Shawn Wright| Crain’s Custom Media

It’s been less than one month since the U.S. Commerce Department designated Southeast Michigan as one of 12 Manufacturing Communities in the country as part of President Barack Obama’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative.

The designation means metro Detroit gets an advantage in competing for $1.3 billion in federal manufacturing, economic development and research funds.

With so much money at stake, the Advance Michigan initiative — led by Wayne County’s Economic Development Growth Engine group and facilitated by Detroit-based Workforce Intelligence Network and Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research — is wasting no time in securing funding for a variety of workforce-related needs.

“There are opportunities right now that the designation will count toward,” said Lisa Katz, executive director of WIN. “TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants, which are some pretty important transportation infrastructure grants, have right now been submitted. Those will benefit from the IMCP designation.”

In addition, Katz said, community colleges are working on a round of workforce training grants to help workers affected or displaced by trade practices. The grants, delivered through the Trade Adjustment Assistance federal program, will also be eligible through the IMCP designation.

“This is going to make it easier for us to navigate the resources available to support our manufacturing community,” Katz said. “We’ll have a designated liaison, through the federal government, that will be assigned to us to help let us know when opportunities come about that will be supportive of the technologies and innovations we identified in our proposal.”

Funding will primarily be used to boost advancements in connected and automated vehicles, light-weighting, advanced powertrain, advanced manufacturing, and supply chain and logistics systems. Katz said she expects federal funds for some of the requested grant money to start funneling into Michigan sometime in late September.

To earn the federal IMCP designation, three state manufacturing communities came together and formed a partnership. They include Detroit, Flint and Lansing and the counties of Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the state’s IMCP designation during this month’s inaugural Big M conference at Cobo Center. Pritzker was the keynote speaker during the four-day event that aimed to tackle such issues as the talent and skills gap, sustainability, globalization and the necessity for innovation.

“Not surprisingly, a consortia from Southeastern Michigan … was named one of the first IMCP manufacturing communities,” Pritzker said during her June 10 keynote speech. “The public-private partnership they have assembled produces 22 percent of all vehicles made in America and at $14 billion a year, accounts for over 70 percent of total U.S. auto research investment.”

Pritzker continued to say that Michigan’s IMCP plan is designed to transform the community into a world-class location for developing connected-vehicle technologies that will allow cars to communicate with each other and with the road itself. In addition, these cars will be developed with new lightweight materials.

“The point of IMCP is to incentivize this type of smart, comprehensive and integrated economic development planning across the country,” Pritzker said during the Big M keynote address. “And this is only the beginning. Soon, the (Obama) administration will launch a second IMCP competition to designate the next round of manufacturing communities.”

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