Chamber President: Globalization Vital to Business but More Work Needed to Protect Growing Middle Class

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah joined a panel of world leaders to discuss the impact of globalization and economic inequality during the 2017 International Economic Forum of the Americas in June in Montreal. The panel included: Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of Ibero-American Secretariat; and Rifat Hisarcıklıoǧlu, president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey. Panelists shared insight on how to preserve the benefits of open economies worldwide while still promoting a healthy middle class. Panelists also discussed the importance of collaborative policies and institutions that support individuals who aspire to become part of the middle class.

Watch the session here.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Awards $3.5 Million Grant to Detroit Promise to Help Students Pursue Higher Education

By Tiffany Jones

The Detroit Regional Chamber joined Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Mike Duggan to announce a $3.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in support of the Detroit Promise, a last-dollar scholarship program administered by the Chamber Foundation.

The grant will support thousands of Detroit high school graduates with tuition and services as they pursue a college education at participating institutions over the next three years. The grant is part of a $30 million campaign led by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), which seeks to shepherd the program through a critical time of transition and development. The grant will support the two-year and four-year scholarship program to meet anticipated growth. It also will support efforts to enhance retention rates so that more students successfully obtain degrees and certificates.

Under the leadership of the governor, MEEF has raised nearly $10 million in seed money to initiate the scholarship program, established in 2013, formerly known as the Detroit Scholarship Fund. The grant will ensure that the scholarship and supportive programs are fully developed and available to Detroit youth as public funding becomes available during the next couple of years under the Detroit Promise Zone, a tax capture program initiated by the mayor.


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“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation investment will assure that more Detroit youth will enter college and successfully earn postsecondary degrees,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Thousands of young Detroit residents will be better prepared for and able to succeed in the 21st century global economy.”

The announcement attracted media from major local outlets including Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, WWJ and WXYZ-TV7.

Tiffany Jones is the director of communications at the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

Read more about The Detroit Promise:

Detroit Promise Expands Tuition-Free Program to Four-Year Universities

 

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Gives Promise to Detroit Youth

  • WKKF awards $3.5 million to support Detroit Promise, a tuition free path to college available to all Detroit high school graduates.
  • The grant will support attendance to 22 participating 2-year and 4-year colleges and also will pay for “Promise Path” counselors to work with students to help ensure their academic success.
  • Students have until June 30, 2017, to apply at www.DetroitPromise.com.

DETROIT — A W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) grant to Detroit Promise will support thousands of Detroit high school graduates with tuition and services as they pursue a college education over the next three years.

The $3.5 million WKKF grant is part of a collaborative effort by the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit to help ensure that Detroit youth have the opportunity to pursue a college education and prepare for 21st century careers through the Detroit Promise, a program administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation. It is part of a $30 million campaign led by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), which seeks to shepherd the program through a critical time of transition and development.

The grant will support the 2-year and 4-year scholarship program to meet anticipated growth in demand. It also will support efforts to enhance retention rates so that more students successfully obtain degrees and certificates.

“I greatly appreciate the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in leading efforts to fund scholarships for the Detroit Promise,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “This community is providing increased educational opportunities that students here didn’t have previously, which is critical for their future success and for the future of Detroit.”

Under the leadership of Snyder, MEEF has raised nearly $10 million in seed money to initiate the scholarship program, established in 2013 and formerly known as the Detroit Scholarship Fund.
The program has helped more than 2,200 students attend college; support from WKKF will ensure that the scholarship and supportive programs are fully developed and available to Detroit youth as public funding becomes available during the next couple of years under the Detroit Promise Zone, a tax capture program initiated by Mayor Mike Duggan.

“The support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will bring Detroit Promise closer to becoming a permanent part of the city’s effort to remove barriers to opportunity for young Detroiters,” Duggan said. “This grant will help transform more young lives.”

Students have until June 30 to apply for the promise for the fall 2017 semester. Students can apply at www.DetroitPromise.com.

The WKKF grant also will support a pilot of a new cutting-edge coaching program, Detroit Promise Path. The program supports full-time counselors who work one-on-one with Detroit Promise freshmen to stay enrolled and succeed at the five participating community colleges: Wayne County Community College District, Oakland Community College, Macomb Community College, Henry Ford College and Schoolcraft College.

