Why Grand Traverse Manufacturing?

by | Aug 14, 2018 | Opportunities, Regional News

Our Mission at GTAMC is to “support a sustainable and globally competitive manufacturing sector for our region, for a strong economy.” We have world class companies and technology here, but sometimes hear that a number of our regional companies face the following question when seeking new business, “Why Grand Traverse Manufacturing?” Our “Who Knew They Made it Here?” series is intended in part to help answer that. My Council colleague Dennis Arouca also had the opportunity to answer that question recently, when he gave “Welcome Remarks” to the Automotive Communities Partnership, which met at GT Resort as part of the Center for Automotive Research’s Annual Management Briefing Seminars. Take a look and let us know what you think.





On behalf of the GT Economic Development Corporation (GTEDC) and GT Area Manufacturing Council (GTAMC), it is a real pleasure to welcome you “Up North” ,  to Traverse City and the Grand Traverse region for the 2018 Center For Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars (MBS).

Traverse City has a vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector, which includes Automotive. We are in our second year as members of the Automotive Communities Partnership (ACP).   I am a lifelong industrial America Guy, and have worked with CAR for decades and experienced first hand how they add value.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, when I was with Conrail – the freight railroad in the Midwest/Northeast Industrial Heartland, CAR helped point the way as we took a mature technology, and learned how to fit it into the Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing system. We took parts made in your communities —including Ontario— and got them JIT to OEM assembly plants (previously the exclusive province of trucks). BTW—shout out to our ACP colleagues at Norfolk Southern, now owners of half of Conrail.  Keeping it going.

In the 2000s, when I was leading HR & Labor Relations at Arcelor Mittal Steel, we learned from CAR’s Kristin Dziczek, who spoke at one of our labor-management retreats about innovative auto settlements. That model inspired steel agreements that increased productivity, employee commitment, and enhanced profitability, all without labor strife. So it was natural for me when I joined the GTEDC board to be an advocate of joining CAR’s ACP, because it adds tremendous value to our region’s businesses.

Traverse City is the economic hub of a region with a year-round population of 200,000 people. We are honored and humbled when people complement us as “punching above our weight” economically. I am often asked ‘what is your recipe?’  Well, we do not have a special sauce, but some observe that two elements run through our region’s DNA that might play a role here — innovation and Collaboration.

Innovation. Most of you have heard of CNC Machining or computerized numerical control. It is a world-wide technology. But most do not know numerical control was invented here in the 1940s by John Parsons and Frank Stulen. Both were awarded the inaugural President’s Technology Medal in 1985.

Think …..the Nobel Prize for Manufacturing Innovation.

Students pursuing technical degrees in TC study in the Parsons-Stulen building.

So a natural question for you……did Industry 4.0 start here in Traverse City?     Maybe?  

On the exhibit floor here at the GT Resort, you can see a modern example of Traverse Industrial Innovation. TC company Promethient, Inc. has harnessed the elusive qualities of graphene. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon and was discovered just 15 years ago in 2003. Industrial education leader Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  called graphene “a miracle material…..a superconductor.” But it has been difficult to commercialize graphene.

Promethient developed human-centered heating and cooling technology through graphene. It is in the market as ‘’Thermavance ” with some early validation by French auto parts maker Faurecia, which just bought 20% of Promethient, and is putting the technology to work in seats, with more industry applications in the pipeline.

Let me close with saying 2 things about Collaboration, another major element of our DNA.

We have a terrific partner in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The MEDC fosters a team approach to economic development. We believe that the smaller you are, the more often you need to build alliances and partnerships. Our regional companies—world class and distinctive in their own right—are also leaders of collaboration. You can learn more about our local companies at our GTAMC website, whose name says a lot……. www.makegreatthings.org

You—-the members of the ACP—are a second part of our collaboration. I so appreciate the openness every man and woman I have reached out to; you share insights and lessons learned in economic development, including our friends in Canada and Mexico.  I am mindful that we are all both competitors and collaborators. We compete for USA or North America based opportunities for our communities, but collectively our eyes are on the larger vista —- that automotive is increasingly global and technology-driven.  We are stronger together than we are separately.

 And in that spirit, I am pleased to extend an invitation.  Just this morning The Manufacturing Report— a project of the Alliance for American Manufacturing—recorded a podcast at one our local plants, with 4 regional manufacturing CEOs. The host Scott Paul shared that he does not get out into plants often enough, and was pleased when I offered to spread the invitation to my colleagues at ACP.

If you are interested, contact me or contact Scott direct at americanmanufacturing.org

 Many of you have heard the slogan  “Pure Michigan.” Hopefully my welcome remarks have shared some insight about why we in Grand Traverse feel we are well on our way to make the slogan mean more than just travel and tourism. So it includes “Pure Michigan… Business Innovation and Collaboration.”

 Thanks for coming to Traverse City, and have a great meeting. I want you to have much business success while you are here, and please search me out if you run into any speed bumps along the way. I will do my best to help.


Dennis Arouca

Board Member

Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation

Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council


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