Michigan: Strong Partnerships, Stronger Growth

Michigan’s economic development team is working with more than 100 inter-local and corporate partners to develop growth strategies.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2018 Issue

From ideation to the maturation stage of their businesses, more and more companies and entrepreneurs are moving to Michigan to grow their operations, thanks to a business-friendly environment that ranks among the best in the country.

(Photo: Consumers Energy)

According to national rankings, the Great Lakes state is fifth in the U.S. for overall business competitiveness and holds the No. 1 spot in the Midwest.

Why exactly? The state’s culture of innovation, ability to attract investors, world-class talent and community development efforts may be the answer.

Key to Michigan’s success in attracting new businesses, investors and budding entrepreneurs is a simple tactic that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) takes pride in: actively listening to new ideas and creating an inclusive team environment with partners from across the globe to bring those ideas to life.

The MEDC is focused on building strong partnerships that help businesses succeed in an ever-changing economic climate, while providing key support to entrepreneurs.

Working with more than 100 inter-local and corporate partners across the state, the MEDC assists businesses with their growth strategies and fosters the growth of vibrant communities.

The MEDC’s entrepreneur programs and innovation initiatives have successfully established Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing companies with access to critical resources such as partner networks, expert counsel and funding.

In 2017 alone, a total of $179 million in venture capital was invested in 68 Michigan startups, a 100 percent increase over the last five years. This underscores Michigan’s reputation of being the innovation state and showcases the investment community’s confidence in Michigan to develop pioneers who are able to turn their ideas into profitable products.

As the autonomous vehicle and mobility technology industry continues to grow, Michigan is in the international forefront as home to up-and-coming global tech startups, and is well positioned for dramatic growth.

The recently launched PlanetM Startup Grant Program provides global mobility companies with access to nearly $2 million in funding to deploy and test their technologies on Michigan’s roadways—within closed and real-world environments. Derq, a Dubai-based traffic safety tech startup, is the first company to take part in the PlanetM Startup Grant Program. In partnership with PlanetM, the mobility arm of the MEDC and the Michigan Department of Transportation, Derq is developing and testing software that uses patented and artificial intelligence to predict and prevent car crashes. Derq recently opened an office in Detroit through the PlanetM Landing Zone.


Among Michigan’s key assets is the abundance of world-class talent available to companies locating and expanding in the state. In addition to its premier educational institutions graduating in-demand talent, Michigan is investing in its workforce through the Marshall Plan for Talent initiative. This partnership between educators, employers and other stakeholders is transforming Michigan’s talent pipeline and taking a new approach to developing and attracting in-demand talent.

Michigan’s recently launched PlanetM Startup Grant Program provides global mobility companies with access to nearly $2 million in funding to deploy and test their technologies on the Wolverine State’s roadways. (Photo: aeroviza.ru)

The Marshall Plan builds on a strong foundation of universities as well as a skilled-labor force that has proven to be the most productive in the world. Michigan is home to 17 universities and technical schools with a dedicated curriculum for the aerospace and aviation industry—a critical pipeline with Michigan ranking third in the nation for occupations in demand by the aerospace industry. The Great Lakes state is also widely recognized for its pipeline of engineering talent, ranking No. 1 in the nation for concentration of engineers (more than 123,000).

From world-renowned universities, to government agencies, and research and development institutions and the nation’s largest investment in skilled trades, Michigan is known for connecting high-tech, high-growth companies to the talent and resources they need.

While some states score high on business environment or lifestyle and leisure, Michigan understands the importance of both, investing in livable communities in order to attract and retain the talent needed to grow its business environment. Community development programs in Michigan have helped revitalize 18 million square feet of community space, with more than 200 communities engaged with the Redevelopment Ready Communities program. Additionally, Michigan Main Street has spurred more than $250 million in private investment.

Michigan’s economy is at the forefront of business growth due to a competitive tax structure, a reformed regulatory environment and a globally connected location within 500 miles of half the U.S. population.

Michigan has created more private-sector jobs than any other Great Lakes state since 2010. Maintaining the state’s reputation as a leader in automotive and advanced manufacturing, mobility, auto-related research and development, aerospace, and cybersecurity means more opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed, and an increased likelihood for businesses to thrive.


The Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corporation is a four-community, two-county public-private partnership driving corporate expansion and new investment around Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run Airports.

Primely located between Detroit and Ann Arbor—two of the hottest cities in America—the Aerotropolis region boasts 6,000 acres of development ready land amid a world-class network of transportation infrastructure, including five rail lines, three freeways, two airports, and one American Center for Mobility.

Additionally, the Aerotropolis region is part of the Detroit Foreign Trade Zone and less than 30 miles from both the Port of Detroit—a network of 29 terminals handling 17 million tons of cargo every year—and the second busiest border crossing in North America.

The heart of the region is Detroit Metropolitan Airport, or DTW, the 18th busiest airport in North America offering 140 non-stop flights to four continents. In addition to the 34 million passengers it serves every year, DTW is also responsible for handling nearly 500 million pounds of cargo annually.

Just seven miles away is the region’s second airport, Willow Run, one of the leading private aviation and “all cargo” airport in the United States. Offering 24-hour service and an onsite U.S. Customs operation, Willow Run serves as a reliever to DTW and is an important asset to the region.

A new and exciting development in the Aerotropolis is the American Center for Mobility, a 335-acre federally designated testing and product development facility for future mobility. Designed to enable safe validation of connected and automated vehicle technology and accelerate the development of voluntary standards, ACM boasts a high-speed 2½-mile highway loop, 700-foot tunnel, and multiple real-world test environments.

Since 2012, dozens of companies have invested nearly $2 billion in the Aerotropolis region.

