Study shows Michigan economy could grow in defense industry

State fights to host missile defense system in Battle Creek

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - The state of Michigan's economy is slowly improving, but there appears to be a lot more room to grow, especially in the defense industry.

Local 4 business editor Rod Meloni met with the lieutenant governor who toured a defense corridor plant with the idea of growing the business.

The defense industry parallels the auto industry, so there's big money there if it's worked right. The state did a study and discovered it hasn't been doing the best job, so there's a drive afoot to fix that by growing the defense corridor.

The arsenal of democracy essentially won World War II for the United States, and Detroit prospered. Fast forward 70 years and Michigan still does well by the defense industry, but it could do better, according to a state study designed to protect and grow defense jobs.

Michigan hosts 4,000 companies, employing more than 100,000 workers in every county. Their average salary is more than $76,000 per year, totaling just under $10 billion per year.

The vast majority of everything a soldier shoots, drives, flies, wears, eats and communicates through has Michigan ties.

"I have the feeling it's the tip of the iceberg," Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said.

Calley visited Navistar Defense in Madison Heights Tuesday afternoon. Navistar Defense is where things like repair manuals are written and tested -- all 23 binders long -- for the MRAP military vehicles built to protect soldiers from IEDs.

Calley believes there's room for other businesses to get in on the action.

"We know they're more nimble, agile and innovative and creative in making exciting things happen they just need help getting to that point of having the competency of winning that type of business," Calley said.

Oakland County Development Director Irene Spanos agrees.

"We've got some of the best cybersecurity firms in the world located right here and these are both vertical industries on their own that can help both the automotive and the defense industry," Spanos said.

One of the biggest plums the state is fighting for is hosting a missile defense system to protect the eastern seaboard of the U.S. They hope to put it in Battle Creek, where the state has even given up a rarely used road as an incentive to win the bid. It's up against New York state.

Sign up for ClickOnDetroit Email Newsletters (click here) for more stories like this.

Copyright 2016 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.