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Michigan Business Beat | Mackinac Policy Conference 2024 - Quentin L. Messer, Jr. - #MPC24

Michigan Business Beat
June 13, 2024 8:00 AM


The Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

Chris Holman speaks with Quentin L. Messer, Jr. CEO, President and Chair - Michigan Strategic Fund. MEDC the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, from Media Row, at the Grand Hotel, while at the 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Watch Quentin and Chris discuss his organization, recent activity and what they are experiencing in 2024, along with what he expected out of the #MPC24, - click play on the YouTube video below.

Wayne, Oakland, Macomb Commit to Expand Project DIAMOnD and Calls for Statewide Expansion of “Infrastructure for Innovation”

Counties will scale up Automation Alley's unprecedented network of 3D printers, delivering on governor’s vision to build the “Infrastructure for Innovation” businesses need to lower costs, boost output


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich.—Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer brought leaders from Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties together to announce their commitment to an expansion of Automation Alley’s Project DIAMOnD, a shared network of 3D printers that small manufacturers in all three counties can use to lower their costs and scale up their businesses, with a goal of eventual statewide expansion. This announcement is part of the governor’s vision to build out the “Infrastructure for Innovation,” shared technology or resources that entrepreneurs and businesses can use to grow in Michigan. 

“Today’s commitment by Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties to expand Automation Alley’s Project DIAMOnD will help us grow our economy, lower costs for small businesses, and build out the ‘Infrastructure for Innovation’ we need to lead the future,” said Governor Whitmer. “Looking forward, we can build on this momentum and expand this network of 3D printers statewide. At this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, I am focused on unleashing Michigan innovation to solve some of the biggest problems we face and grow the cutting-edge industries that will help us lead the future while recruiting and retaining top talent to Michigan. Together, we will continue bringing public and private sector partners together to help local entrepreneurs and small businesses compete on a global scale. Let’s get it done.” 

“Project DIAMOnD was inspired during the dark days of COVID, born out of frustration about supply chain issues and dependency on oversees manufacturing,” said Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter. “It is giving Oakland County businesses access to 3D printing technology and training that is allowing them to dramatically cut production time and costs as well as keep manufacturing right here in Michigan. After our initial investment of $25 million over two phases, we are thrilled that Macomb, Wayne, and the State of Michigan are joining the program to make it a regional and statewide priority - and an opportunity for global competitiveness.” 

“We are pleased to partner with all the stakeholders on this very important initiative—Project DIAMOnD—an innovative move that will help increase access to 3D printing technology to Wayne County’s more than 300 manufacturing companies,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “Southeast Michigan has long been a national leader in manufacturing and automation, and in Wayne County, we are committed to keeping it that way. Making new technology more accessible is a significant step toward continuing our state’s history of innovation. I look forward to working with the state and our neighboring counties to help build upon our region’s successes and make Southeast Michigan a sought after destination for people to live, work and do business.” 

“The foundation and future of our economic advantage in Southeast Michigan is advanced manufacturing,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “With world-class facilities and unrivaled talent, Macomb County is a destination where, from concept to consumer, no one does it better. This expansion of Project DIAMOnD statewide will strengthen our network of innovators with the cutting-edge tools and digital systems that will ensure we continue to be a leader in this space.” 

“Project DIAMOnD represents the future of manufacturing. Through cutting-edge 3D printing technology, comprehensive training, and access to a vast network of industry leaders, Project DIAMOnD is empowering small- and medium-sized manufacturers to accelerate their digital transformation,” said Tom Kelly, Executive Director and CEO of Automation Alley. “With support from Oakland County, and collaboration from the State and Macomb and Wayne Counties, we are putting our flag in the ground and building the world's largest additive manufacturing ecosystem—right here in Michigan.”  

Expanding Project DIAMOnD 

Project DIAMOnD, which stands for Distributed, Independent, Agile Manufacturing on Demand, is a unique partnership forged by Automation Alley that was kickstarted in 2020 with federal funding thanks to Executive Dave Coulter’s pioneering leadership in Oakland County.  

