This week's Crain's Detroit Business has a report of new NextEnergy tenant ZeroBase Energy LLC, a maker of portable arrays of solar panels, approaching the UAW to tap high-skill workers to ramp up a new manufacturing facility in Southeastern Michigan.
A CEO moves a business owned by a New York private equity company to Detroit from Maine in part so he can hire higher-paid union workers? Absolutely, he says. A union shop is crucial to his plans to take a company founded in 2009 from its first revenue in 2010 to $1 billion in revenue in the next five or six years.
"I've had advanced discussions with the UAW. I'm very interested in having a union shop," said Said. "We're going to have a run rate of 1,000 units a year by the end of this year, and the best way to do that is to have a highly trained workforce."
Southeastern Michigan's skilled work force and built manufacturing infrastructure constitute a global competitive advantage for our region to play a central role in the coming race to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy solutions. ZeroBase CEO Kousay Said believes that this partnership with the UAW and the skilled labor pool it can supply will provide a competitive advantage capable of supporting quick growth.
Skip Simms, senior vice president at Ann Arbor Spark, said that while the UAW angle might seem like a man-bites-dog story, it fits into an emerging theme that talent drives job attraction in Michigan.
"You will definitely see more of this in the future," he said of companies willing to pay a premium for trained workers for high-end manufacturing. "We discovered a couple of years ago that skilled talent, particularly highly skilled talent, is one of the top recruiting tools we have in Michigan, if not the top recruiting tool."