Proud to Manufacture in Michigan, You Better Believe It! (Best Believe)


We’re just wrapping up our third annual Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference, co-located this year with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ (SME’s) Big M Event at Cobo Hall.  It was exciting to be part of the outpouring of support for Michigan’s manufacturers, and we were happy to celebrate the great things going on in our state.
Did you know that manufacturing is still the largest sector by employment in Michigan? It’s home to over 12,000 manufacturers. Not only that, but those manufacturers reject fewer parts (0.3% vs. 0.5%), spend less time reworking product (1.4% vs. 2.0%), and have lower labor costs as a % of sales (32.4% vs. 33.5%) than their non-Michigan counterparts?
Recognized as the heart of the automotive industry, Michigan is home to 61 of the top 100 North American auto suppliers. It produces 23% of all vehicles in the nation, more than any other state. 14.6% of Michigan’s workforce is in the automotive industry, and more than 70% of all US automotive R & D spending takes place in Michigan, which is home to 370 R&D Centers.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, because Michigan is so much more than automotive. Detroit was once known as the Aviation Capital of America, and the University of Michigan started the 1st collegiate aeronautics program in the US. Its graduate program ranks #1 among public institutions.

Grand Rapids has earned the title of “The [Office] Furniture Capital of America” and is home to many large OEMs, including Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, and American Seating. At least 85 Oakland County-based companies offer products and services for defense and homeland security, Rogers City boasts the world’s largest limestone quarry, Beaverton is known as the thermoforming capital of the world, and we all know that the cherry capital is right here in Traverse City.
In fact, it’s no surprise that Michigan is the #1 U.S. producer of cherries, but did you know that we also rank #1 for blueberries, cucumbers (used for pickles) AND potted Easter Lilies? We’re #2 in fresh market celery and carrots, behind California. 
A big thanks to Jeff Mason from the University Research Corridor and Joe Quick, Manager of MEDC’s Talent Programs and Talent Enhancement, who helped jumpstart our day one celebration of Michigan. In addition to these fun facts, we enjoyed keynote speeches from Nigel Francis, Senior Vice President from MEDC’s automotive industry office, and Charles E. (Gus) Whelan, Jr., Chairman of the Warren Featherbone Company.
Our main room included Innovative products that were imagined and are now, or soon will be, manufactured in Michigan. Spectra Therapy developed a new wearable laser wrap to promote wound healing. Elite Mold & Engineering will be building it. Elbert Han, at the age of 15, while still in high school, designed a wristwatch made with eight moveable parts manufactured using a new kind of 3D printing. Linear Mold & Engineering helped make his design a reality. Central Screw Products came up with better uppers and lowers for the 308 version of the AR-15 rifle, and its Detroit Gun Works division is now making them. LithSafe came up with a safe way to contain and transport faulty lithium-ion batteries and has partnered with Action Wood 360 to build its prototype, which was on display at the conference. S.E.T. Products came up with steel covers to deter thieves from breaking into abandoned buildings. Its unique solution is being manufactured here in Michigan by Detronic Industries. Our final showcased innovation was developed by Arborlight. Billed as ‘daylight on demand’, this U of M spinoff has developed Solis: an LED based skylight emulator that simulates outdoor lighting. They are in the final decision making process and will select a Michigan manufacturer to make these lights from among those that responded to its RFQ.  We’re so glad these fantastic companies were willing to share their innovative ideas and designs with us.
Our interactive breakout sessions featured nine different Michigan companies and highlighted ways to transform your business, increase your capacity without large capital investments, develop leadership and engage employees, and enhance the role of small and medium sized manufacturers in lightweighting. A big thanks to Extreme Tool & Engineering in Ironwood, Kremin Corporation of Saginaw, Tentcraft in Traverse City, Jacquart Fabric Products, also of Ironwood, Symmetry Medical from Lansing, Roll-Rite in Alger, NanoSteel in Troy, Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) from Auburn Hills, and Kaiser Aluminum in Kalamazoo, representing the Aluminum in Transportation (ATG) group. We also want to thank our facilitators, Mike Beels, Rich Wolin, Russ Mason, and special guest Bob Metzger from the Automotive Industry Office of the MEDC.
We had a great time, and hope you did too.
No conference is complete without sponsors, and we had great ones. A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and participating companies. We could NOT have done this without you.
Companies that helped us thank our speakers by providing WONDERFUL Michigan made products:

Brownwood Farms Cherry BBQ sauce
Cherry Republic Cherry Jam
Kelloggs Poptarts
McClure’s Pickles – Pickles
Garden Fresh baked pita chips
Zehnder’s Bavarian Inn old fashioned egg noodles and msg free chicken seasoning
Germack pistachios
Sanders dessert toppings, dark chocolate peppermint raspberry, a personal favorite
Hanover Michigan cherry chocolate wafers
Blackrock’s Brewery Coconut brown and 51K IPA beverages
For a copy of a speaker presentation, sponsor contact information, or additional conference follow-up, please email See you next year at Soaring Eagle Resort in Mount Pleasant, September 24th and 25th, at the Fourth Annual Proud to Manufacture in Michigan conference.     

Categories: Data & Trends, The Center