General Motors: How Our Electrification Journey Impacts Your Community

In a webinar, hosted by Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Sustainability for General Motors Co., the company previewed their growth strategy, discussed the future of their workforce, and outlined how an all-electric vehicle future will benefit manufacturing communities, like Detroit.

GM’s commitment to focus on electrification and transform their growth strategy began by engaging with investors and evaluating long-term trends in mobility. New 10-year goals have been put in place that encompass a forward-looking approach to technology and autonomous vehicles strategy.

Critical to this transformation and GM’s goals is bringing the employees and the community along with the company as it grows, especially as they work to adapt from engines to battery packs, transmissions to drive units, and converting assembly plants over to electric vehicle plants.

“Our full intent is to be completely inclusive in how we make our EV transformation as well as to make sure that our employees are a critical element of this strategy in what I call a competitive advantage for us,” said Johnson. “I’m excited about what it means for all of our people, all of our employees, and all of our communities.”

Training the Current and Next-Generation Workforce

As the company acts on their growth strategy, begins transforming assembly lines, and introduces new products, a fair amount of training will be put in place for current team members and leaders. In addition, it will be vital to bring skilled trades to the workforce as new technology and automation is added to facilities.

Noted Johnson, “We have 1.4 million years of vehicle assembly compulsion systems launch expertise amongst our employee base and that’s an advantage in it of itself…we are building on a million years of experience to tailor it for the next assignment or product program.”

Converting, Not Building New

As GM transitions to all EV future, the company plans to leverage the assets they currently have and focus on converting facilities, not building new. Whether ICE or EV, in an assembly plant 80% of the work remains the same, allowing GM to utilize the infrastructure that is already in place.

Even as the company transitions and transforms, GM will continue to be a hub for manufacturing and diverse job opportunities. The current timeline is to refurbish plant-by-plant as the company adds new EV products to its portfolio.

“We have made an aspiration and commitment that we will be 100% EV or lit-EV by 2035. That’s a lot of transformation that will take place over the next decade,” noted Johnson.

Sustainability and the Community Connection

One of GM’s primary mission statements is committing to a future of “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” and working to become 100% EV helps accomplish that. To further that mission, GM is also committing to transitioning to using all renewable energy by 2025.

Adds Johnson, “We will be generating electricity from renewable sources and basically taking our carbon footprint to zero in our sites and in our locations. That’s good for the community, that’s good for the planet.”

Impact on Employees and the Talent Pipeline

In addition to environmental commitments, GM is committed to continuing its work inside of the communities. Work sites within the community will be carbon neutral, benefiting the communities and the planet overall. With those updated and new work sites will come an influx of jobs.

“Because we are putting on new capacities, we will also be adding jobs,” said Johnson. “All job opportunities here in the U.S., here in the communities that we have done business in for years.”

Johnson noted the role the U.S. educational system in developing the labor and talent pipeline to fill these added jobs, as the future of automotive becomes more reliant on technical skillsets.

“This is really about taking all of our stakeholders into a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. We will and we can do this as we have for over a hundred years, in partnership with our communities, in partnership with our employees, and in partnership with our future employees,” said Johnson.

Glenn Stevens Jr.: Stop rehashing ‘Blue Oval City,’ focus on keeping auto knowledge economy here

Crain’s Detroit Business
Oct. 24, 2021
Glenn Stevens Jr.

Let’s be honest, a major announcement of growth and investment for a hometown team like Ford Motor Company is good for Michigan.

But let’s also be real. An $11.4 billion investment and creation of 11,000 new jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky hurts, and it should be a whole lot more than a “wake-up” call.

We have already had a couple of those — think Amazon HQ and Rivian.

Ford’s announcement should spur our policy, business, and legislative leaders to develop a future-focused, data-driven strategy that will build on our assets, address our deficits, and increase Michigan’s competitiveness.

