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From Site Selection magazine, May 2024

Michigan Is Putting Chips On the Table

by Gary Daughters

n the state that put the world on wheels, there is emerging a strategic symbiosis across industry, academia and government to fortify Michigan as No. 1 in the seismic transition of the automotive industry. Its components are semiconductors and electric vehicles (EVs). The point at which they meet is conveyed by the apt description of EVs as “chips on wheels.”

Each makes demands of the other, as the average EV is powered by up to 3,000 microchips.

And consumers are demanding more of both. It’s a complex calculus, one Michigan is on the way to cracking, both by having attracted billions of dollars’ worth of investments from semiconductor manufacturers and automakers alike, and by nurturing physical and talent infrastructures to propel the tandem industries into the future.

The semiconductor/EV convergence forms the basis for Michigan’s STAR initiative, which is establishing in Michigan a global center for Semiconductor Talent and Automotive Research (STAR). The public-private partnership, announced in 2023, is co-led by semiconductor company KLA and the Belgium-based technology innovation hub imec, with partners that include the University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College and General Motors. STAR will focus on developing the talent base and infrastructure necessary to accelerate advanced semiconductor applications for electrification and autonomous mobility.

KLA, a Fortune 500 global technology company, is among the many semiconductor and advanced electronics ventures that have chosen to go big in Michigan. Based in California’s Silicon Valley, KLA recently established a $200 million second headquarters in Ann Arbor, now home to its AI Center of Excellence, which employs machine learning to advance semiconductor manufacturing. Its 51,000-sq.-ft. clean room is one of Michigan’s largest.

“KLA is focused on investment in research and development to help address key challenges for automotive semiconductors,” said KLA President and CEO Rick Wallace.

“The STAR Michigan initiative accelerates our support for talent development, collaboration and innovation in the region.”

Major Chip Investments

Priming the Talent Pipeline

STAR builds upon an established and interconnected web of talent development programs Michigan has pioneered to meet the growing demands of the semiconductor and automotive industries.

At the center of the web is the Talent Action Team, launched in 2022 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and touted as the first public-private state talent coalition to specifically address the talent gap in the EV and semiconductor industries.

The Talent Action Team works across the public sector, industry partners and training institutions to identify semiconductor-specific curricula ranging from K-12 through Michigan’s four-year universities. In March 2024, the team’s efforts earned MEDC recognition as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in the Business Services category.

“We here in Michigan understand the landscape and the current labor market and the challenges it presents to employers,” says Kerry Ebersole Singh, MEDC’s chief talent solutions officer, who spearheads the Talent Action Team’s efforts. “We rolled up our sleeves and pulled together some of our strategic employers in the mobility and semiconductor industries and said, ‘What’s the best way we can help you to continue hitting your production timelines and, at the same time, to participate in a robust innovation sector?’ ”

A key component of that is The Michigander Scholars program, which is offering scholarships of up to $10,000 to tech students at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Kettering University and Michigan Technological University.

Recipients must commit to signing a letter of employment with a participating industry partner, the list of which includes such powerhouses as Bosch, Ford, DENSO, Mahle, LG Energy Solution, KLA, Hemlock Semiconductor, SK Siltron and Shape Corporation. Scholars must also commit to staying on the job for 12 months.

“Something we tell our employers,” says Ebersole Singh, “is that any guarantee they can offer, whether it’s a guaranteed internship, guaranteed interview or ultimately a guaranteed job, is going to be a powerful recruiting technique to get folks into these training modules and to ensure they’re getting their workforce needs met.

“We want to be supportive,” she says, “in understanding how to build out and broaden the pipeline with the skills that are going to feed the careers of the 21st century. This is what makes Michigan different. This is about a deep investment over time to ensure employers get what they need.”

A Utility Steps Up

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider, is another major player that has committed itself to the statewide effort to drive the EV/semiconductor convergence.

Sarah-Nielsen“Both are sources of load growth,” explains Sarah Nielsen, executive director of the utility’s Transportation-Renewables and Storage team. “Whether you’re building semiconductor facilities or you’re manufacturing EVs, you’re using huge amounts of energy. That’s fundamental to what the utility cares about and plays directly into our economic development strategy.”

With a legacy of serving some of the largest industrial customers in the nation, Consumers Energy is ready to serve EV/semiconductor companies and help cement Michigan as the nation’s leading EV industry destination.

Through accelerating investments in wind and solar power — with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2040 — the utility is helping Michigan’s large manufacturers meet their sustainability goals. And crucially, Consumers Energy has staked out a claim as a leading promoter of EV adoption, having launched one of the nation’s first incentive programs for home charging stations. Its $500 rebate to residential customers for the installation of overnight chargers, says Nielsen, can knock down the installation cost by around one-third. It offers even larger incentives for Level 2 chargers in public places and fast chargers along highways and other major travel routes. 

Easing “range anxiety” among drivers and helping them navigate their way through EV ownership “are just what the market needs right now,” Nielsen says. For consumers, “it’s a decent amount of change and there’s technology involved. But what we’ve found is that once people get in these cars and start driving, there’s no going back.”  

This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Consumers Energy.
For more information, contact Valerie Christofferson at 616-648-2777 or at valerie. On the web, go to




Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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