Why This 19-Year-Old Tech Founder Pursues a 'Legacy of Grit and Determination'
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When you think of innovation and Michigan, it is likely within the context of the automotive industry. That’s fair, given that Michigan ranks No. 1 in automotive and mobility R&D, and has the highest concentration of automotive employment, producers, and suppliers of any state.
But the overarching mobility industry isn’t just about auto. Aerospace has recently carved its place among those on the cutting edge of innovation. Michigan is home to more than 600 aerospace-related companies and has consistently been ranked as a top 10 state for Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness.
No one knows this better than Alex Taylor. In 2017 and at age 16, he launched Wind Craft Aviation out of the Lowell City Airport in Kent County, Michigan, having started building his own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at just 12 years old. Taylor founded Wind Craft Aviation to invent and commercialize the next generation of aerial mobility; Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (E-VTOL) aircraft used for delivering aid and evacuating refugees in underdeveloped nations, and eventually as sustainable point-to-point transportation in more developed economies.
Taylor is on a mission to creatively engineer disruptive hardware while pursuing a new vision for aerospace. And he wouldn’t want to do it anyplace other than Michigan. “The grittiest founders and most impactful startups I’ve ever encountered are born here,” he says. “I’m a California native and lived internationally for a decade. What I find in Michigan’s labs, garages, and hangars never ceases to impress me.”
Charting a new path while thriving in a hub of innovation.
Taylor credits a grant he received from the State of Michigan, through the PlanetM Mobility Grants program, as giving him the “tools and credibility” to get Wind Craft Aviation off the ground.
PlanetM is an initiative from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. It’s a partnership of mobility organizations, communities, educational institutions, research and development and government agencies that are working together to develop and deploy mobility technologies driving the future.
Today, Wind Craft Aviation develops technology on the “bleeding edge” of the E-VTOL industry, Taylor says. “Genuinely incredible technologies are born in Michigan every day,” he says, thanks in part to similar grants and various instances of support and mentorship throughout the state.
Unlike tech companies that start up or eventually relocate to Silicon Valley and elsewhere, Taylor says the engineering talent and unabated work ethic of the Midwest can’t be found or copied anywhere else. “The Midwest is a core part of the renaissance we can already see happening in the startup community,” he says. “We’re a different breed here, we’re almost entirely self-made.”
Finding the right talent hasn’t proved to be an issue for Wind Craft Aviation, which currently has six employees. Michigan, after all, has the highest concentration of electrical and mechanical engineers in the U.S. and employs more industrial designers than any other state. Michigan is the “real deal” for entrepreneurs, Taylor says, also noting the state’s “affordable and active communities, low cost of living, fantastic quality of life, and low overhead for great industrial infrastructure.”
Still, it’s the hard work and passion for innovation among the state’s founders and organizations that is the biggest draw for Taylor. “I’m humbled to join other pioneering founders who are furthering this legacy. It’s a legacy of grit and determination.”
Click here to learn more about Michigan’s high-tech entrepreneurship ecosystem.