Detroit Regional Chamber > Media Coverage > Ford to enter public-private partnership at new Detroit campus

Ford to enter public-private partnership at new Detroit campus

February 4, 2022
Detroit Free Press
Feb. 4, 2022
JC Reindl

Ford Motor Co. announced Friday that it is entering a public-private partnership with the state of Michigan and city of Detroit at its mobility-focused, 30-acre “innovation district” campus centered on the redeveloped Michigan Central Station.

Tech giant Google, which won  a six-year contract last year to be the Dearborn automaker’s “preferred” cloud-computing services provider, will be a founding member of the district and also offer computer science classes there for local high schoolers.

Under the partnership, state officials will direct more than $126 million in new and existing programs and spending to support Ford’s future campus and innovation district in Detroit, called Michigan Central.

Some of that spending will go toward reconstructing nearby streets, as well as developing new housing around the district through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The city of Detroit is to designate a Transportation Innovation Zone testing site in the district. Within this free-wheeling zone, businesses and startups would enjoy expedited reviews and approvals to try new technologies. Further details about the zone, including its boundaries, are expected later Friday. Similar zones have been tried in Los Angeles and San Jose, California.

Ford’s redevelopment of the massive and long-vacant Michigan Central Station has been underway since 2018 and is on pace to finish by mid-2023. This summer, the redeveloped former Book Depository building next door to the former depot is to open its doors as part of the district.

The total anticipated cost for Ford’s new Michigan Central Detroit campus, including the train station rehab, is now pegged at $950 million.

Ford plans to bring 5,000 workers to the district, of which 2,500 will be Ford employees. The automaker considers Michigan Central “an open platform” for partnerships with outside businesses and entrepreneurs, who will provide the other 2,500 workers.

“Only a few short years ago, I announced Ford’s investment in Detroit because I believed in a vision that reimagined the iconic Michigan Central train station and surrounding area as a place of possibility again,” Bill Ford, the automaker’s executive chair, said in a statement.

“Today’s announcements reflect our commitment to that vision, attracting the best and the brightest to come together to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges,” Ford said. “The arrival of Google as a founding partner is exactly the kind of investment and progress I knew was possible to revitalize our hometown.”

Google said it intends to keep its existing Detroit office at the Little Caesars Arena.

It will open a new Code Next Lab at Michigan Central to teach high school students computer science. That program will be  free of charge, although there  will be an application process.

Google also will partner with several local nonprofits to offer its Google Career Certificate program. The certificates are offered in four areas — IT support, project management, data analytics and user experience — with the goal of equipping people with skills within three to six months for in-demand jobs that don’t require college degrees.

Ford will join the consortium of more than 150 employers that actively consider certificate holders when hiring. More than 80% of people who have gone through the certificate program report getting a raise or a new job within six months, said Ruth Porat, chief financial officer for Google and its parent company, Alphabet.

“The digital skills training opens opportunities for people to some of the fastest-growing jobs,” Porat said. “This certificate, which is honored and respected by more than 150 companies, is an opportunity.

“The other thing we are really excited about is more than half of certificate graduates are from backgrounds that historically have been underrepresented in technology,” including Black people, Latinos, women and veterans.

“So it is opening doors for many,” she added.

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