You either have the tools and talent to compete, or you don’t. A long, steady decline of a signature industry is not an option.

Shoring up our “tool kit” for business retention and attraction requires Michigan to build on our heritage of advanced manufacturing to secure our global leadership in next-generation mobility products.

However, we absolutely must leverage our leadership in manufacturing to expand into 21st century growth sectors by investing in Michiganders’ digital proficiencies and high-tech knowledge and skills.

Investing in talent, innovation, research, and design will allow Michigan to secure the jobs that are the future and expand our ability to be leaders in a variety of sectors.

Political partisanship needs to end, and the investment in attraction tools and talent must begin. Period.

Based on both metrics and what businesses report, competing for jobs in the Industry 4.0 factory of the future and the connected and electrified world of mobility requires a workforce well-versed in cutting-edge digital skills.

Developing and attracting talent will also allow Michigan to compete in the growth sectors of AI, fintech, UX design, data management, and information security.

It is not productive to rehash why Michigan wasn’t considered for “Blue Oval City” in Tennessee. There are myriad factors, and it is more important to analyze how we can position our state to compete for future investment more effectively.

Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel, once said, ”Don’t argue with the emotions, argue with the data. Measurement against a standard makes you think through why the results were what they were.”

So, what does the data tell us? Do we need better infrastructure, talent, training, site readiness, competitive incentives, or aggressive marketing? We may need all of these, but some are a higher priority than others in the long run.

When I walked in downtown Nashville in 1990, Tennessee was not the standard for economic development. It certainly is one now.

But so are Minneapolis, Idaho Falls, and Huntsville. Why? Because these communities and states offer a lifestyle, community, and incubator for the knowledge economy.

These communities are growing because they have a political and business leadership that embraces a strategic commitment to economic development by consistently investing in all forms of infrastructure and education.

They set the standard for developing and attracting talent and that will always be a winning differentiator.

In Tennessee, they now have almost a quarter-century of consistent business-driven leadership, commitment to education, and a relentless focus on business and talent by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Earlier this year, Oracle decided to invest $1.2 billion in a 65-acre technology campus on the riverfront in Nashville. This win represents 8,500 jobs in the software industry with an average salary of $110,000. That project will also support 12,000 indirect jobs and 21,000 construction jobs.

The average salary for an assembly line employee at Ford Louisville Truck is $62,868. A good living.

I still would have liked to have won a Ford battery plant. We need those jobs. But without question, I would like to win a new Oracle campus, have the corporate centers of Minneapolis, a downtown area plan like Denver, or a growing remote workforce embracing Pure Michigan.

The fact is that Michigan needs both types of investments that lead to a diversity of jobs.

There is simply no reason that Detroit, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, or Marquette cannot be the standard for great places to live, work and play in the advanced industry and knowledge economies.

We must give businesses more to like about our state.

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Stellantis, business group start program to aid Black-owned suppliers

The Detroit News
Oct. 20, 2021
Jordyn Grzelewski

Stellantis NV and the National Business League on Wednesday kicked off what they’re billing as the country’s first-ever development program for Black-owned suppliers.

Thirteen businesses were selected for the pilot phase of the National Black Supplier Development program, which will run through the first quarter of 2022. It’s envisioned as the first phase of a larger program to develop Black-owned suppliers for contracting and procurement opportunities across numerous industries in the public and private sectors.

The maker of Jeep and Ram vehicles in June announced its partnership with the National Business League, an organization founded in 1900 by Booker T. Washington to promote the interests of Black businesses.

“The Stellantis-National Business League Black Supplier Development Program is an idea whose time has come,” Mark Stewart, chief operating officer for Stellantis-North America, said Wednesday. “It’s an idea that addresses the need to take direct, decisive and intentional actions to bring economic opportunities to our community here, to those that have been denied equal access to the marketplace for far, far too long.”

