Ford’s Michigan Central Campus Draws Google and Creates Public-private Partnership

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn today announced it is launching a public-private partnership with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit to enhance Michigan Central, the emerging mobility innovation district at and around the former main train station west of downtown at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street.
Ford's Michigan Central campus is launching a public-private partnership with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. Google was also announced as a founding member of the mobility innovation district. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.
Ford’s Michigan Central campus is launching a public-private partnership with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. Google was also announced as a founding member of the mobility innovation district. // Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn today announced it is launching a public-private partnership with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit to enhance Michigan Central, the emerging mobility innovation district at and around the former main train station west of downtown at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street.

In addition, Ford announced that Google, the search engine giant, will be a founding member of the mobility innovation district. The partnerships will enable Michigan Central to advance its vision to help create a more accessible future for all.

“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,” says Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford. “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.

“The arrival of Google as a founding partner is exactly the kind of investment and progress I knew was possible to revitalize our hometown. And I could not be more pleased that the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan are also joining us in this ambitious effort. I know it is only the beginning of what we can achieve together.”

Google and Ford, along with future founding members, will be part of a diverse group of companies at Michigan Central collaborating on the products, services, and experiences that help define the future of mobility. Guided by a shared commitment, the founding members will support a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable community development at Michigan Central.

To foster this work, Google will provide cloud technology for Michigan Central’s mobility projects. The Mountain View, California-based company also will offer workforce development training to local high school students and job seekers.

“We’re proud to join Ford as a founding member at Michigan Central,” says Ruth Porat, senior vice president and CFO of Google and Alphabet (Google’s parent company). “This partnership will expand our work in Michigan and help a substantial number of people gain the skills and tools they need to succeed.

“By offering digital skills training, mentoring to high schoolers learning to code, and Google Cloud technology for Michigan Central projects and research on the future of mobility, we look forward to contributing to Michigan Central’s mission and all it will accomplish.”

Ford announced plans to restore the iconic train station in 2018 as the centerpiece of a 30-acre open innovation platform to help define the way people and goods move around in the future. The once world-class station had been abandoned since 1988.

The project is on track, attracting partners from around the world to create an inclusive, vibrant, walkable mobility innovation district in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood.

The public-private partnership between Michigan Central, Michigan, Detroit will make the district a hub for talent, mobility innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, affordable housing, small business opportunities, and community engagement. The state will invest to ensure the community shares in the district’s success through new standards for housing and engagement, and that other economic goals become reality.

The state of Michigan plans to align more than $126 million new and existing programming and resources to support the goals of the district. This pledge includes new resources for district programming provided by the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

It also includes the alignment of existing state, like the reconstruction of Michigan Avenue and the development of new housing units around the district by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Detroit, meanwhile, will designate a Transportation Innovation Zone inside the district where enterprises from corporations to startups can access improved and expedited review and approval processes to more effectively pilot new technologies in a safe, real-world environment. This first-of-its-kind testing site in the Midwest will accelerate the number of new technology deployments in the district.

“Just a few years ago, this train station was our city’s international symbol of abandonment,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Now, it’s the symbol of our city’s resurgence and soon will anchor this new innovation district, developed by Ford, where innovators from around the world will create the future of mobility. For more than a century, Detroit has been the leader in automotive innovation and today marks a major step forward in keeping Detroit at the forefront of mobility innovation for the next century.”

The newly created Michigan Central Innovation District LLS will manage operations and support the district’s core initiatives.

Among the goals of the district is to change people’s lives for the better, help reduce pollution and congestion, slow climate change, and enable access to a better education, higher-paying jobs, healthier food, and affordable health care.

Founding members will help mentor entrepreneurs and local businesses, as well as develop the workforce in Detroit, with Google leading the effort to train for in-demand technology jobs that Michigan will need to scale the solutions created at Michigan Central.

To that end, Google is opening a new Code Next Lab at Michigan Central to teach high schoolers computer science. The company also is partnering with local nonprofits – including M.A.D.E. Institute, Dress for Success Michigan, and Streetwise Partners – to offer its Google Career Certificate program.

The certificates equip people with skills for in-demand fields within three to six months, and do not require a degree or experience. Ford will join the program’s employer consortium of more than 150 companies that consider graduates for relevant jobs and will give current employees the opportunity to upskill through the certificate program that could contribute to roles in the Michigan Central ecosystem.

Google and Ford will continue work that’s already started in Corktown through Michigan Central’s partnership with Newlab, which offers a proven studio model that will serve as the catalyst for innovation in the district, aligning public and private sector leaders to pilot new solutions to complex mobility, sustainability, and civic challenges.

“Google is the first founding partner we are announcing with Ford, and we’re excited about offering workforce development training to the community,” says Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central Mobility Innovation District Development Director. “There will be virtual training, and we will have a physical space starting in the Book Depository building (immediately east of the train station), and then in the train station itself.”

The Book is slated to open this summer and the train station is set for completion early in 2023. The openings join work already underway on the Michigan Central campus, with the development, piloting, and launching of new mobility solutions on real-world streets, in real-world situations such as the three studio tracks in collaboration with Newlab.

Pilots in development include an app that helps blind and visually impaired people navigate complicated urban landscapes in response to community needs, plus innovation to support the electrification of commercial fleets, and rethinking how goods move on the first and last 50 feet of their journey.

Michigan Central continues as an active partner in driving Michigan’s mobility narrative forward, including a study with the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, Michigan Aeronautics Commission, the Province of Ontario, and others to explore the feasibility of creating commercial drone testing corridors.

Michigan Central also recently partnered with Electreon, Next Energy, and Jacobs Engineering Group to win the Michigan Department of Transportation and Office of Future Mobility and Electrification’s proposal of Michigan as the first U.S. state to implement a public wireless electric vehicle charging system on a public road.

The project includes dynamic and stationary wireless charging along a one-mile corridor, which will be hosted by and live within Michigan Central.

“Michigan Central is coming to life, and the district is already a catalyst for change and opportunity in Detroit and beyond,” says Mary Culler, Michigan Central’s development director. “We are attracting the best minds and organizations to help us build a better, more equitable future, and we’re doing that by working with partners in the public and private sectors to make sure we work together to solve these mobility challenges.”

With a unique mix of disruptive startups, established brands, government partners, and community support, Michigan Central is poised to become a global leader in mobility innovation, and to help communities around the world benefit from the increased access, opportunity, and quality of life that improved mobility makes possible.

Michigan Central will offer a sustainable community of new and revitalized buildings, shared spaces, a first-of-its-kind mobility testing platform, and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space.

It will serve as an open platform for partnerships, drawing leading entrepreneurs, researchers, and technologists from Detroit and around the world to co-create and test new products and services on real-world streets, in real-world situations.

It will be a place to solve urban transportation challenges, improve mobility access for everyone, and prepare for a more connected, autonomous, and electrified world ahead.

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