In the 130-plus year history of the automobile, the Detroit region has been a leader in the global industry. As the shift to electrification and autonomous control begins, Southeast Michigan is poised to keep and attract manufacturers and suppliers in this new era of transportation. The newly formed Detroit Regional Partnership, a spin-off of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s business attraction efforts, acts as the first point of contact, coordinating efforts among development groups and businesses to stimulate economic growth in the 11-county area.
“We serve as the entry point to help companies rationalize the full business case and assets our market has to offer versus other regions,” said Justin Robinson, senior vice president, Business Attraction, Detroit Regional Partnership. “We’re the most active in the global marketplace, communicating and engaging directly with global business leaders in an effort to bring them here.”
When companies look for a place to start or expand, they look to a region, not necessarily a particular city, because it’s the available skillset of the region that can attract the business.
“Talent is the number one driver for new relocations and expansions,” explained Robinson. “We have 80,000 engineers in Southeast Michigan, the greatest per capita in the U.S., we have a very tech-savvy workforce to help companies drive their future.”
By acting and coordinating as an entire region, the DRP has a larger source of data and a greater network of relationships to effectively market the area to attract business, allowing it to be more effective than a single municipality acting by itself. “The expanded resources enable us to use data and be more strategic in our efforts to attract business here,” Robinson said.
Part of that larger data set comes from working with organizations such as Ann Arbor Spark which performs economic development work in Washtenaw and Livingston counties. They can offer businesses access to incubator programs, talent acquisition, real estate, and incentives.
“We can quarterback the efforts to attract business and do the early stage work to introduce them to what the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas have to offer,” said Phil Santer, senior vice president for Ann Arbor Spark. The organization played a key role in landing KLA Corporation, a semiconductor company that provided 500 jobs.
While the Southeast Michigan region has a diverse business environment such as cybersecurity and bio-science in Ann Arbor and defense in Macomb County, Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives of the Detroit Regional Chamber believes the region is set for more diversification. “The greatest platform for diversification is the auto industry, let’s build off of what we have. If artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and machine learning will be part of the new world of advanced manufacturing and mobility, why shouldn’t it be born here from what we have? Let’s grow it and transform it into the way the world is transforming.”
Stevens’s point is this: While different parts of the world have their share of the digital future of transportation, Detroit has the core competencies to not only to develop the technology but integrate it into the vehicle. Many companies from all over the globe will contribute to programming the ones and zeroes that are the automotive future, but the Detroit region is still the key place in the world to get the final product into the hands of the customer.