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Driving Home Michigan's Advantage

Driving Home Michigan's Advantage
Image credit: georgetglover |

Despite Detroit’s heartbreaking struggles with bankruptcy, the industry most readily identified with the city — and the state as a whole — appears to have finally turned a corner. Fifty years after the birth of the iconic Ford Mustang, Gov. Rick Snyder paints a picture showing Michigan’s comeback, again powered by the automobile.

And while uncertainty remains over the current vehicle recall at GM, recent overall trends lead many to believe that the industry is once again on the right road. In 2012, Chrysler, Ford, and GM all gained market share for the first time in 20 years and had their best U.S. sales since 2007.

That’s good news for Michigan companies of all sizes that work to service and supply the automotive sector.

But it’s been a rough few years. With a much smaller auto industry workforce, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has been aiming to support employees and businesses at every contact point in the industry.

Michigan is still responsible for 22 percent of the total vehicle production in the U.S. and since 2010, automakers and suppliers have invested more than $10 billion in the state, which is home to 375 automotive R&D centers.

More than 70 percent of all U.S. automotive R&D spending takes place in the state, so supporting the auto industry’s functions has become increasingly important, while Michigan businesses have developed expertise in areas like customized manufacturing and robotics.

One company that the MEDC has worked with to provide support for growth has been Proos Manufacturing, which has been based in Grand Rapids since 1919. Over the past century, the business has evolved to offer precision fabrication work and assembly for the automotive and other industries.

The MEDC recently worked with Proos to ensure the company could put in place a $5 million expansion and renovation that will allow it to add 50 employees to its current workforce of 83.

Proos was also one of more than 50 “second stage” companies from all over the state, and across different industry sectors, that were selected to take part in a pilot of the Pure Michigan Business Connect Economic Gardening program, to provide targeted business development support.

In January, at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the MEDC announced a wide-ranging 30-year strategic plan to reinforce the state’s global leadership in the industry.

Part of that mission involves emphasizing Michigan’s — and Detroit’s — traditional position at the heart of the auto manufacturing world, in part through prestigious industry gatherings. In partnership with the MEDC’s new Automotive Industry Office under the leadership of Kevin Kerrigan, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) will host the Big M event on manufacturing convergence in Detroit this June.

Later in the year, the Motor City will also host an expected 10,000 attendees at the world congress of the Intelligent Transportation Society, yet another world-class gathering facilitated by the MEDC, which will bring together leading industry figures and the latest research in vehicle technology.

As Kevin Kerrigan told the Society of Automotive Engineers’ meeting in Detroit recently, “We sell the future, not the past.”

To learn more about other companies’ success stories and how Michigan can help your business do better business, visit or call 888 565 0052.