With Eye on Future, MSU Forms Mobility Advisory Council

By Jim Irwin
May 04, 2021

More than 50 faculty members from seven colleges at Michigan State – including Social Science, Engineering, Communication Arts and Sciences and the Eli Broad College of Business – are collaborating and will be active with the new council.
Michigan State University forms the MSU Mobility Advisory Council to help guide the university’s vision for the future of mobility.

Experts from eight mobility-oriented organizations will serve on the council, positioning Michigan State to gain valuable insight and perspectives of future industry and societal needs and the types of research and projects the university could support.

“This council will have a big role in helping us identify new projects as well as prioritize our mobility-related research and academic offerings, which is a core focus at Michigan State University,” Satish Udpa, interim director of MSU Mobility and a University Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering, says in a news release.

Participating council members, in addition to Udpa, include:

  • Dan Garrison, Office Managing Director for Detroit, Interactive Global Delivery Lead & co-lead, Accenture Quantum Computing Program for Accenture, and Clint Crook, Client Account Lead for Accenture.
  • Paul Thomas, executive vice president-original equipment sales, Robert Bosch LLC
  • Bethany Tabor, electric vehicle customer programs manager of PowerMIDrive and PowerMIFleet, and Jeff Myrom, director of Renewable Energy & Electric Vehicle Customer Products, CMS Energy
  • Robert Hubbard, Americas NBC channel manager of Cisco’s Smart Communities & Energy Business
  • Bill Frykman, director of City Solutions North America, Ford
  • David Gorsich, chief scientist, and Denise Rizzo, senior research mechanical engineer, U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center
  • Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director, MICHauto and vice president of Automotive & Mobility Initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Frank Weith, director of Connected & Mobility Services and president of Ventic LLC, partly owned by Volkswagen Group of America

Michigan State is conducting a wide range of research projects to help further position Michigan as a mobility hub, with a concentration on first- and last-mile initiatives and technologies.

More than 50 faculty members from seven colleges at Michigan State – Social Science, Engineering, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Law, Natural Science and the Eli Broad College of Business – will be active with the new council.

Ultimately, the council will help MSU Mobility leaders determine which research projects should be expedited; opportunities to refocus existing projects; and new programs the university could undertake to best prepare the university and its surrounding communities for the future.

MSU Mobility seeks to transform the university’s 5,200-acre (2,100-ha) campus into a live, connected ecosystem to advance smart-vehicle technology and better understand the human element.

With a range of urban, suburban, industrial and rural zones, featuring nearly 60 lane miles (97 km) of roads, Michigan State’s controlled infrastructure and active campus make it ideal to test emerging technologies for new mobility solutions, the university says.

To learn more about mobility at Michigan State and the university’s ecosystem approach, visit mobility.msu.edu.

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MICHauto Investors, Legislators Discuss Return to Work, Hands-Free Driving Policies During 2021 Capitol Conversations

MICHauto’s 2021 Capitol Conversations connected industry representatives from OEM’s, suppliers, and service industries with 38 legislators and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office over the weeks of April 19 and 26. MICHauto investors were able to discuss a variety of topics with legislators regarding their priorities and concerns for the industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Return to work remained a top issue for industry representatives throughout the conversations, as participants expressed the collaborative benefits of in-person work and their confidence in maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Other workforce-related issues, including absenteeism and unique challenges facing working families (e.g. at-home K-12 learning), were also frequent topics of discussion.

Participants also provided legislators with an update on related federal and international issues, explaining their struggles with supply chain and microprocessors, immigration and talent, and federal relief funding, and expressed their support for hands-free driving legislation that is currently being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives.

In addition, participants addressed concerns related to FY 2021-22 budget negotiations, including their support for successful programs such as the Going PRO Talent Fund and Michigan Reconnect Program, as well as new proposals like the $25 million “Michigan Futures” Fund that would invest in emerging technologies, related infrastructure needs, and long-term strategic planning for the industry.

MICHauto continues to engage with legislators on these and other relevant issues alongside industry advocates and legislative leadership, including the legislative Auto Caucus co-chairs. Investors who wish to engage in these ongoing efforts can contact Jason Puscas at jpuscas@michauto.org.

CEO Spotlight: Continental Structural Plastics’ Steve Rooney

Steve Rooney is the chief executive officer of Continental Structural Plastics. MICHauto spoke with Rooney about his priorities and motivations as an automotive executive.

