July 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Detroit lands U.S.-backed light metals research center

Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday that a $148 million lightweight metals manufacturing institute will locate in Detroit. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

A $148 million lightweight-metals manufacturing institute will locate in Detroit — not Canton Township — Mayor Mike Duggan and the University of Michigan announced Wednesday.

President Obama announced in February that southeast Michigan had won a competition to host the Defense Department-funded American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute charged with helping to speed the use of lightweight metals into future cars, trucks, airplanes and other uses for both military and civilian use. He announced the facility would be based in Canton Township.

But after the site in Canton Township that was expected to host the center was leased by another business, the partnership began looking for a new site. The University of Michigan said the facility will be housed at 1400 Rosa Parks Blvd. at a Corktown plant that has been vacant for years. The last tenant of the 107,000-square-foot property was Mexican Industries, which made plastic moldings for the auto industry until filing for bankruptcy in 2001, UM said.

Mayor Mike Duggan called it a great day for Detroit, noting the city competed with a number of other locations in the region and it showed that the city could provide the best site with the best support.

Duggan said the proximity to Focus: Hope was an added bonus because it provides a location nearby where potential workers can be trained. He called that portion of the project critical.

“It's exciting to be landing on the next generation of manufacturing in Detroit,” Duggan said late Wednesday. “The future is taking research and turning it into products in the shortest amount of time. That's what the lightweight metal manufacturing institute is all about. To have those manufacturing products being manufactured in Detroit has the potential to create an industry that will be here for years to come.”

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said in a statement that, “Detroit’s renewed energy and revitalization efforts mesh perfectly with the goals of ALMMII, making the city an ideal spot for its headquarters.”

The institute is being led by the University of Michigan, the Ohio-based manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI, and Ohio State University. More than 70 partners that will take part include: Honda North America, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, Wayne State University, Boeing and Alcoa.

The manufacturing institute was selected through a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense and will receive $70 million in federal funds over five years, matched by $78 million from the consortium partners. The funding includes $10 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and $10 million from the state of Ohio.

The center’s purpose is to speed development of lightweight materials across a number of industries.

The country lost more than 6 million factory jobs in the last decade but has added back 622,000 since 2010.

The institute’s efforts will focus on the entire transportation supply chain, seeking to boost innovations from conception through design, development and production. The consortium will contract for more than $100 million in research and development projects with partner organizations, UM said.

Obama noted that Germany has 60 similar manufacturing partnerships.

He has called for Congress to approve $1 billion to fund dozens more: “I don’t want the next big job creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be made here in America.”

Congress in the last five months has taken no action on Obama’s proposal.

The University of Michigan said in February the institute could help add 10,000 jobs during the next five years — most in metal stamping, metalworking, machining and casting industries. The center will start with a staff of 10 and will eventually have about two dozen direct employees. The building will be home to offices, meeting rooms, training space and laboratories for developing and testing technologies for manufacturing, UM said.


The facility will be housed at 1400 Rosa Parks Boulevard at a Corktown ... (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)