Amazon to Expand in Downtown Detroit With Creation of Tech Hub

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced plans for an expansion of its operations in Downtown Detroit, including the opening of a new technology hub.


Amazon (photo – BCRP/flickr)

The company, which already occupies space and about 100 employees in the Jefferson Office Tower in downtown Detroit, will be taking up more space in the same building and will convert the office into a technology hub by next year.

Apart from Amazon’s investment into the expansion and the creation of an undisclosed number of new jobs, another key benefit will be the fact that Amazon chose to establish a tech hub in the downtown area.

It ensures the continued growth of downtown Detroit’s reputation as a magnet for large tech enterprises and the jobs they create. Amazon’s tech hub joins the large existing Detroit operations of companies including Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Uber, Detroit Labs, UpTo, Quicken Loans and other tech giants.

Amazon also announced that it is partnering with Detroit Public Schools to further STEM education through the Carver STEM Academy, to help students who are interested in working in the tech industry. Amazon will be donating $10,000 and 30 Amazon Fire tablets towards this partnership.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and other officials joined Amazon executives and the presidents of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University at an event held at the Cobo Center near Amazon’s office at 150 W. Jefferson to announce of the company’s expansion.

In a release announcing the expansion, Gov. Snyder said that “It’s exciting to see Amazon creating a presence in Detroit and I’m proud to have them here.”

Mayor Duggan added that when one of America’s most admired companies chooses the City of Detroit as place to open its Michigan headquarters, it’s a great day.

This Monday is going to get even better for downtown Detroit economic development, because the Amazon announcement in the morning will be followed by another high-tech automotive expansion project announcement  today in the Capitol Park Historic District in downtown Detroit.

Southfield, MI-based Lear Corporation [NYSE: LEA], a leading global supplier of automotive seating and electrical distribution systems with approximately 135,000 employees located in 35 countries, will be announcing the selection of Capitol Park as the location for their new high-tech design hub. The building in question in Capitol Park was formerly occupied by Brown Brothers Tobacco Co., and is now owned by Bedrock Real Estate Services.

Michigan Governor’s Economic Development Trip Secures Daimler Headquarters Relocation

Daimler North America Corporation, the holding company for all of the company’s business units in the United States, is relocating its headquarters from New Jersey to Michigan.

Daimler Headquarters

Daimler Headquarters (photo – Enslin/wikipedia)

The announcement comes from Frankfurt, Germany, where Gov. Rick Snyder met with Daimler executives at the 66th Frankfurt Auto Show. The Governor is leading a Michigan economic development mission to Japan and Germany.

In a release announcing the relocation from Frankfurt, Gov. Snyder said that the headquarters relocation will bring 30 jobs to Michigan in central office functions including treasury, legal, accounting and executive staff.

“Michigan is the world’s automotive leader, and Daimler’s decision to increase its presence in state is another indication that we intend to hold that position for generations to come,” said Gov. Snyder.

Daimler already has its Mercedes-Benz Financial Services headquarters in Farmington Hills, and the Daimler North America Corporation jobs and headquarters operations being relocated from New Jersey will likely be located in Farmington Hills too.

Daimler also has its Detroit Diesel operations in Redford Township, MI, in addition to the Mercedes-Benz Research and Development operations in Redford and Ann Arbor. Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz USA announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Montvale, NJ to Atlanta, GA. That relocation is bringing around 1,000 MBUSA jobs to Atlanta. Last year, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) broke ground on its new headquarters building on Swan Island in Portland, OR.

The company’s history dates back to the 1880s, when Daimler and Benz were founded as separate companies. Daimler-Benz AG was formally established in 1926 through their merger. DaimlerChrysler AG was created in 1998 as a result of the $38 billion merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corporation. DaimlerChrysler AG was renamed to Daimler AG after the sale of Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007.

Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler Group is still one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world’s biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, and employed a workforce of 279,972 people. Last year, the Group sold more than 2.5 million vehicles and generated revenue totaling €129.9 billion.

Apart from the Daimler headquarters relocation announcement, Gov. Snyder also met at the Frankfurt Auto Show with executives of 60 auto supplier companies that have their American headquarters in Michigan. The Governor also announced the opening of a Michigan Europe Center to promote export development and trade with European markets.

The Michigan Europe Center, with offices in Berlin and London, will assist Michigan companies with research, market entry strategy, matchmaking, regulatory issues and trade mission meeting programs.

