Global View: Michigan Must Become North American Logistics Hub


The Commission for Logistics and Supply Chain Collaboration, which met for the first time in Lansing today, plans to position Michigan as a strategically located North American logistics hub.

“To remain competitive, Michigan’s food and agriculture sector demands a world-class system of moving goods and commodities to both the nation and the world,” said Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and a member of the 10-person commission. It’s “a vital catalyst to help foster collaboration and further integrate the state’s transit alternatives as another compelling reason for conducting business here.”

Over the next six months, the commission will focus on connecting regional and local economic development organizations with businesses that need assistance moving products and materials in and out of the state.

According to Michigan Economic Development Corp., nearly half of the state’s economy is dependent on foreign trade. Top import/export industries include automotive, advanced manufacturing, food and agricultural products, biotechnology, medical devices, defense/aerospace, chemicals, furniture, wood products, mining, and clean energy.

While Michigan is the eighth largest exporting state, Michael Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC, notes that an effective logistics and supply-chain management strategy is essential for a company to compete globally.

“Moving materials, goods, and products on an ever-shifting deadline schedule is a puzzle to solve,” Finney says. “The challenge requires people working together, understanding the possibilities of Michigan’s freight transportation network of routes for the timely delivery of products, whether it’s by truck, air, rail water, or pipeline.”

One opportunity to draw more global freight from Europe and Asia, among other markets, is the construction of a $400-million rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor that would connect the ports of Halifax and Montreal with Junction Yard in southwest Detroit. The terminal, located at Vernor and Livernois, is undergoing $650 million in upgrades to improve the distribution of goods throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

Members of the commission — which will advise the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Michigan Economic Development Corp. on freight transportation and supply chain management issues — include:

  • Leslie Brand, CEO and a member of the board of directors of Supply Chain Solutions Inc.
  • Robert Boehm, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Commodity and Marketing Department and Public Policy and Commodity Division
  • David Closs, John H. McConnell Chaired Professor of Business Administration and chairperson of the Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University
  • Roger Huff, manager of North America material logistics within the Customer Service Division and manager of customs and export operations for Ford Motor Co.
  • Pasi Lautala, assistant professor and director of the Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Technological University
  • Frederick Schlemmer, CFO of SteelPro in Warren
  • Janice Walsh, senior manager of supply chain management finance with Trinity Health
  • Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Michael Finney, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
  • Kirk T. Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation

In related news, UTi Worldwide Inc., a global supply chain services and solutions company, recently opened a 228,000-square-foot logistics facility in Romulus. The project combines warehousing activities for contract logistics clients and space for air, ocean, and ground freight forwarding. Prior to opening this facility, UTi had two separate buildings 11 miles apart.

“While other companies are leaving the Detroit area, UTi is making a substantial investment in support of our clients in the automotive and consumer electronics industries,” says Rob Chanona, UTi’s vice president of contract logistics operations for the Americas. “We believe that Detroit plays a pivotal role in the automotive supply chain for the NAFTA region, connecting the dots among the Tier 1 suppliers in Ontario, Canada, the Midwest, and Mexico.”