The Detroit Promise Path “success coaches” meet regularly with Detroit Promise students, develop a supportive community for these students and work to help them reach their academic goals. As an example, the Detroit Promise Path program, including the installation of a success coach and student wrap-around services at Henry Ford College, was piloted this year with a grant from the Applebaum Family Foundation.

Working with Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), a nationally recognized research and policy organization, the goal of the program is to significantly increase college completion and graduation for low-income Detroit college students. Created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies, MDRC is the primary implementation and research partner for Detroit Promise Path and will coordinate program and all research-related activities for the evaluation.

“Preliminary results (which will be released in early summer) are promising,” said Colleen Sommo, the lead researcher for MDRC. “Students who received the additional services were more likely to persist into their second semester and to enroll full time in both the first and second semesters than students who received only the scholarship.”

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation investment will assure that more Detroit youth will enter college and successfully earn post-secondary degrees,” said Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Thousands of young Detroit residents will be better prepared for and able to succeed in the 21st century global economy.”

This grant also will support the results and lessons drawn from the Detroit Promise Path pilot to educators across Michigan including the 17 universities partners who have joined Detroit Promise to provide qualified Detroit graduates a tuition free path to a four-year bachelor’s degree. Many universities run similar supportive support and coaching programs for scholarship students and those who are the first in their family to attend college. Thus, the work supported by WKKF will provide a replicable model that will benefit low-income, first time college students from across Michigan and across the country.

About W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

About the Detroit Promise

The Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation administers the Detroit Promise on behalf of the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation and the Detroit Promise Zone. The scholarship program was initially started as the Detroit Scholarship Fund in 2013 as part of the effort put forth by Governor Rick Snyder to provide Detroit high school graduates a tuition fee path to college. The program has supported the college education of over 2,200 Detroit residents. With the establishment of the Detroit Promise Zone authority in 2016, Mayor Mike Duggan has paved the way for public funding to sustain the scholarship program in future years.

About the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation

The Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF) is a nonprofit, philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting innovative education initiatives for students in Michigan. By investing in innovative, education initiatives, MEEF seeks to build an attractive workforce, foster entrepreneurship, and nurture economic growth in Detroit and the state of Michigan. The Foundation funds these educational initiatives with a focus on supporting education for Michigan students who need the support most. MEEF is currently focused on raising nearly $30 million to support the Detroit Promise program as it faces increased demand, the need for innovative coaching services, and private funding before public financing is available.

Detroit Drives Degrees Provides Platform to Discuss Region’s Talent Pipeline

By Daniel Lai

The Detroit Regional Chamber held its Talent Outlook: Detroit Drives Degrees breakfast on Thursday, March 23 at the Detroit Athletic Club to discuss the region’s talent pipeline and report on the first year of the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) initiative. At standing room only, nearly 200 attendees heard from leaders from the higher education, business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

33304034420_f189956d27_oChamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah opened the event by giving a brief overview of the D3 program and making a challenge to the audience. “Sixty percent. That is the one number I want you all to remember today,” Baruah said. “As a region, to compete and succeed, we need at least 60 percent of the population to have a postsecondary credential.”

Baruah noted that of the 11.6 million new U.S. jobs created since the recession, 99 percent have gone to workers with some college education.

D3’s overarching goal is to lead the region in achieving 60 percent postsecondary degree attainment by 2025.

The breakfast featured a keynote address from David Dodson, president of MDC, a nonprofit that publishes research and develops programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and addressing structural inequity.

Drawing from his personal journey, Dodson shared how mobility outcomes can drastically change with a postsecondary credential. His philosophy centered around the belief that a person’s socioeconomic status early in life should not determine where they end up later and education makes all the difference.

He described the pathway to upward economic mobility through a three-step process. First, one must complete foundational education. Secondly, obtain a postsecondary credential. Lastly, enter and advance in the workplace. Educational experience, a support network, work exposure, work experience, professional development and a professional network are all building blocks that must be developed and cultivated to achieve success.

