Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spent the last week in Japan meeting with business leaders and trying to lure supply chain investments into Michigan. And she came back with an eight-figure deal to prep Battle Creek for an electric future.
MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has returned from a one-week trip to Japan, where she focused on bringing jobs, investments, and high-tech supply chains back from overseas.
Among the shiniest souvenirs that she brought back from the trip this week: A $63 million investment from the global automotive parts supplier DENSO, which plans to retool its production lines in Battle Creek to make more components for electric vehicles.
“This investment mission has given us the opportunity to connect with leadership at companies like DENSO and tell Michigan’s story,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Together, we are bringing critical supply chains and investments back home, proving that anyone can ‘make it’ in Michigan. … Michigan will remain a global leader in the future of mobility and electrification.”
DENSO already employs more than 2,100 people at its thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek—making it the city’s largest employer. State officials said another 1,400 Michiganders also work for the company statewide, including at its North American headquarters in Southfield.
Whitmer said the company’s plans to invest another $63 million in Battle Creek underscores its commitment to stay put in Michigan—even during a historic shift within the automotive industry. She announced the latest investment alongside company and state leaders last week in Japan.
“Michigan has a powerful story to tell as we compete to bring jobs and investment home,” she said in a statement. “Our state is full of potential, from our hardworking people and our vibrant cities and towns to our entrepreneurial spirit and culture of innovation. Let’s unleash that potential so we can keep growing our economy and help anyone make it right here in Michigan.”
DENSO also recently partnered with the state to develop a workforce development program designed to offer EV-related manufacturing training to those already in the workforce, and committed to working with state officials to increase access to affordable child care and housing.
“The investment will help our team build upon our rich legacy in the state and propel us toward a greener, safer future,” DENSO Senior Vice President Andy Clemence said in a statement.
Whitmer’s trip marked the first time Michigan’s governor had visited Japan since 2017. She also met with government officials and leaders at several other major robotics companies, automotive parts suppliers, and automakers—including Toyota President and CEO Koji Sato.
State officials said Japanese businesses have invested more than $1.8 billion (and created more than 5,300 jobs) in Michigan over the last 10 years. All told, Michigan is home to 456 Japanese facilities that support about 40,000 jobs statewide, according to state data.
Earlier this summer, Whitmer also traveled to Norway and Switzerland to secure a $400 million investment from Nel Hydrogen, which plans to create more than 500 jobs in Michigan. During a recent trip to France and Germany, Whitmer also locked down a deal with Expleo USA for a new research and development facility, which is expected to create 200 new jobs in Michigan.
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