Michigan Economic Development Mission to China Greenlights $26M Investment By CW Bearing

Chinese ball bearing manufacturer CW Bearing announced plans to establish a new U.S. headquarters and technical center in Northville Township, MI.

Northville, MI

Northville, MI (photo – Michigan Municipal League/flickr)

Supported by a Michigan economic development grant and a tax abatement from Northville Township, CW Bearing, USA, Inc. plans to invest $25.9 million to build a facility that will house its U.S. headquarters, an engineering and technical center, and advanced manufacturing operations.

As part of the expansion, CW Bearing plans to create 125 new jobs at this new facility in Northville Township.

The announcement comes immediately after a Michigan delegation led by Governor Rick Snyder came back from an eight-day investment mission to China to promote business and tourism.

Gov. Snyder met with leaders of CW Bearing, USA, Inc. in Shanghai as part of a series of meetings with government leaders, businesses and journalists intended to increase investment in businesses located in the state and promote Michigan as a tourism destination.

The Governor’s mission to China was paired with a delegation of business leaders organized by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to meet with prospective business partners, distributors and buyers to increase export opportunities from Michigan to China.

In a release announcing the company’s selection of Michigan, Gov. Snyder said that “CW Bearing’s decision to locate its U.S. headquarters in Southeast Michigan signals to corporate leaders across the globe that the Great Lakes State offers great opportunities for their business expansion.”

CW Bearing was founded in 1984 in a small workshop in Ningbo on the east coast of China. The company produces bearing components used in electronic power steering systems. CW Bearing USA, Inc. was established in 1994, with locations in Tustin, CA and Midland, NC, to provide sales, logistics, service, and engineering support for their North American customers.

In order to secure this headquarters and expansion project for Michigan and support the company’s investment and job creation plans, CW Bearing has been offered a $550,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The company will additionally receive Northville economic development support in the form of a property tax abatement for the project.

Jay Click, CW Bearing USA director of sales, said in the release that CW Bearing and all of its employees want to thank the state of Michigan for this grant and the support in helping them to make this project a reality. Click added that they look forward to continued support from the state and local government as they continue to expand their operations in the state.

GM to Convert Durant-Dort Carriage Factory in Flint, MI Into Automotive Archive

General Motors is once again investing millions of dollars in Flint, MI. But this particular investment is more about historic preservation and the city’s carriage and automotive industry legacy rather than about Flint economic development.

Durant Dort Factory One in Flint, MI

Durant Dort Factory One in Flint, MI (press photo – ©General Motors)

GM, which owns the historic Durant-Dort Factory One near downtown Flint, will invest several million dollars to convert it into an automotive archive and research center.

The automotive archive to be housed in the historic building is currently located at nearby Kettering University. The building’s high-bay area in the west wing of the facility will be renovated to house classic vehicles and other artifacts from Flint’s carriage-building era.

The second floor of the east wing will be converted into a flexible meeting area that will be used not just by GM, but also for community and educational groups to conduct STEM-related classes, seminars and, perhaps research too.

Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, said in a release that “Factory One truly is the epicenter of the automotive industry and, as such, it makes sense to create a world-class archive where anybody can learn how carriage builders in Flint launched the global auto industry.”

Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan added that housing these collections at Factory One provides greater accessibility to the public, history enthusiasts and educational institutions, making the amazing shared history of GM, Kettering and the automotive industry in Flint available to new generations.

Factory One’s history dates back to 1880 when it was one of the facilities of the Flint Cotton & Woolen Mills company. In 1886, William Crapo Durant and Josiah Dallas Dort, founders of the Flint Road Cart Company, leased the vacant facility.

GM is also financially supporting the historic Durant-Dort Carriage Company office building across the street. The history of the office building across the street goes back to 1895-96, when it was built to provide office space and a carriage showroom for the Durant-Dort Carriage Factory. It was here that William Durant kicked off plans for many of America’s iconic automotive legacies including the formation of GM and Chevrolet.

The Durant-Dort Carriage office building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and subsequently restored to preserve its early 1900s architectural heritage by the Genesee County Historical Society.

The Durant-Dort Carriage Factory building was purchased by GM in 2013, and the company has since spent $3 million for repair and restoration work on the building, and will now spend millions more on the next phase of the project.

This investment follows a series of major economic development projects in Flint involving GM, including an $877 million investment announced earlier this month for a new body shop at Flint Assembly.

