, please contact Lindsay Case Palsrok at

Tech Startup Lessons from Israel: Entrepreneurs Thrive with Collaboration, Government Support

A robust talent pipeline. Government support for startups. Strong academic and STEM education programs. No fear of failure. These are just a few of the key ingredients that contribute to Israel’s status as a top five global technology startup hub.

In an effort to better understand the Israeli ecosystem of innovation, the Detroit Regional Chamber recently attended a five-day, fact-finding mission to the country led by Deloitte and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. It was held concurrently during Gov. Rick Snyder’s Israel trip to enhance business ties with Michigan.

The delegation included chief information technology officers and executives from AT&TConsumers EnergyGeneral Motors, Henry Ford Health System, and nine additional organizations across the state.

During the week, the delegation met with key decision-makers from 12 leading technology startups and attended the 2017 CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv to hear from cyber experts from multi-national corporations, startups, private and corporate investors, and venture capital firms. Gov. Snyder provided opening remarks at the Conference (pictured).

The group also met with Avi Hasson, Israel’s chief scientist, and received an up-close look at AT&T’s latest innovation center in Raanana, GM’s Advanced Technical Center in Tel Aviv, and Israel’s Startup Nation Central, a nonprofit focused on getting innovation in front of leading companies around the world.

Other stops included meetings with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Talpiot Program, an elite training program for students who excel in science and technology; and CYBERBIT, a global leader in cybersecurity and intelligence.

Building Relationships to Maintain Michigan’s Mobility Leadership

In sheer size comparison, Michigan is 11 times larger than the entire country of Israel. Despite that, estimates put Israel’s startup companies at nearly 1,000 in a given year.

Driving this entrepreneurial boom is a combination of Israel’s mandated military service and the resulting talent development, and robust seed funding from the government and venture capital firms for startups.

Public and private collaboration, along with a dedicated source of government funding, is an area where Detroit and Michigan can draw lessons.

“With more than 90,000 engineers, Detroit is also an innovation center with a similar ecosystem. But where our companies are built to drive innovation internally to meet the needs of their own customers, Israel is more externally focused,” said Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction for the Chamber.

“The trick is, how do we take our innovation culture and flip it around to encourage more collaboration and information sharing, especially as we look to be a leader in solving issues around global mobility moving forward?” Robinson added.

He said one thing is clear:

“Israel is a market Michigan must have a close relationship with not only because of the volume, but also the quality of innovation taking place. They have a culture that asks partners, ‘bring us your problems’ – and there are no shortage of challenges in delivering autonomous driving to the world,” he said.

“The Chamber and MICHauto are committed to further enhancing the connections between our established automotive industry and venture capital community with the technology ecosystem in Israel. Doing so will be a win-win for both of our communities,” Robinson added.

For more information on Business Attraction, contact Justin Robinson at or 313.596.0352.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at, or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Mobility initiative aims to match state auto business, Silicon Valley

Crain’s Detroit Business 

By Dustin Walsh 

January 8, 2017

The state’s Planet M mobility initiative is aiming to play matchmaker between companies in Michigan and Silicon Valley.

Planet M, a branding partnership between the state and local economic development firms, businesses and colleges, plans to identify and solve the manufacturing, testing and customer gaps faced by Silicon Valley’s tech industry players focused on transportation and mobility.

Mass production, particularly of automobiles and automobile technology, has proven difficult for California companies. Apple Inc. pulled out of making its own car, and Tesla Inc. has repeatedly missed its delivery targets for its lower-cost Model 3. California needs Michigan’s expertise, but at the dawn of a new age of mobility and technology, the auto industry can also benefit from the fast-paced nature and vitality of Silicon Valley’s technology stronghold.

“This was dreamt up by talking to industry, here in Detroit and in California,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of trade and procurement programs at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The plan is his brainchild.

“We want to get Michigan companies involved in the valley and get those startups and tech companies there access to the end clients here,” Pawl said. “If we can connect them to Ford or Delphi or whomever, that means they’re more likely to invest and create jobs in Michigan.”

