Companies to Watch

By Paul A. Eisenstein

Detroit’s emergence as a tech hub continues as automotive innovates the world into the next-generation mobility era. That technology surge, however, is not limited to automotive. This section highlights some of the companies, automotive and beyond, worth watching as the next tech era unfolds in Detroit.


American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings

Originally focused on classic, but low-profit automotive components, such as axles, AAM has been taken a more high-tech turn. It recently received $5 million in funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to further develop a low-cost, high-performance electric drive system already being used by several Chinese automakers, including Baojun and SA.IC-GM-Wuling.

 


Waymo LLC

Waymo is a Google spin-off focused on autonomous and fully driverless vehicles. It has already begun testing its technology in several locations, including Phoenix, and hopes to set up a nationwide ride-sharing network. The company has partnered up with several manufacturers who will supply vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan assembled in Windsor. The vehicles will be modified with radar, cameras, LIDAR and other sensors, as well as onboard control systems.


Bosch

Germany’s Bosch manufactures everything from appliances to smart vehicle technology. The company provides a wide range of automotive systems, including the WiFi and sensors that allowed Ford to test automatic parking technology on a modified Escape SUV last year. While a “safety driver” rode along, the goal is to let motorists exit their vehicle, tap a but.ton on their smartphone and let the vehicle park itself – and then later return when the driver wants to leave.


Airspace Link

The focus for Airspace Link is drones – more specifically, solutions to help state and local governments use this increasingly important technology. It has teamed up with the Detroit Region Aerotropolis Corp., a two-county public-private development program. One key goal is preventing incursions into airspace around airports including Detroit Metro and Willow Run.

 


Clearcover

Automotive insurance is undergoing rapid technological change, among other things basing pricing on driver behavior. Clearcover now operates in 13 states and its mobile app-based approach has generated high scores from consumers. The company planned to set up a Detroit base but has delayed that due to the pandemic. But it’s working with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. to begin hiring local employees.


StockX

Co-founded by Detroiters Greg Schwartz and Dan Gilbert, the company employs over 1,000 in 14 offices around the world – including Detroit – to conduct transactions in a variety of different fields, with an emphasis on high-end products and collectibles, including sneakers, as well as clothing and electronics.

 


Cavnue

Founded by the Sidewalk Infrastructure Project, Cavnue is working with partners like Ford’s autonomous affiliate Argo AI, Google, Waymo and others to help redefine urban mobility and roads. Its big project is the development of an autonomous vehicle corridor to connect Detroit with the growing high-tech center in Ann Arbor. A feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2022.


Dakkota Integrated Systems

Dakkota is setting up a new manufacturing operation on the site of the old Kettering High School. The $45-million investment will supply instrument panels and other components to the new Jeep Plant on Detroit’s East Side. The operation is a joint venture of the Rush Group and Canada’s Magna International.

 

 


Google

The high-tech giant may be best known for its search engine but it has numerous projects underway in the metro area, including the Fellowship Program. Thirteen Google employees will spend six months working pro bono to develop an affordable housing search tool. Google, along with spin-off Waymo and other autonomous vehicle companies are working to create a self-driving vehicle corridor that will link the Motor City and Ann Arbor, with a feasibility study due in summer 2022.


Detroit Manufacturing Systems

This minority-owned Tier One supplier produces various modular assemblies for the auto industry, including instrument panels. That’s the classic part of its business, but DMS also has pushed into supply chain and logistics management, an area likely to become even more important in light of the shortages the auto industry has faced with microchips and other critical parts this year. It currently employs 800 but plans to add another 225 as part of a diversification program.


Paul Eisenstein is publisher and editor-in-chief of automotive news site TheDetroitBureau.com.

Motor City Redux

By Paul A. Eisenstein

Auto’s drive for a high-tech future is accelerating Detroit’s revival

Drive down I-75 toward the welcoming beacon of General Motors’ Renaissance Center and you’ll likely spot another key GM facility, an aging factory that was known to locals, until recently, as “the Poletown plant.” These days, it goes by a new name, Factory Zero, and has a very different future in store.