Roughly 95% of Black-owned businesses are home-based, one-employee enterprises or micro-businesses, according to the National Business League. These smaller ventures often do not have the capacity or scale to fulfill contracting and procurement opportunities with large companies or the federal government, program organizers said.

“Black businesses have always wanted to be a part of the economic mainstream of society, even during and immediately after slavery ended,” said Kenneth Harris, president and CEO of the NBL. Still, “After 400 years of anti-Black sentiment and racial oppression and more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, Black businesses are at the bottom of the racial and economic hierarchy.”

“If we can help develop the 95% of 2.9 million Black businesses across the country, those that are solo entrepreneurs, those that are one-to-three-employee and home-based businesses,” said Harris, “and help them build capacity, scope and scale, we can change the systematic economic issues plaguing the Black community nationwide.”

Program organizers also cast the issue as an essential one for businesses to address, given changing demographics that will see the U.S. become even more racially diverse in the coming years.

Stellantis will anchor the development of a virtual training and development portal that it eventually will open to its supplier base, other manufacturers, the federal government, and other public and private entities across industries. Resources attached to the program will provide access to capital, mentorship, supplier training, matchmaking opportunities and more.

Lottie Holland, head of diversity, inclusion and engagement for Stellantis North-America, described the development of the program as a strategic decision that ties in with numerous other diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives the automaker has undertaken over the last 18 months, including the reinstatement of a diversity and inclusion council, mandatory unconscious bias training, leadership assessments intended to promote inclusive behaviors, additional support for business resource groups, and the establishment of diversity targets for leadership positions within the company, among others.

The businesses selected for the pilot program are:

  • Ace Petroleum, a Detroit-based national gasoline provider
  • Assured Quality Systems, a manufacturing support services business based in Dallas
  • Coltrane Logistics & Trucking, a Wixom-based logistics and trucking provider
  • Devon Industrial Group, a Detroit-based construction management firm
  • Dunamis Clean Energy Partners, LL, a clean energy lighting and electric-vehicle charger manufacturer in Detroit
  • GS3 Global, a CNC metal bending and assembling company based in Livonia
  • ISIAH International and One World Pharma, a hemp and cannabis company led by Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas and based in Chicago
  • Multi-training Systems, a diversity, equity and inclusion strategies consulting firm based in Southfield
  • Russell Westbrook Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based digital marketing firm headed up by NBA player Russell Westbrook
  • Ryan Industries, Inc., a Wixom-based packing and crating services company
  • Simontic Composite Inc., a Greensboro, North Carolina-based composite manufacturing company
  • TEN35, a Chicago-based marketing and advertising firm
  • TKT & Associates, Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based staffing/managed services provider

Brenda Ryan, president and founder of Ryan Industries, said she hopes participating in the program will help her grow her business, which has been a supplier to Stellantis and its predecessors for more than 20 years.

“I want to diversify my customer base, because I feel an obligation to my employees to ensure that we keep business coming in so I can keep them employed,” she said. “I know I can grow the business and this is one avenue by which I can do it.”

Natalie King, CEO and founder of Dunamis Clean Energy Partners LLC, said that as a Black woman entrepreneur working in industries often dominated by white men, “you have to take some extra steps to be able to validate and prove yourself, that you’re able to deliver a high-quality product or service in the same way or better than your competitor.”

Dunamis is a Tier One supplier to the utility industry and a Tier Two automotive supplier that is preparing to launch electric-vehicle charging station manufacturing in Detroit, which it says would make it the first Black woman-owned business of its kind in the country.

“Now is the time, with respect to the electric vehicle infrastructure,” King said, “to develop these relationships with companies like Stellantis, with companies like General Motors and Ford that are moving toward electric mobility.”

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Michigan governor OKs bill that lets auto dealerships adjust hours, closures

Crain’s Detroit Business
Oct. 18, 2021
C.J. Moore

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed off on a bill that will let the state’s auto dealerships adjust their hours for flexibility’s sake.