Now, Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties have committed to expanding it with federal funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The expansion will help the more than 9,100 small manufacturers across all three counties access a network of 3D printers that many hundreds of local businesses have already used to lower costs, increase production efficiency, or grow their businesses. Ultimately, the goal is statewide expansion, so small manufacturers across Michigan—in all 83 counties—can access this network. Getting this done would make Michigan a national model.  

Building the Infrastructure for Innovation 

Today’s expansion is part of Governor Whitmer’s push to build the “Infrastructure for Innovation” that entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and small businesses need to expand in Michigan. This includes boosting access to specialized equipment or technology like 3D printers that many businesses could use but few can access.  

By facilitating connections like Project DIAMOnD, Michigan can continue working with public and private sector partners to make even more tools and resources—the Infrastructure for Innovation—available to budding entrepreneurs and business owners. Bold, unprecedented initiatives like these are also talent attraction and retention tools and will help Michigan compete to bring top talent from across the nation and around the world home. 

Gov. Whitmer Announces New Actions to Build a More Innovative Michigan

Infrastructure for Innovation, Pitch Competition, Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer will grow Michigan’s economy, unleash Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit.


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich.—Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered the keynote address at the Mackinac Policy Conference, announcing new actions to support innovators and entrepreneurs who are building the future in Michigan. They include a pitch competition to support innovators with capital, two executive actions to open testing equipment, facilities, and infrastructure to entrepreneurs, and a new MEDC team member to foster a culture of innovation. 

“Michigan innovators drive our state forward, solve problems, push boundaries, and bring new ideas, people, jobs, and prosperity to Michigan communities,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We need to have their backs. I am announcing three new actions to invest in culture, capital, and creativity, grow Michigan’s economy, and unleash the innovative spirit that is in every Michigan community. Michigan is redefining our story and showing the world that we have what it takes to build the future. Let’s keep working together to strengthen our innovation ecosystem and make our state the best place to make your idea a reality.”  

“Michigan has always been a state of creators who change the world,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “I have been an entrepreneur, and I know how important it is to support the people whose ideas will grow our economy, move Michigan forward, and building on our state’s rich history of innovation. PitchMI, Infrastructure for Innovation, and the Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer will inject capital into high-growth startups, ensure innovators feel represented and respected, and lower barriers to new companies, wealth, and new jobs. Governor Whitmer and I will keep working with anyone to make Michigan the best place to make your idea a reality.” 

“As we work to grow Michigan’s economy through our ‘Make It in Michigan’ economic development strategy, we know that cultivating our state’s culture of innovation is paramount to its success,” said MEDC CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr. “We are grateful to Governor Whitmer for her continued leadership as Team Michigan remains steadfast in its commitment to thinking creatively, working collaboratively, and supporting initiatives to ensure anyone can ‘Make It in Michigan.” 

“As the economy grows, investment in entrepreneurship is required in order for the state to thrive,” said Wafa Dinaro, Executive Director of the New Economy Initiative. “The Governor’s initiative will help entrepreneurs reach their goals, especially those in underserved and under resourced communities.”  

“It is exciting to see the Governor focusing on the important infrastructure needed to accelerate entrepreneurship in Michigan—particularly plans to capitalize on our tremendous physical and intellectual assets that can make a meaningful difference to the next generation of startups,” said Renaissance Venture Capital CEO Chris Rizik.  

“Startups choosing to build in Michigan stand to benefit from the Governor's announcement today,” said Remora Co-Founder & CEO Paul Gross. “It has often been too expensive and near impossible for Remora to access the equipment, facilities, and other resources required to develop our mobile carbon capture technology. We're thrilled to see Michigan lower barriers to building a business by tapping into all of the State's assets, and we're confident this will help more people start great companies in Michigan.” 

“Ultimately, innovation is fueled by talent,” said Northern Michigan University President Brock Tessman. “At NMU we launched the Work Scholars program to connect our talented students to the local innovation ecosystem and make it possible for more entrepreneurs to build their lives, families, and career success in the Upper Peninsula.” 

