Connected: Industry experts share ‘Smart Cities’ insight at WCC symposium


May 30, 2018

“Seek creative collusions of opportunity.” That was the advice Ford Motor Company’s Vice President of Research and Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington gave attendees at the Smart Cities symposium at Washtenaw Community College on April 6.

The day-long event focused on how new technology such as autonomous vehicles, smart grids and increasing amounts of data and computing power are changing cities for the better.

Washington joined presenters from the Michigan Department of Transportation, DTE Energy, Ann Arbor SPARK, the University of Michigan and others at the event. A common theme among the speakers was the need for greater cooperation between industry, government and education.

“Our goal at Ford is to imagine and design a future that works with cities and governments to develop technologies and to create living and dynamic ecosystems,” said Washington. “And the vehicles in those communities will be equally intelligent.”

Continue reading on Driven here: 

Ken Washington is a 2018 MICHauto Summit speaker view the full agenda. 

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Lyft plans permanent hub in Detroit

By: Kurt Nagl
May 29, 2018

Lyft is planning to consolidate its Detroit operations and open a new permanent location in the city as part of a $100 million nationwide investment by the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company.

The new office will be 3,000-5,000 square feet and open by the fall, said Elliot Darvick, general manager of Lyft Detroit. Lyft’s 10 full-time local employees, stationed at Tech Town and 2727 Second Ave. in Midtown, will work out of the space.

Darvick would not disclose the address or neighborhood of the new space, saying negotiations are nearing completion but not finalized. He also said he was unsure how much money would be invested in build-out of the office.

Continue reading on Driven here

Elliot Darvick is a 2018 MICHauto Summit speaker, view the full agenda.

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As downtown Detroit rebounds, suburbs look to keep their edge

Sept. 25, 2018

The Detroit News

By: Breana Noble

A month after L. Brooks Patterson said he’d rather “join the Klan” than a new group he claimed was luring businesses from the suburbs to Detroit, the Oakland County executive is softening his stance.

He told The Detroit News he will send representatives to a meeting that the group of corporate leaders — headed by DTE Energy Co. CEO Gerry Anderson — will hold Tuesday in Macomb County. Patterson said he wants to “investigate” what they are planning, and did not rule out joining.

The friction between the county executive and the group of Metro Detroit CEOs comes at a time when businesses — which decades ago began fleeing Detroit for the suburbs — increasingly are reversing that migration.

Companies including Accenture, Ford Motor Co., Google, Microsoft and Tata Technologies are moving or expanding their operations to the city as they seek to connect with other innovators and compete for young talent. Meanwhile, surrounding communities are looking at how they can stay competitive against the suddenly trendy downtown.

“It’s always about who is building the best mousetrap,” said Brendan George, senior vice president of commercial real estate services firm CBRE Group in Detroit. “It’s basically fair competition. It doesn’t matter what a suburban landlord is offering them, many are going to make that move.”

The informal, unnamed group of CEOs that drew the ire of Patterson meets quarterly at DTE headquarters in Detroit to identify areas it can affect with funding and leadership: transit, job training, public place-making and economic development across southeast Michigan.

It has been in talks with Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah to develop a private-sector entity that would expand the region’s business-attraction efforts.

Baruah contacted DTE’s Anderson more than two years ago to work on enhancing the 11-county region’s approach to business attraction and marketing to out-of-state and international companies in ways similar to Grand Rapids; Columbus, Ohio; and Minnesota’s Twin Cities. It plans to become a standalone entity later this year.

“We’ve been clear this is meant to build regional integration,” Anderson said in a recent interview. “We want to focus on a mindset that when anywhere in the region wins, the entire region wins and that we should all be in this together. If Oakland County has a win, we should celebrate it. If Detroit has a win, we should celebrate it. If Washtenaw has a win, we should celebrate it, because it’s all good for the market.”

Patterson has apologized for his “join the Klan” remark. “I was trying to make a point, and I suppose I did,” he said. “They say, ‘We’ll take over development for southeast Michigan.’ I’ve done a damn good job, and I’m not going to give it over to 23 CEOs from Detroit.”

Oakland County has shared in the benefits of the Detroit area’s resurgence, including about $8 billion in investment since 2014. So far this year, that amount is $273 million. Recently, that includes two projects from Japan, two from China and one from India.

“I fight for every company that we have,” Patterson said. “Every inch that we have, they were hard-fought battles. I don’t want to lose them. We’re very competitive.”

