TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian province of Ontario to increase the region’s competitiveness in the automotive industry.
The agreement is designed to create best practices, cohesive public policy, increased supply chain integration and technology transfer agreements, the state said in a press release.
It’s unknown whether any public funding will be used to support the agreement.
Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne signed the agreement here at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.
Ontario and Michigan account for more than 26 percent of vehicle production in the Great Lakes region. Trade between the two regions in 2015 totaled $74 billion, the state said.
"Collaborating to improve the auto sector is a great use of resources that will lead to continued growth and job creation in both economies," Snyder said in a statement.
“Sharing best practices and integrating our supply chains will advance Michigan’s and Ontario’s positions as leaders in the auto industry. This partnership will improve Michigan’s work on skilled trades and workforce development efforts, as well as promote our focus on autonomous vehicles and mobility technologies throughout North America.”
The premier said her province and Michigan had a choice.
"We could continue to try to foster that competition between each other," she said, "or we could team up and take on our real competition, which is the rest of the world. That's the option that we are choosing."
She pushed back on the notion that Ontario and Michigan are competitors in auto manufacturing.
"We know that Ontario and Michigan have much more to offer and much more to gain as partners than we do as competitors."
She said Michigan and Ontario cannot afford to assume that past success in auto manufacturing means that success will sustain itself moving forward.
"The reality is that we have to adapt. The auto sector is changing. We understand that, so we have to change our behaviors and find ways of partnering in those natural relationships that are going to lead to mutual success.”
The announcement comes amid labor talks between Canada’s largest private union Unifor and the Detroit 3 automakers. The result of those negotiations could ultimately define how much auto production remains in Ontario. The current labor agreement expires Sept. 19.
Wynne said Ontario and Michigan must find a niche in the marketplace in order to attract new auto investment in the region, pointing to an “educated workforce” as an example.
"What we want to do is make sure that companies understand and experience what an attractive region this is,” she said.
Dustin Walsh is a reporter for Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.