TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The state of Michigan will open three foreign offices in major automotive markets, including outposts in Europe and Asia, during the next three years to assist the Michigan automotive industry with international trade issues.

The overseas bureaus are part of multi-faceted strategy devised by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to nurture future automotive industry development in the state, which has been one of the hardest hit by the nation’s economic slowdown.

The plan also stresses identifying emerging sectors; capturing more federal grants to develop new technologies, such as fuel cells; fostering new business strategies and doubling the number of college-educated adults during the next 10 years.

“What is our automotive strategy? We’re going to continue to work on the business climate – retention and attraction,” Granholm tells a standing-room-only crowd here at the Management Briefing Seminars.

“We want to make sure we are nimble as a state and not an impediment to (business) growth,” she says. “We want to make sure we provide (businesses) with that low-cost environment, and that we continue to retain businesses and jobs in addition to attracting new ones.”

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to attract more auto industry jobs.

The offices abroad will deal with trade issues, such as tariffs, to help automotive companies improve exporting and importing opportunities.

Granholm also hopes to win foreign investment and strengthen Michigan’s position as the nation’s primary research and development hub for the automotive industry by attracting additional high-tech investments.

To foster that expansion, Granholm has launched an initiative to make Michigan the most-educated state in the nation. “(Michigan) right now is in the bottom tier of states, in terms of the number of adults with college degrees,” the Democratic governor says.

Michigan also has plans to offer 0% interest loans to students who attend school in Michigan and continue to live and work in the state following graduation. Granholm says there currently are 12 regional training centers aimed at preparing workers for emerging job requirements.

Granholm hopes foreign auto makers’ existing R&D labs in the state can be the precursor to Michigan’s first auto assembly plant not owned, even in part, by a Big Three auto maker.

European and Asian auto makers have been building assembly plans in the South since the 1980s to avoid the United Auto Workers union and higher labor costs. “Once they have R&D facilities, then locating an assembly plant here is not so mysterious,” Granholm tells Ward’s.

Michigan, meanwhile, is encouraging universities and other research entities to cooperatively apply for federal finances to fund future technological development.

“In research and development, we have not gotten the share of those kind of grants that we have (the) ability to grab,” Granholm notes.

Michigan must continue to promote new business strategies, too, says Granholm, who applauds the Global Engine Mfg. Alliance LLC. partnership in Dundee between DaimlerChrysler AG, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motor Corp.(See related data: Dundee Global Engine Plant on Track)

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com