Baruah said the regional chamber does not play a role in businesses moving between communities in the region, leaving that up to local chambers of commerce. Still, he said Detroit is benefiting disproportionately in the region’s growth and is the “hottest” city in the country, garnering national and worldwide attention.

“It has to do with the health of tech and automotive industries, the reputation that the state now has, the Snyder administration providing much more stable budgeting,” Baruah said. “The renaissance in the city of Detroit is a remarkable turnaround story, and businesses want to be a part of that.”

Reversal of trends

Although historically the city’s downtown has maintained higher office vacancy rates compared to the metropolitan office market, that trend began changing after the Great Recession when those rates evened out.

Since 2010, according to CBRE, downtown office space absorption has remained positive, and vacancy and availability rates have declined. Downtown Detroit’s vacancy was 12.8 percent on 16.8 million square feet in this year’s second quarter, down from 17.2 percent and 29.2 percent in the fourth quarters of 2000 and 2009 respectively. In Metro Detroit, vacancy was 15.7 percent on 79.2 million square feet compared to 7.9 percent in 2000 and 29.4 percent in 2009.

The flip in trend is true for leasing prices, too. Downtown’s average asking rent rose from $17.96 per square foot in 2000 to $18.30 in 2009 to $21.72 now. In the suburbs, average asking rent fell from $21.21 per square foot in 2000 to $18.07 in 2009 and now is at $18.36.

This turning point in 2010 coincided with Quicken Loans’ move from Livonia to Detroit, one of the early examples of a reverse in the 30-year trend of investment fleeing the city.

“I think this shows the demand was there for the downtown environment,” CBRE’s George said. “But it wasn’t until the Gilbert and Ilitch organizations started renovating buildings and getting them on par in terms of the quality did tenants feel comfortable with making that commitment.”

Harrison West, a senior research analyst for investment management company Jones Lang LaSalle in Royal Oak, said that especially in the technology sector, urban settings appeal to the young talent these companies are recruiting. With U.S. unemployment at 3.9 percent, businesses are making decisions based on recruiting new talent as baby boomers retire.

As a result, George said, many are looking at Detroit or “urban-suburban” areas such as Birmingham, Ferndale and Royal Oak that have hip, walkable communities with a thriving nightlife.

Accenture plc, an Ireland-based global management consulting and professional services firm, is returning to Detroit in November after leaving for Southfield in the late 1990s. Its new space is at 1001 Woodward near Campus Martius Park. Dan Garrison, Accenture’s office managing director in Detroit, said moving downtown would demonstrate the company’s commitment to the city and would place Accenture closer to many of its automotive sector clients and the city’s innovative ecosystem. He said it was downtown’s energy that inspired the move.

“We’re going to be shoulder-to-shoulder with those start-ups,” Garrison said. “There’s so much innovation and talent in downtown. We saw this an opportunity to take that talent and bring it into Accenture.”

Accenture also invested in the suburbs. To support its new downtown location, it opened in June an innovation hub in Livonia, Garrison said, that is close enough to support its clients and has the space to develop and test new technologies.

Tata Technologies has a similar story. With its Novi lease expiration approaching, the India-based company worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and the City of Detroit to find a new location on the sixth floor of 601 Cass. It plans to move next June. Sonal Ramrakhiani, chief operating officer, said the company looked at more than 50 properties across Metro Detroit. Tata found Detroit’s network of startups, mobility and technology companies as well as Wayne State University attractive. Recruitment was a factor.

“Students we are looking to recruit think it’s an exciting place to be,” Ramrakhiani said. “All of my employees are saying they are excited to be in Detroit.”

She said Detroit does have its disadvantages, including high parking and tax rates. Rental prices, she said, were comparable to others Tata was evaluating, making the move feasible.

Changing to compete

Southfield Town Center is one suburban office complex that’s tried to reposition itself. Under new ownership since 2014, the 2.2 million-square-foot, four-tower center has received more than $55 million in updates, said Clarence Gleeson, senior vice president of Transwestern’s office leasing group for the town center.

Much of the money has gone toward replacing old fixtures, but it also has redone entrances, new shared conference rooms and casual meeting spaces. It’s expanded Wi-Fi throughout the building, created a new outdoor event space and a tenant lounge in a former Bank of America location that opened last week with foosball, ping pong and pool tables.

Southfield Town Center also is redoing its café to provide expanded breakfast and lunch options and is adding a sports bar in its garden atrium with service from a “high-end, gourmet restaurateur in southeast Michigan.” It also plans to expand its fitness center and offer a reduced cost of $100 per year for tenants’ use. It’s considering whether to replace its closed theater with a basketball court, golf simulator, gaming area and batting cage.