Dodson stressed that the biggest takeaway for the business community is to not only build pathways or launchpad institutions, like D3, but to help those in disadvantaged communities truly navigate and fully understand the path to achieving the American dream.

The breakfast also featured a panel that shared insight on how to strengthen the Detroit region’s homegrown talent pipeline. Dodson was joined by Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest; William Huffaker, global director of talent acquisition for General Motors Co.; and moderated by Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network.

The discussion centered on the concept that talent, not capital, is Detroit’s most important asset.

“Detroit children are at the bottom of student achievement,” Arellano said. “A Boston fourth-grade student, educationally, is three years ahead of that of a Detroit student. The schools can’t do it alone. We all need to become advocates, pushing for urgency, excellence and equity.”

“The talent pipeline picture really isn’t pretty,” Huffaker added. “At General Motors, we hire someone with a STEM background every 26 seconds. Our community has changed so much over the last five years than in the last 50 years. As a community, we need to not only consume talent, but produce talent.”

Huffaker also suggested the creation of a more robust mentor program. “Everyone knows that they should have a mentor, but not everyone knows how to use a mentor,” he said.

The morning also included the announcement of the winners of the “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge, which encouraged students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The challenge was a part of D3’s initiative to improve regional postsecondary outcomes.

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

Mobility, Collaboration Among Topics Discussed at Governor’s Building the 21st Century Economy Commission Meeting

The Building the 21st Century Economy Commission held its most recent meeting in Detroit at the Chamber on Feb. 22. The Commission, created by Gov. Rick Snyder, has traveled across the state to gain public input from the business community on what needs to be done long-term to grow Michigan’s economy.

The discussion was led by Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah, who chairs the Commission. Chamber Board members Matt Cullen and Sandra Pierce also make up the 15-member Commission.

The day-long event included presentations from featured guests including: Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel; Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System; Eric Larson, CEO of Downtown Detroit Partnership; John McElroy, host of “Autoline Daily”; and Mark Wallace, president and CEO of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Hackel discussed the possibilities of efficiencies by local government operational consolidations; Lassiter discussed the transformations taking place in health care due to technology; Larson and Wallace discussed the keys to success for urban areas; and McElroy focused on next-generation mobility with his view that Detroit has already prevailed over Silicon Valley in the race to build the autonomous car.

A panel of millennial Ford Motor Co. engineers discussed and shared their thoughts on how young talent want to live, work and play in Michigan.

Several Chamber staff members were on hand for the meeting, including Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent; Roy Lamphier, vice president of health care and business solutions; and Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives.

The Commission plans on presenting its recommendations at the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Grand Valley State University Partners on Detroit Promise 4-Year Program, Madonna University Also Signs On

By Daniel Lai

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is the latest higher education institution to partner with the Detroit Promise program. Officials announced the university’s commitment during a signing ceremony last Friday, making Grand Valley the 13th public university to offer a tuition-free path to a bachelor’s degree for qualifying Detroit students.

“Grand Valley is delighted to become a full partner in a program that puts a college degree within the reach of many more students from Detroit,” GVSU president Thomas Haas said. “Grand Valley has the best graduation rate among Michigan’s regional universities, and we know that college-bound students from Detroit will find their passion and obtain a degree at our university. We’re excited about the partnership with students, the Chamber and the city.”

The Detroit Promise picks up on the work that began with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Scholarship Fund initiative, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), by providing a dedicated funding source to guarantee students in Detroit will be able to attend college tuition-free, no matter their economic status. It is funded through a combination of private fundraising through the MEEF and the Detroit Promise Zone, a program created by the state Legislature that allows for the capture of a portion of property tax revenue generated in the city.

“This partnership is an unprecedented opportunity for the city of Detroit,” said Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah. “We are honored to have Grand Valley on board, participating in this true partnership among the state, the city and our university and philanthropic communities.”

Citing the long-term economic impact of retaining local talent, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called the Detroit Promise, “one of the most important” initiatives for the city.

There are more than 260 students currently enrolled at a four-year university.

In addition to GVSU, Madonna University also signed a partner commitment with the Detroit Promise.