The MEDC and its partners will spend $250,000 in 2017 on sponsorships, creating “Shark Tank”-style events where California startups pitch Michigan’s auto players and, ultimately, set up a state economic development office in Silicon Valley. Additional funds will be spent on marketing the concept, Pawl said.

The state plans to become a sponsor of Santa Clara, Calif.-based processor maker Nvidia Corp.’s GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, Calif., in May. Planet M would be marketed and state economic agencies would be present, once a deal is reached, Pawl said. The conference attracts global scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs focused on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and driverless cars.

The goal of the initiative is to create or be involved in 12 events between Silicon Valley and Michigan.

Pawl said too often Michigan’s auto industry is used as the commercialization piece of the supply chain, losing out on the profitable aspects of innovation.

“We’ve spent years touting that we’re the auto capital, that we have 375 (research and development) centers,” Pawl said. “But what happens too often is a raw idea comes from, say, Japan, then to Silicon Valley for early-stage development, then to testing in Tennessee, then to Farmington Hills for validation. We’re the last stop on the innovation chain. We need to be stop number two. We need to be the innovation center.”

Farmington Hills-based Flextronics Automotive USA Inc., a subsidiary of Singapore technology conglomerate Flex Ltd., is already in discussions with the MEDC to get involved with the initiative. Flex is involved in 12 businesses, including a $2 billion automotive unit dedicated to autonomous, connected and electrification vehicle technology. Its U.S. headquarters is located in Silicon Valley. Flextronics employs 600 in Michigan and its customers include Ford, General Motors Co., Tata Technologies Inc., FCA US LLC, etc.

Chris Obey, president of Flextronics Automotive, speaking from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, said Flextronics is often overlooked in the automotive conversation because its U.S. headquarters is in Silicon Valley, where automakers look more to Delphi Automotive plc and Robert Bosch LLC that have more established relationships.

“We’re trying to get recognized as a tier-one supplier in the auto sector, so being on top of a contact initiative like this is important,” Obey said. “We’re looking to continue to invest in the Detroit area, so we want to help bring our knowledge base in Silicon Valley to Detroit as it becomes a larger and larger tech zone and an autonomous vehicle center.”

Flex, and Flextronics, is the sort of multifaceted business Detroit wants to attract. Flex’s business lines include manufacturing of 80 percent of the world’s wearable devices, including all of the activity trackers for San Francisco-based Fitbit Inc. It supplies customers in the connected home, energy, server, storage and mobile fields.

“Speed is currency and the world is moving faster and faster, and we’re hoping to show Michigan’s auto sector how important it is to innovate at high speed,” Obey said. “We’re working with several local companies on autonomous projects, and we’re going to focus more of that work in Michigan. This initiative should help others to do more of the same.”

Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MichAuto, an automotive advocacy group that works closely with the MEDC, said the auto companies are now technology companies, so aligning with the world’s greatest idea generators is important.

“A lot of these entrepreneurs have this perception that the traditional auto companies move slow,” Stevens said. “That’s just not true. With programs like this, we’re able to change this perception and show them how automotive is a real target market.”

Tim Yerdon, director of marketing and communications for Van Buren Township-based Visteon Corp. and chairman of MichAuto’s talent and retention committee, said getting products to market is now the auto industry’s greatest challenge.

“It’s all about how quickly we can get these new (automotive) functions to market,” Yerdon said. “Anything the state can do to expedite that is another feather in our cap and to the state and industry.”

Stevens said the Silicon Valley plan is the first in what he hopes will be a full expansion of the state’s economic prowess across the country.

“There’s real opportunity with the Valley, but not limited to just there,” Stevens said. “There’s opportunity in Austin or Boston or other parts of the world. It’s not just about accelerating something that’s happening today, but connecting those with these ideas all over the world with the consumers (Michigan auto companies) of that technology.”

View the original article here:

Michigan Leading the Mobility Revolution

By James Amend 

Automakers are conducting an unprecedented technology harvest, scouring the globe for the latest breakthroughs to prepare their organizations for a revolution in personal mobility.

And make no mistake, industry leaders say, the day when autonomous cars and trucks begin plying the nation’s roadways — or when people choose to borrow, share or rent a vehicle instead of owning it — is just around the corner.