The office complex is competing with downtown Detroit for prime tenants. It’s lost a few, including Fifth Third Bank of Eastern Michigan and Microsoft. It also has won some, including nearly 400 employees from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Medicare Advantage consulting business line Tessellate, the headquarters for former Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson’s furniture company AIREA Inc. and a few law firms. Additionally, companies from Grand Rapids and out of state have set up shop.

“It’s healthy competition,” Gleeson said. “It’s been the same forever. To have a successful region, you need to have a strong city and new companies coming into the region.”

As investment goes into the suburbs, even offices that may not be competing as much with downtown are expanding their offerings to retain and attract tenants. Southfield-based Hayman Co. took over the Troy OffiCentre in June 2017. By the end of the year, Andrew Hayman, the company’s president, expects to have invested $10 million into the five-building site, rebranded as the PentaCentre, to update the aesthetics, building’s mechanics and cafeteria; hire a new food service provider and add a new fitness center and other amenities. Over the new few years, Hayman said rents slowly will increase to $17.95-$20 per square foot.

“People still want to drive and not have a problem parking,” Hayman said. “Everything appears to be trending downtown, and it’s all good, and we’re rooting for it. There’s still an established market in Troy, and it’s not significantly impacted negatively at this time.”


You can view the original post from The Detroit News on their website. 

Detroit Regional Chamber hopes ‘Let’s Detroit’ helps stop the city’s brain drain

Sept. 24, 2018

WXYZ Detroit – Channel 7

By: Syma Chowdhry

DETROIT (WXYZ) – Attracting and retaining talent in Detroit has been a big discussion over the past few years.

Michigan has great colleges and universities. Could better networking opportunities help keep some of those graduates here at home?

That’s the purpose of a new platform by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Knowing the city better could be key in helping you professionally and personally. That’s the goal for ‘Let’s Detroit.’

Sarah Craft is the manager of Detroit Drives Degrees.

“Our goal is to help people stay here and help people find their place,” she said.

‘Let’s Detroit’ turns the city’s name into a verb. That’s good news for people who want positive action and not the “brain-drain” that occurs when graduates leave our area for other opportunities.

“Regions need talent with four-year degrees more than anything.”

‘Let’s Detroit’ is a website with a texting function that helps you get in touch with a Detroiter.

Craft explained, “If you’re downtown here for lunch, and you don’t know where to go, you could text a Detroiter through our website.”

Craft and Whitney Griffin are ambassadors that help answer some texts.

“Especially in a city like this where things are constantly evolving, and there’s so many new things happening. The best way to experience all that is to have someone to do it with and to have a group of people help you just experience and explore,” Griffin added.

The goal is to help folks expand their network to make Detroit a better place for them personally and professionally.

Craft said, “We know that you get a job based on who you know, which is awesome if you are well connected and not so great if you’re not.”

The website just rolled out last week, offering professional connections in ten different industries, like technology and healthcare.

They hope if more graduates can find opportunities and reasons to stay in Detroit, they will.

Griffin said, “Building community definitely helps people to feel like they have a place like they belong.”

‘Let’s Detroit’ is looking for more ambassadors.

To sign up, go to


Butzel Long adds attorney specializing in labor and employment law; Brett Rendeiro joins firm as Shareholder

Attorney Brett Rendeiro has joined Butzel Long as a Shareholder practicing in the firm’s Bloomfield Hills office.

Rendeiro concentrates his practice in employment law and complex commercial litigation. His broad employment and business litigation experience includes matters involving claims of discrimination and harassment, misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential information, breach of restrictive covenants, shareholder oppression, breach of fiduciary duties, fraudulent transfers, Fair Labor Standards Act violations and public accessibility violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rendeiro regularly represents clients in the automotive, professional services, retail, manufacturing, education and banking industries.

Prior to joining Butzel Long, Rendeiro worked with a large Michigan law firm, where he was recognized in Best Lawyers in America® (2014 – Present), in Leading Lawyers in the areas of Commercial Litigation and Employment Law – Management (2017 – Present), named a Future Star by Benchmark Litigation (2014 – Present) and named as a Top Lawyer by DBusiness magazine (2015).

Currently, Rendeiro serves as Chairman of the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. He has served on the Foundation’s Board since 2009. Rendeiro is a member of the Federal Bar Association of the Eastern District of Michigan, Oakland County Bar Association and State Bar of Michigan.

