What will it take to create a bright future for Michigan’s workforce and economy? According to experts, the state’s success lies in investments and improvements in the engineering and design industries. To better understand the investments that are needed, One Detroit’s Future of Work initiative takes a closer look at the Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Tech University, the only Michigan manufacturing product incubator that brings ideas to life, to hear how they’re investing in Michigan’s engineering and design industries.
According to its website, Centrepolis Accelerator is “on a mission to fuel the growth of Southeast Michigan’s small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs by providing access to key resources including mentors, workshops, cutting-edge technologies, corporate connections, student & faculty engagement, events, workspace, and a collaborative community of peers.
One Detroit producer Will Glover sits down with Centrepolis Accelerator Executive Director and Founder Dan Radomski to learn more about the accelerator’s impact on Michigan’s business environment and economy.
Will Glover, Host, One Detroit: Since we began our future of work town halls, we’ve heard that higher education and design are integral to Michigan having a strong economic future. Like when former Crain Senior Editor Chad Livengood said this.
Chad Livengood, Sr. Editor, Crain’s Detroit Business: Don’t go to college. You need more people to go become plumbers. We only need so many plumbers. There is a max on plumbers at some point in the economy. But right now, we cannot get enough people to write software code in this state right now.
Will Glover: Or when CEO of Tech Town Ned Staebler said this.
Ned Staebler, President & CEO, Tech Town: Instead of incentivizing production facilities that pay 15, 16, $17 an hour, we should be incentivizing Ford to build out the train station or Rivian, which was here but left because they couldn’t get the talent, because those are the type of jobs that are going to power our economy.
Ned Staebler: Those are the types of jobs that Minnesota and Virginia and Colorado are stealing from us. The production jobs, yeah, they’re going to Kentucky, but Kentucky is getting poorer, too. That’s not really working anymore.
Will Glover: Or when Vice President of Strategy and Communications at the College for Creative Studies, Olga Stella said this.
Olga Stella, Vice President, Strategy & Communications, College for Creative Studies: Where that we have the highest concentration of commercial industrial designers in the country. It is very much part of every industry in the region and in the state and there’s a long history here.
Will Glover: So I wanted to know how higher education and design turn into products that need to be made by the employees that fuel our economic success. Enter Centrepolis Accelerator, a company best explained by the man who runs it, Dan Radomski.
Dan Radomski, Executive Director, Centrepolis Accelerator: Centrepolis Accelerator, is located in Southfield, Michigan. It’s on the campus of Lawrence Tech University, funded by Lawrence Tech, the City of Southfield, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as many other organizations and foundations.
Our mission is, despite being here in Southfield, to support the entire state of Michigan and helping people develop physical products and get them made here in Michigan. This is an example of one of the products we brought to market. It’s a magnetic button that I was mentioning.
Will Glover: Tell me how you found this hole in the market that you guys are currently occupying and what makes simply creating a product and getting it to a shelf more complicated than it seems.
Dan Radomski: Yeah, I think it might seem odd to a lot of people with this being a manufacturing state that we didn’t have an incubator or accelerator program focused on developing physical products and manufacturing them here in Michigan.
Because that’s our bench strength, right? That’s what we’re really good at, not just manufacturing, but the product development process to prepare a product for manufacturing. We’re really the best in the world at it. I mean, I would compare Michigan and the Detroit area to any place in the world that is innovative… Germany, Japan and other areas in designing, engineering, testing and driving cost and complexity out of products and ensuring that they’re going to be durable and reliable. We’re really the best in the world at it.
Will Glover: And he would know because he’s been in this field most of his life.
Dan Radomski: What he did here is he actually created a clutch that when you pull on these gives 300 pounds of resistance which is amazing. Yeah, I was really born and raised in the manufacturing. I grew up as a machinist. I’ve been in manufacturing and product development my whole life. My last job in the private industry was running an international vehicle design engineering firm.
Will Glover: Tell us what the impact of Centrepolis has been because this is the only place that’s helping people with the nuts and bolts of how to manufacture a product and get it to market.
Dan Radomski: Yeah, so we’ve been in operations Centrepolis for five years now and the impact we’ve had has just been amazing. Every company that has come in here that has had an idea for a physical product that we’ve made an investment of time and money in has officially got their product to market. That’s almost unheard of even for software companies and very difficult to do with hardware, physical products. So we’ve launched been able to launch over three dozen businesses. We’ve had the opportunity to get 50 new physical products out to market.
And more importantly, is we help these people with their ideas, finally get a product to market that’s made in Michigan. It’s also having a trickle effect to those in the local supply chain. Many of those companies are not manufacturing themselves. We connect them to local suppliers. Our clients alone over the last five years have contracted 366 contracts to Michigan manufacturers, amounting to over $24 million. So the economic multiplier of our work is rather significant to the local manufacturing community.
Will Glover: In your opinion, what is it that Michigan needs, or what is it that what direction should we be headed in to reinvigorate the manufacturing that Michigan maybe once had in the past? What do we need to be doing to breathe life back into this sector of our economy?
Dan Radomski: So one thing I’ll say is one of the most valuable parts of our manufacturing value chain is the product design and engineering part of it. So you have to set that aside from the actual manufacturing of making things, the actual value of designing and engineering and testing and prototyping. We’re still the best in the world at that, and there’s literally thousands of firms here in Michigan that do that today. And largely what we’ve done is harness that power and that talent that’s already here.
Will Glover: What I’m hearing you say is that they might have the reputation on the coasts, but we’re backing up that reputation with our brainpower and ability when it comes to product design and manufacturing and that kind of thing.
Dan Radomski: Yeah. So as people learn, as investors learn and startups have learned about Centrepolis’ capabilities, they have been working with us and some have actually moved here. We’ve had about a dozen companies move from the Silicon Valley area to Michigan very specifically to work with Centrepolis to help them design and engineer and develop their products.
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