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Why ADP Digital Marketing became GM's neighbor in Detroit

David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.

ADP Dealer Services Inc. is looking for goodwill and good designers (not necessarily in that order) in deciding to open a digital marketing innovation office in downtown Detroit. The company is the largest provider of dealer management systems in the country.

Its business unit, ADP Digital Marketing, has chosen the office complex housing General Motors' headquarters over Seattle and suburban Chicago for a 150-employee center to develop and support Web products for the automakers and their franchise dealers.

Why Detroit and why the Renaissance Center?

John Holt, senior vice president of ADP Digital Marketing (umbrella for Cobalt and Dealix), said Detroit offers designers and technicians "with automotive DNA" available for hire; those workers are in short supply in the unit's home city of Seattle.

The state of Michigan also is greasing the deal with a $1.5 million Michigan Business Development performance-based grant.

But being next to GM was a natural. ADP Digital Marketing is the Web site vendor for GM and all its dealers in addition to providing a host of digital advertising and search-engine consulting for numerous other brands and dealers across the country.

Holt said he hoped that ADP "would win some points" for participating in the revitalization of Detroit, the epicenter of the domestic auto industry.

With 900 of the unit's 1,200 employees in Seattle, the company needed an outpost away from competition for talent from the likes of Microsoft and Google, Holt said. ADP is already hiring in Detroit.

If Detroit benefits reciprocally, all the better, he said.

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com -- Follow David on Twitter: @barkholzatan

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