What is your number one priority as CEO?
My number one priority is to keep our people safe and healthy, along with protecting our environment. Along with that, today we are looking closely at ways that we can be more inclusive and diversified, especially in our middle and upper management positions.

Over the past several years, we have been working hard to shift Continental Structural Plastics’ culture to one that is focused specifically on implementing efficient, safe processes and procedures in all of our facilities. I want to be sure every employee goes home safely to his or her family at the end of every shift, every day. We are getting very near to achieving world-class safety performance company-wide, but I remain very steadfast in my commitment to achieving zero injuries, every day, in every facility.

When the pandemic hit, my number one priority was to be sure that our employees were safe and healthy. We were very proactive in establishing new safety policies and protocols for our facilities that would provide as safe of a working environment as possible. We introduced staggered schedules, implemented new work processes to ensure social distancing, enforced mask-wearing, and introduced regular cleaning, disinfecting, and even deep cleaning practices when needed. My COVID-19 Task Force has been monitoring the situation globally for more than a year now, and we continue to make localized adjustments as needed to protect our teams from the virus.

With regard to the environment, we are always looking for ways to make our operations as environmentally friendly as possible. We’re also looking at a full life cycle analysis of our products, and we’re investing in R&D to find the best, most efficient ways to recycle our thermoplastic materials. We’re especially interested in processes that allow us to capture and reuse the glass and the resins that are involved in compounding our composite materials.

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I think it’s safe to say we’re just getting started, but I know it’s important and I’m encouraging my teams to keep making progress. I had my executive team go through the Executive Level Set training with CADIA a few months ago, and I think that really helped to open our eyes to why this is not only important but how it will absolutely benefit the organization as a whole as we bring more diverse perspectives to the table.

What would you tell young professionals about our automotive industry to keep them in Michigan?
I think young people don’t realize what an exciting and challenging industry this is. It is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace. It is no longer a business of just building cars. We are building mobility. Vehicles that are smart with a lot of technology involved. Propulsion systems are changing, and there’s real opportunity there. We’re moving toward an all-electric future, but have we really even perfected the EV battery, or charging? What other means of propulsion can we be looking at aside from pure electric?

All of this change means tremendous opportunity. There are opportunities for software engineers, mechanical engineers, chemists, electrical engineers, designers, people in marketing, sales, IT, HR, communications.  So many different skill sets are needed that there really is opportunity for everyone. The industry is ripe for new ideas. It is so different than it was 10 years ago. The opportunities to grow, learn, and expand your horizons have never been greater.

What advice do you have for the next generation?
You know, I give my kids advice all of the time, but I don’t know how much they’ve ever really listened. Now that they’re 35 and 37, they actually think I’m smart, but when they were in their 20s, they didn’t listen so much.

So, here’s my advice: the world is an ever-changing, dynamic place. It is critically important to stay up to date on what’s going on in the world, understand the changes taking place, and find good ways to be a positive influence in the areas that matter to you. In other words, how do you fit in and where can you provide real value to society, your company, and to those in your personal, inner circle?

It’s not always about money. It’s about being happy and providing value.

What is your favorite car and why?
My favorite car was a 1967 Ford Mustang convertible. It was turquoise blue, had mag wheels, and a three-speed floor shifter. I bought this car in 1976, spent a year fixing it up and drove it for a few years before I sold it. That was the first, really cool car I ever had.

I didn’t keep it because it was stolen while I was going to school in Boston. About three months later I got a call from the police to come pick it up from the impound lot. All the axles were snapped, and the wires pulled it out. It was a total loss. I couldn’t afford much in the way of insurance then, so I had to sell it. But it was a really cool car!

Data Highlight: Detroit Regional Dashboard

The Detroit Regional Chamber and the Detroit Regional Partnership jointly released the Detroit Regional Dashboard, a regional measurement tool that tracks changes in critical economic and social indicators, such as economic growth, business climate, talent, education, community, and infrastructure, to identify roadblocks to development and increased prosperity. The Dashboard serves as a catalyst for strategic change and collective action, ensuring the Detroit Region continues to move forward as a thriving and equitable community. Measuring changes in these areas that impact sustainable long-term growth and success will help increase economic competitiveness and quality of life.


The dashboard was created through a collaborative effort between the DRC and DRP’s research teams. As leading organizations in the region, this dashboard represents cross-organizational teamwork to promote and grow the Detroit region.

Click to explore the interactive dashboard.