Under the newly approved bill, S.B. 128, dealerships can be open for less than 30 hours a week for up to four weeks each year. They were previously required to be open for 30 hours a week year-round.

The bill, which Whitmer signed into law Oct. 14, amends the Michigan Vehicle Code, an act that stipulates licensing for dealers. It will take effect 60 days after the date it was enacted.

Whitmer’s office said requiring dealerships to be open for more than 30 hours a week for all 52 weeks in a year could create issues for stores trying to plan employee absences. Those extra four weeks with lessened hours could help accommodate employee emergencies or vacations, Whitmer’s office said.

“I am happy to sign legislation that supports our small businesses and puts Michigan first,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Senate Bill 128 lifts restrictions for Michigan car dealerships without compromising opportunities for consumers.”

Dealerships that want to alter their hours have to let the Michigan Department of State know seven days prior to the change, according to the bill. At least 15 of the 30 hours of operation have to fall between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this common sense legislation that will provide many small independent automobile dealerships with much needed regulatory relief and flexibility when emergencies occur and provide them with the ability to plan for other temporary closures,” Michigan Independent Automobile Dealers Association President Otto Hahne said in a statement.

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As Part Of An Infrastructure Advancement, Macomb County Announces More EV Charging Stations

62 CBS Detroit
Oct. 7, 2021
April Morton

As the future of EV’s increases, Macomb County is making sure they’re ready to receive them. As the world starts to transition into an EV era, Macomb County Executive says the county will make the experience convenient for drivers.

“We understand it’s coming I think that’s where the industry is headed they all made that commitment and they’re very vocal about that, that’s where they are headed with the car industry so we need to make sure that we’re prepared,” said Mark Hackel, Macomb County Executive.

Hackel says the county is advancing infrastructure in southeast Michigan and preparing for EV’s is a major piece of this work. During a press event on Thursday, he toured a few EV’s and got a feel for how the charging stations work. He says this is history in the making.

“Great grandparents probably when they were first buying cars, the question can you get a car then how do you find a gas station, so it became a matter of convenience for us and everywhere you turn you see 4 or 5 gas stations,” said Hackel.

Hackel says soon enough this will be the case with EV charging stations, these located at the Towns Mart Marathon in Washington Township are makes 29 total in the county.

“got to believe somewhere down the road 15, 20 years from now this will be something that will be common place, not just in Macomb county but the entire State and probably throughout the country,” Hackel said.

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Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos among supporters of Novi-based startup’s hybrid battery approach for EVs

Crain’s Detroit Business
Oct. 18, 2021
Pete Bigelow

A Novi-based startup whose battery architecture could someday give electric vehicles more than 750 miles of range is getting a $25 million boost from a group of high-profile investors.

Our Next Energy Inc. said Monday that it raised the money in a Series A round that closed Oct. 1. Leading the round is Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate-minded venture capital fund started by Bill Gates and supported by the likes of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

“They’re an important backer that can give us long-term capital,” Our Next Energy CEO and founder Mujeeb Ijaz told Automotive News.

“They’re focused on finding alternate energies, as their name implies, and seeking out disruptive technologies. Unless you’re at a level that’s significant and can scale, they don’t invest. So I’m very excited. … We wanted to recruit a particularly strategic group of investors that would help our company build a great foundation and grow.”

Others participating are Volta Energy Technologies, BMW i Ventures, Flex Ltd. and Assembly Ventures. The venture capital group brings expertise in supply chain management, battery storage and chemistry composition. Together, that expertise could raise the profile of a startup that, rather than beginning on the West Coast, is in the backyard of the traditional auto industry.

“It really exemplifies the opportunity to create technology that drives the future of mobility here in a legacy center of the industrial West,” said Chris Thomas, co-founder and partner at Detroit-based Assembly Ventures. “We want to thread amazing entrepreneurs to the people and places who know how to produce at volume, so the fact we’re doing this here — not to be too trite — is heartwarming. We can create the future right here rather than outsourcing it to other places.”