GM has also recently donated $2 million to Kettering for a powertrain laboratory, and the GM Foundation is providing $2 million for the establishment of an automotive proving ground for Kettering students.

Michigan Economic Development Corp Launches We Run on Brainpower Campaign

Governor Rick Snyder announced the launch of a new initiative called “We Run on Brainpower” designed to showcase the cutting edge high technology jobs in today’s automotive industry and the opportunities they offer to Michigan students and residents.

Video – MEDC

In a release announcing the campaign, Gov. Snyder said that “The vehicles of tomorrow are being developed in Michigan today because our state is home to the nation’s highest concentration of engineers, designers, innovators and IT specialists.”

We Run on Brainpower, directed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, shines a spotlight on the advanced skillset of Michigan’s automotive talent with stories of the men and women who are developing the vehicles of tomorrow.

MEDC, along with other industry partners such as Ford, Visteon and Toyota, collaborated to develop a series of “A Day in the Life” videos about the work being done by some of these engineers leading the charge.

One of those featured is Rana Mohtadi, principal scientist at the Toyota Research Institute of North America in Ann Arbor, MI. Mohtadi has a passion for the environment and developing sustainable technologies that aren’t harmful to the world around her.

“I’m working specifically on materials that will allow us to store larger amount of energy than what is currently available in lithium ion batteries,” says Mohtadi. She adds that Toyota is leading its research and development operation in Michigan because the state is an innovation hub for research and development.

We Run on Brainpower builds on Gov. Snyder’s creation last year of a new department to address the growing need for tech and high skill personnel in Michigan. The Department of Talent and Economic Development, led by Steve Arwood who leads the MEDC, formally began operations in March 2015.

TED includes the MEDC, Pure Michigan, and the new Talent Investment Agency directed by Stephanie Comai. The restructuring and consolidation of these agencies into TED aligns Michigan’s workforce and economic development capabilities to offer coordinated programs for the state’s businesses and individuals.

Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of the MEDC’s Automotive Office, said in the release that Michigan continues to be the epicenter of the automotive industry as the home of top-tier suppliers, automakers and startups. Kerrigan added that they need the talent that’s out there to realize that Michigan is a place where you can seriously grow your career and that it’s a pretty great place to live, too.

You can find the We Run on Brainpower videos, feature stories and other content showcasing the talent, opportunities and innovations in Michigan’s automotive industry on the www.werunonbrainpower.org website.

Flint Assembly Gets $877M GM Investment

General Motors announced that it will invest $877 million to build a new body shop body shop at its Flint Assembly Plant in Flint, MI.

GM investments

GM investments (press photo – ©General Motors)

GM is building the new 883,000-square-foot body shop north of the Flint Metal Center to reduce transportation time and handling between the two facilities. The investment will also be used for retooling, new equipment and upgrades to the assembly area.

Cathy Clegg, GM North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations vice president, said in a release that “This investment will allow us to use a more innovative approach to deliver material between two critical facilities, reducing handling and the time it takes to ship parts.”

The Flint Assembly Plant, which opened in 1947, has produced more than 13 million vehicles, including the first 300 Chevrolet Corvettes that were hand built at this plant. Flint Assembly is now a popular destination for pickup truck customers who want to watch their heavy-duty Silverados or Sierra pickups being assembled and rolling off the assembly line.

The facility produces the heavy-duty Chevrolet and GMC Sierra Crew and regular cab trucks, and has the capability to produce light-duty Chevrolet Silverado Crew and regular cab trucks. The plant employs 2,820 people, including more than 2,570 hourly workers. This employment generates $238 million in wages and $46.5 million in payroll taxes.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling highlighted the big impact that GM’s investments and operations have had on Flint economic development. “In the last several years, GM’s investments in the city of Flint have topped $2.5 billion, creating hundreds of construction jobs and an economic boost for the community,” said Mayor Walling.

GM’s latest $877 million investment in the Flint Assembly brings the total investment in this facility to more than $1.8 billion since 2011. This includes $328 million in 2011 to enable production of the next generation of Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickup trucks, and another $600 million in 2013 for facility upgrades and construction of a new standalone paint shop.

GM also announced a $7.5 million investment at Flint Assembly in 2014 to update its compressed air system and convert from steam heat to natural gas.

This new $877 million investment in the Flint Assembly also completes a series of investment announcements totaling $5.4 billion that GM had announced it would make at its U.S. facilities over the next three years.

