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Governor Snyder embarks on mission to Italy, Germany to strengthen state's business relationships

Saturday, March 29, 2014

LANSING, Mich. -- Gov. Rick Snyder today is leading a delegation of state officials and economic developers on a weeklong investment mission to Italy and Germany. The mission is focusing on strengthening long-standing relationships and attracting job-creating business investments, primarily with automotive companies.

"Michigan's long-standing ties with German and Italian automotive companies continue to result in good jobs here and we look forward to fostering these highly productive relationships," Snyder said. "With 70 percent of global automotive research and development happening here in Michigan, and our strong manufacturing base and business-friendly environment, there is no better place in North America for European companies to expand than in Michigan. We will deliver the message that this is an opportune time to invest in a state that is reinventing the ways we can help companies grow."

Joining Snyder are Michigan Senior Automotive Adviser Nigel Francis, Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Michael A. Finney and other MEDC officials, as well as representatives from local economic development agencies including the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Right Place Inc. of Grand Rapids, and Southwest Michigan First of Kalamazoo.

After arriving in Milan, Italy on Sunday, Snyder will hold business meetings with senior executives of leading Italian companies, including Brugola OEB Industriale S.p.A., Brembo S.p.A., I.t.f. Group, Poltrona Frau Group, Comau and Fiat. He will also provide remarks at a reception at the U.S. Consulate in Milan and meet with the mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino.

The delegation later will fly to Germany, where it will meet with executives from voxeljet AG and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Later in the week it will meet senior leaders from Eissmann Automotive Deutschland GmbH, Heller Group, MANN+HUMMEL GmbH, and WKW Walter Klein GmbH & Co. KG, as well as government officials including the mayor of Ludwigsburg, Werner Spec.

"Michigan's strategic priorities for success in the automotive industry are directly connected to global outreach," Francis said. "German and Italian companies are significant investors and employers in Michigan's automotive economy. Our mission message is: If you are in the auto industry and are looking to invest or expand in North America, Michigan has everything you need to succeed."

Francis was appointed Michigan's auto adviser and senior vice president of the Automotive Industry Office by Snyder on Sept. 1. The Automotive Industry Office and automotive adviser position are housed within the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to actively support and collaborate with Michigan's business attraction specialists to define Michigan as the global center for automotive activity.

German and Italian business relationships with Michigan traditionally have been strong, and state business leaders and economists say the potential growth opportunities for Michigan are enormous:

  • Michigan is the eighth-largest exporting state and sixth-largest importing state in the U.S.
  • Michigan is home to more than 350 German companies. The total Michigan-Germany foreign trade for 2013 was nearly $5.9 billion.
  • Michigan is home to more than 40 Italian companies. The total Michigan-Italy foreign trade for 2013 was $1.65 billion.
  • Approximately 72,000 Michiganders are employed by the German- and Italian-owned companies that operate here. These companies, representing a wide range of industry sectors, are heavily concentrated in advanced automotive manufacturing and research and development, sectors well known for producing high-wage jobs.

In the two years since his previous Europe mission, a number of expansions and investments by German and Italian companies have occurred in Michigan, including:

    • Brose, a supplier of mechatronic components and electric motor drives for vehicle bodies and interiors, announced in May 2012 it was acquiring the former Chrysler Mopar site on Bell Road in New Boston, with a total investment of $60 million and 450 new jobs at the new facility as well as at its Auburn Hills and Warren locations. Brose was awarded a $3.5 million Michigan Business Development Program incentive for the project.
    • MAHLE Industries, one of the world's leading automotive and engine component manufacturers, announced in June 2012 it was investing $11 million to expand its technical headquarters in Farmington Hills and consolidate its Canadian operations to Michigan. The expansion resulted in approximately 50 new full-time engineering and technical jobs.
    • Hark Orchids located its first U.S. facility in Kalamazoo, establishing a 30,000 square-foot lab and climatic chambers facility, investing approximately $5 million and creating 80 jobs in the next three to five years. Founded in 1904, Hark Orchids is a family-owned orchid propagation firm offering hybridization, cultivation and propagation of orchids.
    • As a result of visiting the Heller Group during his 2012 mission, Snyder launched the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²) program, offered through a partnership of participating employers, community colleges, and MEDC. Benchmarked on the German Dual Education System, the initiative combines classroom instruction with paid work experience in a three-year, no-cost program in the field of mechatronics, a combination of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer technology and information technology. In the program's first year, 31 students at Henry Ford Community College and Oakland Community College are training for careers with 11 employers. The 2014 session, beginning in the fall, is expected to grow to 90 students learning mechatronics, IT and technical product design at Macomb and Mott Community Colleges in addition to HFCC and OCC, while they work for 25 companies across southeast Michigan.

This is the Snyder administration's second mission to Italy and Germany, and the 10th investment mission overall. Other missions led by Snyder or Lt. Gov. Brian Calley have been to Japan, China, Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, and Canada.