In 2018, the giant automaker was set to close the facility, along with two other North American assembly plants. Today, it is the anchor of the automaker’s $27 billion investment in electrified and autonomous vehicles. When a $2.2 billion retooling program is completed this year – the largest such effort in industry history – Factory Zero will begin rolling out the all-new Hummer EV pickup. Over the next few years, it will add a Hummer SUV, as well as the Origin, a completely driverless shuttle that will be put into service by GM’s San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise. Eventually, 2,200 will work at Factory Zero.

New Signs of Automotive Life Every Week

One can still find the detritus of an earlier automotive era if you drive around Detroit. The crumbling Packard and Fisher Body plants serve as a reminder of how the industry that helped transform a modest-sized Midwestern town into a global powerhouse also left the Motor City to struggle for survival as offices and factories fled for the suburbs. But, seemingly every week, there are new signs of life coming back to Motown.
There are certainly some traditional facilities, like Stellantis’ sprawling Mack Detroit Assembly Complex on the East side, which began producing the Jeep Cherokee in April. As many as 4,500 employees eventually will be hired in at the Mack complex and, as part of a cooperative program with Detroit at Work, many of the company’s new hires are city residents.

“Automotive is still the primary source of employment for the state and it needs to play a huge role in the economic engine behind the city’s revival,” stressed Carla Bailo, the CEO of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. That said, “It’s different from what we had in the past,” stressed Bailo, noting that “We need a new talent pipeline like electrical engineers and software programmers.”

Ford’s Return to Detroit Roots Is Tech and Talent Driven

Ford is opening a new information center at the Factory at Corktown to facilitate engagement with the community.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the Corktown neighborhood. Ford, the nation’s second-largest domestic automaker has had a more than century-long relationship with Detroit. Founder Henry Ford inked the deal that created the company along the riverfront and the first Model T “flivvers” rolled out of a plant on Piquette Avenue. When the Renaissance Center was sold in 1996, Ford moved most of its remaining operations to Dearborn. But it is now returning to its roots in a big way, and with a decidedly high-tech spin.

The Corktown neighborhood has become a trendy center for “foodies,” and Gen-X and Y have created a solid housing boom there. But the big transformation underway will see Ford set up a 30-acre campus. The $740-million project will involve a number of Corktown buildings – notably including the abandoned Michigan Central Depot that, for decades served as an unwanted icon of Detroit’s decline. When it reopens in 2022, the grandly restored station will serve as the headquarters for Ford’s Team Edison, and the automaker’s grand push into electrified, autonomous and connected vehicles.

A hint of what’s to come rolled out late last year in the form of the long-range, all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, earlier this year named North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. In May, Ford followed with the roll-out of the battery-powered F-150 Lightning pickup which generated nearly 50,000 reservations within just 48 hours of its debut.

The ongoing move to Corktown is already paying off, according to Ted Cannis, head of Ford’s commercial vehicle operations. It has clicked in ways that Ford’s older, suburban operations haven’t with the hip younger software specialists and electrical engineers that will be critical to Ford’s future, powering up the automaker’s recruitment efforts.

Automotive is still the primary source of employment for the state and it needs to play a huge role in the economic engine behind the city’s revival. That said, it’s different from what we had in the past. We need a new talent pipeline like electrical engineers and software programmers.”

Motown’s Tech Push Not Limited to Traditional

Traditional automakers aren’t the only ones finding new reason to come to the Motor City. Of the 5,000 people Ford expects will work from Corktown, it estimates fully half will be employed by suppliers like Bosch and other partners such as Detroit’s commercial real estate development company Bedrock. They’re testing autonomous parking technology using Ford Escape SUVs and Bosch electronics at a Bedrock parking garage downtown.

Other high-tech players stepping into the Detroit scene include Google and its self-driving spin-off Waymo which hopes to build some of its own autonomous vehicles in Motown.

