By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2019 Issue
As businesses seek out the next generation workforce and talent looks for both a high-quality career for a high quality of life, Michigan is gaining national attention as a preeminent place for business.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) works with businesses every day that are locating to or expanding in Michigan, and the most consistent conversation we have is around the availability of talent and how businesses can access a workforce with 21st century skills. Home to the greatest concentration of skilled engineers in the nation, Michigan is committed to preparing the next generation of high-tech talent.
Through the MEDC’s Jobs Ready Michigan program, for example, Michigan is offering companies a more nimble solution for training workers by offsetting the costs associated with recruiting talent and training individuals for high-wage, high-skill or high-demand occupations.
Take Denso Manufacturing, the world’s second-largest mobility supplier, recently investing $1.95 million at its Battle Creek facility to increase its training efforts. This innovation center will work to position Michigan at the forefront of automation and Industry 4.0 by acting as a training hub for the company’s technical talent.
Michigan’s strong pipeline also was a major consideration for the Silicon Valley company Waymo when choosing Detroit as the location of the world’s first factory 100 percent dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles. There, Waymo will integrate its self-driving vehicle systems into the platforms of its OEM partners, with company officials saying: “We wanted this facility to benefit from a location in southeast Michigan — the heart of the American automotive industry — and its strong talent base.”
Waymo’s parent company, Google, also just announced a $17 million expansion in its sales and technical support sites in Ann Arbor and Detroit.
Online retail giant Amazon recognized Michigan’s combination of talent and logistics infrastructure—including its proximity to nearly half the U.S. and Canadian population and commerce centers—with its four fulfillment centers throughout the state, committing to invest more than $419.8 million in Michigan’s workforce over competing sites in the Midwest.
And of course, Michigan’s legendary manufacturing expertise has ensured the Big Three stay anchored in the state as they look to leverage Michigan’s talent to develop future mobility solutions.
Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles committed to investing $4.5 billion and creating 6,433 jobs in Michigan by building a new automotive assembly plant in Detroit and adding to its production at five existing state facilities, with the ability to build fully battery powered electric models in the future. This is the single largest automotive assembly investment in the United States in a decade.
Ford Motor Co. also announced last year it is investing in the historical Michigan Central Station, where it will develop autonomous and electric vehicles and design mobility services and solutions for urban environments. Meanwhile, General Motors also invested in the future of mobility through its Kettering University GM Mobility Research Center, serving as a proving ground and outdoor research facility, capitalizing on the talent available to develop new mobility systems.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a statewide goal to increase the number of Michiganders with a post-secondary credential to 60 percent by 2030, proving the state is committed to building on its talent infrastructure to provide companies the confidence that Michigan has the workforce they need.
In 2018, Michigan conducted research to identify what factors play into a college graduate’s decision to leave the state for work. It found, while paychecks remain important, people in the workforce today also place a high premium on their time spent outside of work. Through the Choose Michigan talent attraction and retention campaign, the state is highlighting career opportunities in targeted industries and promoting recreational opportunities through the award-winning Pure Michigan campaign. Add to that Michigan’s ranking as the fourth-most affordable state in the nation and there is no question Michigan is the ultimate place to live, work and play.
Just ask KLA Corporation, the Silicon Valley-based leader in the semiconductor and nanoelectronics industry. In October 2018, it decided to build its R&D semiconductor research center in Michigan, choosing the city of Ann Arbor as its home for opportunity based on both the rich talent base and the affordable cost of living it provides—living in Michigan is 62 percent more affordable than San Francisco.
MAKING SITE SELECTION EASIER
For new and expanding businesses considering Michigan, Consumers Energy is powering economic development with instant access to certified sites that offer reliable and affordable energy.
The award-winning Energy Ready program was created in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and several regional and local economic development organizations. The combined effort is boosting Michigan’s global competitiveness.
“We talked to those involved in the site selection process to determine improvements from a utility perspective,” said Jeff Mayes, executive director, Business Customer Care at Consumers Energy. “We asked ourselves how we can connect the customer to the best site for their business while also eliminating inadequate sites that do not meet their needs.”
Consumers Energy reverse engineered sites to determine from energy capacity the customers best suited to locate there. Now, the utility and economic development partners across the state are better able to match the right site with the right business opportunity.
“The Energy Ready program gives enough energy information about a site to arm decision makers. It’s about being faster in supporting those energy requests and creating more confidence in siting decisions,” added Mayes.
Today, businesses, site selectors and others can review nearly 20 Energy Ready sites online. Site information includes competitive, customer-focused engineering service options and estimates. Individual sites also feature maps, videos and contact information.
In addition to tapping into an energy ready infrastructure, businesses can also benefit from cleaner energy sources and other programs to help the environment and lower costs with energy efficiency, battery storage and demand response. In June 2019, state regulators approved Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan that establishes Michigan as a national clean energy leader. The Clean Energy Plan puts Consumers Energy on a path to eliminate coal; reduce carbon emissions by over 90 percent; and meet customers’ future electricity capacity needs with 90 percent clean energy resources by 2040.
One Energy Ready site will soon be at work in St. Johns, about 23 miles north of the state Capitol in Lansing. The site is now home to a $550 million, 146-acre facility that will bring more than 250 jobs to Michigan. Two world-class dairy processing facilities will help usher in a new era for Michigan’s dairy farmers.
Consumers Energy expects the processing plant will be eligible for up to $500,000 annually in energy efficiency rebates based on energy-saving equipment that will be installed in the new facilities. The joint venture is comprised of three facilities:
- The main dairy processing plant of Spartan Cheese Michigan, LLC, a producer of cheese and whey, and a joint venture of Glanbia, Select Milk and Dairy Farmers of America
- A secondary milk plant owned by Proliant; a producer of milk permeate (which extracts lactose, vitamin and mineral components from milk)
- A wastewater treatment plant that will be built, owned and operated by Spartan Cheese Michigan group
“This news is a silver lining we have been hoping for,” said Matt Oesch, a dairy farmer who owns Swisslane Farms in Alto, MI. Farmers have struggled recently with rising transportation costs and too few milk processing options. “I think this will keep a lot of dairy farms from closing in the future,” said Oesch.
Two dairy cooperatives—Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers—will supply milk to the processing plant, ensuring Michigan dairy farmers have a dedicated home for their milk. Glanbia PLC, a global nutrition group, also is an investor.
The project helped Consumers Energy earn an Honorable Mention for Deal of the Year from Business Facilities.
Scott Corrin, Director of Operations and Business Development for Dairy Farmers of America, said the new facility was possible thanks to many organizations working together. “Consumers Energy worked with state, regional and local allies to understand each business’ long-term goals, say ‘yes’ when other states said ‘no,’ and position Michigan as the best place to grow and thrive,” Corrin said.
Consumers Energy also showed its dedication to Michigan businesses when it joined DTE Energy in May to announce a $15 billion commitment to spend with Michigan-based companies over the next five years. Consumers Energy and DTE each committed to spend $1.5 billion with Michigan suppliers annually through 2024. An average of $0.60 of every dollar spent by the energy providers will go to a Michigan supplier during that time frame.
Part of the MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect initiative, Consumers Energy also committed to doubling its spending with suppliers that are more than 50-percent owned by women, minorities or LGBTQ people.
“Our Triple Bottom Line commitment to people, the planet and Michigan’s prosperity means that we are looking out for our state, doing business with employers in the communities we serve and putting more people to work in the process,” said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy. “We spent over $5 billion with Michigan businesses in the last four years and look forward to doing even more in the future.”