Rendeiro is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School (J.D., 2002, cum laude, Order of the Coif, Wayne Law Review, Survey Editor) and Eastern Michigan University (B.B.A., Finance, 1998).

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as alliance offices in Beijing and Shanghai. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

Rehmann named to 2018 MSSP Alert Top 100 Managed Security Services Providers list

Second annual list honors leading mssps & cybersecurity companies that safeguard customers’ digital assets

MSSP Alert, published by After Nines Inc., has named Rehmann to the Top 100 MSSPs list for 2018 ( The list and research identify and honor the top 100 managed security services providers (MSSPs) that specialize in comprehensive, outsourced cybersecurity services.

The Top 100 MSSP rankings are based on MSSP Alert’s 2018 readership survey combined with aggregated third-party research. MSSPs featured throughout the list and research proactively monitor, manage and mitigate cyber threats for businesses, government agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations of all sizes.

“With only two other Michigan-based companies making the list and one of a few accounting firms, we are honored to be recognized on the MSSP Alert Top 100,” said Rehmann CEO Randy Rupp. “As cybersecurity is essential for all businesses, Rehmann is committed to addressing today’s cyber challenges to reduce risks for our clients and give them peace of mind so that they can confidently focus on what matters most – their business.”

Building and operating a true MSSP requires major financial, technical and business commitments. Fully 63 percent of top MSSPs surveyed maintain their own security operations centers (SOCs) on a 24x7x365 basis. Another 24 percent depend on hybrid models in which some SOC services are outsourced, with the remaining 13 percent either formulating strategies or completely outsourcing their SOC services.

Demand for MSSPs has escalated amid rising cyberattacks, malware and ransomware incidents worldwide. The cybersecurity skills shortage has further heightened the need for world-class MSSPs. The global managed security services market is expected to skyrocket to $101 billion in the next nine years, advancing at an eye-popping 18% compound annual growth rate, according to Persistence Market Research.

“After Nines Inc. and MSSP Alert congratulate Rehmann on this year’s honor,” said Amy Katz, CEO of After Nines Inc. “As MSPs increasingly introduce managed security services, Rehmann continues to stand out in the fiercely competitive cybersecurity market.”

The Top 100 MSSPs list and research were overseen by Content Czar Joe Panettieri (@JoePanettieri). Find the online list and associated report here:

Rehmann, with its recent combination with Trivalent Group, was also recently ranked among the world’s 501 most strategic and innovative managed service providers (MSPs), according to Channel Futures MSP 501 Worldwide Company rankings. This makes Rehmann one of only six companies to make both the MSSP 100 and MSP 501 lists.

Rehmann offers a wide range of professional security and consulting services, including penetration testing, digital forensics, information security programs, risk assessments, data breach services and many more. Additionally, the firm specializes in managed services, managed cloud, cyber security, managed networks and business continuity.

About Rehmann

Rehmann is a fully integrated financial services firm of CPAs & consultants, wealth advisors and corporate investigators dedicated to providing clients proactive ideas and solutions to help them prosper professionally and personally. Additionally, through a unique combination with Trivalent Group®, a top 100 managed IT service provider, we have expanded our technology capabilities and launched a managed IT solutions practice. Rehmann has more than 800 associates in Michigan, Ohio and Florida. Rehmann is an independent member of Nexia International, offering clients a global approach. Find us online at

About After Nines Inc.
After Nines Inc. provides timeless IT guidance for strategic partners and IT security professionals across ChannelE2E ( and MSSP Alert ( ChannelE2E tracks every stage of the IT service provider journey — from entrepreneur to exit. MSSP Alert is the global voice for Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs).
• For sponsorship information contact After Nines Inc. CEO Amy Katz,
• For content and editorial questions contact After Nines Inc. Content Czar Joe Panettieri,

Empower Yourself—and Your Future—at OCC Open House

It has never been easier for prospective students, their family members and the community to learn how an education from Oakland Community College can empower the future. Call it OCC 101—a one-stop shopping opportunity.

OCC’s Open House will be Saturday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the college’s Auburn Hills campus. Attend workshops, live presentations and demonstrations designed to help prospective students make their decision to choose OCC. Besides an opportunity to learn, the open house is an opportunity to vist the campus for tours and information.

