Lear CEO, Ilitch School grad sees new innovation center as turning point for company, city

Lear Corp. officially opened its Detroit Innovation Center on Tuesday, an idea to boost technological transformation for the company and a return to the city it was founded. The Innovation Center, at 119 State St., is an open-office environment for Lear's various business units to work independently of the day-to-day operations of Lear's headquarters in Southfield. The workers there will focus on next-generation automotive battery charging, seating designs and technology integration and non-automotive projects. For instance, Lear sews leather for Shinola, provides fabrics for Nike, Under Armour and New Balance and provides textiles for water-filtration systems.

"We're at a pivot point," said Lear President and CEO Matt Simoncini, a 1985 graduate of the Mike Ilitch School of Business. "So much of the work we do sucks everyone in. If I can get those workers out of the mainstream at Lear (in Southfield) and leverage what the city has to offer, we can send big things up the food chain."

Lear is working with Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies to develop curriculum and provide internship opportunities for those universities' students.

"We (the auto industry) haven't fully utilized what the city, and its universities, have to offer," Simoncini said. "These universities are in our backyard. I'm surprised more (companies) haven't rushed down here to access that talent and help drive innovation."

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