Bill Ford Wants Michigan To Become The Silicon Valley of Mobility

Written By Thomas Ponco on Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 8:30 AM

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Published May 31, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

At today’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford called for key policy reform and the need to foster innovation as critical to ensuring Michigan’s competitiveness and creating new, high-tech jobs.

“While Michigan is the home of the auto industry, the trends affecting our industry offer a great opportunity to make it the home of a variety of other industries as well,” said Bill Ford. “We are heading in the right direction to grow Michigan by putting the right policies in place and investing in Michigan’s future.”

Ford told delegates that the trends emerging in manufacturing, green technology and mobility demonstrate a great opportunity for Michigan to create a dynamic, diverse and growing economy that affirms the state as a global innovation center.

Green transformation

Ford highlighted the benefits Michigan has realized by being at the center of exciting developments in green technology, including electric vehicles and battery innovation.

“At Ford, we have invested nearly a billion dollars to build electric vehicles and the battery packs that power them right here in Michigan,” said Ford.

“We want this technology to become a core competency for us in the 21st century. And we are building the expertise to do that right here in our home state.”

Addressing urban mobility

While great strides have been made with green technology, Ford also discussed the pressures of a growing global population and the new challenge of global gridlock – the potential that the world will face a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources.

Ford outlined the company’s vision to address this global challenge in the company’s Blueprint for Mobility, announced earlier this year.

He also described urban mobility as the greatest opportunity for Michigan. Ford believes that tackling this challenge will pave a future for Michigan akin to the birth of a new Silicon Valley.

“To address this issue, we will once again need new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world,” explained Ford. “We will need to view the automobile as one element of a transportation ecosystem.”

Integrating the automobile with this new transportation ecosystem will require an incredible variety of high-tech and policy jobs, which should be based in Michigan, he said.

“This technology is in varying stages of development and deployment, but it promises to radically transform the experience of driving,” said Ford. “As it develops, I believe Michigan must become the Silicon Valley of the mobility revolution.”

Making Michigan competitive

Ford also outlined key public policy areas that will help improve Michigan’s competitiveness and ensure that the state realizes the full benefit of the impending mobility revolution. He called on policymakers to ensure policy was not holding back innovation and prosperity in Michigan. Ford argued for an updating of the state tax system by eliminating personal property taxes as well as investment in updating the electric grid.

He noted that there are encouraging signs of progress being made, citing a study released last fall by the TechAmerica Foundation that indicated Michigan added more high-tech jobs than any other state between 2009 and 2010.

“We can keep this momentum going if we are frank about the areas in which we can improve and we build upon our advantages,” Ford added.

Ford also noted that Michigan needs a world-class infrastructure and that its location on the U.S./Canada border provides Michigan with a unique advantage. He affirmed his support for the construction of a new crossing to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion, ensuring the timely flow of goods to support Michigan businesses.

Ford support for innovation

Ford Motor Company also introduced a number of ways in which it is helping to encourage innovation in Michigan, including two new initiatives the company is announcing today.

These include the Motor City Innovation Exchange, a collaboration between Ford, TechShop Detroit, Wayne State University’s TechTown and AutoHarvest to help entrepreneurs commercialize their creations. The program provides a showroom for innovators to show off their creations to peers and potential customers.

Ford Land also announced the Jump Start Program, which offers startup suites, including space located near TechShop, to provide flexible, discounted work space and support for TechShop members who are ready to grow their businesses.

“All of these efforts are to encourage innovation, not just in our company, but throughout our state,” said Ford. “New ideas are a priceless resource, and the ultimate driver of economic growth.”

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