LTU panel sees Michigan economy leading in global mobility in 2050

SOUTHFIELD—A unified Detroit region that acts with common purpose, using its unparalleled expertise in manufacturing and the auto industry to foster job growth in the multifaceted mobility industry of tomorrow.

That’s the vision for metro Detroit in 2050 outlined Wednesday night at the first in Lawrence Technological University’s Salon Series of thought-provoking presentations, titled “Future Proof: Michigan’s Economy by 2050.”

Moderator Edward Clemente, a veteran business and media executive who is now senior advisor for trends and development at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., kicked off the event with a paraphrase of a favorite quote: technology always advances, but humanity stays the same. “We don’t know how to process this much (information) in a society that’s moving faster than we do,” Clemente said. And he asked how Michigan can continue shedding its Rust Belt image and thrive in the mid-21st century.

Maureen Donohue-Krauss, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership, an economic development consortium representing the city of Detroit and 11 southeast Michigan counties, said ideal economic development “is influencing jobs, growth, and development in the community based on the desires of the community… It has to be what the community desires.”

But sometimes development can be stymied by the Not In My Backyard tendency of communities that haven’t changed much in recent decades. That’s led to major problems for proposed developments that could bring thousands of good-paying new jobs to Michigan, from a Chinese-owned battery plant near Big Rapids to a huge Ford complex near Marshall.

“People don’t like change,” said panelist R.J. King, a longtime Michigan business journalist who is publisher of the business news magazine and website DBusiness. He said he recalled writing stories about opposition to a new shopping center in Rochester Hills, but when the center opened, “those people were waiting in line” to get in.

And Donohue-Krauss said she would ask development opponents, “do you only care about this community until the day you die? Don’t you care about your children and grandchildren? If you do, you need to be more thoughtful” about change and development. She pointed out how much mobile phones had changed since the days of bag phones to the latest blindingly sophisticated smartphones, and said, “if you have not evolved as much as your cell phone, you’re in trouble. That’s what I tell people about change.”

And panelist Cynthia Hutchison, CEO of the World Economic Forum-sponsored U.S. Center of Advanced Manufacturing, said part of economic development is “trying to figure out what it is that draws people. You have to put together the right support. Sometimes you have to teach the community what they need. We work with academics on that.” She also described spending a year in Switzerland learning how the World Economic Forum works, and bringing that knowledge back to Michigan.

Donohue-Krauss pointed with pride to the fact that the Global Epicenter for Mobility was launched through a $52.2 million federal grant that was one of just 21 funded out of 500 applications.

She said her organization represents nearly 350 cities, villages, and townships in southeast Michigan—who acted as one to argue for, and win, the grant. In past decades, she said, that wouldn’t have happened.

“There would have been five different applications, and none of them would have been comprehensive enough to win,” she said. “I got to testify in Congress about how the Detroit area worked together on this. We were inclusive in what we did, and we were transparent in what we did, and that’s how we won.”

As for that mobility future, she said: “We’re changing from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, but there’s also the whole landscape of mobility and cleantech—that is our future.”

As for artificial intelligence, Clemente told the audience of about 40 that “you’re better off building a surfboard than trying to fight the wave…. every company should have an AI executive.”

Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932 and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences, as well as Specs@LTU as part of its growing Center for Professional Development. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report list it in the top tier of the best Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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