Open letter to Lenawee County to attract new businesses
Dear Residents, As you all know, we have a close working relationship with Ann Arbor Spark as part of our posting to Region 9 by Michigan Economic Development Corp. Paul Krutco is the President and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark. Working together, we have had many concerns over the years about Michigan’s competitive position relative to other states and our ability to attract new business. This is Paul’s letter representing Region 9 (Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Livingston and Washtenaw counties) on our standing as a state on par with other states in attracting new business. – Jim
On Ford choosing to invest outside Michigan
Ford Motor Co.’s decision to create 11,000 jobs and invest $ 11 billion in electric vehicle assembly and battery production plants in Tennessee and Kentucky is a setback for Michigan. Make no mistake, this is one of the biggest investments a company has ever made in the United States and around the world and it is Ford’s tremendous bet on the future. Make no mistake about it either, the future auto industry is Michigan’s losing game, and we lost the first set.
I am a Ford kid. I have already experienced this story where the factories outside of Cleveland where my father worked as a skilled craftsman for 30 years, supporting his family, closed shortly after his retirement. The technology had evolved and Ford did not need the foundry and two massive engine plants in Cleveland. For many of my Michigan Economic Development colleagues, this announcement recalls pivotal moments in decades past in our state’s economic history. GM’s decision to shut down the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, which once employed thousands of workers, was a cathartic event for our region and the state as a whole. This move was a wake-up call for Michigan, which has led to the development of an aggressive and robust set of economic development programs and strategies that have sadly collapsed over the past decade.
We can’t lose without learning, and if Michigan doesn’t learn from Ford’s decision, we risk further losses. How we respond today will set the course for the next generation of Michigan’s economic future. And rest assured, the impact is not isolated in one region of our state. We know of the massive supply chain from Tier 1 to Tier 3 suppliers in our region, but it is statewide. For example, our Michiganders colleagues in Grand Rapids have over 400 automotive suppliers employing 40,000 people. But we are at a turning point. This Ford investment highlights what we in the economic development community have known and warned about for some time. Cars and trucks will no longer be made the same. The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered and the places that depend on the manufacture of this 20th century technology are in danger.
We must respond to this competitive threat from other parts of the country aggressively and immediately.
We must be able to compete and win on the following points:
- Sites: We need ready-to-go sites for companies to build electric vehicle-related facilities and other large-scale job-creating projects.
- Incentives: We need robust economic incentive tools, on par with our competitors, specifically designed to attract our businesses.
- Utilities: We need competitive economic development rates for these large-scale projects.
- Training: We need to train our workforce for these high tech jobs.
While the news today focuses on investments in electric vehicles, the items mentioned above are universal needs across all of our industries. Our local businesses have many options when considering their next investment, and other states are competing aggressively to get them out of Michigan.
The good news is that we are still in the game. With a strong supply chain, available infrastructure and a skilled workforce, we can win future investments. While we may have lost this inning, we can still come home the next inning ready to strike. But we cannot afford to wait, because the future is now. Lead from the front, not drag from behind.
James Van Doren is the executive director of Lenawee Now.