Overall, the high-tech projects coming into Detroit, whether in Downtown, Corktown, Midtown or in other neighborhoods, offer hope that the city’s long ties to the auto industry are not just in rebound mode but are transforming to reflect the transformation of the auto industry itself.

Paul Eisenstein is publisher and editor-in-chief of automotive news site TheDetroitBureau.com.

Walsh hosts virtual graduate program information sessions for fall 2021 semester

TROY, Mich., June 28, 2021 – Walsh will host graduate program virtual information sessions on July 22, 2021 from 5:30-6 p.m. and August 4, 2021 from 12:30-1 p.m. Graduate advisors will lead the sessions and discuss program options, the admissions process, financial aid resources, and scholarship opportunities. Attendees will have their graduate application fee waived. Advanced registration is recommended.

Walsh’s graduate programs include the internationally ranked Walsh MBA, which has been enhanced with new curriculum in business law, communication and leading diversity, equity and inclusion change in organizations, the new Cyber MBA, the Walsh/Kettering Tech MBA and master’s programs in accounting, data analytics, finance, information technology (IT), IT leadership, management, marketing and taxation. Several dual degree options are also available, including the new Master of Accountancy (MAC)/MBA. Classes are offered 100 percent online, on ground or a combination of on ground and remote learning. The college recently finished installation of several connected classrooms which use state-of-the-art technology to allow faculty, on ground and remote students to interact in classes in real time.

“Walsh continues to innovate to provide working professionals an outstanding business education that is accessible, affordable and prepares graduates with the knowledge and in-demand skills needed to lead 21st century organizations,” said Jesús Hernández, vice president and chief enrollment management officer. “More than 95% of Walsh faculty have or continue to work in industry, which creates an exceptional professional mentoring opportunity for our students.”

Walsh’s fall semester begins September 22, 2021. To learn more and register for a graduate program information session, visit www.walshcollege.edu/admissions-events.

# # #

ABOUT WALSH
Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit www.walshcollege.edu.

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (www.acbsp.org).

Hussein Berry

Hussein Berry is vice president of– Airport Operations at Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and oversees the day-to-day operations for the Delta hub and its 455 peak-day departures to 127 destinations worldwide. In this role, his responsibilities include all customer service areas, ramp and baggage operations, and the Airport Control Center. He oversees approximately 2,500 Delta employees.

Most recently, Berry was Delta’s vice president of Airport Operations at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, responsible for 225 peak-day departures serving 97 destinations worldwide. Prior to this, he was Delta’s managing director of Below Wing Operations at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and led a team of more than 4,300 employees.

He started in the aviation industry in 1995 as a frontline baggage handler and held various positions with increasing levels of responsibility in both finance and airport operations. Berry completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from Davenport University and received an MBA from Wayne State University with a concentration in Manufacturing and Information Systems.

Walsh hosts virtual graduate program information sessions for fall 2021 semester

TROY, Mich., June 28, 2021 – Walsh will host graduate program virtual information sessions on July 22, 2021 from 5:30-6 p.m. and August 4, 2021 from 12:30-1 p.m. Graduate advisors will lead the sessions and discuss program options, the admissions process, financial aid resources, and scholarship opportunities. Attendees will have their graduate application fee waived. Advanced registration is recommended.

Walsh’s graduate programs include the internationally ranked Walsh MBA, which has been enhanced with new curriculum in business law, communication and leading diversity, equity and inclusion change in organizations, the new Cyber MBA, the Walsh/Kettering Tech MBA and master’s programs in accounting, data analytics, finance, information technology (IT), IT leadership, management, marketing and taxation. Several dual degree options are also available, including the new Master of Accountancy (MAC)/MBA. Classes are offered 100 percent online, on ground or a combination of on ground and remote learning. The college recently finished installation of several connected classrooms which use state-of-the-art technology to allow faculty, on ground and remote students to interact in classes in real time.

