In late September I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a guided tour of BASF’s new Plastics and Coatings Excellence (PACE) Laboratory in Southfield, MI. The newly refurbished, 32,000-square-foot building represents an investment of approximately $20 million dollars and can accommodate up to 50 people engaged in research, development and technical service to serve customers and encourage collaboration.

The ceremony included a number of guest speakers, including Greg Pflum, Vice President & General Manager, Midwest Hub at BASF, as well as senators, representatives, the mayor of the city of Southfield and county representatives. One speaker, Oakland County, MI, Executive L. Brooks Patterson, spoke about his ongoing plan to develop a knowledge-based economy in Oakland County and southeast Michigan. In 2004, Patterson created Oakland County’s Emerging Sectors Initiative to identify the top 10 sectors that will attract and retain sustainable, high-paying jobs to Oakland County in the 21st Century. The primary driver for this program was to develop an economy outside of the automotive industry (which ended up suffering a terrible crisis back in 2008-2010) in an effort to make Oakland County and southeast Michigan more recession resistant. Emerging Sectors identifies the t​op industry growth clusters and fosters business development in such high-tech fields as advanced electronics and controls, advanced materials and chemicals, aerospace, automotive, alternative energy and power generation, communications and information technology, film and digital media, robotics and automation, defense and homeland security, and healthcare.

As a result of the initiative, job creation ​​and diversification are transforming the economy from one that is manufacturing-based to one that is knowledge-based. So far, 355 companies have invested $3.2 billion, creating more than 36,000 jobs and retaining nearly 21,000 jobs since its inception. The opening of the BASF PACE technical laboratory continues this growth.

Steve Arwood, Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO, applauded BASF for the huge investment in their business, and noted that the company’s flagship statement, “We create chemistry for a sustainable future,” could be rephrased to say, “We create jobs for a sustainable economy in southeast Michigan.”

As a resident of southeast Michigan for the past 30 years, I am encouraged to see growth and job creation taking place in this great area that has taken quite a hit. You can read more about the new PACE laboratory in PCI’s December issue.