DETROIT -- Shortly after Jim Hackett was named Ford Motor Co. CEO in May 2017, he scuttled plans formed by prior leadership for a 10-year transformation of the company's Dearborn campus.
Hackett said he liked much of the project -- which called for new parking decks, a cylindrical sustainability showcase building and major upgrades to its world headquarters -- but wanted to use his expertise running furniture maker Steelcase to take the plans further. It eventually included the establishment of a Detroit campus for its autonomous vehicle teams anchored with the purchase of the long-blighted Michigan Central Station, which Executive Chairman Bill Ford first envisioned late last year.
"I wasn't a car guy, but I knew the nature of office and work and the way the future of information was changing that, and I felt we could push the edges of that," Hackett told reporters Tuesday as Ford celebrated the purchase of the Detroit train station. "Space actually makes the transformation of a company faster than any single thing. People come to work and are inspired by the new ideas."
Hackett didn't describe the exact changes he made to the plan, although he said the design "is going to be much healthier."
He said the company had flexibility to stagger various construction projects in case there was an economic downturn.
He spoke of the need to focus on collaborative work areas and "support spaces" such as cafeterias and gyms.
"Because people are mobile with their phones and computers, you don't need all the dedicated real estate that's their home," he said. "Team spaces have to be built out so they won't want anything and can really work intelligently. It's a different space algorithm than had been planned."
According to Ford's media site, the Dearborn project is split into two phases: The first focuses on parking decks and infrastructure, as well as a new design studio, a sustainability showcase building and green areas. A second phase includes major renovations of the Ford World Headquarters complex, including Ford Motor Credit Co.
In Detroit, Ford is planning to house 2,500 Ford employees -- along with room for 2,500 employees from other companies -- for its autonomous vehicle development centered around the train station.
"In a way, it's a revered place for its role in history," Hackett said. "That's not a reason business people make an investment. But, boy, when you do things with purpose, it's a lot easier to get excited."