The Whitmer administration has made historic investments to lower costs, support a skilled workforce, restore infrastructure, and make Michigan the best place to raise a family. These investments build on Michigan’s rich heritage of innovation—the most engineers per capita, the 5th largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the country, and an unmatched university research and development corridor. Growing a long-term innovation ecosystem comes down to the three Cs: culture, capital, and creativity. Entrepreneurs need all three to thrive.  

Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer 

Ben Marchionna will be Michigan’s first-ever Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer. He will help build a community of innovation and make Michigan a place where innovators and entrepreneurs feel seen and heard and work together to drive us forward. 

Ben-Marchionna_headshot_500x750.jpgBen is a dynamic leader in innovation, technology, engineering, and the intersection of innovators and government. He comes from Electra.aero, where he was Director of Technology and Innovation. He was also Vice President of Global Operations at SkySpecs, focused on robotics and AI asset management products for the clean energy industry, and a graduate of the Engineering Leadership Development Program at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, where he helped design a variety of revolutionary aircraft. Governor Whitmer appointed Ben to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force for the State of Michigan. 

“I’m excited to convene Michigan’s vibrant innovation stakeholders to help build an even more thriving ecosystem in our great state. We know entrepreneurship and innovation is key to growing Michigan’s economy, creating jobs across our state, and building a future with shared prosperity for all Michiganders,” said Ben Marchionna, MEDC Chief Innovation Ecosystem Officer 


PitchMI is a statewide, shark-tank style competition helping innovators solve problems and address the biggest problems facing Michigan. The state, in partnership with leading organizations, will host a public competition to solicit pitches and then invest in the most innovative start-up, who will then be able to take the capital and make their audacious idea a reality. The first PitchMI competition will identify and award $100,000 to an innovative solution that transforms the way Michiganders get from point A to point B safely, affordably, and efficiently. PitchMI is a commitment by the state to spur entrepreneurial problem solving, connect innovators with capital, and create a ripple effect accelerating more innovation.  

Infrastructure for Innovation 

State and local governments, universities, civic organizations, and the military have the cutting-edge equipment, facilities, tools, and expertise entrepreneurs need to innovate new products and solve problems but too often it’s inaccessible. That’s why Governor Whitmer will open up the “Infrastructure for Innovation” right here in Michigan. 

She signed an executive directive instructing state agencies to catalogue technology, equipment, and facilities across the state and work with the owners to make it available to the innovators who need it. The state will also enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Military and veterans Affairs to engage our military and make critical infrastructure available to entrepreneurs so they can test their ideas. This will be the first of many MOUs with institutions stepping up to support innovators. 

Michigan will be the first state in the nation to get this done, and the only one to take such a proactive, strategic approach to opening physical infrastructure to innovators. 

“Michigan is the premier location for innovators to design and implement solutions which are instrumental to national security and the operations of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “As the largest military presence in Michigan and a community-based organization, the support of our communities is imperative to the Michigan National Guard’s success. We are fortunate that our elected leaders continue to prioritize economic development within our communities, and we look forward to working with industry partners to expand on Michigan’s accomplishments and strengthen local ties through this new agreement.” 

To view Executive Directive 2024-2, click here 

Growing Michigan’s Economy 

Governor Whitmer is committed to lowering costs, creating jobs, and bringing supply chains home from overseas so more Michigan individuals, families, and small businesses can ‘make it’ right here in Michigan. In 2021, the governor reached across the aisle to put powerful economic development tools in our toolbox that have helped win transformational projects creating thousands of high-tech jobs building the future of cars, chips, and clean energy across Michigan. Since 2019, Michigan has announced projects totaling more than 38,000 good-paying auto jobs and become home to the #1 emerging startup ecosystem and the “next Silicon Valley” for mobility innovation. Governor Whitmer will continue working to make Michigan the best place to innovate, grow a business, and build the future.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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Michigan Business Beat, hosted by Chris Holman, discusses economic development, new or unusual entrepreneurial initiatives, and successful business practices from different regions and industries around Michigan with a wide range of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

8:00 AM every Monday through Friday
Replay: 8:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 8:00 PM, 2:00 AM The music for 'Michigan Business Beat' is graciously shared use of Phil Denny's "Traffic Jam" off his 2012 CD 'Crossover'

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