GT Area Manufacturing Opportunities

by | May 9, 2018 | Opportunities


From my position as a board member of the Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation (GTEDC), I work on developing opportunities to protect and grow our current businesses. Today’s topic is automotive manufacturing, which includes the same digital transformation we see happening across the economy (Digital Transformation was the most popular breakout session at the recent Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Summit) and how the Grand Traverse region may be poised to help shape that future.

It is well known the automotive sector remains a major driver of Michigan’s economy, with $27 billion of new capital expenditure since 2009 — 31 percent of all automotive investment in the United States (3x as much as second place Ohio).

Perhaps less well known is the major role played by automotive manufacturing in the Grand Traverse region. Many of our manufacturing companies are in the automotive supply chain — two of the top three regional manufacturing sub-sectors are metals and assembled products.  More than 14 percent of the region’s workers are in manufacturing (17% in GT Co.) with average wages 140 percent of the area’s average. The automotive sector has a strong multiplier effect — one manufacturing job creates five more, and many say the multiplier grows with the growing digital and tech influence in manufacturing.   

We are fortunate that Traverse City has been the home to one of the automotive industry’s flagship events for several decades — the Center for Automotive Research’s (CAR) annual Management Briefing Seminars (MBS) at the Grand Traverse Resort. The week-long event on industry trends and new technologies has grown to attract a global, senior executive audience of more than 1,000. The MBS generates more than $2 million of annual spending, according to Anderson Economic Group methodology, and — if we can elevate our game — can create opportunities for our local companies.

The GTEDC works to create stronger linkages for our region’s companies to CAR and the MBS.   GTEDC joined CAR’s Automotive Communities Partnership (ACP), giving regional industry 365day access and participation opportunities in all CAR working groups and forums (eg. Connected & Automated Vehicles, Powertrain). Feedback from CAR staff on the GTEDC’s efforts and ACP participation has been positive, and they have expressed a desire to work with regional leadership to get to the next level, including engaging our manufacturing and tech companies and local talent/STEM.

A group of regional business and government leaders — including GTAMC member Kevin Schlueter, Kalkaska Screw Products CEO and Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Chair — had a productive meeting with the CAR senior team at its home base in Ann Arbor, which included a tour of the innovative Navya autonomous, all-electric shuttle bus assembly plant, its first in North America. A joint team of local public and private leaders and CAR staff are working to bring the electric shuttle bus to Traverse City streets during the MBS (July 30 – Aug 2) as a demonstration of leading edge technology, and will hold a meeting to discuss supply chain opportunities for regional businesses (Navya has pledged to source 50 percent of its parts from Michigan) and STEM acceleration.           

For further background check out the following links with videos on the Navya shuttle:   Want to attend the MBS?  Want to help on this project? Reach out to me at

Dennis Arouca

Board Member, Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council

Board Member, Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation



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