In the last 6 months of 2017, Amazon, Penske Logistics, and Brose North America collectively announced investments of over $350 million on 1.7 million square feet of new industrial space, creating 2,300 new jobs.

Amazon is in the final stages of completing construction of an 855,000 square foot distribution and fulfillment center in Romulus, MI, just north of Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

Also in Romulus, Penske Logistics is nearing completion of a 600,000 square foot cold-storage distribution facility, just south of DTW.

Lastly, Brose North America recently broke ground on a 235,000 square foot expansion of their automotive manufacturing facility in Huron Township.

Additional companies to move into or expand in the Aerotropolis region over the past 18 months include C&C Automotive, Continental Canteen, Mayser Polymer, Mopar, Forward Air, HPP Cool Packaging, Windsor Machine, Preferred Packaging, Actia, and Kerr.

The Aerotropolis region is comprised of the cities of Romulus and Taylor, the townships of Huron and Van Buren, and both Washtenaw and Wayne Counties. Additional partners include CBRE, DTE Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Wayne County Airport Authority.

All parties are committed to making investment in the region as easy and seamless as possible.

As a designated Next Michigan Development Corporation, the Detroit Region Aerotropolis is enabled to approve a suite of economic development incentives to help enable corporate investment in the region, including personal and industrial property tax abatements and funding for public infrastructure projects.

Moreover, the Aerotropolis provides a suite of complimentary services to companies considering expansion, including site selection and infrastructure analysis, regional market data and demographic information, governmental relations, and private sector engagement.

For companies engaged in transportation, distribution, and logistics (TDL), advanced manufacturing, or next generation mobility technology development and deployment, the Aerotropolis region is the premier destination for greenfield expansion in Southeast Michigan.

Consider the Detroit Region Aerotropolis for your next expansion project. An interactive real estate database showcasing 40-plus sites between 25 and 500 acres, as well as existing facilities for sale or lease, can be viewed at www.detroitaero.org/propertis. Information on an additional 50 sites between 10–25 acres is available upon request.


As Michigan’s largest energy provider, Consumers Energy was awarded the Mid-America Economic Development Council’s (EDC) Deal of the Year and Marketing Program awards for our work with the Switch Data Center and our Energy Profile program, respectively.

Consumers Energy wants to help businesses solve problems, meet challenges and clear the way for growth and expansion in Michigan. As the nation’s fourth-largest combination energy provider, we’ve powered countless businesses of all sizes with safe, reliable and affordable energy for more than 130 years.

Why would Consumers Energy be involved in economic development? The answer is simple: We’re committed to our communities in ways beyond energy to sustain Michigan’s economic future.

Businesses in Michigan enjoy several competitive advantages. Among them: a stable tax and regulatory environment, plentiful natural resources, proximity to major Midwest cities and Canada and robust research and development and engineering talent. All support a strong advanced manufacturing presence.

Targeted incentives are vital components of Michigan’s approach to business attraction and job creation. In 2017, the Michigan legislature passed “Good Jobs for Michigan,” performance-based incentives which enables businesses that create jobs to capture up to 100 percent of the new employees’ personal income tax withholdings for up to 10 years, depending upon the volume of jobs created and wages paid.

Michigan is reversing the college-over-career readiness trend. In 2017, Consumers Energy launched the Michigan Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy—the first of its kind in the nation—to help Michigan businesses enhance their talent sources and hire better skilled workers to meet critical short and long-term employment needs.

The TPM methodology was developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and provides training in the proven supply chain management methodology already used within many industries, but applies those focused principles to talent acquisition and development.

Bringing the TPM Academy to Michigan is one of the strategies of the Michigan Talent Architecture Coalition. The coalition, convened by Consumers Energy, is a group of over 100 state leaders from industry, government, education, economic development, labor and non-governmental organizations focused on improving the availability of a qualified talent pool in Michigan.

Michigan offers seven mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineers per 1,000 residents, ranking first in the nation (MI’s concentration is 3.5 times the national average).

In February 2018, Michigan upped the ante on career readiness when Gov. Rick Snyder announced the Marshall Plan for Talent. Hallmarks include investing $100 million in new funding for competency-based certification programs, help to improve curricula and classroom equipment, scholarships, stipends and support for career navigators and teachers. Since 2011, Michigan has increased K-12 education funding by $1.9 billion, spurring investments in resources for career and technical education, middle college programs and equipment, and increased spending in STEM programs to get students excited about careers in these fields.

Consumers Energy’s job is to build confidence in Michigan site selection decisions and the siting process. We’re working to reduce risk by offering competitive industrial rate options, natural gas prices 60 percent lower than a decade ago, and robust new construction and energy efficiency incentives.

We’re proud of our deep relationships with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local economic development agencies. No matter how a business begins the siting process, we’re at the table as a team to understand a company’s long-term goals and provide tools beyond energy to reach them, with focus on growth. We connect all the dots: education and talent, tax incentives, electric rates and natural resources and more. We work together to understand how all factors fit together for each business, and we recognize what works for one business might not for another.

The result is a seamless, from-all-angles, “we’ve got this” customer experience. That’s a major reason why leaders in automotive, medical technology, retail and other industries invested nearly $1.3 billion and created more than 2,400 jobs in Consumers Energy’s territory in 2017.

Attracting businesses to Michigan and keeping them here means keeping upfront and ongoing energy costs competitive. Our goal is competitively priced—or potentially zero upfront cost—energy infrastructure for business customers.

When it comes to keeping energy costs low over the long haul, energy efficiency incentives for current and planned upgrades have saved our customers $1.5 billion since 2009, and offer competitive energy- and cost-saving advantages. We also assign a no-cost energy advisor to help businesses maximize energy efficiency incentives.

Jackson, MI-based Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest utility, providing electricity and natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of MI’s 10 million residents.