Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was delighted to stand by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden in Detroit Wednesday as he announced the state and Detroit's auto makers will receive more than $1.3 billion of $2.4 billion in federal grants to support the next generation of batteries and electric vehicles.

But with Washington officials in town, including top White House economic advisor Larry Summers and auto task-force chief Ron Bloom, she put together a meeting with six lower-tier suppliers to plead again for something that would help parts makers get access to working capital.

“I don’t want to say redlining, but the financial industry has been extremely conservative with respect to the auto industry overall,” Granholm says during her annual appearance at the Management Briefing Seminars here Thursday. “We wanted the Department of Treasury to hear what the challenges were directly.”

Suppliers at the meeting held in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office included Saline Electronics; Atlas Technologies; Detroit Chassis; E&E Mfg.; Rush Trucking; and the mayor’s Bing Group, which provides auto parts to Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers.

Neil DeKoker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Assn., tells attendees here he appreciates what Washington already has done to help the supply industry. At meetings, such as the one in Detroit, government officials “are listening and understanding. This kind of awareness is what it takes to establish some results.”

Granholm says there is no sign the government will do something especially for auto suppliers, but Michigan is trying to develop a program to guarantee bank loans for the companies.

“We are playing both offense and defense on behalf of the industry.”

She also points out the government grants to support lithium-ion battery manufacturing and research in Michigan are a result of the state’s $700 million program to attract new business.