The Mobility State: Bold Steps Needed to Maintain Michigan’s Leadership in CAV Development

By Kelly Weatherwax

Positioning Michigan as the global epicenter of automotive and mobility technology is essential for the state’s future. That was the key message expressed during Forward Detroit and MICHauto’s Investor Briefing: Why Michigan Needs to Own Leadership in Mobility in September.

“This is the biggest opportunity of this generation, if not the next two and Detroit is not moving fast enough,” explained Chris Thomas, founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners LLC, during his keynote presentation. “We have the resources to make sure we are creating the next billion-dollar companies here in our backyard and if we are only testing we will not be groundbreaking.”

Additional speakers included: David Palmer, director of business partnerships for the Workforce Intelligence Network, who shared the recently released “Regional Plan for Connected and Automated Transportation Systems Assets and Initiatives”; and Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM, Pure Michigan Business Connect, and International Trade for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The briefing was moderated by Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“What happened to the music industry with the iPod is poised to happen to the automotive industry with mobility if we do not capitalize on this moment in time,” urged Pawl.
Additional key takeaways from the briefing included:

  • Mobility is broader than we think about; autonomous vehicles are only one part of a larger picture that includes all modes of transportation: air, land and sea.
  • Cybersecurity for autonomous vehicles is a must have and cannot be an afterthought in the conversation.
  • The number of adults with postsecondary degrees in Detroit is lagging considerably and more work is needed to improve education outcomes.
  • The Detroit region needs more highly-skilled workers to fill open positions in the automotive industry, otherwise, companies will look elsewhere.
  • There are currently more patents coming out of Silicon Valley in automotive-related technologies than in Detroit. This is concerning since the core automotive industry is in Michigan.
  • From progressive legislation to the nation’s first connected construction zone, Michigan is leading, but to win the race in connected technology more needs to be done.

Kelly Weatherwax is the integrated marketing manager at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Positioning the Detroit Region as the Future Home of Amazon’s HQ2

With Detroit’s revitalization fresh on the minds of the business community, there is no better time to leverage the region’s world-class talent, assets and resources to attract leading global companies. With Amazon’s recent announcement to build a second headquarters, the Detroit Regional Chamber is doing just that.

A Collaborative Effort

As reported in the Detroit Free Press, the Chamber, along with the city of Detroit and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., is leading a broad coalition of business and government leaders to establish a proposal to make the case for Amazon’s expansion to the Detroit region. Through its best-in-class economic development expertise, the Chamber is well-suited to lead this effort.

From its annual State of the Region report to its automotive and mobility asset map and interactive Data Center, regional and statewide economic development partners often look to the Chamber to provide key information to site selectors and businesses interested in the Southeast Michigan market. Collectively, these assets provide an impactful tool for business attraction.

Read the latest stats and data presented by Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah to justify Detroit’s position as a contender for Amazon’s HQ2 in a letter to the editor published in Crain’s Detroit Business.


MORE: Read the latest stats and facts about how Michigan is positioned to lead the world in next-generation mobility.


Well-Positioned to Compete

Key to the coalition’s success in positioning Southeast Michigan as an ideal location for Amazon’s HQ2 will be meeting Amazon’s preferences and decision drivers as laid out in the request for proposal – namely real estate availability, incentives and a strong labor force.

  • According to the Chamber’s 2017 State of the Region, Detroit has availability of industrial and commercial real estate across the region.
  • Michigan’s business-friendly climate bodes well for economic incentives, from the recently passed “Good Jobs for Michigan” legislation, to the MI Thrive collection of bills incentivizing the redevelopment of transformational brownfields projects.
  • Detroit’s rich labor pool exceeds 2.5 million individuals, larger than 28 other states.
  • It is one of the fastest growing technology regions, leading peer regions in STEM occupation job growth at more than 18 percent since 2010.
  • The Detroit Metropolitan Airport is a world-class facility, recently being ranked No. 1 in business travel.
  • Detroit is an international gateway to business around the world. The region is one of the strongest export markets in the nation, especially with its ideal proximity to the Canadian market.

