URC Sector Report 2010

2010 Advanced Manufacturing Sector Report

The University Research Corridor’s Support for Advanced Manufacturing in Michigan

Manufacturing is embedded in our state’s history, and in our national consciousness, as the engine of economic growth for much of the 20th century. Michigan was the “arsenal of democracy” in World War II, where Henry Ford’s revolutionary wages brought immigrants from numerous countries, and where companies like General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford grew into global enterprises.

Michigan is also the place that, far too often, is saddled with a reputation for being very good at something that is no longer relevant, modern, or particularly useful in the 21st century. In particular, we suffer from the misguided notion that manufacturing is not a “high tech” or high-value-added enterprise.

This report provides, in great detail, hard evidence that manufacturing is alive and vital in Michigan today, and that much of the manufacturing done in Michigan today is high-tech, high-productivity advanced manufacturing.

Indeed, there are numerous places in the world where low-tech manufacturing can take place, often where labor and other costs are much lower than in the United States. Manufacturers in Michigan, therefore, must produce high-quality products using high-productivity techniques, and advanced technologies.

As we note in this report, advanced manufacturing in Michigan is:

  • An important industry that employs over 10% of the state’s workforce;
  • A productive industry where over half of the employment is in firms whose productivity is growing faster than the average U.S. manufacturing firm;
  • A highly-skilled industry where over one-third of the research and testing jobs in the Midwest are located.

The University Research Corridor in Michigan plays a vital role in supporting this cornerstone of the Michigan economy. As documented in this report, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University expend large amounts each year on R&D focused on advanced manufacturing. Furthermore, they train many of the engineers, logistics specialists, scientists, and others that become the key employees of manufacturers and their many suppliers and consultants. While the core mission of these universities remains the education of tomorrow’s leaders, it is important to observe how much of these universities’ efforts today translate directly into benefits for this important sector of our economy.

Any state in the country, and indeed any country in this world, would be proud to have the high-tech, high-productivity manufacturing sector that we enjoy in Michigan. As this report documents, the efforts of our research universities will help us preserve that advantage in the future.