Ingrid Tighe brought more than a decade of experience in economic and workforce development to her new role as president of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, where she will help small and mid-sized companies adopt supply chain and automation strategies.
Tighe earlier this year took over as MMTC’s president from Mike Coast, who served in the position for 21 years and 27 years total at the Plymouth-based organization that has regional centers across Michigan.
“Ingrid rose to the top,” Coast told MiBiz. “She has proved me right in her early dealings at MMTC. She is very energetic, very bright.”
Tighe and the MMTC team are facing a distinct period in Michigan’s manufacturing history. The industry is experiencing widespread workforce needs, supply chain disruptions lingering from the pandemic, and an ongoing push toward automation to remain competitive.
In 2021, Michigan’s manufacturing sector accounted for nearly 20 percent of gross state product and employed 14.32 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
However, since 1979, Michigan has experienced a decline in the number of manufacturing jobs. By 2019, motor vehicle manufacturing employment, the leading sector in the state, reached just 42 percent of its 1990 level, according to federal labor data.
Tighe said she plans to tackle these challenges by helping manufacturers adapt to supply chain challenges and worker shortages while also helping them adopt new automation technologies.
“By four years from now, I’d like to have an action plan that addresses Industry 4.0 and supply chains,” Tighe said. “There are a lot of companies that could benefit from these technologies.”
Terry Hossink, vice president of manufacturing services for MMTC’s center-west team in Grand Rapids, said the organization will continue to emphasize programs that offer grants to manufacturers to implement automation technologies.
In 2020, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Automation Alley and MMTC launched a program to help 6,200 businesses — half of the state’s manufacturing companies — adopt industry 4.0 technologies by 2025, which included $2 million grants to support regional initiatives.
“The key is to keep Michigan manufacturing competitive,” Hossink said. “The better we are, the better we can be globally because it’s a global world.”
The MMTC is part of the nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership that supports the interests of manufacturers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. In 2021, the MEP National Network worked with nearly 35,000 manufacturers that generated $14.4 billion in sales and helped retain 125,746 U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Public funding through the state is a key revenue source for the MMTC to carry out its mission.
“One of the reasons we get funding from the state … is to go out and use these dollars to engage small companies to do projects that they might not be able to afford,” Tighe said.
In 2020, the MMTC also secured more than $2 million in federal grant money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help small and medium-sized manufacturers in Michigan respond to the pandemic.
Prior to serving as MMTC president, Tighe spent 18 years working on economic development initiatives in Michigan, both inside and outside of the government, and in the United States Army. She attended Vanderbilt University on a four-year R.O.T.C scholarship and, upon graduation, served as a U.S. Signal Corps army captain for nearly seven years.
“My first job as a lieutenant was when I was 22 years old, and I had 60 people that I was in charge of,” Tighe said. “Walking into that environment is daunting. There are many folks who are skeptical of some young, tall blonde lieutenant.”
Tighe has led combat groups in Iraq and Germany, Macedonia and Kosovo as part of NATO peacekeeping operations.
“There’s a lot of leadership lessons that came out of the military that really shaped my leadership style and who I am today,” Tighe said. “You learn you sometimes have to decide quickly. Sometimes an 80-percent solution now is better than 100 percent too late.”
After the army, Tighe obtained a masters in public administration at the University of Michigan and worked as the director of Oakland County’s economic development department and executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District.
She was quickly interested in the MMTC opening when first learning about it.
“When I became aware of this role, I said, ‘What a great opportunity,’ and threw my name in the hat,” Tighe said.
Under Tighe’s leadership, MMTC will continue its mission of supporting small and medium-sized manufacturers, said Jeff Schultz, MMTC’s director of marketing and communications at MMTC.
“We see how important manufacturing is. We see how important manufacturing is to small companies, family-owned companies,” Schultz said. “How do we support them? How do we enable them to succeed, to grow and to continue to employ people across the state of Michigan?”