These are just a few of the ways the Detroit region is a standout contender for Amazon’s headquarters project.

The Chamber will continue to be the voice of business and will monitor the developments.

Michigan’s Mobility Assets Key Topic of Netherlands Delegation Visit to Detroit

On June 21, the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted a delegation of 15 representatives from the Netherlands’ most successful mobility companies to discuss smart mobility and smart city solutions. Delegates were eager to learn about Detroit’s landscape, its business environment, and its leadership and future mobility projects, particularly in autonomous driving.

The Netherlands are among the world’s leading developers of smart and sustainable cities. During the visit, the delegation met with Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto, and Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility for the city of Detroit, who shared the city’s strategy around mobility as a service (MAAS).

Additionally, on June 26, a second delegation from the Netherlands featuring key representatives from AutomotiveNL and Brainport Region joined the Chamber for a tour of Southeast Michigan, meeting with representatives from Ann Arbor SPARK, Ford Motor Co. and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The delegation also received a tour of the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center and DENSO to discuss the region’s automotive and mobility landscape. The delegation visits were part of an ongoing effort by the Chamber and its economic development partners to connect leading global technology firms with automotive OEMs and the supplier pipeline in the region.

Detroit’s Tech, Automotive Leadership Takes Spotlight During Israel Mission Trip

In a follow-up to a January fact-finding mission to Israel earlier this year led by Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner at Deloitte, and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Detroit Regional Chamber, along with economic development representatives from Oakland County, returned to the country in May to meet with automotive and manufacturing companies looking to expand into the U.S. market.

“Following our fact-finding mission in January, we saw an opportunity in Israel beyond the country’s robust cybersecurity sector to the larger automotive technology landscape,” said Justin Robinson, vice president of Business Attraction for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“Our Business Attraction program has made a shift to recruit more early-stage automotive technology companies and we are looking to the markets that we believe hold the greatest potential to bring that technology to Southeast Michigan — Israel and Silicon Valley,” he added.

The trip, which took place May 15-19, was timed to coincide with Ecomotion 2017, a worldwide conference focused on promoting knowledge-sharing among companies in the smart transportation sector (pictured).

During the week, the delegation held 25 one-on-one meetings with venture capital companies, automotive accelerators and startups, to glean information on how to best support Israeli companies that have an eye toward the North American market. Primarily, Robinson said companies expressed the need for better connections to OEMs (such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.) and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers.

“It was a great opportunity to listen and understand what we need to be doing as a region to better position ourselves to connect this new startup ecosystem with the established automotive ecosystem in Detroit,” he said.

There are roughly 6,000 startups in Israel today. As more pop up due to the country’s rich talent pool and government support for entrepreneurs, many companies are setting their sights to North America to scale their business quickly, Robinson said.

“Mobility is becoming one of the key areas of focus, which is a perfect opportunity for Michigan,” he said.

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

Community Colleges’ Talent Pool to Play Large Role in Michigan’s Mobility Future

Education and talent experts engaged in a meaningful conversation on how to effectively attract and retain talent for Michigan’s mobility industry at the session titled “Creating the Talent Pipeline for the Mobility Workforce” hosted by Washtenaw Community College and Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) on Thursday.

“We currently have more than 10,000 unfilled mobility jobs across the state that we must really look to fill to be able to compete,” said Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.

Key Takeways

  • Attracting students to mobility-related career requires more education and easily accessible information.
  • Community colleges are necessary for the success of the auto-mobility industry as talent needs to grow.
  • The private and public sectors must collaborate to provide viable options and resources for students looking for mobility careers.
  • Community colleges offer an increased focus on robotics and supply chain management courses to assist in creating a pipeline for the mobility sector.
  • Improving Michigan’s education system will directly impact the state’s long-term economy.
  • Community colleges must not solely focus on graduation metrics, due to the nature of students and the aggressive needs of the mobility industry.
  • The state of Michigan has a skills gap and digital divide that is leaving thousands of technology-related jobs unfilled and putting more pressure on company’s looking to expand

The panel also included Rose Bellanca, president of Washtenaw Community College and Curtis Ivery, chancellor of Wayne County Community College District. It was moderated by Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK.

