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Boasting About Defense: Chamber’s Defense Tour Shows off Innovation and Aerospace Leadership Potential

The Detroit Regional Chamber hosted State Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township) and State Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) for a defense industry tour in November, bringing public and private sector leaders together to support Michigan’s defense industry.

The tour hit key stops including BAE Systems, Pratt Miller, and the Detroit Arsenal headquarters, all of which offered a snapshot of Michigan’s defense industry. That industry contributed $31 billion in overall economic activity in 2019 through 155,000 jobs, according to the Chamber’s 2021 State of the Region report.

“If we needed to, (the rest of the country) knows that this region could quickly flip and go from production of cars and trucks, like we did in World War II, to production of anything else we need because of the flexibility and agility this region has demonstrated over the decades,” said Maj. Gen. Darren L. Werner, TACOM’s commanding general.

For Rep. Tate, a former Marine deployed in Afghanistan, the Legislature’s job is to take care of the basics like providing infrastructure, a modernized electric grid, and improved schools for Michigan to retain its mobility and defense advantages over the long term.

“It is something that we can continue, and it’s personal for me as a veteran,” Rep. Tate said. “We need to make sure that we take care (of the basics) … that we make Michigan more attractive by taking those things off the table. Then, we just have to partner with folks to figure out ways to tout what we have.”

For State Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township), the next chapter of Michigan’s economic leadership needs to be as the national leader in aerospace.

“The big fight now is for space superiority and Michigan is in a prime place to launch lower orbit satellites,” said MacDonald whose district is home to major parts of Macomb County’s Defense Corridor, which includes 23 R&D labs and testing facilities and more than 600 defense-related businesses.

According to the State of the Region report, Michigan ranks eighth in attractiveness for aerospace manufacturing.

Sen. MacDonald said he’s heard from competing states that Michigan checks every box to lead in aerospace. It has the R&D, talent, universities, and know-how as well as access to water while offering security coastal cities simply cannot provide due to geography – all of which needs to be celebrated more.


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