“Walsh continues to innovate to provide working professionals an outstanding business education that is accessible, affordable and prepares graduates with the knowledge and in-demand skills needed to lead 21st century organizations,” said Jesús Hernández, vice president and chief enrollment management officer. “More than 95% of Walsh faculty have or continue to work in industry, which creates an exceptional professional mentoring opportunity for our students.”

Walsh’s fall semester begins September 22, 2021. To learn more and register for a graduate program information session, visit www.walshcollege.edu/admissions-events.

# # #

ABOUT WALSH
Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit www.walshcollege.edu.

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (www.acbsp.org).

Advocacy Intensifies

Post-pandemic decisions critical to region’s future

As Detroit and Michigan try to move beyond COVID-19, the stakes could not be any higher. Numerous policy and appropriations decisions will have an outsized impact on efforts to successfully accelerate our economy.
From usage of American Rescue Plan funding to PPE tax relief to voting rights to the debate over shutting down Enbridge’s Line 5 – there has been no shortage of high-profile issues. The Detroit Regional Chamber continues to ramp up its advocacy efforts during these critical times to serve as the voice of business.

Survey: How Small Businesses are Emerging and Adapting from COVID-19

A Salesforce survey of 200 U.S. small business leaders illustrated how this sector is growing its customer base, using technology, and preparing for the future.

Though small businesses have suffered revenue loss over the course of the pandemic – as more than half of survey respondents shared – these results show promise for businesses that prioritize safety, focus on customer experiences, and commit to technological investments.

Some key findings include:

Despite Challenges, Business Remain Optimistic

  • 79% of respondents reported either seeing signs that business was returning to normal or being cautiously optimistic that it would.
  • 120 of the 200 business owners in the survey reported making drastic changes to operations or business models in response to COVID-19-related challenges.
    • More than half of businesses reported adopting remote-work arrangements and creating socially distant protocols for interacting with customers.
    • 48% of small- and medium-sized businesses globally said they were adopting contactless services such as digital shopping, digital customer service, mobile ordering, and curbside pickup due to the pandemic.

Small Businesses are Prioritizing Safety

  • 64% of small- and medium-sized businesses globally reported they are focusing on safety and sanitation policies.
  • 55% of small- and medium-sized businesses reported that they are more careful in their customer communications since the pandemic began.
  • 46% of small- and medium-sized businesses said they plan to offer more touchless customer interactions, even with a vaccine in place.

According to the survey analysis, “Businesses are making improvements to their communication channels. These include their websites, their social media channels, their local business listings, their email communications, and the text messages they send out.”

Technology Has Been Integral to Help Small Businesses Navigate the Pandemic, Grow Sales

  • Two-thirds of the survey respondents described tech adoption as “very important” or “extremely important” to their operations.
  • 56% of small- and medium-sized businesses globally reported that their companies use CRM technology in day-to-day operations, a 24% increase from last year.
  • One in five small- and medium-sized business leaders reported having implemented at least one of the following since the pandemic began:
    • Email marketing software
    • Customer service software
    • Project or task collaboration tools
    • E-commerce software
    • Marketing automation software
  • Nearly half of respondents reported planning to invest in digital marketing within the next six months, with 29% planning to at least double their investments in marketing and lead generation.
  • 45% of growing small- and medium-sized businesses globally are preparing for future crises by adopting technology that helps digitize their interactions with customers and offers contactless services.

View the full survey results.

Jocelyn Benson

Jocelyn Benson is Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State. In this role she is focused on ensuring elections are secure and accessible, and dramatically improving customer experiences for all who interact with Secretary of State offices. Benson is the author of “State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process”, the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. She is also the chair of Michigan’s Task Force on Women in Sports, created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 to advance opportunities for women in Michigan as athletes and sports leaders.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and expert on civil rights law, education law, and election law, Benson served as dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. When she was appointed dean at age 36, she became the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100, accredited law school. She continues to serve as vice chair of the advisory board for the Levin Center at Wayne Law, which she founded with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Previously, Benson was an associate professor and associate director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

Prior to her election, she served as CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit organization using the unifying power of sports to improve race relations.

