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Special Edition: Automotive Leaders Promote Michigan’s Talent, Innovation at MICHauto Summit

Automotive Leaders Promote Talent, Innovation at 2014 MICHauto Summit

Talent, industry trends and regional opportunities in the automotive industry were the focus of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2014 MICHauto Summit held on Sept. 23 at COBO Center.

The daylong event focused on how automotive is powering Michigan’s prosperous future against the backdrop of rapidly evolving mobility and technology. Highlights from the day included keynote speeches from Rod Alberts, executive director of the North American International Auto Show; Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Group LLC’s senior vice president of product design; Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain for General Motors Co; and Gov. Rick Snyder.

More than 500 people attended the Summit, which included more than 30 sponsors. The Summit’s official hashtag also was tweeted 600 times, trending locally as a topic on Twitter throughout the day. Click here to view highlights from the 2014 MICHauto Summit.

Chrysler’s Ralph Gilles: Young Talent Driving Auto Industry’s Resurgence

As Michigan’s economy continues to rebound, innovation is paving the way for an automotive resurgence. That’s the message Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Motorsports and senior vice president of product design at Chrysler Group LLC, brought to the Summit.

Gilles said automotive companies continue to attract talent nationally and internationally. Using the “tough but playful” look of Chrysler’s new Jeep Renegade designed by Jeremy Glover, a College for Creative Studies alumnus, Gilles explained that millennials are the driving force behind the auto industry’s ability to adapt to shifting consumer preferences and a constantly changing technology-driven market.

He stressed that the automotive industry will continue to compete for talent in the film, design and software industry, as well as colleges and universities, to fill an urgent gap in its talent pool, which will bring hundreds of jobs to the Detroit region. Fueling that urgency, Gilles said, is the ability for Michigan’s automakers to communicate a positive story of the industry’s comeback to students long before they graduate from high school.

To view highlights from this session, click here.

Detroit Poised to Lead Automotive Industry’s High Tech Future

With the largest concentration of automotive suppliers, manufacturers and R&D within a 20-mile radius, Detroit is one place automotive parts manufacturers and stakeholders must be to thrive in the industry. Andy Ridgway, president of IAV Automotive Inc., cited the company’s success story as an example of metro Detroit’s endless possibilities.

Ridgway praised Detroit as a “hub for global automotive activity,” a factor he said was a key selling point in attracting the company to establish its headquarters in Michigan.

Addressing the city’s invaluable growth potential, Ridgway said the technology portfolio for automotive supply companies is wider than it has ever been before, and the creative culture surrounding automotive design and engineering in Michigan is unrivaled. During a Q&A session with Dustin Walsh, automotive reporter at Crain’s Detroit Business, Ridgway also alluded to the ongoing developments in autonomous driving technology and called on manufacturers to grow and maintain automotive engineering talent in the state by investing in direct relationships with employees.

To view highlights from this session, click here.

General Motors’ Mark Reuss: More Investment Needed in Michigan Classrooms

The future of Michigan’s auto industry rests with the education of the state’s young people. Mark Reuss, executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain for General Motors Co., issued a warning to participants at the Summit, calling on state and national officials to address a “crisis” in classrooms across the United States.

Keeping Detroit and Michigan as the epicenter of the global automotive industry will take work, Reuss said, adding that the state ranks 25th out of 30 developed countries in math literacy.

Reuss said without young college students studying advanced battery engineering, automobile design and materials, the auto industry will have a skills shortage that will undermine Michigan’s resurgence in smart vehicle manufacturing. To address the problem, Reuss said families should encourage their children to pursue STEM education with an emphasis on engineering and entice emerging engineering graduates into the auto industry. Homegrown talent, he said increases smart innovation which translates into more customers, profits and success for automakers, suppliers and dealers to reinvest into the Detroit region’s future.

The session was sponsored by KPMG. To view highlights from this session, click here.

Gov. Snyder: Michigan’s Auto Industry Has Solid Foundation for Growth

Automotive has played a critical role in Michigan’s comeback. During a Summit presentation, Gov. Rick Snyder credited the state’s efforts to reduce regulations, eliminate the Michigan Business Tax and promote the industry abroad as three key efforts to keep Michigan competitive as the global center of the automotive industry.

