Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroiter Magazine > Talent, BEVS, & Startups: Once-in-a-Century Opportunity for Michigan

Talent, BEVS, & Startups: Once-in-a-Century Opportunity for Michigan

May 24, 2023 John McElroy

John McElroy | Host, Autoline

Once-In-A-Century Opportunity for Michigan

Does Michigan stand a chance of competing in the global auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles? You bet it does. But it won’t be easy. And we’ll really have to be on our toes.

Everyone knows that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) need many fewer parts and people to make them compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. But Michigan can capture an outsized number of EV battery and component plants to offset many of those losses. We have the resources, the talent, and the know-how to do it.

The single biggest challenge facing companies that want to build battery plants in the United States is finding the people to do it. They’re all struggling with it. And what they’re finding is that it’s not just a matter of finding the people, it’s also a matter of finding people with the right skills, and a matter of finding people who are willing to work in factories. That’s not easy to do, especially when you have to hire thousands of people all at once.

I know of one Japanese battery company that visited over 40 sites all over the country before it finally found one where it could hire enough people. And as other battery companies flock to the United States to take advantage of the subsidies provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, they’re going to struggle even more to find a location with the employment base they need.

Meanwhile, Michigan has what they need– a deep manufacturing culture with a working population that’s not afraid of factory work.

But it goes beyond factory jobs. The transition to BEVs is going to require an army of engineers who know how to design software-defined vehicles that can be digitally connected and are cyber hardened. That requires software skills that are not the traditional strengths of Michigan’s mechanical engineers. Yet we already have a lot of software development going on in the state, and by building on that we can get even more.

I think the key will be to rekindle the startup culture that was so prevalent in Michigan over a century ago, when inventors like Ransom E. Olds, Henry Ford and Walter P. Chrysler enthralled investors with their vision of the future and went on to build powerful industrial machines. That spirit still lurks in places like Detroit, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, to name a few. It just has to be nurtured, encouraged, and supported to burn brightly again.

John McElroy

“The single biggest challenge facing companies that want to build battery plants in the United States is finding the people to do it.” – John McElroy, Host, Autoline

The good news is, it’s starting to happen. The word is out that if you really want to get something made, Michigan is the place to make it. That’s not the perception in the popular press or with the general public. But the people who want to get things done know this is the place to do it.

And that’s where our opportunity lies: to provide the opportunity for people from all over the world to come to Michigan to realize their dreams and ambitions. They have a once-in-a-century opportunity to take advantage of a major upheaval in the auto industry. And so do we.

John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry and host and founder of “Autoline Daily.” He is the president of Blue Sky Productions, which produces videos and shows about the global automotive industry.


Inclusion, Equity Key to Staying Ahead of Mobility Curve

Natalie King

Natalie King, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dunamis Charge and Dunamis Clean Energy Partners

If Michigan wants to make sure that the next mobility era is fair and inclusive for everyone, it needs to prioritize a few key things. Firstly, we need to make sure that people from all walks of life can benefit from new mobility technologies by investing in infrastructure in underserved areas. Secondly, we need to create more opportunities for diverse talent to join and thrive in the automotive industry, so that everyone can have a chance to shape the future of mobility. Lastly, we need to work together with local communities to understand their unique needs and perspectives and make sure they are included in the development of new mobility services and technologies.

As Michigan enters the next generation of mobility and electrification, we have a real opportunity to maintain our position as a leader in the global automotive industry. With our long history of automotive engineering and manufacturing, and recent investments in battery technology, we’re in a good position to succeed. But we also need to stay adaptable and open to change, so that we can continue to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.


Michigan Must Have a Ready and Highly Skilled Talent Pool

David C. Dauch

David C. Dauch, Chairman of the Board; Chief Executive Officer; AAM

The State of Michigan has led the automotive industry for over 100 years. Modern car manufacturing and advanced styling were born in Detroit, and as Chief Executive Officer of AAM, a global Tier 1 automotive supplier headquartered in the city of Detroit, I firmly believe Michigan and AAM can lead the way through innovation as our industry shifts from internal combustion engine (ICE) to battery electric vehicle (BEV) manufacturing.

To ensure Michigan maintains its automotive leadership and thrives during this transition, we must have a ready and highly-skilled talent pool as well as a business-friendly environment for new investment. Growing the state’s hi-tech workforce while creating the necessary financial and infrastructure conditions for future growth are two keys to attracting new advanced R&D and manufacturing facilities.


Coordination is Key to Building Next-Level Supply Chain EVs Require

By Mujeeb Ijaz

Mujeeb Ijaz

Mujeeb Ijaz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Our Next Energy

The ICE to EV transition is bringing unprecedented investment, including major plants from Ford, GM, Gotion, and Our Next Energy in Michigan. It also brings the need to build a next-level supply chain to support them. This is tricky as the materials many battery manufacturers use differs – making the market hard to read for suppliers, despite the fact we have the density to support them. If battery factories approach the supply chain independently, then suppliers won’t see the true demand and we’ll miss out on the suppliers Michigan needs to win this EV competition. Ultimately, we need a collaborative forum and coordinated effort between battery and auto manufacturers to showcase our collective market pull to entice suppliers to locate here and create the next-level supply chain that’s required to stay EV leaders.