Presentations will include:

  • Parent workshop: Preparing your student for college
  • Student panel: Witness excellence in person
  • Financial aid workshop
  • Academic information tables with faculty and staff including:
    o Art
    o Criminal justice
    o Culinary
    o Diagnostic medical sonography
    o EMS
    o Graphic design
    o Health professions
    o Library technician program
    o Nursing
    o Respiratory therapy
  • Student Services representatives from counseling, financial aid, global education and workforce development
  • Plus, information about transferring your OCC education with representatives from Eastern Michigan University, Northwood University, Oakland University, Walsh College and Wayne State University

To register for the OCC open house, visit

About OCC
With five campuses in Oakland County, OCC is Michigan’s No. 1 transfer institution, offering nearly 100 degrees and certificates. The College empowers academic and developmental experiences, allowing students to reach their potential and enhance their communities. More than 1 million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. Learn more at

‘Let’s Detroit’ is what region needs to retain talent

Sept. 24, 2018

Crain’s Detroit Business

By: Daniel J. Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

In today’s innovation-driven economy, human talent is the lifeblood of every successful business — and the backbone of a prosperous state. That’s why in Michigan, where 36 percent of college graduates leave the state within a year of graduating, we need to revolutionize our strategies to retain and attract the best talent.

The fact is that Michigan has a lot to offer: we’re in the top 10 for degrees conferred; our state is home to numerous world-class colleges and universities; and we have more than 800,000 job openings.

With those facts as a backdrop, the Detroit Regional Chamber conducted a survey of 400 young people and found that one of our state’s greatest challenges — and opportunities — lies in perception. Those surveyed suggested that our state doesn’t offer enough in quality of life, the opportunity to influence change or a sense of community connectedness.

While individual companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continue to make significant investments in talent acquisition, we’ve also seen firsthand that keeping talent here will require a shared commitment by all businesses.

Enter “Let’s Detroit,” a new talent retention strategy for the Detroit region led by the Chamber. This strategy focuses on connecting young professionals to one another, as well as to employment, things to do, places to live and opportunities to make a positive impact via an online and offline platform.

One innovative feature is a texting program that allows anyone in the world to reach out to young professionals who are invested in our region’s success. Who better to tell the real story of what’s happening in Southeast Michigan than those experiencing it first-hand?

Want to build your professional network in the health care industry? Let’s Detroit has you covered. Looking for the latest social events, or how to get involved in the community? Let’s Detroit has that, too. And young professionals are represented from every major industry — from health care to manufacturing, automotive and technology.

As one of the region’s largest employers, we view Let’s Detroit as an innovative and authentic way to connect with both current and future talent to show them why Detroit and Michigan are among the most exciting, innovative and energetic places in the nation to live, work and play.

It’s also noteworthy that the Chamber led more than 100 representatives from business, nonprofit and young professional groups to come together to create this platform, which is benchmarked against some of the most highly successful national and international talent attraction campaigns.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan prides itself in attracting and retaining the best and brightest minds and implementing strategies that make us an attractive place to work. Let’s Detroit is the resource our region needs to accomplish that common goal on an even grander scale to support a healthy, vibrant state for generations to come. Let’s Work Together. Let’s Go. Let’s Detroit.

Learn more about Let’s Detroit here.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and former chairman of the Detroit Regional Chamber Board of Directors.


You can view the original post from Crain’s Detroit Business on their website. 

Distance between Ann Arbor and Detroit shrinking as entrepreneur links strengthen

Sept. 23, 2018

Crain’s Detroit Business 

By: Dustin Walsh

Bill Ford Jr. envisions the 104-year-old train depot in Detroit that Ford Motor Co. bought this year could create a mobility corridor on Michigan Avenue from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

But the connection between those two cities — one that was tenuous at best only a year ago — is already beginning to blossom as Detroit’s entrepreneurial community grows.

Ann Arbor-based Duo Security, which is being acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. in a $2.35 billion deal, recently opened its first Detroit office at the Julian C. Madison Building at 1420 Washington Blvd., transferring 30 of its staffers to the location with plans to grow that presence.

A “unicorn” startup, Duo raised $70 million with a more than $1.17 billion valuation in 2017. Its co-founder Dug Song believes the success of the region is hinged on a confluence of Ann Arbor and Detroit.

“Dan Gilbert’s move of Quicken to Detroit started this in a big way,” Song said. “We also saw Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook move in. Then we see this rise of all these small businesses and it just really seems like Detroit is a place of tremendous opportunities and activity. Detroit used to be a place where you’d get big before you’d get loud, but now things are changing and there’s this kind of groundswell. Entrepreneurship is everywhere and we’re all starting to see that and should embrace it.”

