Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

In an age of dwindling resources and growing needs, many question the value of regional collaboration and public/private/nonprofit partnerships. While such efforts help ensure the leveraging of resources and support various efficiencies and economies of scale, people cannot seem to help but worry about the sharing of typically insufficient resources among a great number of partners.

This concern is understandable, unless one considers that competition for needed development resources is not just occurring here in Southeast Michigan, but nationwide and across hundreds of similar communities that all are struggling to do more with less. To stand out in competition, it is often necessary to join forces and pursue opportunities together, and that is exactly what partners across central and Southeast Michigan have done.

Advance Michigan includes 13 counties.

Advance Michigan comprises 13 counties anchored by the cities of Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Pontiac and Ann Arbor. The White House awarded this area the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership designation in June of 2014.

More than 170 community participants have an opportunity to compete for more than $1 billion in annual federal investments nationwide. Advance Michigan aims to leverage this designation to support the growth of manufacturing jobs and related prosperity for the region. (A complete list of Advance Michigan partners can be foundhere.)

President Barack Obama and theDepartment of Commerce created the IMCP program in an attempt to focus federal funding from 11 different agencies on manufacturing regions that demonstrated collaborative best practices. Advance Michigan won this designation against competition from more than 60 other communities across the nation.

Initially, 12 communities received the designation. In 2015, a second round of designations was awarded, bringing the number of communities to 24. Congress first decided not to fund the program, so existing federal grant opportunities were adjusted to provide some preference for designated communities where statute allowed.

Advance Michigan’s governing board members include county and regional economic developers and organizations like the Center for Automotive Research, the University Research Corridor, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, United Auto Workers, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. 

In the 19 months since receiving the designation, Advance Michigan has helped participants from Detroit to Lansing and Ann Arbor to Sterling Heights win more than $34 million in federal funding opportunities. Obama announced three American Apprenticeship Initiative grant awards at Macomb Community College in September 2015, all of which received Advance Michigan designation letters.

Focus: Hope, the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and MCC received those awards and are building more pathways to nontraditional apprenticeships in information technology and advanced manufacturing careers. Other awards include support for cybersecurity training, brownfield redevelopment and diversification of our region’s defense workforce in response to steep declines in Department of Defense spending.

Advance Michigan participants have more than $85 million in other pending federal funding requests, including a request for substantial federal investment in the American Center for Mobility planned at Willow Run Airport. ACM is a collaboration between the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor SPARK, MichAuto, Business Leaders for Michigan and numerous other private and public entities.

On Feb. 9, Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced bipartisan legislation to make IMCP a permanent program. Advance Michigan strongly supports the Make it in America Manufacturing Communities Act, and encourages the Michigan Congressional delegation to do the same in the House and the Senate.

IMCP has clearly demonstrated the benefits of collaboration in this region and in the 23 other national communities that have earned the designation. Whether manufacturing carpet in northwest Georgia, lasers in central New York or connected and automated vehicles in Detroit and Lansing, every region needs talent, infrastructure investment and collaboration, regardless of the invisible boundaries that sometimes seem like insurmountable barriers to success.

David Palmer, director of business partnerships, contributed to content and research for this post.

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