Driving economic growth: building a robust public-private partnership to drive economic growth in Michigan's auto industry. An interview with chamber president and chief executive officer Sandy K. Baruah and MICHauto founder Tom Manganello.

Author:Baum, Jennifer
Position:FEATURE - Interview

If you go anywhere in the world and say "gambling," people think Las Vegas. If you say "movies," they think Hollywood, and if you say "automobiles," they think Detroit.


But the problem is, we haven't done anything with that global product identity.

It is an unfortunate fact that Michigan is the only state with auto production that doesn't work to ensure the retention and attraction of the auto industry to our state. And--although we have the largest automotive cluster in the world here in the Detroit region--we have never branded ourselves as such, and that is something some states have already been active in doing for twenty years.

That's where MICHauto comes in. As Michigan's automotive accelerator, this statewide business development organization is focused on recruiting and retaining companies in the region's automotive industry cluster.

Originally established in 2007, MICHauto now has the backing of one of the nation's largest chambers of commerce, the Detroit Regional Chamber.

"We have to start with the understanding that Michigan can and must diversify its economy," said Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. "We cannot be a one-industry state or a one-industry region. Having said that, we also cannot grow our economy and employ our people if we neglect one of the key basic building blocks of our economy, which is automotive."

Regardless of what the American market for automobiles is--a great year at 16 million units, or a bad year at 9 million units--the reality is that the global market for automobiles is only expanding. So, Baruah said, "If we, as Michigan, cannot capitalize on this growing global market for automobiles, then shame on us."

Furthermore, Baruah noted, this is not a new economy vs. old economy debate. "The auto industry of today is not bending metal and putting nuts on bolts. It is comprised of the most advanced consumer electronics; it is alternate energy propulsion systems; it is the highest in high-tech logistics and manufacturing methods."

Tom Manganello, chair, Automotive Industry Group, Warner Norcross & Judd, noted that our region's greatest obstacle may be collaboration.

"From an industry perspective, we're siloed by automotive brand, by university, by union vs. non-union," Manganello said. "However, I do think there's been a growing understanding within Michigan's population and automotive community that we need to do a better job at...

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