Tom Walsh: New alliances in the works for bridge, auto industry

By Tom Walsh
Detroit Free Press Business Columnist

TRAVERSE CITY — From the battle over a new bridge between Detroit and Canada to the jostling among U.S. states for automotive investment and jobs, it’s a time of interesting role reversals and alliances in the North American auto industry.

The shifting sands were evident in back-to-back presentations Tuesday at the annual Management Briefing Seminars, staged by the Center for Automotive Research.

First up was Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general based in Detroit, who gave a full-throated call for auto industry leaders to support the New International Trade Crossing and defend the project against a heavy campaign to block the proposed span by Ambassador Bridge owners.

With a referendum question on the bridge headed for possible inclusion on the Nov. 6 election ballot in Michigan, Norton exhorted private-sector auto businesses to put advertising dollars where their self-interest lies.

“Whether or not there will be an advertising effort to combat the Ambassador Bridge’s propaganda rests largely in the offices of industry leaders attending this conference,” Norton said.

Noting that Canada has offered to pay $550 million to connect the bridge to Michigan highways, he said, “May I respectfully suggest that the leadership role in combatting the ongoing campaign of lies and distortion against the project rests with Michigan’s private sector automotive industry?”

If having Canada subsidize a big cross-border infrastructure project and then having to nudge its U.S. neighbors to promote it with a few bucks wasn’t strange enough, Gov. Rick Snyder followed Norton to the podium to announce the formation of a National Governors Auto Caucus to help grow the U.S. automotive industry.

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