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Gov. Rick Snyder: Michigan needs to build on auto recovery

Detroit Free Press: September 25, 2013

By Brent Snavely

The consensus among economic development officials in Michigan is that the state has an opportunity to lure more investment from automakers and suppliers.

With industry sales running at its strongest pace since 2007, Michigan’s pipeline of auto-related economic development is filling up, said Doug Smith, a vice president for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“This is an opportunity for us because our core industry is making money and is very profitable,” Smith said.

Most of the assembly plants operated by the Detroit Three and their suppliers’ parts factories are running at full capacity to keep up with demand.

But the same is true for the Asian and European automakers with plants in the Southeast. Smith said those states will be competing for every expansion of those facilities.

“We can’t be complacent,” Smith said.

That’s one reason why Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Nigel Francis senior vice president of automotive for the MEDC.

Snyder, who returned from his third trip to China earlier this month, said Wednesday that Francis will return to the world’s largest car market next month to talk to government and industry officials.

Francis also traveled to Germany earlier this month with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and its industry-focused team, called MICHauto.

The delegation met with more than 120 companies during the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Maureen Krauss, the chamber’s vice president of economic development, said European auto suppliers, most of whom are still suffering from a protracted recession, are eager to expand in North America.

“My key takeaway from the Frankfurt Auto Show is that the North American auto industry is roaring back and Detroit is at the center of it,” Krauss said. “The world still sees us as the place to be.”

Snyder, who spoke Wednesday at the 2013 Michigan Automotive Summit at Cobo Center, said Michigan should be proud of its core industry and promote it every chance it gets.

“I am proud to say we are the auto capital,” Snyder said. “We know how to make products in this state, we know how to grow products, we know how to create ideas in this state.”

The purpose of the event is to raise the state’s sense of urgency and capitalize on the industry’s recovery as it competes with other states for new investment.

In recent years, Snyder said it has become popular to say that Michigan needs to diversify its economy so it isn’t so dependent on the automotive industry. He has expressed that message himself on occasion.

“That’s a backward concept,” Snyder said. “Now is the time to double down and say, ‘Let’s do it well.’ ”

Snyder also said Michigan needs to do a better job of convincing talented, young engineers that the auto industry is a good career path for developing technology and electronics.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or