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Tech Race: Can Detroit Be the Next Silicon Valley

Making the Case for Michigan at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show

Bringing the message that Detroit is open for business, MICHauto, an economic development initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber, promoted the region’s assets and world-class talent to the global consumer electronics industry at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas.

Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and strategic development, attended CES and said the show’s sheer size and focus — particularly in automotive innovation — presents an unparalleled opportunity to market Michigan to investors both nationally and internationally.

“A few years ago there was no automotive presence at the CES, now automotive is the driving presence,” Stevens said, adding that virtually every major global OEM company and more than 125 automotive tech companies, the most in recent years, attended the show.

Collaboration Stimulates Economic Opportunity in Michigan

MICHauto’s attendance at CES was coordinated to accomplish four objectives: gathering competitive intelligence for Michigan’s mobility initiative; assessing the competitive landscape of economic development organizations in other states and countries; building on existing relationships with automotive companies; and networking with technology companies involved in mobility innovation to attract investment to Michigan. In addition to meeting with numerous tech and automotive executives, Stevens said CES offered several key takeaways for future business attraction efforts, chief among them:

  • CES presents an opportunity to create an economic development presence at future shows via collaborative partnerships and through economic development organizations across Michigan.
  • The convergence of automotive and technology companies provides Michigan with a strategic opportunity to attract firms to the world’s leading automotive and smart mobility cluster.

Cultivating Talent Vital to Tech Race with Silicon Valley

Among the companies attending CES that do not currently have a presence in Michigan, Stevens said several cited the attractiveness of Silicon Valley as a hub for technology. However, he said many companies also have their eyes on the Detroit region, especially as the city emerges from bankruptcy.

With the largest concentration of OEM headquarters, R&D and product development facilities, engineering firms and universities, Stevens said companies know that they have to have a presence in Michigan, too.

“If you have the coders and software engineers for connected technology and mobility and the ability for companies to come in and hire those people en masse, then you have the advantage,” he said, adding that is the perception of Silicon Valley.

To combat that perception, Stevens said Michigan must rapidly accelerate the number of software coding and engineers it can train and retain.

“Those careers are in the highest demand right now,” he said. “When it comes to whether Silicon Valley or Shanghai or Detroit can grow faster, it will come down to who has the resources to feed these technology companies hungry for talent.”