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Detroit Now Hot Spot For IT, Defense Jobs

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Compuware headquarters in downtown Detroit

Compuware headquarters in downtown Detroit

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Detroit’s image as a rustbucket post-urban wasteland is history.

ClearanceJobs.com, a website owned by Dice Holdings Inc. for jobs that require a security clearance, says Detroit is moving foward as a major defense and homeland security hub.

And in IT, Detroit as a development hub is attracting attention from the White House.

On Thursday, Michael Strautmanis, who has the title deputy assistant to the president and counselor for strategic engagement to the senior advisor, is scheduled to meet in Detroit with a a small group of IT leaders, according to a person familiar with the visit.

The meeting will take place at the 1001 Woodward offices of GalaxE.Solutions, a New Jersey company bringing more than 500 software development jobs to Detroit. GalaxE.Solutions CEO Tim Bryan will host the meeting. Bob Paul, CEO of Compuware — just across the street in what’s now being marketed as “Webward Avenue” — and other local tech leaders also plan to be in attendance.

Officials say Strautmanis wants to see firsthand what is taking place in Detroit. Of particular note will be a discussion of not only the economic advantages of creating high-level IT products and services here but also issues related to quality, with which offshore-based IT firms sometimes struggle. This dynamic presents an opportunity for Detroit in filling a much needed void for corporations with major IT needs.

As for the growing and increasingly high-tech defense sector, Trevor Pawl, program director for the office of economic development with the Detroit Regional Chamber, put it this way: “The forces of innovation tend to move quicker here in Detroit. Throughout the years there have been these various clusters that have spun off from the auto industry,” including plastics, robotics and armaments, that have taken advantage of Detroit’s specialty in cross-industry collaboration.

In Southeast Michigan, universities and academic centers of excellence turn out thousands of skilled workers each year and over 3,000 patents — many related to the defense and federal sectors — are filed annually.

Detroit still has more engineers per capita than anywhere in the country, but opportunities are
expanding in the service sector, industrial design, graphic arts and even in the creative realm, said Pawl.

According to ClearanceJobs.com, the Detroit area is home to nearly 500 companies doingdefense and homeland security business, including small businesses and large corporations, including L-3 Communications, Oshkosh and the Lakeshore Group.

The area has long been buoyed by the presence of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research,
Development and Engineering Command as well as the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, both located in Warren. The complex these facilities sits on makes up what’s known as the Detroit Arsenal. The area is home to other military facilities, however, including Selfridge Air National Guard Base, one of the few military installations in the country with all military branches represented on the base.

The area benefited from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure moves, with approximately 1,200 new workers moving to the Detroit area as a result. BRAC also created new opportunities for local business, with a new 200,000 square foot TACOM facility creating roughly $75 million in construction business.

Amid a difficult defense budget cycle, the region’s influx of new business in the form of nearly $1 billion in defense contracts to facilities headquartered within 25 miles of Detroit is good news. BAE Systems Land and Armaments, which is in the midst of a $58.4 million expansion project in Sterling Heights, and General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. were recently awarded contracts through the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Program. Over the next 24 months the companies will be creating designs for the new Army Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

As much as 30-50 percent of the contract award could trickle down to sub-contractors and small
businesses, said Kotchman. And while there’s no guarantee the contract will bring an influx of new job opportunities, it stabilizes job prospects in engineering, as well as support functions such as finance and program management.

“Engineers have always been in demand in the Detroit region, but with new opportunities in robotics,
security, networking and graphic design, the diversity of employment opportunities is expanding,” said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com.

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