LANSING, MI-State Reps. Mike Kowall, Gilda Jacobs, Mike Bishop and John Pappageorge are leading a bi-partisan group of Oakland County legislators hoping to change the decision to locate Michigan’s NextEngergy Center research facility at Wayne State University in Detroit. Detroit and Michigan Economic Development Corp. officials recently announced the new 250,000-sf facility known as NextEnergy will be built at the University Research and Technology Park owned by Wayne State University.

NextEnergy is a research and development initiative that will bring researchers to the area to find alternative fuel resources.

“Adding fuel cell technology research to the Life Sciences Corridor (between Detroit and Ann Arbor) rather than the more logical choice of Automation Alley (a similar tech corridor that includes many automotive suppliers) does not make a lot of sense,” Pappageorge says. “Did we look at all at a location such as the old Pontiac Silverdome site?”

The NextEnergy Center was originally to be located in York Township in Washtenaw County. However, because of the costs associated with providing infrastructure to the York Township site, the need to open the center quickly to meet market demand and the favorable conditions of the tax incentives in Detroit, the decision was made to change the center’s location.

“The city of Detroit had expressed the strongest interest in NextEnergy of any location in Michigan since it was first announced in the spring,” says Doug Rothwell, president and chief executive officer of the MEDC. “When it became apparent that local challenges would not allow us to open the NextEnergy Center in a timely fashion in York Township, Wayne State University and the city of Detroit offered an even stronger partnership opportunity.”

Major components of the NextEnergy plan include the new facility, which will house offices, education and meeting space, research and development, product displays, labs and business accelerator services.

Also, there will be many tax incentives and business attraction efforts to bring new development to assist with the research, manufacturing and marketing.

However, the Oakland lawmakers say their county already has the businesses in place to assist the new project.

“With so many of the resources and pieces in place, we’re ready to go. All that is needed is the spark to put them in motion,” Jacobs says.

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