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Michigan's Biotech, Energy, and High-Tech Sectors Growing Well

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Apr/May 08)
"We had a pretty solid year in economic development," says Jeff Mason, senior vice president and chief of the business development office at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. "Although there has been some constriction on the automotive sector, many segments are still growing well, especially on the R&D side." He notes that the state now houses 330 R&D engineering and technology centers, employing 65,000 people, topping $10 billion in expenditures annually. He adds, "We are still the intellectual capital of the automobile industry, and we are proud of that fact."

In the healthcare sector, an area of Grand Rapids is so booming with health-related developments that it has gained the monikers "Pill Hill," "Health Hill," and the "Medical Mile." Michigan State University in Lansing is moving its College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids by 2010 to be closer to more healthcare providers, researchers, and potential financial donors. In addition, the Van Andel Research Institute, a biomedical research organization, is adding a $178 million, 240,000-square-foot addition. Other projects in the area include a children's hospital, cancer treatment center, medical office building, and research laboratory.

Other key industries include cellulosic biofuels, solar and wind energy, and advanced energy storage. Legislation is now in progress to encourage wind energy projects. Michigan's wind power potential wafts along the shoreline in the state's windy northwest region. In energy-related projects, Hemlock Semiconductor, producer of a component of photovoltaic cells used to produce solar energy and various electronic devices for the semiconductor industry, has embarked on a $1.2 billion expansion of its polycrystalline silicon manufacturing operations in Thomas Township that is expected to create 375 new jobs. Auburn Hills-based United Solar Ovonic LLC, plans to build a new, high-tech Ovonic solar cell manufacturing facility in Greenville, creating up to 200 direct jobs within the next five years.

Governor Jennifer Granholm has proposed a requirement for all retail energy suppliers to garner 10 percent of their energy supplies from renewable resources by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. She has also has proposed the creation of four Centers of Excellence in alternative energy fields to bring companies and universities together to create new products, jobs and tax incentives that encourage alternative energy suppliers to explore Michigan.

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