Monday, February 9, 2009

Tales from Flint, Michigan

What a day! Awoke at 3 am and turning in at midnight.

When thinking about this post, at first, I was inspired to talk about the effects of frictional unemployment on Company towns that have suffered major business pull-outs like Rochester, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.

Then I felt like it was more important to talk about the creation of a Brand and which ethos was more important for Local Motors: A global brand, a league of teams, or a federation of factories.

Each of these is a meaningful post, but not ultimately for tonight. Instead the topic that has won the day is our activity in Michigan.

We have taken Flint by storm and tomorrow on to Detroit. We spent the afternoon at Kettering University hosted by both the Entrepreneurship Society, the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Tech Works Technology Commercialization Programs. This was an amazing breath of fresh air compared to what we expected. Driving into Flint (former global home base of Chevy and GM) it felt as if it always has lately, full of gray and foreboding of economic malaise. Even the mayor, Don Williamson, resigned today.

But Kettering was a different story. Students alive and talking, administrators and teachers present, and facilities that support the basis of a vision of growth and hope. I don't think that we had finished 10 minutes of our presentation when we were already getting questions about whether we would consider placing a facility in Flint. When I gave the reasons: that Michigan was not ready to accept start-up companies, that much of the negative community feedback which we had received had come from those in the old guard of the auto industry in this area, and that we were too small in each of our micro-factories to attract much interest from any economic development function....Not one of these was enough to deter the dogged determination of the team that had gathered to greet us. Dr. Tavakoli, Neil Sheridan, Dr. Navaz, and Dr. Hoff were gracious hosts and determined proponents of the future promise of Flint.

Later we met with alumnus and Masters candidate, Jason Kane, to discuss some of the finer points of the Formula SAE program at Kettering and his new venture that he and some classmates are starting to offer accelerated engineering services to a broad array of customers.

We were given a tour of the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science center, and what an impressive facility it is. E-Manufacturing lab, CAD lab, rapid prototyping center, and more, each with students receiving first rate instruction.

If there were ever a place with the components to support an automotive company it would be Michigan, if there were ever a town in the state hungry to get something new going, it would be Flint. Bravo, Flint has given us much to think about.


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