“We are excited to see Madonna University join the list of participating Detroit Promise partners, offering our students another high-quality university option close to home,” said Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Chamber.

For more information on the Detroit Promise, visit www.detroitchamber.com/econdev or contact Greg Handel at ghandel@detroitchamber.com.

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


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Economic Experts: Next-Generation Mobility, Innovation and Education Key Issues to Move Region Forward

With its world-class assets, the Detroit region has an unprecedented opportunity to drive next-generation mobility development. Remaining a leader in the space, however, is not a foregone conclusion. That was a key message Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for General Motors Co., laid out during remarks at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s State of the Region luncheon on Jan. 25.

“When auto sales do well around the world, this region does exceptionally well,” Mohatarem said during remarks on national economic trends.

Global auto sales are at an all-time high and growing, including in the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to Mohatarem. However, he said Michigan cannot rest on its laurels.

“If we don’t do the right things, we may find ourselves like Pittsburgh and Youngstown with the steel (industry) — someone else will displace us,” he warned.

“What we need to do in our region to ensure the success of the auto industry is to preserve it. Not in the sense of trying to keep it the same because the industry may look very different in the next few years,” Mohatarem added.

Mohatarem also discussed other key economic indicators for the region, including rising interest rates and low oil prices. He ended his remarks with insight on President Trump’s administration, adding that the initial outlook has some positives, such as cutting corporate tax rates to help boost investments in the United States, and increasing infrastructure spending.

“These are exciting times, positive times – and everyone will not agree with me, but we will see a lot of change,” Mohatarem said.

Mohatarem then joined a panel of regional leaders to discuss the presented State of the Region data. Panelists included: Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation; John Roberts, budget director of the state of Michigan; and Marina Whitman, professor of business administration and public policy of the University of Michigan. The panel was moderated by Devin Scillian, anchor on WDIV-TV 4.

The panelists touched on many topics including trade and transportation. Panelists agreed that education must be a top priority to move the region forward.

“We’ve got to figure out some way to put the kids first and I frankly don’t know how to do that,” Rapson said. “We’ve got to take a moonshot here because we just can’t continue the kind of gradual, incremental stuff.”

View the 2017 State of the Region report here.

In Case You Missed It: Download the 2017 State of the Region

Recently, the Detroit Regional Chamber released its third annual State of Region report, underwritten by Citizens Bank. Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah presented the report findings to nearly 300 business and community leaders at The Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit.

The report, which offers a data-driven analysis of the progress made in the 11-counties that comprise the Detroit region, garnered several media articles throughout the day. The local news outlets included: Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and MLive.

During the luncheon, Baruah outlined the accomplishments of key indicators of the region including per capita income, which the Detroit region ranked third nationally in one-year per capita income growth. Median home values also lead peer regions in both five-year and one-year growth rates and the region led its peers in median home value growth between 2014 and 2015 at 10.7 percent.

The report also showed the region added more than 200,000 jobs since 2010, with architecture and engineering as the fastest-growing occupations. The Detroit region is now sixth among its peers in the Kauffman Innovation Index, charting startup activity – up five spots. The region is also No. 1 in patent growth, with patents granted to regional innovators growing by 8 percent.

“As the data in this report suggest, the needle is indeed moving in the right direction,” Baruah said.

The afternoon presentation also addressed key areas in need of improvement. The data showed that while the region matched the national average when it came to educational attainment, it still lags behind most all of the competing regions. Transit was another area for improvement. Regional transit entities handled approximately 42 million public transit rides last year, far short of the goal of 55 million rides.

“While some progress is being made, we’re not making the dramatic progress that we need to make in order to ensure our position in the 21st century,” Baruah told the crowd. “Businesses need to remain focused on affecting public policies that boost high school graduation rates and strengthen a pipeline of students into higher education.”

Following the presentation, Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for General Motors Co., gave an overview of national economic trends and the impact they have on the region. Mohatarem then joined a panel to provide reaction to the data and discuss the current state of the economy. Panelists included Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation; John Roberts, budget director of the State of Michigan; and Marina Whitman, professor of business administration and public policy at the University of Michigan. Education and transportation were areas of most concern for all panelists.

