Group links auto advocates via:The Detroit News

Daniel Howesoriginally for The Detroit News

In the depths of the automotive collapse three years ago, Sandy Baruah headed the Small Business Administration and found himself lobbying Congress to support a federal rescue of Detroit’s automakers and their sprawling supply chain.

He encountered trade associations representing auto interests in South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. But Michigan, the historic and still undeniable home to the industry that put the United States (and many foreign countries) on wheels? Nope, nothing quite like its rivals — until now.

Days before the North American International Auto Show opens amid rising sales for Detroit, cautious optimism and an assurance that the hometown companies and their union finally may have come to terms with their myriad shortcomings, here comes MICHauto. It’s a new automotive trade association intended to be a one-stop advocacy and economic development shop for the Big Mitten’s auto interests.

All of them — from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and such major suppliers as Delphi Automotive PLC, Meritor Inc. and BorgWarner Inc. to smaller suppliers, state universities and community colleges minting the engineers and assembly line workers of tomorrow.

“The international auto industry is a growth industry,” Baruah, now CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in an interview Thursday. “It’s the most integrated industry out there. We have to fight in the international marketplace … for what is rightfully ours as a Michigan auto industry. We just can’t assume it’s ours.”

No, we can’t, if the past 30 years, historic bankruptcies and horrifying job losses are any guide. They are, which is why as much as the pain of the past three years (and more) may stand as an iron-clad argument to diversify Michigan’s economy, they also make the case to care for what produced so much of the state’s modern-day prosperity lest it disappear.

“Michigan needs to expand beyond the auto industry,” says Tim Manganello, chairman of Auburn Hills-based BorgWarner and a member of MICHauto’s CEO advisory board. “But it makes no sense to ignore the big dog that created the wealth” and is a foundational industry for the state and a cornerstone of American manufacturing.

He’s right. The question is how to find the balance that MICHauto and others seek.

Under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, state economic development policy unofficially distanced Michigan from its gritty, unionized, oil-and-metal automotive present. Too often, it sided with the labor-dominated past and lofty visions of the future instead of pushing to compete in the hard-headed present.

Her mantra was advanced manufacturing and green propulsion systems, life sciences and homeland security, even as business taxes remained uncompetitive and CEOs routinely complained of a bureaucratic maze that made the investment process protracted, expensive and frustrating.

Under Gov. Rick Snyder, a business-minded Republican with roots in high technology and venture capital, taxes for smaller firms are set to decline this year, job creation is up and the automakers given up for dead are booking fat profits on comparatively meager sales volumes in the bellwether U.S. market.

Talk about timing. Now is as good a time as any in the past dozen years, or more, to launch something like MICHauto, a chamber-staffed enterprise with a positive, credible story of restructuring and redemption to tell would-be investors from the States and abroad:

The hometown industry has mostly come to terms with its bad, old habits. It is charting a more realistic path with organized labor. It is delivering one solid product after another, and demonstrating a knack for integrating advanced technology and clean propulsion into its vehicles — hardly the markers of losers who cannot build anything people want to buy.

MICHauto aims to become an advocate in Lansing for issues that affect the automakers and their suppliers; to lead economic development efforts, including international trade missions; to serve as a public voice and trade association for the industry; to work with partners, especially universities, community colleges and the United Auto Workers, to ensure a continuing flow of talent to employers.

“At the very least, we’re going to be collaborating with the union,” Baruah says. “We’re not going to act like the UAW doesn’t exist. That’s just not reality in Michigan.”

No, it isn’t. Nor is the dated caricature of an industry that can’t get its proverbial act together — because it has, and it’s just getting started.
(313) 222-2106

Daniel Howes’ column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

original article

Detroit Regional Chamber seeks to help boost Michigan automotive industry’s competitiveness via:Daily Journal

Originally for Daily Journal

DETROIT — The Detroit Regional Chamber is taking new steps to help the automotive industry better compete on a national and global level.

The chamber on Thursday released details of the “MICHauto” association’s effort and says it’s one of its key economic development initiatives.

Organizers say the aim is to help promote, retain and expand the automotive industry in Michigan.

“MICHauto” got its start in 2006 as a nonprofit and the Detroit Regional Chamber took over its operations in 2010. The association plans to work with economic development agencies and auto industry leaders on its efforts, including attracting auto investment.

Original Article

MICHauto Preview Reception

The Detroit Regional Chamber is ramping up its support of the entire auto industry and supply chain through MICHauto, an association dedicated to promoting, retaining and growing the automotive industry in Michigan. The program will kick-off Thursday, Jan. 5, as automotive industry leaders will discuss the unique focal point for retaining and attracting auto-related investments to Michigan.

New to the Chamber, MICHauto will advocate for the entire automotive sector and its related value-chain in Michigan. By collaborating with economic development organizations, MICHauto will use the automotive industry as a platform to drive economic diversification and investment.

Look for the MICHauto booth at the North American International Auto Show starting next week.

For more information, contact Kathy Burgess at 313.596.0324.

Thursday, January 5, 2012
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Detroit Athletic Club

Presenting Sponsor:

Chamber forms group to sell state as right fit for auto-related business via:Crains

By Dustin Walsh originally for Crain’s Detroit Business

The U.S. auto sector is flocking south, lured away from the Motor City by enterprising industry groups in Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. But a new initiative by the Detroit Regional Chamber launching this week is set on rebuilding Michigan’s automotive future.

MichAuto will serve as a statewide association designed to establish an automotive-centric economic development and advocacy platform, said Sandy Baruah, the chamber’s president and CEO.

“There’s no question we’ve lost out to states like Tennessee and Alabama,” he said. “They have been out there proactively recruiting businesses to their state on the auto platform they’ve built over the past 25 years while we’ve ignored ours. We’ve been afraid to tout our industry in the international marketplace in fears of seeming too myopic, but that must change.”

Nearly every new auto plant built in the U.S. in the past 10 years has been built in the South, including a $1 billion Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and a $1.1 billion Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Ala.

The lack of a cohesive organization caused Michigan to lose out on these opportunities, Baruah said.

“No one is out there knocking on doors saying, “Come to Michigan, the water’s fine,’ ” he said. “We’re the auto capital of the world, and we need to protect what is ours.”

MichAuto is compiling a board of directors to oversee its operations, including Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State University; Stephen Polk, chairman, president and CEO of R.L. Polk & Co.; Rodney O’Neal, CEO of Delphi Automotive plc; Chip McClure, CEO of Meritor Inc.; and Tom Manganello, partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

Baruah expects the addition of Detroit 3 executives to the board, as well.

Baruah said the Detroit Regional Chamber and its members will share assets to serve as a unified economic development voice to get prospective auto companies to locate in Michigan, and step aside and let individual counties offer abatements and tax incentives.

“We’re not here to supplant what counties are already doing,” he said. “Counties have an important role to play, but we can’t expect Wayne County or Oakland County to canvass the world for leads. We want that to be (MichAuto’s) job and become real advocates for the state as a whole.”

The group will also serve as a collective voice for smaller suppliers in Lansing that don’t have the resources to do so on their own, he said.

The chamber is currently seeking members and will formally unveil MichAuto on Thursday to media and industry executives at the Detroit Athletic Club. For more information, visit

Dustin Walsh: (313) 446-6042, Twitter: @dustinpwalsh