Detroit, Michigan Economic Development Incentives Attract YFS Automotive Systems

Chinese automotive supplier YFS Automotive Systems, Inc. is expanding its U.S. footprint with a new facility for designing, testing, and manufacturing automotive fuel system components in Detroit, MI.


Detroit (photo – CAVE CANEM/flickr)

Supported by Detroit economic development tax incentives and a state grant approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund, the company plans to invest $26.9 million to acquire a 30-acre vacant industrial site in Detroit and build a 150,000 square-foot manufacturing facility.

The project is expected to create 160 new jobs in Detroit. YFS will receive assistance from the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation as it builds up its workforce.

Governor Rick Snyder, who met with YFS executives during an economic development trip to China last year, said in a release announcing the project that YFS locating in Detroit is a reaffirmation of Michigan’s competitive business climate.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Michigan Strategic Fund approval of a $1.3 million performance-based grant through the Michigan Business Development Program for the YFS project.

MEDC Chief Executive Officer Steve Arwood said in the release that a strong collaboration between the MEDC, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and City of Detroit proved to be vital in attracting a global manufacturer like YFS.

Arwood added that this company could have chosen any number of places in the U.S. to invest and grow and the fact that they chose Michigan is a testament to the state’s growing economy and outstanding workforce.

Gallatin, TN-based YFS Automotive Systems, a Tier 1 supplier of fuel tanks and urea systems for automotive OEMs, was acquired in 2014 by Chinese company Rongshi International Holding Co., Ltd. Rongshi is itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of SDIC, and serves as the Chinese state-owned SDIC’s overseas investment and financing platform.

YFS President Marius Sipos said in the release that they are very excited to expand their operations to Detroit and play a role in the revival of Detroit by providing jobs for the people of the area.

The company will be seeking Detroit economic development incentives in the form of a tax abatement for the project. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in the release that this is an important step for YFS and Detroit.

Mayor Duggan added that manufacturing investments can provide good opportunities for Detroiters, and Detroit has great potential for attracting more investments and creating even more jobs in the future.

Detroit Economic Growth Corporation CEO Rodrick T. Miller likewise noted that this significant investment by a Chinese manufacturer underscores Detroit’s global advantage as a hub of automotive research, design, and assembly.

Romulus, Michigan Economic Development Incentives Secure Spirit Airlines Hangar Project

Spirit Airlines, Inc. has selected a site at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, MI for a new maintenance hangar project.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines (photo – airlines470/flickr)

Supported by Michigan and Romulus economic development incentives and site preparation being provided by the Wayne County Airport Authority, Spirit plans to invest $31.7 million to build a 126,000-square-foot commercial airline maintenance hangar.

The project will create 84 new aircraft maintenance and repair related jobs for the City of Romulus and Wayne County.

Spirit Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza said in a release that Spirit Airlines has a long and proud history with Michigan and specifically Detroit Metropolitan, Wayne County Airport. Baldanza added that they’re also excited that Spirit will be bringing additional jobs to this community.

Michigan won the project over competition from another site the company was looking at near Houston, TX. One of the key deciding factors in favor of Michigan was the package of state and local incentives that Spirit has been offered as a result of more than a year and a half of negotiations.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Michigan Strategic Fund support for a $1 million performance-based grant for the project through the Michigan Business Development Program.

MEDC Chief Executive Officer Steve Arwood said in the release that it is through the efforts of the City of Romulus and the Wayne County Airport Authority that these well-paying jobs are coming to Michigan residents, and added that they are pleased to support that collaboration.

The City of Romulus is offering economic development tax incentives to Spirit in the form of a 10-year tax abatement for the project. Romulus Mayor LeRoy D. Burcroff noted that the incentives they are offering will bring more jobs and investment to not only Romulus, but all southeast Michigan.

The Spirit Airlines hangar project site at Detroit Metropolitan Airport is part of a unique two-airport zone served by the VantagePort (formerly Aerotropolis) economic development public-private partnership. Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Willow Run Airport, located 10 miles apart along I-94, offer a wealth of undeveloped land and excess runway space.

The Wayne County Airport Authority is supporting the Spirit Airlines hangar project through investment in site preparation to facilitate development of the Spirit Airlines hangar site as well as surrounding sites.

WCAA CEO Thomas Naughton said it is very gratifying to see the hard work of their team, and the support of their local and state partners, come together to accomplish new development and job growth at the airport.

