This month, I attended the Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC) 2022 Fall Forum. The welcome reception and dinner were held at the Henry Ford Museum, hosted by the Detroit Regional Partnership (DRP) and several other sponsors. Maureen Krauss, President/CEO of DRP gave the welcoming address. Approximately 450 registered to attend the conference held at the MGM Grand Hotel in downtown Detroit.

The opening keynote the next day was by Erik Weilhenmayer, a world-class blind adventurer.  He told motivational stories about overcoming adversity and turning obstacles into opportunities. He was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. His book: No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon describes his adventure of kayaking the Grand Canyon.  The theme of his talk was that there are “no barriers” to overcome adversity through struggle and teamwork. He described being roped together and creating a “no barrier mindset” as a team.

Erik Weilhenmayer, IAMC 2022 Fall Forum

The second keynote presenter was Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist.  In his presentation, he described a “post-globalization world” in which nationalism replaces globalization.  His book “The End of the World is Just the Beginning” describes the isolationist world that is rapidly evolving and its implication.  His talk focused specifically on manufacturing, reshoring, shortening, and localizing the supply chain and expected shortages of raw materials such as aluminum and steel that currently depend on trade.  He touched on the deteriorating relationship between the US and China with the US banning the export to China of sophisticated computer semiconductors and requiring US citizens to terminate their employment with Chinese semiconductor companies or lose their citizenship.

Peter Zeihan, IAMC 2022 Fall Forum

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) & Decarbonization have become filters in investment decisions. Major private equity firms such as Blackrock have mandated that the firms it owns have a strategy to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of ESG in the decision-making process. The takeaway for me was the speed at which ESG is being required by investors and ESG’s impact on attracting top talent.

The “Are You Ready for an Electric Future” session explored the need to consider the power requirements of charging stations, particularly for fleet vehicles, when choosing a site for a new facility.  As we move toward the electrification of transportation, consideration needs to be given to the location of substations and the overall capacity of the grid to support the charging stations.  Planning for the power needs will have to be a primary consideration from the very beginning of the site selection process, according to the panel of speakers. The impact on the manufacturing of vehicles and the battery industry itself was also discussed as there will be constraints to accessing resources such as lithium and other materials.

Another takeaway regarding site selection is that there appears to be increasing pushback on the location of distribution centers with many communities not seeking them and not providing incentives to attract them. The current concern is that distribution centers are using up valuable resources of both people and land to build very large centers that have few, if any, employees.

There were several other break-out sessions with most focused on the issues of supply chain risk mitigation, labor shortages, and the impact of creating corporate value through managing companies’ real estate portfolios.

As IAMC celebrated its 20th anniversary, the staff and volunteers put on a great conference with plenty of takeaways and networking opportunities. Hats off to the many sponsors including the host, the Detroit Regional Partnership. Thank you!