It’s no secret that Michigan has a problem retaining the people who are educated here. U.S. Senator Gary Peters sat down with us to discuss the talent exodus in the state and what’s being done in Washington to reverse that flow.

When we visited Chicago last month, it seemed that about 1 out of every 5 or so people we met were from Detroit. It’s a great world class city with tons to do, but there’s also great jobs and a robust economy that make the draw to move there very strong. The question is not whether Michigan can educate people, but whether we can harness the talent and create robust industries in the state that draw people here for this type of talent.

“From an educational standpoint, we are educating some outstanding young people, but, unfortunately, they often go somewhere else to raise their family and to pursue their career. My goal is to make sure that we are creating the kind of innovative cutting edge jobs that attract folks who want to have that kind of work environment in either in the scientific, engineering, but also entrepreneurs,” said Peters.

Peters is pushing for advanced auto manufacturing comes back to Michigan, the place where it all began. Pretty soon cars are going to be driving themselves, and this involves building a new type of car that requires heavy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) skills. Fortunately, Michigan has the community to support this and Peters is proud of the fact that there are more engineers per capita in Greater Detroit than anywhere in the country. However, there needs to be a critical mass of young talent to make it viable for the future.

“What we are really great at in Detroit is making the main components of an automobile, the torque and the horsepower,” said Peters.

However, in order to support manufacturing the advanced technology that these new cars will require in coming years, Michigan will need to cultivate and reinforce the talent infrastructure to support the shift. It requires cooperation and collaboration between big corporations, universities, and entrepreneurs. There’s also the job of getting the word out about the fact that Michigan is ripe to be a hub for this industry.

“I want to make sure it’s happening in Michigan, not in California. I don’t want Silicon Valley to say, ‘You guys do the horse and torque power. We’ll do the computer stuff’” said Peters. “[If] we have those jobs there then we’re a magnet for people that say, “I don’t want to go to Silicon Valley because the action’s happening in Detroit.”

While vehicles that can ‘talk’ to each other and the roads are coming in a matter of a few years, Peters explained that he’s talked to engineers about driverless cars that will be able to go down the highway at 180 miles per hour using cutting-edge propulsion systems. He pointed out that GM recently announced that they are planning to release 2017 Cadillac that can drive itself down the highway.

“It’s going to be able to look at the lanes, and you’ll put on cruise control and driving on the highway. It won’t be able to take you through the city streets. That’s a lot more complicated.”

Beyond just getting around faster and more efficiently, there is a huge upside to this technology.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that in the short-run, in a matter of just a few years, we can eliminate up to 80% of all car accidents. That’s a big deal, when over 30,000 people die on our highways each year.”

That’s a lot of lives, but also time and money saved across various industries, that can be used in more forward thinking areas.

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