When Ijaz began working on EV technology in the 1990s, he believed 100 miles of range was sufficient for ordinary car buyers because the average driver needed less than half that number for their daily commutes.

Despite his initial assumption, range became an obstacle to early adoption. Customers wanted enough to cover long distances.

Now Ijaz believes he has developed battery technology to make trips of up to 800 miles per charge possible, and he has the financial backing to embark on transforming the technology into a commercial product.

He said the funding infusion enables the company, founded in July 2020, to push forward on building its first battery factory, continue hiring and conduct further research and development on its next-generation battery product.

New approach

Those efforts could solve the quandary of the majority of customers being most interested in a vehicle that covers not just their daily needs, but that occasional long trip.

“No one really wants charging stations to be the answer en route,” Ijaz said. “They want a vehicle that goes where they want it to go. So we’re going after that last percentage point.”

To do that, Our Next Energy is not so much creating a battery but marrying two complementary ones. A hybrid battery approach allows Ijaz and his engineering team to combine a workhorse battery that handles the daily drives and frequent charging with another designed to stretch range on those occasional long hauls. Underlying chemistries for each battery are tailored for their respective tasks.

The second battery, which the company calls its Gemini battery, is the linchpin for range breakthroughs. It remains in the research phase, and Ijaz said pre-samples will be available next year. Later, Our Next Energy intends to seek an automotive partner to further flesh out passenger vehicle applications.

Of course, many startups claim they’ve unlocked battery breakthroughs. Ijaz understands the skepticism that follows such bold statements.

“I’ve been in batteries for 30 years, and I don’t like things that don’t have data behind them,” said Ijaz, who previously held executive roles at Ford Motor Co. and A123 Systems. “But I really do think we’ve demonstrated enough that we know we can do this. The next big thing is to do it methodically and not recruit the market before the technology is ready.”

The first battery, on the other hand, is ready now. That one, called Aries, is designed for durability and to avoid thermal runaway conditions. It is scheduled to enter production by the end of 2022, assembled in partnership with an unnamed tier 1 supplier in Michigan. Aries is made up of lithium iron phosphate. Notably, it does not contain nickel or cobalt, two materials found in many batteries. Ijaz avoided them because he foresees a supply chain pinch that will make them difficult to find and increase prices.

That strategy appealed to Thomas, who is concerned about relying heavily on raw materials found outside the U.S.

“We need to ensure that with the inputs, there’s no way to have a bottleneck that turns on and off outside our control,” he said. “This focus on ensuring we’re looking at abundant chemical compositions and rooting out cobalt — which for me is not only a question of availability but one of ethics and human rights — we’re excited about that being in their DNA from day one.”

Delivery customer

Even without being paired with Gemini, Aries has its first customer, which has booked 6.3 gigawatt-hours worth of battery orders over the first five years of production, Ijaz said. While he’s not disclosing the customer yet, he said it operates in the delivery truck space, a general market that he is eager to reach.

“The delivery truck market is the most receptive to moving at the speed at which we want to go as well,” Ijaz said.

In tests with the customer, he said, Aries alone offered 88 percent more range than the conventional battery pack the company had been using in its trucks. With overall costs of vehicle operation already favoring EVs, adding substantial range sealed the contract, he said.

“What’s been missing is the price point they need to hit, and fundamentally, the solutions to hit range targets where they’re not really in a predicament and barely making their routes,” Ijaz said. “Now they can let their customers know they have this option, and it grows their market even further. Accessibility to the market is linked to range. It’s the ultimate truth of electric vehicles.”

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Stellantis, LG announce joint venture to produce EV batteries in North America

The Detroit News 
Oct. 18, 2021
Breana Noble 

The maker of Jeep SUVs and Ram pickup trucks on Monday said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with LG Energy Solution to create a joint venture for the production of electric-vehicle battery cells and modules in North America.

