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Ford and Google announce Michigan Central mobility district

PHOTOS: Ford's Train Station Celebration
Posted at 6:09 AM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 18:17:00-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — We're getting a better look at what Ford is planning for the future of the Michigan Central Depot once their reconstruction work is done and it involves Google.

The two companies are teaming up as Founding Members to form Michigan Central, a new mobility district. Michigan Central is also launching a public-private partnership with the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit. The formal announcement will be made during a news conference Friday at 10:30 a.m.

The state is pledging to align $126 million in new and existing programming and resources to support the goals of the district. The state's investment is to help guarantee the community shares in the district's success 'through new standards for housing and engagement, and that other economic goals become reality."

“Ford is an American icon that has left its mark on Michigan – and the world – for more than 100 years, and we are proud to partner with Ford and other founding members at Michigan Central to shape the next century of transportation solutions while reducing emissions and accelerating electrification,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a news release. “By embracing a whole-of-government approach in our collaboration with Michigan Central and the city of Detroit, we are writing the playbook for a new kind of partnership that keeps Michigan at the forefront of mobility for generations to come. Together, we can continue growing Michigan’s economy, putting Michiganders first, and win the next century of auto manufacturing and technology development.”

The idea behind Michigan Central is to encourage innovation in mobility, and train and educate "people in Detroit for the high-tech jobs of the future and collaborating to solve mobility problems challenging communities."

“Only a few short years ago, I announced Ford’s investment in Detroit because I believed in a vision that reimagined the iconic Michigan Central train station and surrounding area as a place of possibility again,” said Bill Ford, executive chair, Ford Motor Company in a news release. “Today’s announcements reflect our commitment to that vision, attracting the best and the brightest to come together to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. The arrival of Google as a founding partner is exactly the kind of investment and progress I knew was possible to revitalize our hometown. And I could not be more pleased that the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan are also joining us in this ambitious effort. I know it is only the beginning of what we can achieve together.”

For their part in the initiative, Google will provide cloud technology for Michigan Central’s mobility projects. They will also offer workforce development training to local high school students and job seekers.

As part of their commitment, Google will open a new Code Lab Next to teach high schoolers computer science. They will also partner with local non-profits, including M.A.D.E. Institute, Dress for Success Michigan, and Streetwise Partners, to offer its Google Career Certificate program, which provide skills and experience for in-demand jobs that do not require degrees. Ford is also joining in the program, which will see them consider graduates for relevant jobs and give employees access to the certificate program to enable them to train for roles in the Michigan Central initiative.

In a news release, Ruth Porat, senior vice president and CFO of Google and Alphabet, said, “We’re proud to join Ford as a Founding Member at Michigan Central. This partnership will expand our work in Michigan and help a substantial number of people gain the skills and tools they need to succeed. By offering digital skills training, mentoring to high schoolers learning to code, and Google Cloud technology for Michigan Central projects and research on the future of mobility, we look forward to contributing to Michigan Central’s mission and all it will accomplish.”

The city of Detroit will designate a Transportation Innovation Zone inside the district where companies from corporations to startups can access improved and expedited review and approval processes to more effectively pilot new technologies in a safe, real-world environment. This first-of-its-kind testing site in the Midwest will accelerate the number of new technology deployments in the district.

“Just a few years ago, this train station was our city’s international symbol of abandonment,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a news release. “Now, it’s the symbol of our city’s resurgence and soon will anchor this new innovation district, developed by Ford, where innovators from around the world will create the future of mobility. For more than a century, Detroit has been the leader in automotive innovation and today marks a major step forward in keeping Detroit at the forefront of mobility innovation for the next century.”

Work continues on the redevelopment of the complex Ford is centering on the old Michigan Central Depot train station. The first building in the complex is set to open later this year, with the train station itself expected to be completed in early 2023.