Street Talk: Big wheel keep on turning

Passing grade.
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General Motors’ Wyoming facility hit a major milestone in axle production last month.

GM’s Grand Rapids Operations facility in Wyoming produced its 1 millionth axle the last week of May. The historic occasion landed nearly three years to the day from when the plant began axle production. It was celebrated with a banner signing and unveiling at a socially distanced employee event.

GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra and Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Gerald Johnson both attended the event as part of a scheduled senior leadership plant visit.

Plant Director Troy Comiskey and plant UAW Local 167 Chair Martin Wood celebrated the achievement alongside plant employees.

“I am very proud of our workforce at Grand Rapids Operations for being a leader in quality and excellence,” Wood said. “Congratulations for producing 1 million axles!”

Comiskey echoed Wood’s sentiments.

“This milestone directly reflects the dedication and hard work that our employees put into building axles every day — the same dedication this plant has been demonstrating for over 70 years,” Comiskey said. 

The site is part of the GM Components Holdings division and began building front and rear axles out of aluminum and high-strength steel in June 2018 after a $119 million plant expansion. The axles produced at the plant are destined for GM’s Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Silao, Mexico, assembly plants to be used in Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups.

GMCH and Stamping Executive Director Mark Pervine also congratulated the Grand Rapids team on reaching this milestone after years of hard work and dedication in supporting truck production. 

“The Grand Rapids team has done an incredible job to drive team engagement and a ‘one team’ focus toward this tremendous achievement,” Pervine said. “When I see the level of enthusiasm in this workforce, it fully quantifies the efforts that the team has put forth to make this milestone come to fruition.” 

In addition to axles, the plant builds other components, including lash adjusters, hydraulic valve lifters, cam phasers, metal stampings and more for GM and 12 other original equipment manufacturers. GMCH Grand Rapids Operations has been building automotive components for more than 70 years. It is the original home of the Diesel Equipment Division of General Motors, and it is currently one of four plants that make up the GMCH consolidated subsidiary of GM.

You belong here

Metro Health – University of Michigan Health is sending a clear signal of welcome, support and affirmation to the LGBTQIA+ community by raising the Pride Flag for the month of June and adding window decals with the message, “You belong here.”

Taken together, the displays are meant to signal the health system’s insistence on creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone, said Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health.

“Pride Month is an ideal time to reaffirm this commitment to employees, patients, visitors and the community,” Booker said. “LGBTQIA+ individuals often have endured a lifetime of exclusion, judgment and intimidation — even by health care providers. This harms well-being and can even be a matter of life and death. And we won’t tolerate that here. Exclusion in any form and to any group is unacceptable in our place of healing.”

The health system’s efforts go beyond providing visual assurances, said Steve Polega, chief nursing officer, Metro Health. Initiatives include education, training and opportunities to make commitments to inclusion.

“As an organization, we continue to take intentional steps toward respecting all identities, being allies, and increasing our own understanding,” Polega said.

The flag that will fly outside Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming will be the Progress Pride Flag, a newer version of the familiar rainbow flag with black and brown stripes added to represent communities of color, along with pink, light blue and white – colors used on the Transgender Pride Flag.

Similarly, the “You belong here” window decals, which will remain posted year-round, include an updated design based on a new logo adopted for the health system’s internal training initiative on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). This design is modeled after the Philadelphia Pride Flag, which also adds black and brown stripes representing marginalized LGBTQ+ communities of color.

Head of class

Michigan’s University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, is one of the nation’s top research clusters and the engine for innovation in Michigan and the Great Lakes region, increasing economic prosperity and connecting Michigan to the world. This year’s economic impact report is the 12th one Anderson Economic Group has done for the URC.

The URC’s $19.3 billion net economic impact in Michigan in fiscal year 2019 — the most recent year data is available — is up 50% from its net impact of $12.8 billion in 2007, the first year the report was published. The $19.3 billion net impact also is more than 20 times greater than the $924 million the state spent on the three universities in FY 2019, according to the report.

“One of the most important assets a state can have is universities that produce graduates who keep the economic engine running,” said Mike Jandernoa, founder and chairman of 42 North Partners in Grand Rapids and former CEO of Perrigo. “Our top-ranked research universities invest more to train graduates in high-demand jobs. These efforts allow our universities to be vital pipelines for the graduates in health care and business that companies such as Perrigo need to grow and prosper.”

The three URC universities grant nearly 12,000 degrees annually in high-tech areas such as biomedicine and bioscience, as well as nearly 13,000 degrees in high-demand areas such as business, computer science and engineering. They also grant nearly 2,500 medical degrees each year. 

“These are the kinds of graduates needed to create autonomous vehicles, medical devices, better agricultural crops and solutions to the challenges our communities and businesses face today,” said URC Executive Director Britany Affolter-Caine.

As of spring 2020, the URC had more than 1.3 million alumni worldwide. Over 690,000 URC alumni live in Michigan, accounting for 10% of the state’s population over the age of 24. URC universities have alumni in every county in Michigan, every state in the U.S. and 180 countries across the world.

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