On Tuesday, April 25, a major milestone for the city, the country, and the world took place at 2050 15th Street that will cement Detroit’s legacy as the home of innovation, establish the city as the frontrunner in the future of mobility and bring global companies, concepts and thousands of new jobs to Michigan.
Michigan Central, the new 30-acre center advancing mobility-focused technologies launched with the official grand opening of Newlab Detroit’s headquarters in the restored Book Depository building. This represents the creation of a world-class open platform to accelerate the development of breakthrough solutions at the intersection of mobility and society.
Detroitisit was among those invited to the launch celebration which opened with Michigan Central CEO Joshua Sirefman saying,
We celebrate the power of vision and the power of execution because the impact of the work that will be done here is going to be profound, and there is no one in the world who understands how to cultivate the future than David Belt and New Lab.
Newlab will create a center of gravity for startups, entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists to build companies in Detroit. Building on its success in Brooklyn, Newlab is scaling its model of applied innovation to create the conditions for a sustainable high-tech startup ecosystem to take hold in the region.
About developing in the city of Detroit at the Michigan Central campus, David Belt, Co-Founder and CEO of Newlab told Detroitisit, “There is a specialness in Detroit that can’t be matched and I was compelled to come here. This is a place where start-ups can work hand-in-hand with OEMs. This is where the automotive industry started and thrives.”
He went on to say in a curated conversation with Sirefman, “There is an ethos in Detroit when it comes to tech and when it comes to dealing with issues where tech is failing. We can implement real-world scenarios where society intersects with mobility and make valuable tech changes right away.”
It was Bill Ford who conceived of Michigan Central as the home of trailblazing innovation in mobility in Detroit. The campus is intended to be both a convening place and a call to action to advance a more sustainable, equitable future through a community-based approach to mobility solutions.
Regarding this Ford said,
In 2009 I started a venture capital company to invest in mobility when people didn’t really know what mobility meant. We worked to invent the mobility space, but none of this was happening in Detroit. Leading the next century of how people will move and live and access things just had to happen in Detroit.
Mayor Duggan weighed in remembering a conversation between himself and Ford that took place in Dearborn during which he asked Ford about his vision. “Bill said he wanted to go up against the Silicon Valley when it comes to mobility and he had a dream to develop a campus around this. Three months later I got a call from him saying he found the site – and that was the old train station. That was a transformational moment for Detroit.”
Natalie King, CEO of Dunamis Charge, Detroit native and one of the first companies to be housed in the Newlab space told DII, “As a life-long Detroiter I’m excited to see the beginning of an era emerging. The robust opportunity for collaboration here and the intentional approach to the work will result in how we move and live in a sustainable and inclusive and equitable way.”
Among the industry-leading startups already based at Newlab are Airspace Link, Cavnue, Grounded, Wheel.me, and JustAir. Already Newlab has attracted more than 150 members from more than 25 companies. Half of the companies are from the Detroit area, and the rest have come to Detroit from around the country, and the world.
About the importance of bringing talent and companies to Michigan, Lt. Governor Garland Gilchrist II said, “In my role, the number one priority is to create conditions for people to succeed here in Michigan. It’s ideas that drive the world forward toward success and we have the potential with Michigan Central and Newlab now to make Michigan the best place to have a great idea.”
Ford went on to say, “Any company is only as good as its people and we are in a war for talent. Talent can go anywhere so we have to make it worthwhile to come here. We had to create the kind of workspace people love to be in. Five years ago, we set out to create a place that would accelerate Detroit and our region’s role in solving the most pressing mobility challenges and change people’s lives for the better. With the opening of Newlab that vision is becoming a reality. We see an opportunity to bring new companies and jobs to Michigan, while also attracting the best and the brightest talent for our industry.”
Michigan Central also is committed to helping more Detroit residents and others gain the skills they need to join the mobility workforce through Michigan Central’s Skills at the Seams program. Entry-, medium- and high-skill levels can learn through traditional classroom-style courses, internships and fellowships, apprenticeships, and other experiential learning opportunities.
Newlab at Michigan Central is essential to making Detroit the leading hub of global mobility innovation and is a key platform for economic development in Michigan,
said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We are proud to bring key partners together to create good-paying jobs, revitalize Corktown, and create unparalleled opportunities in Detroit as we bring historic buildings back to life.”
Originally built as a post office and mail-sorting facility, the art deco Book Depository designed by Albert Kahn was also used as the Detroit Public Schools’ Book Depository and sat vacant for several years. Now Michigan Central has collaborated with Newlab to reimagine the building as a 270,000-square-foot dynamic workplace with purpose-built labs to advance innovation.
Said Sirefman, “This is a building that stood empty and hollow for 45 years but will now be home to an incredible next generation.”
Newlab is dedicated to turning world-changing ideas into real-world solutions and we are honored to be partnering with Michigan Central, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan to help cement Detroit’s position as the leader in mobility and drive transformative, innovation-led economic development.
In closing, Duggan said, “Detroit has long been the center of American innovation, and the launch of Newlab at Michigan Central builds upon that tradition. Detroit is moving back to the center of the future of the automotive industry.”
As always, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on all things Detroit.