New Toyota Lab Includes Plan to Help Michigan Students Land Better Jobs

A rendering of Toyota's new research lab, which is set to open in 2024. (Courtesy/Toyota Newsroom)

By Kyle Kaminski

June 9, 2023

A new $50 million expansion project from Toyota is poised to lead to future investments in Michigan, and it comes with a new statewide initiative designed to prepare Michigan students for lucrative new careers.

YORK TOWNSHIP—Toyota says it will spend $47 million to build a new battery testing lab at its North American research center in Michigan, as well as launch a new initiative to help prepare Michigan students for high-wage careers in the manufacturing and clean energy industries.

Company officials said Thursday that the new lab in York Township south of Ann Arbor will test batteries made for hybrid and electric vehicles. Toyota also picked Michigan as the first state to kick off its “Driving Possibilities” STEM initiative, a new community engagement program “focused on preparing youth for the careers of tomorrow,” according to a press release.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the project underscores the state’s position as a growing nationwide leader in advanced automotive manufacturing, mobility, and battery technologies.

“We’re thrilled,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As we continue investing in our people, developing attractive places and winning impactful projects, we’ll send a message to businesses of all sizes around the globe that they can make their future here in Michigan.”

No new jobs will be created because Toyota will reassign about 30 workers from other areas to the new location and provide training as needed, though state officials said the expansion will allow the company to “explore new business opportunities” and other investments in Michigan. 

The company says the lab is expected to begin work in 2025 and could be expanded as more electric vehicles are made. 

The new “Driving Possibilities” initiative will also include the creation of an institute at Eastern Michigan University for both Ypsilanti and Lincoln Consolidated school districts, ultimately to help local high school students prepare for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Toyota has committed to supporting the project for at least five years. 

State officials said the new institute will build on ongoing efforts to grow public-private partnerships between public universities and colleges and the state’s largest employers.

The student-focused initiative also coincides with the recent launch of a statewide scholarship, the Michigander EV Scholars program, which offers as many as 350 Michigan students up to $10,000 each if they commit to working in Michigan for at least one year after graduation.   

“Critical investments in STEM education allow us to increase access to real-world science, technology, engineering, and math education our students need to prepare and excel in the high-demand, high-tech careers on the horizon,” Megan Schrauben, executive director of the MiSTEM Network, said in a statement. 

Since its creation in 2017, state officials said the MiSTEM Advisory Council has provided more than $3 million annually in state grants to support STEM partnerships that develop programming to increase student engagement and achievement, as well as new programs to expand access to work-related experiences and professional training. Assistance is still available for students.  

The Michigan Strategic Fund is supporting Toyota’s expansion with a $500,000 state grant, as well as a 12-year tax abatement valued at about $1.1 million. Those incentives were billed among the reasons that the company picked Michigan over a competing site in North Carolina.

“This is an exciting investment by Toyota to create a STEM institute and STEM-related career opportunities for Michigan students,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement. “Connecting business, K-12, higher education, parents, and the community is an ideal way to support students with vibrant career awareness, exploration, and development programs. We all have a stake in the future of Michigan and in current and future jobs for Michiganders.”

Toyota has operated in Michigan for 51 years and invested about $1.5 billion in the state to date, according to state officials. In addition to York Township, the company also has facilities in Ann Arbor Charter Township, Plymouth, and Livonia, and employs more than 2,000 Michiganders. 

In 2015, Toyota announced it was expanding its Ann Arbor facility, investing $75.15 million and creating 85 jobs. The expansion project required the company to construct a new facility at its York Township location, investing up to $32.5 million and creating another 250 jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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