In addition to Citizens Bank, other sponsors of the event included: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Comcast Business and Office Depot.

To view or download a copy of the report, click here.

Changes ahead for auto industry provide opportunity for region

The Future Is Cloudy and Bright 

By Sandy K. Baruah 

January is always an exciting time in the Detroit region. The promise of a new year, and of course, the arrival of the North American International Auto Show, one of the premier global events on the automotive calendar and an opportunity to not only showcase the world-leading mobility assets of our region, but also the incredible and real urban renaissance of the city of Detroit.

High resolution headshot

2017, however, brings an unprecedented number of questions that could potentially impact our mobility industry.

  • Have we seen peak demand for vehicles?
  • How will the trend towards longer vehicle loan terms impact the market?
  • Will we see spiraling incentives if demand weakens?
  • Will fuel prices remain low and the demand for more pro table SUVs and CUVs continue unabated?
  • How will the Trump Administration’s pro-business, limited-regulation and potentially anti-trade policies impact the industry?
  • Will the supply chain be impacted by possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement?
  • And, of course, how will the continuing transformation of mobility as a product to mobility as a service – and the emergence of non-traditional players – impact our industry?

While nobody really knows for sure what the answer to these questions are, there seem to be some key principals that bode well for Michigan’s most important industry.

Michigan-based mobility companies, both at the original equipment and supplier levels, have not forgotten the hard lessons of the Great Recession. This is evident in their cautious deployment of capital and far more restrained use of debt. Break-even points have been lowered substantially and there is a far greater focus on profitability as opposed to market share. OEMs have been far from sentimental in axing unprofitable legacy nameplates and brands. Suppliers and OEMs alike have resisted major capital investments in production facilities for fear of having underutilized capacity even though they have struggled to meet historic levels of demand.

While no one saw the fuel price spike of 2007 coming, with ample yet dormant shale reserves in the United States, and a strongly pro-energy president coming into office, it seems unlikely that America will experience some kind of fuel crisis or price spike. This is good for consumers, good for the economy, and therefore, good for the automotive industry, which stand ready to meet the demand for high-riding, flexible yet fuel-efficient crossovers and utilities.

On the cautionary side, however, remains concerns over ever-lengthening loan terms. Also, the growing use of incentives is troubling several analysts. Fall 2016 vehicle sales were trending below 2015’s record levels, only to see an exceptionally strong November that was driven by a surprising growth in incentives.

But perhaps the best news of all for the immediate and long-term future is the posture of Michigan’s mobility companies regarding product. As recently as a decade ago criticism that U.S.-based companies were not always producing world-beating products was not far off the mark. But today, these companies have gone from “zero to hero” in record time. Just look at any automotive “best” list and you will see that American brands, and products produced in America, are earning more than their fair share of accolades.

Our Michigan-based companies have made this  region the most active and concentrated place for next-generation mobility research, testing and deployment. No place on the planet can compare. We have the advantage going into the future. Our friends in Silicon Valley have recognized this and have started to establish a presence in Michigan, just as our companies have done the same in the Valley.

It is certainly an exciting time in Michigan and for the industry we love. Michigan’s challenge is unique. We have to take the lead in creating world-beating products today and tomorrow, while preparing for the most revolutionary change in the industry since its creation over a century ago. Fundamental change is in the air, including a very different president. It is certainly a great time to be associated with Michigan and the automotive industry – and I am equally certain that all of us associated with the industry will indeed earn our paychecks.

Sandy K. Baruah is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Planet M: Orbiting Michigan’s Mobility Future

Michigan gets aggressive in mobility space 

By Tom Walsh 

In a world gone manic over myriad mobility options, can the Motor City and its home state still be the epicenter of technology and innovation in cars, trucks and other transit modes? It is a big question that is critical to Michigan’s economic future.

To address it, there is an all-out offensive taking shape to make the case that the Detroit region has the right stuff — assets, talent, policies, resolve — to maintain, and even enhance, its status as a global mobility hub.

“No place else in the U.S. has anywhere near the testing and research assets we have,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Michigan led the nation in connected vehicle projects in 2015 with 49. California came in second with 35. Along with MICHauto and Michigan’s top research universities and state agencies, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) launched the Michigan Mobility Initiative in 2015.

