Michigan aims to be nation’s top auto hub

Michigan has developed a strategic plan to remain the nation’s most attractive location for automotive manufacturing, research and development, Nigel Francis, Gov. Rick Snyder’s hand-picked leader for auto-related economic development said Tuesday.

The 30-year plan calls for educating the strongest possible engineering and skilled-trades workforce focusing more on recruiting auto investment and retaining industry players already here.

Francis, whom Snyder appointed Sept. 1, said the state already has tremendous expertise across various auto industry groups and economic development teams.

He presented the full strategic plan to Michigan’s legislature in January, and released a summary Tuesday.

Despite Detroit’s heritage as the birthplace of the automobile, German and Asian automakers have decided to locate new assembly plants outside the state over the last three decades, patially because of lower wage rates, but also because other states, especially in the Southeast have lavished generous incentives on automakers and suppliers.

In recent months Francis and other economic development officials have traveled overseas to recruit additional automotive business to Michigan, because car sales are growing faster in the U.S. than anywhere outside of China.

“We have a team to win in this state,” Francis said. “We’ve all got to be on the same page playing the same game at the same time. It’s coming together.”

Francis also told the engineers thatl Michigan companies and engineers must do more to encourage teenagers to consider engineering and other fields that will lead them to the state’s most enduring industry.

“The No. 1 challenge that all of us need to take on is bringing in young people,” Francis said.

The state is working with Michigan universities to enhance their engineering and skilled-trades curriculum, he said.

Gov. Snyder, who spoke earlier in the day, also said the development of talent is essential for the state to preserve its leadership position in the industry.

“My concern is that we have a talent issue,” Snyder said. “We have people still looking for work, but we don’t have enough to take the positions that are available today.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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