Based in Perth, Australia, Fortescue is the 4th largest iron ore mining company in the world with a market cap of $89 billion and a 2023 net profit of $5.5 billion. In addition to its numerous mining operations, Fortescue owns and operates its own shipping fleet, railway, and an armada of mining and heavy equipment. In 2020, Fortescue founder and executive chairman, Andrew Forrest, made a bold commitment announcing a $6.2 billion decarbonization plan with the goal for their operation to be “real zero terrestrial emissions” by 2030 but also to grow into one of the global leaders in the elimination of emissions from heavy industry.
Since making this proclamation, Fortescue has moved aggressively, hiring hundreds of global experts to realize their cleantech vision and deploying hundreds of millions for strategic acquisitions, investments, and technology demonstrations. A few examples include Fortescue’s $232 million acquisition of the UK’s William Advanced Engineering (WAE), $24 million to acquire 100% of a stake in the Phoenix Hydrogen Hub, and a partnership with Liebherr to develop and deploy a 240-tonne electric mining haul truck.
Michigan was first introduced to Fortescue in 2022, when Ann Arbor competed for the firm’s U.S. Technology Hub which ultimately landed in Boulder, Colorado. In December 2023, Michigan once again had the opportunity to compete for another project, Fortescue’s U.S. Manufacturing Hub, which was driven in part by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
A team of economic development professionals from the Detroit Regional Partnership (DRP), Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), DTE Energy, and numerous local agencies aligned to help the company explore various options across the state and Detroit Region. By May 2023, the company had firmly aligned around the opportunity to locate its operation in the city of Detroit and began an intensive exploration of 601 Piquette in the city’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood.
By May 2023, the company had firmly aligned around the opportunity to locate its operation in the city of Detroit and began an intensive exploration of 601 Piquette in the city’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood. An approximately 515,000 square foot building that was the previous home to a GM Truck and Bus production facility, 601 Piquette had already undergone extensive renovations to thanks to owner and prominent Detroit developer Christos Moisides and his team at 400 Monroe Associates. This ongoing rehabilitation proved critical in providing a speed-to-market pathway for Fortescue to activate the facility, and fully restore the site to its former historic and industrial prominence.
Fortescue’s Advanced Manufacturing Center will breathe fresh life into the birthplace of the automotive industry. We are committed to investing in the next generation of green manufacturing projects that will help decarbonise business and heavy industry, and in turn create a strong future for manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Fortescue Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson.
In the run-up to the January 2024 announcement, the DRP served as point on seven leadership visits from Fortescue, each time inching the project forward as we helped convince decision-makers that Detroit and Michigan were the right locations for their first U.S. manufacturing operation. The last visit came in October 2023, and included Fortescue’s deputy chairman of the board, Mark Barnaba. During this multi-month process, an impactful group of regional leaders and ambassadors helped to articulate the region’s business case including the DEGC, MEDC, DTE Energy, the counties of Macomb, St. Clair, and Wayne, MICHauto, Michigan Central, the Office of Future Mobility & Electrification (OFME), Henry Ford Health, Bedrock, and others. In total, USA Fortescue evaluated 99 competing sites in 12 states before ultimately choosing Detroit.
At January’s project announcement, the company’s leadership commented “Detroit is an extremely attractive place to manufacture, given the skilled workforce, existing EV and clean energy supply chains, and strong support from state and local government,” said Fortescue WAE CEO Judith Judson. “Fortescue is committed to being a valued government and community partner at our new home in Detroit.”
Fortescue’s first U.S. Advanced Manufacturing Center will help solidify the city and region as a leader in clean technology but also give a major boost to the redevelopment of the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood, which is the birthplace of the Ford Model T and was the Silicon Valley of its day, serving as the epicenter for dozens of advancements in our nation’s automotive heritage.
“Fortescue’s Advanced Manufacturing Center will breathe fresh life into the birthplace of the automotive industry,” said Fortescue Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson. “We are committed to investing in the next generation of green manufacturing projects that will help decarbonise business and heavy industry, and in turn create a strong future for manufacturing jobs in the United States.”
USA Fortescue’s U.S. Advanced Manufacturing hub will manufacture EV battery systems. The first battery line is anticipated to be installed during the first half of 2025 and will initially support the heavy equipment sector. Future investment could expand capabilities to include the production of batteries for the automotive sector, as well as hydrogen generators, fast chargers, and electrolyzers.
Fortescue joins several other key corporations who have made recent and sizable investments in Milwaukee Junction and the adjacent New Center neighborhood, including Henry Ford Health, who has announced a $2.5 billion transformational development plan alongside the Detroit Pistons and Michigan State University, and the planned conversion of the long-blighted Fisher Body 21 plant into loft apartments by Detroit developer Richard Hosey.