Ford recently announced its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation by 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

Ford Motor Co.’s fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on the streets of Dearborn. Ford has been researching autonomous vehicles for more than a decade and currently tests fully autonomous vehicles in Michigan, Arizona and California.

“In the history of technology, we have been surprised often by the speed of which it matures and autonomous vehicles will be another example of that,” said Ken Washington, vice president of research and advanced engineering at Ford Motor Co. “What I don’t want to do is leave the impression that getting there is going to be easy, because it won’t be.”

To meet this unprecedented change, the industry must break away from a century old business model. Instead of designing and engineering new technologies almost entirely in-house, automakers will have to collaborate more closely with traditional suppliers, forge partnerships outside of automotive and build entirely new units within their companies focused on future modes of transportation.

Ford has already begun real-world testing of autonomous vehicles with exercises in California, Arizona and Michigan. The company expects by the next decade it will be selling cars and trucks that operate without a steering wheel, throttle or brake pedal.

“I am very optimistic that the (Ford) target of 2021 is very achievable and we’re committed to it,” Washington added.

Automakers are conducting an unprecedented technology harvest, scouring the globe for the latest breakthroughs to prepare their organizations for a revolution in personal mobilitytion of alternative fuel.

A group of Ford Motor Co. engineers work on a phone-as-car go app. When a passenger gets into a ride sharing car, he or she taps a mobile device that automatically opens an app interface giving him or her control of the radio and climate. Eventually, any controllable feature, like the passenger seat, could be added.

The real-world testing is part of Ford Smart Mobility, a plan the 113-year-old automaker expects will put it on the leading edge of autonomous vehicle technology, connectivity, mobility, customer experience, and data and analytics. The Ford plan includes strategic investments in technology companies — City Maps, Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, SAIPS and Velodyne — meant to deepen the automaker’s expertise in emerging technologies, such as computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-resolution 3-D mapping.

Much of Ford’s work on future mobility falls under the direction of Smart Mobility CEO Rajendra “Raj” Rao. A transformation agent, Rao previously built out the digital prowess of companies such as IGATE Capital, Brunswick Corp. and 3M. Rao underscores the gravity of future mobility work at Ford by calling the opportunity to lead Smart Mobility a “culmination” of his career.

Other automakers are taking similar steps. General Motors has partnered with a pair of San Francisco-based companies, Lyft and Cruise Automation, to speed development of its ride-sharing and autonomous driving initiatives. The company also launched its own personal mobility service, Maven, in January.

FCA US LLC has leapt into autonomous research through a partnership with Google, arguably one of the world’s leading technology companies. The unlikely duo has cloaked their work in secrecy for competitive reasons, but it reportedly consists of outfitting 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans with Google’s autonomous vehicle technology.

“What develops from here, we’ll see,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told journalists in Windsor recently.

Volkswagen, which is remaking its business after a damaging emissions-cheating scandal, hired Johann Jungwirth away from Apple to lead its digitization efforts as the German automaker stretches into autonomous vehicles and the mobility services of ride-hailing and car-sharing.

Jungwirth recently disclosed plans for a standalone brand at VW entirely devoted to urban mobility services.

At Toyota Motor Co., professors and scholars are encouraged to pursue research in green energy technology to explore the next generation of alternative fuel.

At Toyota Motor Co., professors and scholars are encouraged to pursue research in green energy technology to explore the next generation of alternative fuel.

Toyota has put its autonomous vehicle development under the auspices of Gill Pratt, a robotics genius who previously led the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency centered on driverless cars and machine learning. Pratt is CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, an Ann Arbor hub for the Japanese automaker tasked with developing artificial intelligence systems, so its cars can someday learn the intricacies of driving.

But Pratt said even an engineering giant such as Toyota must go outside its organization to achieve unquestionably safe driverless cars.

“Coopetition is actually the goal here,” he said. “Our great hope is for constructive competition and also collaboration between all the car manufacturers, the IT companies, different governments and hardware manufacturers.”

James Amend is a senior editor at WardsAuto in Southfield.