Michigan Economic Development Survey Shows Improvement in Perception

A new survey of business customers in Michigan shows a marked improvement in perception about the state’s regulatory and business climates.

MEDC RPM survey

MEDC RPM survey (photo – michigan.gov)

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. survey, conducted by ForeSee, shows a 19 percent (10 point) increase in business customers willing to recommend Michigan as a place to start a business to a friend or colleague.

A similar 19 percent improvement was seen in business customers’ positive perception of the business climate in Michigan. Positive perception of the regulatory climate in Michigan likewise showed a 23 percent jump.

Michigan began these surveys in 2013 as a way to gauge business customers’ perception of the state’s regulatory climate, identify bureaucratic red tape, and make improvements such as reducing processing times and getting rid of unnecessary paperwork.

The first survey established a baseline to measure the state’s regulatory environment, and subsequent surveys have since been able to record responses to changes and improvements in the regulatory systems.

Based on survey feedback, the state identified processes in need of improvement and formed teams of employees under Reinventing Performance in Michigan (RPM), an Office of Good Government initiative. These teams seek comments from businesses to improve key processes and eliminate mandated procedures that impact the business community.

This year’s MEDC RPM survey, for instance, shows a 30 percent (13 point) increase in respondents’ trust in the State of Michigan’s regulatory agencies.

ForeSee research experts see these improvements over the course of two years as substantial, given the range of business customers surveyed. The increases in positive perceptions are attributed to the changes and improvement in the departments.

For example, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) cut a lot of bureaucratic red tape by eliminating more than 1,400 needless forms. This reduced the total amount of forms in the department by a huge 62 percent. LARA also cut 37 key processing times by an average of 77 percent, which led to a marked improvement in customer service response timeliness.

Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley said in a release that they will continue to improve the state’s regulatory systems to support business growth and job creation, while providing the critical health and safety benefits of regulatory oversight.

Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in the release that entrepreneurs across the state have told them that they have clearly seen a reduction in the number of burdensome regulations that impact the survival of small businesses. This, said Fowler, has helped lead to a substantial improvement in Michigan’s entrepreneurial climate.

See the full results of the MEDC RPM Survey here.

GM Announces $245M Michigan Investment at Orion Assembly Plant Near Detroit

General Motors announced plans for another $245 million investment in Michigan at the Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, MI.

GM Orion Assembly Plant, MI

GM Orion Assembly Plant, MI (press photo – © General Motors)

The investment is for an unnamed vehicle assembly program which GM only labeled as a “all-new vehicle program.”

The company said the $245 million investment and 300 new jobs that would be created under this vehicle program this would in addition to the $160 million investment announced earlier this year for production of the new Chevrolet Bolt EV (electric vehicle) at the Orion Assembly Plant.

This latest $245 million announcement is part of a $5.4 billion investment plan GM has initiated for its U.S. facilities over the next three years. They have already announced about $3.1 billion of this, and a major part of it will be flowing into GM facilities in Michigan.

GM began the spending spree with a $783.5 million investment announcement for Michigan facilities in Warren, Pontiac and Lansing. This was followed by a $1 billion investment plan announcement for the Warren Technical Center in Warren, MI, and then a $175 million investment for the new Chevrolet Camaro at the Lansing Grand River Plant.

Cathy Clegg, GM North America vice president of Manufacturing and Labor Relations, said in a release announcing the new vehicle project that Orion Assembly is a breeding ground for manufacturing innovation, and added that the plant is up to the challenge of building this brand-new product, something it’s never seen before.

The Orion Assembly Plant, located 30 miles north of Detroit, opened in 1983 and has since become a driving force for Orion Township and Metro Detroit economic development. It now provides employment to 1,764 workers, generating $133.8 million in wages and $22.7 million in taxes.

The Orion Assembly Plant was idled by GM in 2010. Following the company’s agreement with the UAW and reopening of the plant, the investment at Orion now stands at $962 million.

This includes $12 million for a landfill gas co-generation powerhouse that annually reduces 6,300 tons of CO2 emissions. The plant also houses a 350-kilowatt solar array. Throw in production of the Bolt EV, and this makes the Orion Assembly Plant one of GM’s more environment-friendly facilities.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who leads the union’s GM Department, said in the release that “Orion is an example of what we can achieve when we work together.” Estrada added that only through innovative problem solving were they going to see this plant succeed, and this new investment is proof of that.

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