The joint venture between Stellantis NV and the Korean battery maker intends to break ground in the second quarter of 2022 on a battery plant for hybrids and EVs assembled in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The plant will have an annual production capacity of 40 gigawatt hours with the goal of starting production by the first quarter of 2024.

A location is under review, and Stellantis declined to specify if it’s in Michigan. The quasi-governmental Michigan Economic Development Corp. on Monday did not return requests for comment on whether it is actively involved in the project.

The partnership, which is subject to regulatory approval, is the next step for Stellantis, the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and French rival Groupe PSA, in its bid to compete in an electrified future. The company plans to invest $35.5 billion in electrification through 2025 and offer an all-electric option for each of its models in the United States by 2029. Stellantis believes it must produce batteries for plug-in hybrids and EVs to represent more than 40% of U.S. sales by 2030.

“Today’s announcement is further proof that we are deploying our aggressive electrification road map and are following through on the commitments we made during our EV Day event in July,” Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said in a statement. “Together, we will lead the industry with benchmark efficiencies and deliver electrified vehicles that ignite passion.”

Stellantis during its EV Day said it plans to have 90 gigawatt hours of capacity contracted in North America by 2030. It expects to have two battery plants on the continent by then, with the second built with a major battery supplier or its European battery joint venture.

LG already is tied up with one other Detroit automaker: General Motors Co. Their joint venture, Ultium Cells LLC, is constructing battery plants in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, which will open in the first quarter of 2022 and late 2023, respectively. The Lordstown plant will have 30 gigawatt hours of annual capacity. Two other plants, whose locations have yet to be announced, also are planned.

LG currently produces lithium-ion battery pack system and controls in Holland for Stellantis’ Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, a relationship that dates to 2014. LG also produces batteries for GM’s Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV, which the Detroit automaker recalled in August after a manufacturing defect was found to create a fire risk while vehicles charged.

Chrysler has said there has been no indication of similar defects in the Pacifica’s high-voltage batteries. LG has said assembly lines are individually operated for different EV models and the manufacturing process for Chrysler modules is different from from the Bolt’s. Samsung, meanwhile, is supplying the batteries for the new plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee 4xe SUVs.

“Establishing a joint venture with Stellantis will be a monumental milestone in our long-standing partnership,” said Jong-hyun Kim, CEO of LG Energy Solution, in a statement. “LGES will position itself as a provider of battery solutions to our prospective customers in the region by utilizing our collective, unique technical skills and mass-producing capabilities.”

Ford Motor Co. has teamed with SK Innovation Co. to produce batteries in the United States. Two BlueOvalSK plants in Glendale, Kentucky, and one in Stanton, Tennessee, are expected to open starting in 2025 and will offer a combined 129 annual gigawatt hours of capacity for the Dearborn automaker.

In Europe, Stellantis has partnered with French oil and gas company TotalEnergies SE and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz for its Automotive Cells Co. joint venture. A total of three battery plants are planned in France by 2023, Germany by 2025 and Italy by 2030. Altogether, they represent 120 gigawatt hours in annual capacity.

“With this,” Tavares said of the LG partnership, “we have now determined the next ‘gigafactory’ coming to the Stellantis portfolio to help us achieve a total minimum of 260 gigawatt hours of capacity by 2030.”

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Border Reopening A ‘Big Relief’ Says Detroit Regional Chamber VP

iHeartRadio
Oct. 14, 2021
Rusty Thomson 

The Detroit Regional Chamber is ready to welcome Canadians back once the border reopens to non-essential travel.

The U.S. land border is set to reopen to fully vaccinated Canadians in early November, although a firm start date has not been released.

Glenn Stevens, vice president of the Detroit Regional Chamber, says it’s a big relief.

He says this is about friends and family interactions, tourism and commerce, interactions businesses can have in person and people who have property in Michigan. He describes it as a “big pressure relief valve on all four of those things.”

