The Detroit Region is a place that truly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship. Every day, we work hard, drive innovation, and overcome obstacles to achieve success. Because with big challenges come big opportunities!
That’s what drew me back to the Detroit Region in 2020. I actually grew up here in Warren, and my economic development career began in the early days of our comeback. At the time, the Detroit Region still faced many economic obstacles, but our residents were determined to build back stronger than before.
Now, a decade later, I’m still amazed at the acceleration of that comeback. In less than ten years, our city has fully recovered and become one of the top global business hubs in the United States.
That resilience gives companies the confidence to invest in our region. Because every city can fall on hard times–what separates success from failure is the ability to bounce back.
From our skilled talent to our collaborative industry ecosystem, we have the resources in place to support our businesses and steadily grow our economy. However, the Detroit Region still faces many misperceptions despite our success. People just don’t understand why companies choose the Detroit Region instead of Los Angeles, NYC, or even Chicago.
As the CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership, I see firsthand how multinational companies approach site selection–and why the Detroit Region consistently ranks as a top destination for global businesses.
Of course, every business has unique needs, but in my experience, these are the six core reasons that companies choose the Detroit Region over other major metros.
1. Talent that Engineers and Builds
Everyone knows our reputation as the legendary Motor City. For over a century, the Detroit Region has remained the densest automotive cluster in the nation, and that’s largely thanks to our skilled engineering talent.
But what’s unique about the Detroit Region is that we support the whole production cycle–from design and engineering to manufacturing and logistics.
After all, when you think about how cars are made, you need tech talent and engineers as much as you need assemblers and manufacturers. These days, there’s a computer’s worth of technology in every automobile, and manufacturing uses cutting-edge robotics alongside traditional techniques.
That’s why we’re both the #1 U.S. Metro for assembler and production jobs and the #2 U.S. Metro for the highest concentration of engineering talent–second only to Silicon Valley.
The Detroit Region brings together all of those components in one place, so they’re naturally interacting and collaborating to create the best possible product. Engineers can easily see the manufacturing process for themselves, while manufacturers benefit from our tech talent pipeline.
No matter the industry, companies value that collaboration because it makes their work more efficient, more affordable, and more innovative. And here in the Detroit Region, that innovation is in our DNA.
2. A North American Gateway to Global Connectivity
Here in the Detroit Region, one of our greatest strengths is the international nature of our industries. When you grow up here, you almost take for granted that we’re right on the Canadian border. But that border sees more freight traffic than any other border in the world!
We’re also home to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport–a world-leading transportation hub right in the heart of the region. With 140 non-stop routes to 4 continents, our airport directly connects millions of passengers with opportunities around the globe.
This strategic location offers a competitive advantage for international companies, which is why more than 38 countries operate in the region. Our Top 20 countries alone account for more than 1,300 foreign-owned business facilities!
But these businesses don’t just impact our industries. They become part of our culture.
We have companies from all over the world–each with their own unique ideas and traditions. They took root here in the Detroit Region, and we embraced their cultures in turn.
Now, the Detroit Region is the Most Culturally Diverse region in the Midwest. We have the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East, a strong Japanese community, and public English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.
When my children were younger, they attended our local ESL school–and each year, they had kids from five or six different countries in their class!
This multicultural environment is a great comfort for companies that want to be global players. Whether they want to export their products or attract global talent, international businesses trust that the Detroit Region is the ideal place to enter the North American market. Because we connect them with the world.
3. Top Three in Design
One of our region’s best kept secrets is our world-class design industry. People are always surprised to learn that we’re the 3rd Largest Design Hub in the United States–only behind Los Angeles and New York City. But we’re also the first and only U.S. city designated as a UNESCO City of Design.
In fact, the Detroit Region has the most commercial and industrial designers in the nation!
Our talent pipeline is anchored by world-renowned schools like the College for Creative Studies and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. These top ranked institutions often partner with local companies to prepare students for their future careers.
After all, designers don’t just create art. They work alongside engineers to design everything from computers to cars. Our design expertise goes hand-in-hand with our other industries because companies understand that a successful product blends function and style.
That same design mindset is reflected in our region’s architecture. Unlike many cities, we didn’t tear down our old buildings and replace them with mundane, boxy structures. Instead, we took measures to preserve the Detroit Region’s unique style.
Walking through Detroit, you’ll see countless buildings in iconic architectural styles, ranging from Art Deco skyscrapers to Beaux-Arts landmarks. And as superficial as it sounds, that design matters.
People are drawn to beauty, so it’s no surprise that our real estate attracts both tourists and companies from around the world.
4. Next Generation Mobility Starts Here
Right now, the automotive industry is at a crossroads. Connected and autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the mobility landscape. Major OEMs are transitioning to hybrid and electric vehicle models, and no one knows what the future of the industry may look like.
But one thing’s for sure: the Detroit Region is uniquely equipped to lead the way forward.
