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Auto Caucus

Michigan legislative leaders want to keep the industry top in the nation

By Sen. Mike Kowall

Pages 42-43

As the American automotive industry goes, so goes Michigan. That has been the conventional wisdom for decades. While the two may not be as inextricably linked as they once were, the health of the automobile industry in Michigan remains vital to the economic health of the state as a whole.

This has been true for more than 100 years. Ever since Ransom E. Olds founded Olds Motor Works in Lansing in 1897 and Henry Ford began manufacturing the Model T 11 years later in Detroit, the vitality of Michigan has been tied to the automobile.

Less than 25 years after its humble beginnings at the end of the 19th century, Michigan’s automotive industry transformed the state. The phenomenal success of Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., fueled by Americans’ love affair with the automobile, created jobs in Detroit that attracted immigrants from Europe and migrants from across the United States. By 1920, the city was the fourth largest in the country.

As Detroit emerges from bankruptcy, its brightest days are yet to come. The journey is far from over, but there is no mistaking that Michigan is now stronger than ever.

Today’s economic landscape in Michigan and across the country is different from what it was 100, 50 or even 30 years ago. Manufacturing no longer towers over all other economies as the unrivaled king of industry. Here in Michigan, the agriculture, tourism and service sectors of the economy, among others, are helping drive our success.

Yet Michigan remains the leading auto producing state in the United States, and the domestic automotive industry accounts directly and indirectly for one of every 10 jobs in the nation. Clearly, the success of the automotive industry will always be critical to Michigan’s success.

My colleagues in the Legislature and I recognize the continuing significance of this industry. It is what prompted Sen. Steve Bieda and me to form the Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus. The focus of the caucus is to highlight the impact the automotive industry has had in shaping our state, its history and its culture as we know it today.

I look forward to meeting with the representatives of the Big Three automotive companies, auxiliary industries and related groups such as the MotorCities National Heritage Area, the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Henry Ford Museum, which devote significant resources to preserving a public appreciation of automotive history and culture. Strengthening the connection among these groups and the Legislature will help ensure the ongoing success of the industry.

As co-chairman of the caucus, I am delighted to bring attention to events that exemplify our rich automotive culture in Michigan and keep legislators up-to-date on current happenings in the automotive industry. One of those events was the inaugural Michigan Auto Heritage Day, presented by the MotorCities National Heritage Area, in November at the Capitol.

This event and others like it are another way we show the nation and the world that Michigan remains the U.S. automotive capital. The Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus is committed to maintaining this status as we move the automotive industry and Michigan forward.

Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is co-chairman of the Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.