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New $52M Federal Grant to Boost Mobility Innovation in Michigan

The Detroit News
Melissa Nann Burke
Sept. 2, 2022

The Detroit Regional Partnership Foundation is to receive a $52.2 million federal grant from a Department of Commerce program to boost and advance mobility innovation in the auto industry, officials said Friday.

The Michigan proposal was among 21 winners of a $1 billion challenge funded by last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The intent is to create jobs and “rebuild” regional economies, the White House said.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, aims to accelerate economic growth and focus on the transition to next-generation electric, autonomous and fully connected vehicles.

A description of the project said the Detroit region’s prospects are “threatened” in part by global competition in the electric and autonomous vehicle market and by an aging workforce that needs re-training to keep pace with new products and technologies.

“Our workers and manufacturers are the best in the world which is why Michigan is so well-positioned to be the global epicenter for mobility,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who secured the grant along with Sen. Gary Peters, said in a statement Friday.

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan we are making a major investment in the region that will support electric and autonomous vehicle innovation and help our businesses create new jobs.”

Projects supported by the grant range from establishing the new Supply Chain Transformation Center and a Mobility Accelerator Innovation Network to identifying and fostering start-ups in the mobility space. The grant also will support workforce development, job creation and domestic manufacturing.

The EDA said the funding will support building new infrastructure and boost the accessibility and capacity of testing and proving sites, in addition to prepping industrial sites for private investment.

The Detroit Regional Partnership Foundation is leading the Global Epicenter of Mobility, a coalition of 136 entities including the Detroit Three automakers, the United Auto Workers, area universities and state, local, and community leaders across 11 counties in Michigan.

“The Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) is designed to support mobility in every sense of the word, from the transition to autonomous and electric vehicles to social and economic mobility,” Maureen Donohue Krauss, CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership, said in a statement.

“Building on 400+ unique assets, GEM will support workers, startups, and existing companies so they can adapt to the rapidly evolving advanced mobility industry and create the new high-quality jobs of the future.”

Six specific projects would get funding through the grant, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, including:

  • The Detroit Regional Partnership for grant administration and to boost site readiness to attract “major” mobility projects.
  • The state’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to increase equitable access to the state’s testing and proving sites.
  • The Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and MichiganWorks to aid companies in meeting “high-tech” workforce needs, offsetting losses to retirement and boosting career advancement for “historically excluded” communities.
  • TechTown to accelerate the growth of mobility startups.
  • The University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute to help small and medium manufacturers transition to the electric vehicle market.

The regional challenge attracted 529 applications from around the country, and the GEM coalition initially won a $500,000 planning grant in December 2021 and among 60 finalists invited to apply for the second phase of the competition.

Last month, the Economic Development Administration also awarded $1.6 million in grant funding to redevelop two coal plant sites in Downriver communities and establish a new program to support local businesses. The federal grant money will be matched by $401,514 in local funds, according to Whitmer’s office.

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