Posted on 8/17/2016

Thanks for the Memories!

Ken Rogers

When Automation Alley officially opened its doors in 1999, we were taking a huge risk. We began with no dedicated funding. It was the only organization of its kind in Michigan, a regional association for technology and manufacturing businesses across Southeast Michigan. Our goal was to brand our region as one of our nation’s major tech hubs. And while starting the organization was challenging, one thing was certain. We knew this region had hundreds of tech companies with thousands of tech workers. Today, we are recognized as one of the nation’s leading centers for innovation. 

Our job at Automation Alley is to drive local economic growth in the tech and manufacturing sectors and to provide companies across Southeast Michigan with the best business resources available to grow their companies locally, nationally and around the world. As a result, the story of Automation Alley is being told around the globe regarding the people and businesses of Greater Detroit. 

And we’ve definitely had some positive stories to tell and some landmark achievements along the way. 

We worked long hours to get things off the ground and grew the organization from 42 original member companies to the nearly 1,000 we have today. We went on some great adventures abroad, organizing trade missions across the globe to help local companies expand into international markets.

One night I was at a fundraiser, and a man walked up to me and asked me if I recognized him. I asked if he could refresh my memory. He said he had participated in our first trade mission to Canada, and that without that trade mission he would not be in business today as over 60 percent of his business was now from Canada. It’s success stories like those that help remind me why we do what we do. After all, it’s all about the customer and their ROI. 

Automation Alley now has a staff of 33. And though we have always been small in number, we are large in results. This group has created over 6,000 jobs and secured over a half billion dollars in export sales for companies in this region. We are on our way to securing global contracts in excess of a billion dollars to the workers and the companies of this region. We have trained thousands of local workers, invested millions in technology startups, we’ve been invited to the White House by two sitting U.S. presidents and our defense work has resulted in several million in contracts for local companies.

It has been a wonderful ride these past 17 years, and I am honored to have worked with so many talented people along the way, both inside and outside our organization, that helped to make Automation Alley what it is today — Michigan’s leading technology business association, and one that has spearheaded efforts to brand our region as a high-tech powerhouse at the forefront of innovation worldwide. I learned a long time ago that you cannot succeed without the support of others. Thank you to my teammates that made our success possible. 

I’ll leave you with one final memory. I was recently invited to speak to my grandson Lee’s middle school robotics team, which won third place in world championships. After winning, a young girl on Lee’s team stopped me and said that I had changed her life. I was stunned. I asked how. She said when I visited her team to talk about robots she realized what she wanted to do with her life. She said she was going to make robots for kids who faced hardships in their lives so they had someone to talk to and would not feel alone.  

That moment stands out in my mind as one of my favorite memories in my time as executive director at Automation Alley. Because it helps to remind me why organizations like Automation Alley truly exist. It’s about our future. It’s about the next generation feeling empowered by technology and excited about its potential.

The future looks bright. 



About the Author

Ken Rogers | Automation Alley

As executive director of Automation Alley, Ken Rogers oversees strategic planning, all financial and personnel matters and the ongoing activities for Automation Alley on behalf of its nearly 1,000 member organizations across Southeast Michigan.


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