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Industry Collaboration Panel: Moving the Michigan Mobility Needle

March 27, 2019
During MichAuto’s 2019 Annual Meeting on Tuesday, March 29 at the Detroit Athletic Club, The Detroit News’ Daniel Howes moderated a discussion on industry collaboration between New Economy Initiative’s Pamela Lewis, Magna International’s Jim Tobin, and Ford X’s Kristin Welch.

“I have the unique experience of working on the technology and OEM side,” said Welch in discussing the intersection between startup culture and traditional mobility. Ford X is creating a safe space for startups within OEM, she said.

While startup culture has an ethos of risk-taking, traditional automobility tends to be more regulated because of its complicated nature. But the industry can still take smart risks, Tobin said.

“Failure will be there, but fail fast, fail cheap,” he said. “Let’s have a funnel of many opportunities but let’s get to a point where it’s not going to a be an expensive failure.”

Fifteen years ago, this encouraging attitude toward entrepreneurship was not present, Lewis said. However, today the dynamic has changed, and innovation is encouraged.

With next-generation mobility technology underway, Lewis emphasized the importance of fostering access to the industry. She called on increased diversity during conversations about the future. Innovation in mobility assets should also be used to remove barriers in workforce readiness and job access. She pointed to the insights of “experiential experts,” like residents who take the bus for example, as critical to dialogue.

“How can we influence the mobility conversation on how assets can increase job access?” she asked the audience.

With her West Coast startup experience, Welch praised Southeast Michigan’s community-oriented and collaborative culture in the automotive industry.

“People don’t know to come here, but let’s show them,” she said. “We need more trumpet blowing.”

At the same time, it’s necessary to draw talent from the local region itself.

“I’d like to think that we’re growing from our own crop of the workforce and not having to convince others to come to us,” Welch said.

With continuing partnerships and the support of various sectors, like universities, corporations, and more, along with legislative support, Michigan can build an even stronger automotive ecosystem and become a global leader in next-generation mobility.

“In order to get to the next level, the state has to be a key part,” Tobin said.