Altogether, our region is home to 26 OEMs and 96 of the Top 100 Automotive Suppliers in North America. All down the supply chain, these companies are already investing billions of dollars in next generation auto–from AV testing to EV assembly.
In 2021, General Motors opened GM Factory ZERO, their first fully dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. Meanwhile, Stellantis recently built an entirely new production facility in Detroit, and Ford announced the construction of the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn.
In short: our companies know what they need to do to stay competitive, and the Detroit Region has the resources to support them.
After all, Michigan is currently the #1 State for Automotive R&D, with $15.8 billion in annual investment. Local companies can easily test their products at places like the American Center for Mobility, while our educational institutions help retrain our workforce for new mobility technologies.
This collaborative ecosystem ensures that we won’t just survive the transition to next generation mobility. Together, the Detroit Region will define the future of the automotive industry!
5. An Exceptional Education Ecosystem
Speaking of resources, the Detroit Region offers a robust talent pipeline to support our businesses–with hundreds of post-secondary institutions within a five-hour radius.
For starters, our region has one of the top academic research clusters in the nation: the University Research Corridor (URC). Together, our three leading universities–the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Michigan State University–produce thousands of talented graduates each year.
In fact, Times Higher Education ranked the University of Michigan as the #1 Best Public University in the United States for two years in a row!
But skilled talent doesn’t just come from our big schools. The Detroit Region is home to 34 colleges and universities, including excellent institutions like Oakland University, Kettering University, and Lawrence Tech. We also have a strong community college network that educates over 120,000 students annually.
All of these schools help fuel our talent pipeline, but the secret to our success lies in collaboration. Our education ecosystem is integrated with our businesses, which leads to greater success for the entire region.
Unlike many places, the Detroit Region has intentionally fostered relationships between our schools and our companies, so talent seamlessly transitions from the classroom to the workforce.
Our educational institutions work with local companies to develop customized training programs and research partnerships. And that collaboration isn’t new to us. These relationships have been in place for years, and now, they’re embedded in our culture. So, when companies come to the Detroit Region, they know they can find the talent they need to succeed.
6. Great Lakes. Great Living. Great Options.
When people use the term quality of life, they’re really talking about a variety of factors–things like the environment, nearby amenities, and the local culture. But the first thing people think about is usually cost of living.
When you live in an affordable place, your money lasts longer and goes farther, which is why so many people are migrating to the Midwest. Companies and employees alike understand that our location lets them accomplish more while they spend less.
That’s one of the great things about the Detroit Region. Our cost of living is significantly lower than other major metros, so you get all the big-city amenities without the big-city cost.
When the auto industry first started, it was a very wealthy industry, and our predecessors invested that money back into the Detroit Region. They built museums, parks, and sports stadiums–and all of those assets help make our home a great place to live.
Today, the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the top museums in the country. We have the second biggest theater district in the U.S. and more public golf courses than any other state. And across the region, we have 2,600 parks for you to explore all year long.
Not everyone loves a four-season climate, but we embrace it here. The Detroit Region is right on the Great Lakes, so you’re never more than six miles from a body of water. Our beautiful beaches are perfect for boating in the summer. And then, when the weather grows cold, Michiganders bundle up and hit the slopes for some skiing.
But for me, one of my favorite things about living in the Detroit Region is that every community is an experience! About 30 years ago, Michigan started deliberately investing in local Main Streets, building up our small towns into amazing destinations. Now, people don’t have to travel into the city to find something to do. You can find fun, charming activities just about everywhere you go!
The Detroit Region is built for leaders and innovators.
Altogether, these six reasons tell a story of progress through resilience. From our high quality of life to our collaborative business community, we leverage our strengths to bring new opportunities and prosperity to the region.
After all, the Detroit Region has an inspiring story, but we didn’t get here by accident. Our people worked hard to build a successful community and create a place we’re proud to call home.
For all of our advantages, it’s that passion and resilience that makes people fall in love with the Detroit Region. We attract leaders, creators, and innovators from all across the globe because they know our culture will support their entrepreneurship.
And at the Detroit Regional Partnership, it’s our job to share that story with the world.
We serve as ambassadors to global companies and site selectors, helping them understand and access everything our region has to offer. We connect them with our community and support their transition. And together, we show the world how our mindset makes a difference.
About the Author
Maureen Donohue Krauss
President & CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership
Maureen Donohue Krauss is President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership (DRP), a leading economic development nonprofit serving the 11-county Detroit Region. The organization serves as the single point of contact for business, marketing the region to out-of-state and international companies to attract investments and jobs.
Krauss is an accomplished economic development officer with more than 30 years of leadership in economic development, non-profit and government. She has extensive experience in guiding international companies to successful location decisions and growth in the U.S. and has participated in more than 60 trade missions over the past 18 years.
Previously, Krauss served as vice president of economic development and business attraction at the Detroit Regional Chamber and was responsible for strategy, operations, and projects for its business attraction program. She also worked for the Oakland County Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs, an award-winning county agency where she led a team of over 100 staff, often traveling overseas on business attraction missions.