New lightweight metals institute to base headquarters in Detroit


The new $148 million lightweight metals manufacturing institute announced in February by President Obama will locate in the city of Detroit, officials from the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute and the city announced Wednesday.

ALMMII is a public-private partnership co-led by the University of Michigan, Ohio-based manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI and The Ohio State University.

The institute, expected to open this fall, is charged with establishing a regional manufacturing ecosystem to move cutting-edge lightweight metals out of the research lab and into tomorrow’s cars, trucks, airplanes and ships for both the commercial and military sectors.

The headquarters at 1400 Rosa Parks Blvd. will breathe new life into a Corktown plant that has been vacant for years. The last tenant of the 107,000-square-foot property was Mexican Industries, which made plastic moldings for the auto industry until filing for bankruptcy in 2001.

“Detroit’s renewed energy and revitalization efforts mesh perfectly with the goals of ALMMII, making the city an ideal spot for its headquarters,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel.

“This is an exciting next step in the university’s longstanding relationship with Detroit, at a time of great importance. I thank President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman and the Board of Regents for their leadership on this initiative, as well as the state for its support through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. I look forward to seeing the innovations that will come out of the institute that will transform American manufacturing.”

U-M’s involvement with Detroit dates back to when the university was founded in the city in 1817. Most recently, U-M has student programs, partnerships with leaders and collaborations with industries committed to the revitalization of the city. U-M’s Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue serves as a central meeting place for programs, admissions, students and faculty.

Mayor Mike Duggan said locating this new high tech hub in Detroit shows the city can compete for and win major manufacturing investments.

“To win a competitive process for a project of national significance is a major win for the city of Detroit,” said Duggan, who added, “Detroiters should expect to see us win a lot more in the future.”   

Duggan also said having the institute located in the city will provide significant opportunity to Detroiters, who will be able to receive training through Focus: Hope and other partners for the high tech manufacturing jobs that will come as a result of getting these lightweight metals into production.   

Operations at ALMMII will commence with an initial staff of 10. Eventually, two dozen employees will be based in the facility. The building will house offices, meeting rooms, training space and laboratories for developing and testing technologies for manufacturing.

With more than 74 member organizations including companies, universities, research institutions, and education and work force leaders as partners, the institute is expected to contribute to economic development and positive job impact in Detroit and stretching to the five-state region of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky over the next five years. Most of these jobs will be in the metal stamping, metalworking, machining and casting industries that are dominant in the Midwest region.

Beyond its R&D efforts, the institute aims to help educate the next generation of manufacturing’s technical workforce. ALMMII will engage work force partners from across the region to strengthen education and training pathways to high quality jobs in all transportation manufacturing sectors, including the automobile, aircraft, heavy truck, ship, rail and defense industries. The White House has referred to the institute as a “teaching factory.”

“ALMMII represents the first of what I hope are many innovative regional collaborations among Ohio State, Michigan, EWI, and other key regional assets,” said OSU’s College of Engineering Dean David B. Williams. “When it comes to advanced manufacturing, work force development, and U.S. competitiveness, we are all on the same team.”

ALMMII’s Detroit location puts it close to key work force partners such as Focus: HOPE, Macomb Community College, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech, Wayne County Community College District and Wayne State University. These entities will work closely with the institute’s work force program on new manufacturing methods. The institute, in turn, will engage students in internships and technical work on its research projects.

The institute is one of four pilot centers of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, a White House initiative to boost the nation’s competitiveness. The new initiative, funded through the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I) program, was selected through a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The institute will receive $70 million in federal funding over five years, matched by another $78 million from the consortium partners themselves. The funding includes $10 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and an additional $10 million from the state of Ohio. The New Economy Initiative, a Detroit-based non-profit, has committed $1 million over two years for capital expenses at the headquarters.

Larry Brown, ALMMII executive director, said, “From this very central location on the I-75 corridor, and particularly in the heart of Detroit, the institute is poised for success in serving our nation in setting the standard for world-class lightweight metals manufacturing.”


  1. Carol Perrault
    on August 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for Detroit to get back on its feet again!

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