Michigan Forms Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, Names Executive Director

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) has formed the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation (ODAI), which will help grow the state’s defense and aerospace industry.
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The MEDC has formed the Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation to help grow the state’s defense and aerospace industry. // Photo courtesy of MEDC

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) has formed the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation (ODAI), which will help grow the state’s defense and aerospace industry.

ODAI will build on the legacy of the Michigan Defense Center by increasing awareness of Michigan’s capabilities, supporting attraction and expansion of businesses that participate in  Department of Defense-related activities, and enhancing commercial and defense-related aerospace segments poised for growth.

In addition, ODAI will support the growth of defense and aerospace-related jobs in Michigan while increasing federal Department of Defense spending and industry-related R&D in the state.

The new office also will support growth in advanced aerial mobility innovation, testing, and attraction in both defense and commercial-related applications, leveraging the work of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) around Advanced Aerial Mobility.

The office announced Col. John Gutierrez, (U.S.M.C.-Ret) as its new executive director. Gutierrez has more than 30 years of experience in acquisition, operational, and joint assignments.

He began his military service in 1990, enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Hospital Corpsman and served until 1995. In 1996, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and served until 2024. He most recently served as the portfolio manager for Logistics Combat Element Systems, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command.

Gutierrez holds a B.S. in biology from Arizona State University, an M.S. in management from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, an M.A. in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and a Master of Military Studies from the U.S. Marine Corps University.

He also has completed post-graduate studies in project management at George Washington University and in advanced project management at Stanford University. He is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College.

Additionally, Gutierrez holds multiple personal, unit, campaign, and foreign awards, is a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps, and holds the highest level certifications in program management and contracting.

“I am deeply honored and excited to serve as the executive director for the newly established Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” says Gutierrez. “I feel privileged to join this critical effort at such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Democracy is under threat on a global scale, not seen since the Cold War. Recent events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s attempt to disrupt freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Straits, along with ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, underscore the challenges confronting the United States and its Allied Nations.

“Michigan, renowned as the Arsenal of Democracy and a beacon of industrial prowess, holds immense potential. I look forward to working with government officials, business leaders, stakeholders, and partners to leverage Michigan’s defense and aerospace capabilities in order to meet the evolving needs of our nation and its allies at this decisive time.”

The defense industry contributes $30 billion in economic activity for the state of Michigan, supporting more than 116,000 jobs and representing nearly 4,000 Michigan businesses serving the defense, defense aerospace, and homeland security industries.

The Michigan National Guard also boasts five major installations and additional armories, including the National All-Domain Training Center in Grayling and one of the largest Air National Guard bases in the nation at Selfridge in Macomb County.

“Michigan has always played a pivotal role in the security of our nation,” says U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“The budding relationship between the ODAI and the Michigan National Guard will help us promote the full potential of our training facilities through investment and awareness. This combination will help us live up to our professional obligation to provide service members with the most relevant and demanding training experience so they will excel on the battlefield of tomorrow.”

In 2022, defense contract awards performed in Michigan reached $5.5 billion, ranking Michigan 22nd among states.

“There’s great potential to rank even higher, with tremendous opportunity for our defense and aerospace industry to compete, win, and drive greater economic impact,” says Tammy Carnrike, COO of the Detroit Regional Chamber and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army (CASA) Michigan. “Establishing an Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation in Michigan shows the state is invested in protecting and growing this sector and the jobs that come with it.”

For more information about the new Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, visit  here.