DETROIT (WOOD) — With the North American International Auto Show preview week well underway, a steady parade of elected officials descended on the Cobo Center in Detroit Tuesday to talk about the health of the industry and, perhaps more importantly, how Michigan is positioned to avoid the cyclical boom and bust it has experienced in the past.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, says that cycle went far beyond the auto industry.
“Frankly with that boom and bust of autos affected everybody,” he said. “…Construction, office furniture makers, everybody was affected by that.”
But he and others think that may be changing. The hope is that by looking to a future driven by more autonomous technology, Michigan may be well prepared for what’s next.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said the state needs to be ready. He pointed to a bill passed in the House of Representative clearing the way for self-driving cars as a way to pave the future for the automotive industry.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, says he thinks Michigan can be in the driver’s seat for mobility technology.
“The kinds of investments we are making as a state — Mcity, part of the University of Michigan; I worked to make sure that the American Center for Mobility would be a nationally designated facility to test these vehicles — all these kinds of things are going to be very important,” he said.
The state’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, agrees the state is on the right track when it comes to cars of the future.
“I really think we are better prepared,” she said. “There’s always ups and downs and when you’re in the business of making things that people purchase and the economy goes up and down, there’s always issues, but I think we are better prepared now. I think there’s a lot of work to do on mobility and it’s exciting.”
Part of that has to do with making sure the workforce is prepared for big changes in the stalwart Michigan automotive industry. Talent will be key and Gov. Rick Snyder indicated he would make a big push on that front when he rolls out his budget plan in February.
All in all, the elected officials — state and federal, Democrat and Republican, think the infrastructure and training can be achieved to stay ahead of this rapidly changing business. U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, was emphatic as she summed up her assessment of Michigan, mobility and the future.
“We are at the epicenter of the transformation of mobility,” she declared.
The NAIAS opens to the public Saturday.