MediaFord | May 24, 2018
HISTORIC CORKTOWN BECOMES HOME TO FORD MOTOR COMPANY
DEARBORN – Ford is returning to its roots this week, as around 200 members of the company’s electrified and autonomous vehicle teams will move to a historic building in Corktown near downtown Detroit.
Ford Motor Company was founded in Detroit by Henry Ford in 1903 and the company occupied space in the Renaissance Center on the Detroit River until 1996. Ford officially makes its return to the city today. Ford’s newest building was actually built in 1907, near the historic site of Tiger Stadium. It is about four miles from the company’s former Piquette Avenue plant, where the revolutionary Model T was conceived. Ford’s dedicated global electric vehicle organization, Team Edison, and its autonomous vehicle business group will be co-located in the former factory on Michigan Avenue.
“Having the technological areas of the company figuring out the future of battery-electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles while working in Detroit is a very powerful statement of Ford’s commitment to the city, as well as to the technology and the future,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president, autonomous vehicles and electrification. “It brings it all together.” Team members who are relocating are excited about the move.
• Sam Hoyt, a cross vehicle marketing and strategy manager, has been with the company for more than 25 years. She remembers when Ford had office space downtown. “Returning to Detroit brings back a lot of emotions,” she said. “I’m looking forward to exploring and experiencing Detroit in a more meaningful way and I know the positive vibe will be a contributing factor in the work of my team – being closer to customers is what it’s all about.”
• Thomas Walsh is an autonomous vehicle partnerships lead who is moving to the new location. “Expanding our presence from Dearborn into the heart of downtown Detroit and bringing with us the enthusiasm and excitement we share for the new technologies we’re building is incredibly rewarding,” he said.
• Financial analyst Bryan Harding, who lives in Detroit’s Midtown district, is excited for the move and being part of the team piloting new ways of working in flexible space. “I have a sense of pride moving to Detroit and working there,” he said. “The location enables us to experience an area where our products will spend most of their time – an urban environment. We’ll be exposed to the trials and tribulations people experience in the city.”
• Jarrett Zablocki, a hybrid and plug-in hybrid strategist, frequents the Corktown neighborhood and has considered living downtown. “It’s inspiring to see how proud everyone working in the neighborhood is about what they’re doing,” he said. “Now I get to be a part of that and work in a space that lets me more easily tackle issues face-to-face with my colleagues.”
About the building
The 45,000-square-foot building, which has also served as a manufacturing facility, has undergone extensive updates yet retains its authenticity. Repurposed timbers from the original building have been used for new stairs. Original bricks have been used throughout the three floors of the industrial space. Window openings have been restored to their original size and style, while the building retains its original wood flooring.
Employee feedback was incorporated into the design of a modern workspace meant to foster collaboration and team building. Rolling and height-adjustable desks will allow teams to customize their workspace, while white noise generators can be used to mitigate the noise levels of an open space.
The layout resembles the open workspaces of Silicon Valley. The space includes a few conference rooms as well.
“Everything is movable and flexible, so if you don’t like the way the desks are laid out and you want to put them in a circle or a square for people to work better, you can just do it,” said Marakby. “You’ve got the tables and white boards and coffee to help figure it all out. That’s what we’re trying to encourage and the kind of culture we’re working to create.”
How the location will benefit autonomous and electrified vehicle development
Marakby said being located in the center of a busy city is an ideal environment to develop autonomous and battery-electric vehicles, because employees will be immersed in the urban conditions Ford is targeting this technology for. The new space will help foster a new mindset for the innovative work these Ford employees will be doing. It provides an opportunity to think differently and go fast, said Hoyt.
“In this urban setting, we’ll be among people operating in their natural environments – walking, taking a bus or taking the People Mover,” she said.
What other employees are saying:
• “It shows Ford isn’t just content with the status quo.” – Devin Kirby, Ford Credit software developer
• “It just seems like a natural fit for us to develop our electrified vehicles in conjunction with some of the things already in the city, like the People Mover and QLine.” – Candace Glasgow, Ford truck chief engineer
• “It’s great for Ford to be back in Detroit. It keeps Ford in people’s minds as a great local company.” – Susan Dolack, Ford career navigator system administrator
• “It’s a good move to get younger people because Millennials are moving toward more urban areas.” – Josh Greenfield, Ford financial analyst
• “The autonomous vehicle aspect of the move shows our seriousness in terms of mobility and the City of Tomorrow.” – Sue Hong, Ford electrification powertrain engineering manager
• “It shows we’re more in tune with urbanization and the whole urban culture.” – Deep Pandian, Ford plug-in hybrid electric vehicle analyst