Gov. Snyder, too, emphasized the need for improved education and talent attraction, calling out research and development as two key areas the state needs to focus on.

The Governor also praised the efforts of Pure Michigan Business Connect, launched at the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference, to bring an additional $2 billion in business to support Michigan’s automotive supply chain in the past three years. The Governor acknowledged the efforts of Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and Strategic Development at the Chamber, and Rob Luce, MICHauto director, for their efforts to promote, retain and grow the automotive industry in Michigan.

The session was sponsored by Consumers Energy. To view highlights from the session, click here.

Detroit Development Paving the Way for Automotive Industry

Support for the automotive industry is a critical step for Detroit and the region’s economic resurgence. Tom Lewand, group executive for jobs and economic growth for the city of Detroit, highlighted several of the city’s recent successes to bring jobs back to the city at the Summit.

Some of the major projects include the creation of the Detroit-based consortium, known as the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which will focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing. Other plans include breaking ground by the end of the year on a new 150-acre industrial corridor near I-94 that will include a partnership with Michigan’s major OEMs and other public/private partnerships to create more manufacturing opportunities.

In a session involving a Q&A with Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah, Lewand said the city has a pipeline of talent looking for employment, challenging automotive companies to hire local. He said the city is eager to partner and train workers with the skills necessary to grow the industry in Southeast Michigan.

To view highlights from the session, click here.

NAIAS Has Economic Impact of Four Super Bowls; Customer Relations Must Be First for Auto Industry

With an economic impact of $350 million, the North American International Auto Show’s (NAIAS) influence within the Detroit region and the automotive industry has perhaps never been larger. The show is currently celebrating 25 years, and NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts took the stage at the 2014 MICHauto Summit to share the history of its significance and the lessons he has learned building the event to be best in the world. For him, each year is about stressing creativity over complacency.

Alberts was also joined at the Summit by local dealership owner Bob Shuman who provided insight into the future of the automotive dealership model, and how the industry must put customer relations and consumer experience first in order to succeed.

Auto Industry Pushes for Skilled Trades Education in Michigan

Attracting the next generation of qualified workers is essential to the continued success of the automotive industry in Michigan. A panel of industry experts stressed the need to start early with children in elementary, junior high, and high school to augment perceptions about working in the manufacturing industry.

The discussion also highlighted the urgency for parents and students alike to be informed about the tremendous opportunities in manufacturing that come with sustainable career options with room for development. Part of that effort must be showcasing the reality and benefits of the industry such as how manufacturing plants are clean, bright and high-tech places to work where companies often pay for education to give students a debt-free path to a high-paying job. In an era of economic uncertainty, skilled trades offer the kinds of guarantees not found in many other industries.

Panelists included Thomas Baumann, general manager of Orbitak International, LLC. and system manager of the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program; Brian Gruber, general plant manager at Molding Operations at Lacks Trim Systems; and Brian McDaniel, senior human resources manager at American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. The panel was moderated by Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of Harbour Results, Inc. Each panelist spoke to the necessity of developing partnerships at the federal, state and private industry levels to challenge the public perceptions of following a career path in skilled trades.

Positive Perception of Auto Manufacturing Can Stimulate Job Growth in Michigan

One of the most important aspects of Michigan’s resurgence is capturing and retaining quality talent in manufacturing.

A panel of leaders in the state’s automotive industry made it clear at the 2014 MICHauto Summit that working together to foster programs that change the public’s perception of manufacturing is essential to the state moving forward. An increasing amount of “reshoring” is happening because businesses are beginning to see the full value of working domestically. Once again, these businesses are recognizing how much manufacturing matters and leaders are looking for ways to keep the momentum going.

Panelists included Kenyatta Brame, executive vice president of Cascade Engineering; Andra Rush, founder and CEO of Rush Trucking Corporation; and Ron Hall Sr., president and CEO of Bridgewater Interiors. The panel was moderated by Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place, Inc. The panelists echoed one another on the importance of making Michigan an attractive place to live and work for the sake of valuable talent. In order to meet the needs of the manufacturing industry, Michigan must be competitive in the emerging job market because the automotive industry depends wholly on manufacturing.