Economic Impact of State’s Auto Suppliers Key Topic at Annual MICHauto Legislative Reception

MICHauto’s fourth annual Supplier Fair and Legislative Reception connected more than a dozen suppliers with state lawmakers to continue the discussion on the economic impact of suppliers across the state. The reception, held May 3 at Troppo in Lansing, featured more than 50 attendees, including 25 legislators and six legislative staff members.

Suppliers at the event included American Axle & Manufacturing, BorgWarner, DENSO International America Inc., HELLA Inc., Lacks Enterprise Inc., Magna International Inc., MAHLE Industries Inc., Phoenix Contact, Shiloh Industries, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

The evening included a presentation of MICHauto’s Legislator of the Year award to state Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, for his service to the state and his ongoing commitment to Michigan’s automotive industry. Horn was a key author of legislation that supports the testing and development of autonomous and connected vehicles in Michigan.

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 mharris@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Janette Sadik-Khan: Revitalization Begins by Building Cities for People

Drawing on examples from her crusade to make New York safer, more sustainable and more connected, Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation principal for Bloomberg Associates, challenged leaders to take risk and reimagine new ways to utilize existing infrastructure to move people and grow the region’s economy.

“Upkeep of current infrastructure while adapting to the challenges of the 21st century is a challenge all cities face,” Sadik-Khan said in keynote remarks at the Conference. “People are used to chronic congestion and have accepted it as the status quo.”

But Sadik-Khan said cities like Detroit have the opportunity to create a transformative street agenda that adapts to growth and encourages economic development.

33050841692_989ef71ffe_o“You can’t build your way out of congestion. That is like dealing with obesity by loosening your belt,” she said. “We need a fundamental rethinking of how we use streets.”

Sadik-Khan said the key is placing more emphasis on people, adding that the variety of uses for streets directly correlates to livability. Dedicated bike lanes, bus lanes and walking paths are some of the fastest, yet also the least costly, transformation strategies to improve communities, she said.

Taking a cue from the transformation of Times Square to a pedestrian-only zone, Sadik-Khan said cities like Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle have all taken steps to improve mobility. Detroit is following suit, with the opening of the QLine streetcar in the spring. Sadik-Khan said areas like Grand River Avenue and other wide streets, as well as the riverfront, are ripe with development opportunity.


MORE: Read more about the innovative work that is being done to ensure Detroit’s comeback continues. 


“With transformative mobility options, you are not just changing streets for the thousands of people in Detroit, you are changing the world,” she said.

Moving beyond a car-based to people-based city, however will require leadership and decisive action, Sadik-Khan said.

The session was sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Detroit Developers: Thoughtful Inclusion Key to City’s Ongoing Transformation

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 jrobinson@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0352.

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

Michigan Business Delegation Explores Israeli Startup Ecosystem, Cybersecurity Innovation

By Daniel Lai

The Detroit Regional Chamber recently joined 15 organizations across the state for a five-day fact-finding mission on Israel’s booming startup culture and cyber innovation hosted by Deloitte and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

The mission is part of an ongoing effort to build relationships with key government leaders in the country while also connecting Michigan companies with startups and business accelerators in order to develop collaborative technology solutions to strengthen the state’s leadership in connectivity and next-generation mobility.

In addition to the Chamber, the delegation included representatives from AT&T, ChoiceTel, Consumer Energy, Cornerstone Schools, Crain’s Detroit Business, Downtown Detroit Partnership, General Motors Co., Henry Ford Health System, ITC Holdings Corp., Michigan State Police and The Right Place.

Highlights from the week included:

  • Attending the 2017 CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv to hear from industry experts in cybersecurity
  • Touring 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
  • Meeting with Avi Hasson, Israel’s chief scientist
  • Hosting meetings with decision-makers from more than 12 technology companies

Israel has the highest density of tech startups in the world cultivated by highly trained graduates from the military establishment, robust government investment in innovation and STEM education. That public and private synergy is ripe for entrepreneurial growth.

“It is very clear that 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,” said Justin Robinson, the Chamber’s vice president of business attraction.

“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,” he added.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber.