Ford takes Detroit rail station back to autonomous future

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A drawing of what the main hall will look like after Ford’s revamp in its founding city. (AP)
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Bill Ford at Michigan Central Station. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Ford takes Detroit rail station back to autonomous future

  • The executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford envisions the future of the carmaker’s foray into self-driving vehicles.
  • The company has said it aims to have a self-driving vehicle on the market by 2021.

DETROIT, US: Bill Ford looks past the tons of paint, plaster and steel needed to remake Detroit’s blighted Michigan Central train station and sees more than just an iconic building in desperate need of a makeover.

The executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford envisions the future of the carmaker’s foray into self-driving vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. is embarking on a four-year renovation of the 105-year-old depot and 17-story office tower just west of downtown. The massive project is expected to increase the automaker’s footprint in the city where the company was founded, provide space for electric and autonomous vehicle testing and research, and spur investment in the surrounding neighborhood.

Ford will be reclaiming a derelict 20th century landmark, but it also will be using some iconic Motor City real estate to embark on a 21st century venture.

“This had to make business sense for us,” Bill Ford told The Associated Press on Thursday. “We couldn’t just do this as a philanthropic endeavor. It really will become a statement for us and a great recruiting tool for the kind of talent we’re going to need to win in the autonomous vehicle war.”

The company has said it aims to have a self-driving vehicle on the market by 2021.

The building’s sale was announced last week. The company will announce details of the renovation and its plans Tuesday.

Bill Ford declined to say how much it cost to buy the 500,000-square-foot (46,450-square-meter) building from Manuel “Matty” Moroun or how much the carmaker expects to spend fixing it up. A 2004 plan to convert the train station into Detroit’s police headquarters was expected to cost more than $100 million.

The money for Ford’s project is coming from a pool set aside in 2016 to update the automaker’s headquarters in nearby Dearborn, though the company will also seek tax breaks and other incentives.

“We had to make sure that this could fit into our existing budget, and thankfully it did,” Bill Ford said.

The train station, which opened in 1913,  was the hub for rail transportation in Detroit for decades. Travelers and visitors marveled at its robust columns that stretched to an ornately tiled ceiling. But as passenger rail travel waned with easier road and air travel, the last train left Michigan Central in 1988.

Scrappers stripped metal from the vacant building and the thousands of broken windows allowed the elements to damage the walls, floors and ceilings, depressing the property’s value.

Along the way, Detroit slid toward fiscal collapse. The population has dropped by more than one million people since the 1950s. Tens of thousands of homes were abandoned even before the city tumbled into and out of bankruptcy several years ago.

The aging, hulking and empty Michigan Central exemplified Detroit’s plight.

“It always really bothered me whenever you’d see a national story about the decay of Detroit, photos of the train station often were used,” Bill Ford said, as he sat in the depot’s cavernous passenger waiting room.

“Then I started to think: ‘What if we could buy it, rehab it and not just make it a beautiful building — which we’re going to do — but make it something more?’” he said. “Make it really part of the reinvention of transportation for the future.”

The rehabbed office tower will have room for about 5,000 workers, at least half of whom will be Ford’s. Restaurants, coffee shops, taverns and retail will fill the depot.

“My vision is this becomes a gathering spot for people who want to meet family or friends and grab a cup of coffee or quick lunch or dinner and then go off and do something else in Detroit,” Ford added. “I want them to feel that this is going to be a really wonderful spot to be in, and that they will get excited about coming here.”


Dubai eyes stronger business, investment ties with Egypt

Competitive advantage: Dubai’s reputation as a wealth generator and investment stronghold continues to drive the city’s growth. (Reuters)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Dubai eyes stronger business, investment ties with Egypt

  • Dubai’s global reputation as a wealth generator and investment stronghold continues to drive the city’s growth and was a matter of interest to the visiting Egyptian delegates

Dubai has moved to further strengthen the emirate’s business and investment ties with Egypt, following meetings with a high-level Egyptian delegation.

During the discussions held in Dubai, Dubai FDI and Egyptian delegates from the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones appraised the many foreign investments coming into the city as a result of the government’s intensive efforts to create a business-friendly environment.
Dubai FDI (the investment agency of the Dubai Economic Development Department) also took the opportunity to explain its mandate and role in creating a business-appropriate landscape to attract international companies and help stimulate capital growth.
Khalid Al-Boom, Deputy CEO of Dubai FDI, who welcomed the Egyptian officials, said that Dubai and Egypt’s joint efforts and deepening relations constitute a significant boost to the government’s initiative to make Dubai one of the most sustainable and competitive business hubs in the world. Al-Boom also said that the visit would further reinforce government-to-government ties and promote sharing of knowledge of expertise.
He noted that the current favorable business environment would further push a new phase of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries to help realize their growth and development goals.
“We at Dubai FDI are fully committed to continue on the path toward success and optimize Dubai’s transformation and potential to make the emirate’s one of the most stable economies in the Middle East and the world,” he concluded. The Egyptian delegates were introduced to local business, government, and legislative processes and procedures. Dubai FDI officials also discussed promising business opportunities and key services that benefit foreign companies operating in the emirate.
The Dubai Government has rolled out a comprehensive program to help foreign companies interested in starting their business in the city. The visiting delegation toured the Dubai Multi Commodities Center and the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, during which they were informed about the institutions’ best practices, development strategies, main service offerings, and major investment opportunities.
Dubai’s global reputation as a wealth generator and investment stronghold continues to drive the city’s growth and was a matter of interest to the visiting Egyptian delegates. They were informed that though Dubai moved away from traditional trading and looked to its natural resources for sustenance in the latter half of the 20th century, revenue from oil was soon complemented and later almost replaced with a knowledge-based and services driven economy.
The innovative businesses which establish themselves in Dubai are supported by the Emirate’s ambition to drive technology, pioneer new innovation and foster thought leadership.
Trade, logistics, financial services, hospitality and tourism, real estate, construction and manufacturing now make up more than 90 percent of business activity in the Emirate.
This diversification, along with Dubai’s strategic location, infrastructure and ease of business philosophy, make it a popular choice for local and international organizations to begin operations and expand into the Middle East.