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Updated 10:00 AM September 21, 2007




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U-M helps lure Spanish aerospace company to Michigan

The University Research Corridor’s massive pool of engineering talent convinced Spanish aerospace company Grupo Aernnova to bring 600 new jobs to Washtenaw County’s Pittsfield Township for an aerospace engineering center.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. estimates the company’s $10 million investment will help create up to 1,257 Michigan jobs, including 600 workers being hired by Aernnova and 657 jobs indirectly created by the company’s move.

The company considered 15 sites across the nation but high on its priority list was proximity to a strong engineering program. One of the first calls went to the College of Engineering, whose aerospace and mechanical engineering programs are ranked among the nation’s five best by U.S. News and World Report.

President Mary Sue Coleman said U-M can offer the company several opportunities for collaborations with Michigan Engineering as well as access to qualified graduates from throughout the University.

“Students in our aerospace engineering program like to wear a T-shirt that says, ‘As a matter of fact, I am a rocket scientist,’” Coleman said. “But you don’t need an engineering degree to appreciate the power of Michigan’s research universities to propel our state’s economy. Attracting companies like Aernnova specifically demonstrates how the University Research Corridor can – and does – make our state a leader in attracting and supporting innovative and entrepreneurial firms.’’

She noted URC partner Michigan State University and its work helped attract the Swedish firm Chemrec and the Upper Peninsula’s New Page Corp. to establish a biofuel plant in Escanaba while Wayne State University is fueling the rebirth of an entire section of Detroit through its entrepreneurial TechTown initiative.

Soon after being contacted, Michigan Engineering quickly brought in U-M’s economic development partner, Ann Arbor SPARK. One of the first questions the site selection people asked Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Michael Finney was to estimate the number of engineers within a commuting distance of Ann Arbor.

“Within a 30-minute drive, Atlanta has 1,860 engineers while Austin has 860,” Finney said of two cities the company considered. “But within 30 minutes of Ann Arbor, Michigan has 13,060 mechanical engineers: 10 times more. Suddenly, Michigan went to the front of the pack because of our area’s superior talent pool.”

Only the much larger states of California and New York produce more engineering graduates each year than the state of Michigan. The three URC universities, U-M, Michigan State and Wayne State, each year produce more than 3,800 new engineering graduates, 54 percent of the state’s engineering degrees.

 “The new center intends to tap the substantial engineering talent pool that exists in this area, including collaborations with the excellent local universities,’’ said Iñaki López Gandásegui, chairman and CEO of Grupo Aernnova.

In fall 2006 Michigan Engineering enrolled 4,918 students seeking undergraduate engineering degrees, 1,255 masters students and 1,323 doctoral students.

"With our expertise in advanced manufacturing and engineering, Michigan is the best place for international companies looking to compete in the North American market to invest and grow,” Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said as the company’s decision was announced in Lansing.

Aernnova Aerospace, SA designs and produces aeronautical structures and components, operating through five business units: aerostructures, engineering, composite components, metallic components and product support services with operations in Spain, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.  The company has a total workforce of more than 3,000 and annual sales of $500 million.

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