(Photo credit: Kettering University)

Flint & Genesee represents the heritage and the future of the automotive industry. The assets are all here, said Tyler Rossmaessler, director of economic development at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

The challenge and opportunity, Rossmaessler said, is to leverage those strengths to grow the regional economy by luring investment in connection with emerging opportunities.

The “traditional” industry is well-represented by General Motors and the automaker’s extensive investments here in recent years. GM has invested $2.8 billion since 2009 to upgrade facilities and add or retain jobs, including spending $877 million on a new body shop at Flint Assembly where Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks are built. In addition, Lear Corp. is nearing completion on a $29-million seat manufacturing plant on part of the former Buick City complex to supply seating for GM vehicles.

The future of mobility – which includes the development of autonomous and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) – is emerging here in the form of new investments by several companies in Grand Blanc Township:

  • CNXMotion opened a research and development facility in October 2017 where the company will develop advanced motion control systems and actuator components for automated driving. The company is a joint venture between Nexteer Automotive and Continental Corp.
  • A month earlier, Laird, a global technology leader in vehicle connectivity, also unveiled a new R&D center that will serve the company’s Connected Vehicle Solutions
  • Now, Magna Corp., a mobility technology company, is building a 229,500-square-foot building where it will combine existing operations under one roof to produce advanced driver-assistance systems. Magna recently announced a multi-year collaboration with Lyft in which the companies will jointly fund, develop and manufacture self-driving systems.

Meanwhile, Kettering University’s GM Mobility Research Center is taking shape along the Flint River on the site of former Chevrolet manufacturing complex (aka Chevy in the Hole). It includes a 3.25-acre test track and outdoor lab space to test and develop driverless car systems.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber is also a partner in PlanetM, an initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. PlanetM is partnership of mobility organizations, communities, educational institutions, research and development, and government agencies working together to develop and deploy the mobility technologies driving the future.

“The traditional automotive industry is strong in trucks and we make trucks. So, we are in the ‘now’,” Rossmaessler said. “But we’re also about the future, and really have an opportunity for growth. Flint & Genesee is not being left behind. Far from it, we’re in the thick of it.

“From our position as the economic development organization, we are a connection point for those companies looking to invest.”