Ann Arbor’s established entrepreneur community, which sprung up from technology spun out of the University of Michigan, led to a crop of venture capital firms, growing since the mid-1990s. But they’ve also been focusing their attention lately toward Detroit.

Nearly 50 percent of Michigan’s 29 venture capital firms, most of which are located in Ann Arbor, have invested in companies in Detroit, said Emily Heintz, founder and managing director of Ann Arbor-based entrepreneur economic development organization EntryPoint and former associate director of the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

“I definitely see the two communities slowly collaborating more,” Heintz said. “Detroit and Ann Arbor working together as a collaborative front only raises Michigan’s profile as we’re all working to build up the Midwest as an entrepreneurial hotspot.”

The University of Michigan is following suit. Earlier this year, it acquired the rest of the Horace H. Rackham Education Memorial Building in Midtown, likely leading to a “more substantial” physical presence in Detroit for the maize-and-blue, UM President Mark Schlissel told Crain’s.

Schlissel sees an opportunity to expand from UM’s tiny outpost at the Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue and make the 77-year-old Rackham building the university’s “home base” in Detroit with a larger mission in Michigan’s largest city. Schlissel cited Ford’s planned $740 million investment in Corktown as a catalyst.

“… But in the fullness of time, for example, as Ford does its building in Corktown and perhaps GM expands its footprint in town, I can see the university playing a more substantial role physically in Detroit going forward,” he told Crain’s.

UM paid $5.1 million to the Rackham Engineering Foundation and the Engineering Society of Detroit for the east wing of the building (UM already owned the west wing for its extension service). Wayne State University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has a lease for space in the building that ends in July of next year. UM also acquired a parking structure from the Rackham Engineering Foundation.

UM is also getting involved in Detroit’s schools, working with the public school district, the Kresge Foundation and others to open a unit of its school of education at the Marygrove College campus.

Ann Arbor-to-Detroit is not a one-way street. Metro Detroit’s automotive industry started investing in Ann Arbor long before Detroit’s most recent entrepreneur scene erupted.

UM’s Mobility Transformation Center began researching new automotive technologies, such as connected and autonomous cars, years ago and received buy-in from the area’s largest automakers and suppliers, including Ford, General Motors Co., Delphi, Bosch and Denso. The opening of MCity, the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies, on campus opened up more connections between the two cities.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said Ann Arbor’s talent and Detroit’s economic resurgence, thanks to a return of automotive sales, opened a long-shuttered pipeline between the two communities.

“When you really look at it, there’s been a symbiotic relationship develop between the talent that’s attracted to Ann Arbor and the university environment with the explosion of jobs and opportunity in Detroit,” Baruah said. “We’re really now seeing how these power centers in Michigan need each other and thrive off each other.”

But Detroit and Ann Arbor have historically represented a disparate culture and image — Ann Arbor, a city of intellectuals and entrepreneurs and Detroit, a monolith of decaying industry and blue-collar grit. Opposing ideas were very visible to outsiders.

In October 2017, successful investors from outside Michigan got a taste of the disjointed attitudes. Steve Case, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based investment firm Revolution and co-founder and former chairman of AOL, led a panel as part of his Rise of the Rest tour that visits startup hubs in the Midwest. He was joined on stage at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor by Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans Inc. chairman; Ohio native J.D. Vance, venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”; and Mary Grove, director of global entrepreneur outreach at Google.

“I did notice there is a tension in how you brand in the relationship between Ann Arbor and Detroit,” Vance said after a daylong tour of several successful startups in Ann Arbor. “That needs to be fixed and the two areas need to be viewed together more on a national scale.”

Case said distinct regionalism can really hinder industry expansion, noting Silicon Valley used to just include San Jose, Calif., and surrounding communities, now it ranges from south of San Jose to north of San Francisco nearly 60 miles away.

Gilbert agreed.

“There’s nothing indigenous about technology,” he said at the event last year. “Geography is meaningless.”

By comparison, Ann Arbor and Detroit city centers are only 43.5 miles apart.

Song said the barriers are gone for good.

“The culture in Detroit may have always been tied to autos and more top-down thinking, but that’s all starting to break down,” Song said. “There’s not many people drawing hard lines anymore. We’re erasing more of these artificial boundaries regionally every day. With that we’re seeing something more meaningful happen here.”


You can view the original post from Crain’s Detroit Business on their website.