Bill Ford: Michigan must become the Silicon Valley of the mobility revolution; emphasis on green and smart technologies
In an address at the 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that “Michigan must become the Silicon Valley of the mobility revolution” and outlined key public policy areas to help improve the state’s competitiveness and ensure that the state realizes the full benefit of that impending revolution.
Ford told the 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. He also described urban mobility specifically 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.
Urban mobility is of particular concern. In the decades to come, 75% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, and 50 of those cities will have more than 10 million people. These so-called megacities will present a unique challenge to personal mobility, threatening the economy, the environment, and even the health of their residents.—Bill Ford
Ford noted that while great strides have been made with green technology, the world faces 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 earlier this year had outlined the company’s vision to address this global challenge in the company’s Blueprint for Mobility. (Earlier post.)
To address this issue, we will once again need new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world. We will need to view the automobile as one element of a transportation ecosystem. Pedestrian walkways, bicycles, buses, planes, trains, automobiles, everything is going to have to be fully integrated using real-time data to save time and conserve resources.—Bill Ford
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.
Ford highlighted the benefits Michigan has realized by being at the center of 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. And this is becoming a core competency for us in the 21st century.—Bill Ford
In terms of policy, Ford 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.
Ford also noted that Michigan needs a world-class infrastructure and that its location on the US/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.
New innovation initiatives. Ford also announced two new initiatives to encourage innovation in Michigan.
The Motor City Innovation Exchange is 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.
The Jump Start Program, which offers startup suites, including space located near TechShop, will 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. New ideas are a priceless resource, and the ultimate driver of economic growth.—Bill Ford