Mackinac conference: Michigan’s defense economy

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MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — First it was cars of the future and now it’s the defense of the nation. Economic development initiatives continue to be launched at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, joined Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in a bipartisan initiative to encourage the growth of the mobility technology industry in the state. Thursday, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley discussed how to leverage the state’s engineering and manufacturing experience into more defense contracts.

During World War II, southeast Michigan was considered the “Arsenal of Democracy.” A new plan from the Michigan Defense Center and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation would once again seek to put the state in a pivotal role when it comes to building systems and armaments to equip the military.

“We got the Detroit Arsenal and in that is the purchasing arm of the U.S. Army — that’s here in Michigan,” Calley said.

That’s something that the state wants to focus on. There are already more than 100,000 people employed in businesses all over the state that work with the military, Calley said.

“Military installation companies that have defense contracts for goods and services that they provide those goods and services every year come to over $9 billion,” he said.

But it’s not just about equipping the military — it’s also about having them based here in Michigan. Stabenow said we should work to make our existing bases more relevant.

“You go on to Battle Creek, we have a new cyber squadron. We beat competition to be able to have one of the new cyber facilities,” she provided as an example. “We also host the Army National Guard cyber protection team and then Fort Custer, where we are a finalist for a $3 billion economic investment.”

The investment she’s referring to is the possible addition of a missile interceptor site at the fort in Augusta.

The leading action item outlined by the group supporting the defense economy was to get the enrollment of Michigan’s congressional delegation. Calley said both Republicans and Democrats are dedicated to making sure Michigan companies have a better shot at getting military contracts.

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