San Francisco-based Uber plans to open a research facility in metro Detroit to work with auto suppliers on autonomous car technology.

Michigan led the nation in connected vehicle projects in 2015 with 49. California came in second with 35. Along with MICHauto and Michigan’s top research universities and state agencies, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) launched the Michigan Mobility Initiative in 2015.

“There’s a lot more work in front of us,” said BLM president Doug Rothwell. “But I feel as good about this as I do about anything right now.”

In mid-2016, Initiative partners launched “Planet M,” a new branding campaign announced by Gov. Rick Snyder at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference to tout the state’s engineering talent. Its tagline: “Michigan. Where big ideas in mobility are born.”

Planet M aims to dispel not only Detroit’s old “rust belt” image, but also the perception of Michigan’s own young people and parents, from a 2014 survey by Intellitrends, that the auto industry does not offer good growth prospects.

“That’s changing,” said Tim Yerdon, auto supplier Visteon’s global director of marketing and communications, who also chairs the MICHauto talent committee. “Right now, auto tech is cool again. In 2008-09, it wasn’t. People were running away. Now they’re running back to it.”

As part of the Planet M effort, MICHauto is commissioning another perception study of young people. Another plus for the state’s image could be the recent overwhelming passage in the Michigan Legislature of bills that allow for testing of driverless vehicles on roadways.

Planet M launched in mid-2016 as a new branding campaign to tout the state's engineering talent and mobility assets.

Planet M launched in mid-2016 as a new branding campaign to tout the state’s engineering talent and mobility assets.

“I’ve been contacted by three other states asking if I could send copies of our draft legislation,” said Kirk Steudle, head of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “We’re influencing the public policy debate across the country, giving an alternative to the California model, which is very overly regulated.”

However promising Michigan’s offensive on the mobility front may sound, new twists are likely looming over the horizon.

Just look back to eight years ago, amid a turbulent transition from one U.S. president to another. Michigan’s signature automotive industry was on the verge of collapse.

General Motors and Chrysler were on life support, sustained by federal cash infusions approved by outgoing President George W. Bush. Soon they would be pushed into Chapter 11 bankruptcies by President Obama. Things looked dire at the time.

What transpired instead was a surprisingly speedy revival. “Michigan-based auto companies went from zero to hero’ in record time,” noted Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah, who served under President Bush during the crisis.

While the comeback numbers were impressive, threats to the traditional auto industry business model and especially to Detroit’s place of prominence as a global hub of automotive innovation would soon be apparent. New innovators were sprouting far away from Michigan, including:

Tesla Motors produced its first low volume roadster in 2008, then showed its first prototype of an all-electric Model S in 2009. It opened a huge “gigafactory” to make lithium-ion batteries in Nevada earlier this year.

Google launched a self-driving car project in 2009 in California, later partnered quietly with Livonia-based Roush Enterprises to build prototype cars a few years later, and recently announced a partnership with FCA to develop self-driving minivans.

Uber Technologies, founded in 2009 as a ride-sharing app called UberCab, teamed up last year with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on self-driving car research. And now San Francisco based Uber is planning a research center in metro Detroit to work with auto suppliers on autonomous car technologies.

No telling what turns may lie ahead.

Uber is planning to open a research center in metro Detroit to develop autonomous car technologies

Uber is planning to open a research center in metro Detroit to develop autonomous car technologies.

In June, Detroit came up empty in the $40 million Smart City Challenge created by the Obama administration to link self-driving cars with sensors and other technologies in a city’s transportation network. Columbus, Ohio was the winner. Detroit wasn’t even among the seven finalists.

While Detroit may have valid reasons for being an “also-ran” in the Smart City Challenge, it goes to show that there are plenty of eager, aggressive cities that covet some of the leadership cachet that Detroit and Michigan have enjoyed as America’s automotive capital for so long.

Steudle put the mobility race this way: “While we’ve been moving quite aggressively in Michigan on these mobility issues, they’re moving quite aggressively in California, and in Florida and in Texas,” he said. “We really have to keep our foot on the gas.”

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.