Stevens says Michigan has a $26-billion annual tourism business but so many businesses have not been able to depend on that revenue.

“We have over a million visitors per year who come over not only on a daily basis, but on a tourism trip standpoint.”

He says it comes at a good time as the Christmas shopping season is approaching.

“We can fell that all the way from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. There’s 19 crossings between Ontario and Michigan and that’s a pretty substantial percentage of the U.S. border crossings with Canada, which is Think is 119. So this is a really good time for this to be happening.”

Stevens says the reopening is about four things, but most importantly, it’s about friends and family interactions.

“It’s tourism and commerce, third it’s the interactions businesses can have in person and there’s also property owners on both sides that visit different places, to access their property or check on their property. It’ got a big pressure relief valve on all four of those things now.”

Fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed back into Canada since August, provided they can show proof of a recent negative COVID test.

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Let’s Detroit’s Marjace Miles: The Importance of ‘Why Michigan’

In 2019 when I decided to become a Talent Ambassador for Let’s Detroit, I never dreamed that filling out a 10-minute application would someday take me to Mackinac Island. MICHauto on the Island and the Mackinac Policy Conference are some of the most prestigious gatherings in the state, drawing the most influential people from throughout our region. So, when I was given the opportunity to attend and speak, I did not hesitate.

It did not take long for me to realize just how incredible the opportunity truly was. I started the day star struck as I boarded the ferry. I spent the entire 15-minute trip trying (unsuccessfully) to muster the courage to talk with award-winning journalist and host of Detroit Today, Stephen Henderson. When I reached the island, I chatted with Christian Greer, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Science Center, as a horse-drawn taxi carried a group of us to the Grand Hotel. The night was filled with networking, handshaking, and unforgettable conversations at The Gate House. The excitement picked right back up the next morning with a delicious breakfast with a great group, including the trailblazer, entrepreneur, and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GS3 Global, Lisa Lunsford. That all occurred in less than 24 hours.

Being in the presence of some of the brightest and best our great state has to offer was inspiring but also kind of ironic. See, the reason I was there was to talk about how, as a state, we are losing our brightest and best. In 2019, when I chose to volunteer at Let’s Detroit, it was because I was shocked at the low rate of my classmates that decided to stay in the area upon graduation (University of Michigan Ross School of Business); but it wasn’t just my class at Michigan. I looked back at every major step of my Michigan journey, and I realized that many of my academic and professional peers decided that Detroit was no longer for them. The fact of the matter is, without a concerted effort to attract and retain top young talent, the Mackinac Policy Conference in 20-30 years will not have the same reach, impact, or prestige it does today. It was with that undertone I prepared to give my speech.

The next morning as I told the MICHauto community my story, I concluded with a bit of an unusual call to action. I explained that as business professionals it is second nature for us to have a two-minute elevator pitch about why we invested in this company or why we are excited about that project. However, how many of us have a two-minute “why Michigan speech”? If we truly love this area as much as we say we do, why don’t we share it more?  For me, it’s the unique community, the special culture, and the career opportunities I have available. Initially, I was not sure how the message was received. However, the sheer number of conversations I had afterward was truly encouraging. There were so many people like me that shared the same passion and determination to see this area continue to grow.

Of course, simply telling why we love this area is not the silver bullet we need, but it’s a start and something we can all do. As Detroiters and Michiganders, it is up to us to control our narrative. I guess only time will tell if we are successful in our mission. If I have the privilege of attending MICHauto on the Island or the Mackinac Policy Conference again in the future, I look forward to meeting more and more young talented professionals. This will be the true measure of success.

Thank you once again to Let’s Detroit and MICHauto for the opportunity. The experience was incredible, and I was truly humbled to be a part of it.


This opinion piece was written by Marjace Miles, consumer marketing manager of autonomous vehicles for Ford Motor Company.