Below are highlights of the event at the Detroit Athletic Club. The event was sponsored by PwC.
The MICHauto Mission
Chamber President Sandy K. Baruah addressed the launch event attendees:
“MICHauto will be Michigan’s first association dedicated exclusively to promoting and retaining and growing the automotive industry in Michigan. MICHauto will serve as an advocate in Lansing, looking out for and lobbying for legislation that supports the entire auto supply chain here in Michigan. We will lead economic development efforts in partnership with our economic development partners to attract auto related investment to Michigan, including executing international trade missions through our economic development team and partners.”
MICHauto Announces Advisory Board
As part of the event, Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah announced the initial Advisory Board, which will serve as strategic advisors with oversight of MICHauto’s direction and activities. Leaders from industry, professional services, and educational institutions are participating.
Auto Industry Taken for Granted?
A major theme of the night was how Michigan has largely taken the auto industry for granted. And amid the recent recession, many in the state looked away from its signature industry Michigan should have tried to use the industry as an even greater platform for economic development.
“The cluster of the auto industry in Michigan really was taken for granted,” said Stephen Polk, Chairman, President and CEO, R.L. Polk & Co. at the event. “We didn’t have a voice. There were many individual initiatives about economic development….. But the auto cluster didn’t have a voice. And, I think now we have a voice. We’ve created that. I really think it’s a great opportunity.”
Neil De Koker, President and CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA), who spoke at the event also addressed the issue.
“Michigan, the historic global epicenter of the automotive industry, was focused on diversification into other sectors to reduce our dependence on the auto industry. Yet what we know is that Detroit and Michigan are still the global epicenter of the global automotive industry. Therefore we are excited that our home state, through MICHauto, has taken a clear step to again focus on growing our main industry, the auto industry, in all its facets,” De Koker said. OESA is a collaborative partner with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto initiative.
Competition for Auto Industry Increasing?
A key part of the MICHauto mission will be giving the entire auto industry a voice. As competition intensifies for the auto industry around the country and the globe, other states, particularly in the southern U.S. are aggressively pursuing auto-related economic development.
“In recent years the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, and South Carolina have all formed organizations to promote the economic development of the automotive industry in their states and a number have been very successful,” De Koker said.
Baruah also addressed the issue:
“If Michigan is going to continue its role as the undisputed epicenter for the global automotive industry, we’re going to have to make some noise. We’re going to have to fight for it. We’re going to need to be global advocates, not just internationally, not just domestically, but right here in our home town for the industry that we love.”
Finally… An Automotive Voice?
Many of Thursday night’s speakers also discussed the fact that MICHauto would fill a glaring hole in the state’s economic development efforts.
“The cluster of the auto industry in Michigan really was taken for granted,” said Stephen Polk, Chairman, President and CEO, R.L. Polk & Co. “We didn’t have a voice. There were many individual initiatives about economic development….. But the auto cluster didn’t have a voice. And, I think now we have a voice. We’ve created that. I really think it’s a great opportunity.”
Collaboration is Key
Collaboration was another key theme of the night. Speakers continued to hammer home the message that in order to keep Detroit and Michigan as the global headquarters of the automotive industry, the entire state is going to have to work together.
“Can we develop synergies amongst all of our organizations, that really is the question, and that is challenge that MICHauto is taking on….Michigan’s challenge is the collaboration with the assets we already have,” said Jay Baron, President, Chairman & CEO – Center for Automotive Research (CAR), who spoke at the event. CAR is also a collaborative partner with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto initiative.
“Other regions have been known to outmaneuver us in attracting federal research dollars as well as additional assembly plants. While our auto infrastructure is second to none in the world, we have to learn to work together better.”