Benson is co-founder and former president of Military Spouses of Michigan, a network dedicated to providing support and services to military spouses and their children.

In 2015, she became one of the youngest women in history to be inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Sandy K. Baruah

The Honorable Sandy K. Baruah is president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the third largest chamber of commerce in the nation. The Chamber represents the business interests of a region comprising 5.4 million residents and 11 Fortune 500 companies. The Chamber also serves as the regional economic development entity, Destination Detroit, the statewide automotive and mobility industry cluster association, MICHauto, and hosts the nationally recognized Mackinac Policy Conference.

Baruah joined the Chamber in 2010 after a distinguished career in Washington, D.C. He served President George W. Bush as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this role, he was the chief executive responsible for the SBA’s 4,000 national employees and $18 billion small business loan portfolio. Baruah was one of the senior officials shaping the federal government’s response to the 2008 credit crisis and assistance to the U.S. automotive industry.

In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Baruah as chair of Michigan’s 21st Century Economy Commission. He is a frequent commentator on local and national media regarding political developments, automotive industry matters, and Detroit and Michigan issues.

Point of View: State Senator Ken Horn and State Representative Kyra Bolden

Post-pandemic Michigan with Ken Horn State Senator (R – Frankenmuth) and Kyra Bolden Representative (D – Southfield)


How do you think the federal funding from the American Rescue Plan can be best used in Michigan?

Sen. Horn: In my role as chair of the Economic and Small Business Development Committee, we’re focused like a laser beam on addressing workforce and talent development needs. This COVID crisis magnified the issue of finding a skilled workforce. My intent is to use the federal dollars to overcome capital constraints to workforce and talent development whether it be lack of equipment, outdated technologies, accessibility and affordability of workforce housing or proper training for the future needs of the economy.

Rep. Bolden: The most important thing that the American Rescue Plan does is that it eases the financial burdens on individuals, families, tenants, landlords, and state, local, and tribal governments. By putting money in hands of individuals, increasing SNAP benefits, expanding childcare assistance, and helping renters with past due bills we will stabilize the economic free fall that families have endured the past 14 months and continue stimulating an economy depressed by COVID-19.

What is the key to positioning Michigan’s economy for success as we navigate the prolonged pandemic?

Sen. Horn: Three things – We need to incentivize jobs focused on mobility, we need to train our workforce accordingly and we need to turn the eyes of the world this way to show that Michigan continues to lead in the autonomous vehicle and electrification industry. There is no better place to design, test, and build those vehicles. My top funding priorities to achieve these goals are the Going PRO Talent Fund, Michigan Reconnect, and Pure Michigan.

Rep. Bolden: Women have been especially hard hit by this pandemic because it required working moms take on the extra jobs of teacher, principal, and tutor. By continuing to invest in a safe return to school and making full-time childcare more affordable, women shut out of the economy can finally be given the opportunity to rejoin the workforce. By making once-in-a-generation investments in schools and childcare through the ARP, we can ensure that working parents can fully engage in Michigan’s economic recovery.

What steps do we need to take to ensure Michigan is better prepared for the next pandemic or public health crisis?

Sen. Horn: Now that we’re coming to the tail end of this crisis, it’s important for the administration and the Legislature to work closely together to implement rules that we can all understand and abide by. I have a bill that would define, from the grassroots level, when we are beginning to see the potential outbreak of an epidemic and then an exit strategy to bring predictability for our people and our economy. I hope to work with my colleagues and the administration to see this through.

Rep. Bolden: One step is to focus on how racial disparities in public health manifested during this pandemic. Through the work of the COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities, we can ensure our healthcare system supports Michiganders of color, by increasing access to telehealth services and enrolling more people in affordable, quality health insurance plans. There’s also work to be done in medical training, which is why I worked alongside Governor Whitmer to pass rules requiring implicit bias training for healthcare professionals.


Ken Horn is a Republican representing Michigan’s 32nd Senate District

Kyra Bolden is a Democrat representing Michigan’s 35th House District.