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MICHauto: Education, innovation and talent key to maintaining Michigan’s automotive status

From: MLive

By Dave Muller

September 23, 2014

DETROIT, MI – Innovation, education, talent. The words were repeated several times Tuesday, by businesses and civic leaders at the second MICHauto summit in Detroit.

The MICHauto summit is a day-long conference at the Cobo Center hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber and showcasing Michigan’s talent, innovation and supply chain in the automotive industry.

Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah described the MICHauto summit as the sole event focused on ensuring that Michigan is at the epicenter of the automotive world.
“MICHauto is Michigan’s first and only industry cluster association dedicated to promoting, retaining and growing the automotive industry in the great state of Michigan,” he said.

How important is automobile industry to Michigan?

General Motors executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss relayed these numbers at the event, saying Michigan has:

13 OEM assembly plants, more than any other state;
35 components and materials plants, more than any other state;
63 of the top automotive suppliers, more than any other state;
70 percent of North America’s automotive engineering activity, and
More automotive engineers than any other state.
“The auto industry is essential to this state for people who grew up here like myself or moved here,” Reuss said.

State officials insisted they’re not sitting idle in the fight to keep the Pleasant Peninsula at the center of the automotive world.

Nigel Francis, senior automotive adviser for the state of Michigan, said the state has been positioning itself to leverage financial resources, including federal dollars, and “is shovel-ready” to put the money to use.

Francis noted the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute opening in Detroit, and said the state has a proposal in for a composite materials institute. He said the MEDC has connected with OEMs and suppliers around the world to keep them up to date on Michigan’s status, that is, informing that it is not a lifeless relic of the auto bailouts and the Great Recession.

“The automotive industry in Michigan has gone through a very strong comeback and it’s driving the comeback of the state of Michigan,” Francis said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged lightheartedly that a gubernatorial election looms in November. “Assuming I have a second term, my number one priority is talent,” he told the conference.

Snyder pointed to his adminstration’s Michigan Advanced Technician Training program, also known as MAT-Squared, which connects high school seniors and recent graduates with advanced technology companies to work with them while pursuing an associates’s degree.

Speaking to both talent and education, Snyder said there needs to be more emphasis on this kind of alternative post-secondary education, as people are often too focused on four-year degrees or beyond as all-or-nothing educational pursuits.

In general, Snyder also said Michigan needs to up its marketing game to the rest of the world.

“We’ve got to be louder and prouder about the stuff we’re doing,” he said.

MICHauto.org is a statewide organization founded by Tom Manganello, a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd who currently serves as its chair.