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Howes: Detroit auto industry is evolving, no longer “traditional in any way, shape or form”

2013 North American International Auto Show
wikimedia user F. D. Richards
wikimedia user F. D. Richards
2013 North American International Auto Show

Michigan has historically had an uphill climb to attract investor dollars.

But that’s changing.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howessays the smart money is placing bets on Detroit and on Michigan, and that's changing the narrative of both.

Howes told us the upcoming North American International Auto Show will for the first time feature AutoMobili-D, an exposition of mobility technologies and startup companies showing their wares and potentially pitching in front of venture capital firms.

“That’s very new, it’s the first time it’s ever been done, but I think it really signifies kind of how Detroit is becoming very cool in the business firmament,” he said.

Howes suggested that this is especially exciting when you consider the fact that not too long ago, a handful of Detroit auto companies had to be rescued from collapse by the federal government and the city itself went through bankruptcy.

“Now we come out on the other side here and you’ve got some very smart money that historically has been focused on Silicon Valley that is really looking at Detroit and really looking at Detroit as opportunity,” he said.

When venture capital firms are coming to town and looking for startups to invest in, “that says a lot about what they think is going on in Detroit,” Howes told us.

But before the city can truly embrace its evolving role in the auto industry, Howes said we need to change the way we think about the industry in Detroit.

“People have got to stop thinking, I know it’s hard, but they’ve got to stop thinking about the auto industry in Detroit in the traditional ways. This is not traditional in any way, shape or form,” he said.

“Yes, they’re still making the cars and trucks that people have historically grown up with and drive in their personal lives, but there’s a whole new vista of business that is opening, and it is bringing a different kind of business attention and investor attention on Detroit and on the capability of this transportation ecosystem.”

Listen to our conversation above for more.

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