What’s the biggest misconception about Michigan as it battles other states and regions for business?
That he lost his innovative side after putting the world on wheels. This assessment, according to Quentin Messer Jr., is flat out wrong, and he’s on a mission to make sure the world knows the real deal.
It also addresses the concerns of some that the state is not as competitive or cohesive as it should be.
Messer, CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corp., is an economic development expert who heads MEDC – a public-private department. He moved here from New Orleans a year ago to take charge of the department responsible for launching the state for business, developing and retaining talent, and encouraging tourism dollars to be spent here ( it’s the second or third largest industry in Michigan – neck and neck with agriculture).
Messer, 53, has traveled to all 83 counties in the state as he works with businesses large and small. Granted, he didn’t know much about the state before he got here, other than his great-uncle, James Threadcraft, who moved here from the South as part of the great migration fueled by the auto boom. of the 20th century and was considered a great success by his family.
Messer learns a lot about Michigan as he charges forward. At the same time, there were a number of major corporate announcements impacting the state.
“I have the best economic development job in North America,” Messer told me.
“Economic development largely depends on what you have to market. One of the many reasons I was drawn to Michigan was its diverse economy. The importance of the automotive industry is known worldwide, but there is also our strong agri-food sector, the medical device industry, professional services, the forestry industry, advanced manufacturing, tourism and the outdoor recreation.
He added: “As we tell our story about our history of innovation, we also have our tough and talented workforce, unprecedented pride and the opportunity to live your best life in all four seasons out of two. of the most beautiful peninsulas in the world.”
Some businesses know the history of the area and are here because of its reputation.
Blickfield, the German LiDAR sensor technology company, announced this week that it will open a new North American office in metro Detroit and hire 25 people by the end of 2023.
“The vast array of talent access and opportunities within the LiDAR space specifically attracts us to open our offices in the city,” Blickfeld CEO and co-founder Florian Petit told me. “This, combined with the growing startup ecosystem, natural beauty and ideal geographic location – including easy transport connections in and out of state – has made makes a strong case for choosing Michigan as a strategic location in the United States.”
HOLO Footwear, a minority-owned startup that makes affordable shoes from recycled products, is moving from Portland, Oregon, to Grand Rapids, with plans to hire people locally for 61 high-paying jobs. The move was supported by a $250,000 grant from Michigan’s Business Development Program.
HOLO was founded by Rommel Vega (who worked for shoemaker Merrell). HOLO products are sold by Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s, and the company plans to build its own e-commerce platform.
“Michigan is an undiscovered gem,” Vega told me. “You can be just another company making shoes in Portland, or you can be THE company in Michigan.”
Besides MEDC, Vega has worked with The Right Place and Invest Detroit Ventures, which introduced him to venture capital funds, including Michigan Rise, which invested in the 2-year-old company.
Meanwhile, Michigan just got a big boost from Pfizer, which will invest an additional $120 million in its Kalamazoo-area plant to expand production of its COVID-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid. The expansion helps improve and grow the state’s reputation in life sciences and will create 250 new jobs.
One announcement that rocked the state came from Kellogg, who said he was moving much of his Battle Creek business to Chicago after 115 years. Kellogg reorganizes and splits into three companies and moves the headquarters of its most profitable products – snacks – to Windy City.
“Michigan is proud to be home to Kellogg’s corporate headquarters and remains thrilled to be the home of Kellogg’s grain and crop operations,” MEDC said in a statement, showing its best face.
“Kellogg continues to leverage Michigan’s strong talent pool, strategic location, competitive business environment and world-class quality. The State of Michigan and Kellogg remain committed to our longstanding partnership and look forward to continued growth and opportunity here in the state and the community of Battle Creek,” he added.
When it comes to economic development battles, it’s a full-scale war as Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and countries like Canada and Mexico fight over battery and manufacturing plants. expensive electric vehicles.
John Rakolta of Walbridge – the Michigan construction company that builds factories around the world – lamented that Michigan was missing out as he said the state needed to be more competitive and cohesive as it goes of these megaprojects. Rakolta said he knew of more than 70 projects and Michigan was under consideration for less than 10 as a result.
“It’s an incredibly aggressive and competitive global market. It’s not just the states…it’s Canada, Mexico too,” Messer told me when I asked for his response to Rakolta’s comments.
“But, let’s not bury the lead,” added Messer.
“GM’s largest single investment of $7 billion is in Michigan (the company announced in January that it would invest $7 billion in four manufacturing plants, (making) the state the hub of development and manufacturing of electric vehicles); LG Energy Solutions is doubling its investment in Holland (the South Korean battery manufacturer is investing $1.7 billion in Michigan); Ford has just announced its investments in Mississippi, Ohio and Michigan – Michigan being the largest (Ford unveiled its latest investment plans at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference to create 3,260 jobs in Michigan as part of a $2 billion investment dollars in nine factories and a new shipping center.)”
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There were other epic announcements, including Ford saying it would build a $5.6 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in Tennessee, while Stellantis and Samsung announced a joint vehicle battery plant. $2.5 billion electricians in Indiana.
And there will be more announcements as the shift to vehicle and community electrification continues.
How does Messer see Michigan’s chances and what needs to be done to better position the state?
“Michigans have never been shy about working hard,” he said. “We are becoming more competitive every day.”
As for Messer and his imprint a year after his work?
“Quentin brought so much energy to MEDC and the State of Michigan, and the results speak for themselves,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “Quentin and the MEDC team helped us fight for a $7 billion investment from GM, creating and retaining 5,000 well-paying automotive jobs. In June, we landed a $2 billion investment from Ford, creating 3,200 jobs. During his year at MEDC, Quentin revamped our economic competitiveness and helped put Michigan’s economy on the map. I can’t wait to see what we can continue to do together.
Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or [email protected] She’s the lead producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Emagine Entertainment’s Anthony LaVerde, Mayors Bryan Barnett and William Wild, and Suzy Avery on Sunday’s show .