Turkey Visit Sparks Unexpected Activity at EL’s Prima Civitas

Mar 6, 2012

 delegation of East Lansing-based economic developers recently returned from an encouraging visit to Istanbul.  

Staff members from Prima Civitas Foundation were exploring ways to connect Michigan garment designers and manufacturers with similar interests in Turkey for the benefit of both.  Prima Civitas’ Project Manager Eleanor Fuchs tells WKAR’s Mark Bashore that the trip generated some unexpected opportunities as well. She says one grew out of an unscheduled visit to an automobile manufacturing facility. 

ELEANOR FUCHS:  What ended up happening was, the last day, members of Prima Civitas and also (of) the Lansing Economic Area Partnership—LEAP—were able to go and actually tour an automotive manufacturing facility about two hours outside of Istanbul.  It was a very sophisticated facility, but one thing that they voice is the need for research and design, R&D.  And that’s something that Michigan is known for, that we take manufacturing, we make it creative and we grow from there.  And so with that, we saw an opportunity to actually be able to connect in terms of education—to be able to bring some of our R&D specialists both from the private sector but also from the higher education sector to be able to link up and possibly give them some new ideas, some new mechanisms for pursuing research and design for their automotive industry. 

MARK BASHORE: So you spent more time on the higher education piece than you planned as well?

FUCHS:  Absolutely.  We’d gone there hoping to learn about what their higher education system looks like and we came back with opportunities to actually connect Michigan universities with Turkish universities.  Right now we’re exploring an opportunity for kind of a higher education conference or forum to bring together Michigan and Turkish universities to learn from each other both in terms of say, curriculum, how their departments are structured, to create opportunites for student and faculty exchange, but also to learn from each other on how each area engages industry.  How do they learn from industry? How does industry benefit from the services that they provide and a chance to really create some new partnerships from quite a distance away.

BASHORE:  And since the trip was originally about connecting Michigan’s garment sector with Turkey, what happened there?

FUCHS:  Pretty much everyone who went was able to not only meet the needs that they came with, but go above and beyond. One example is Montee Holland of the Tayion Collection.  He does kind of urban style mens’ suits, higher end, and he was able to pursue new manufacturing opportunities.  Things that will really help his business grow.

There were designers that went that were able to get the inspiration both in terms of their designs, but also in how they’re able to take their expertise and pass it on to others.  A lot of them are teachers as well. 

We’re actually pursuing having a return visit of Turkish designers and garment industry experts coming here and learning about what we do. They’re further along than we are, but they’re willing to help us to give us some best practices, some models and some ideas for how we can move forward.

BASHORE:  And what can Michigan businesspeople, economic developers, business owners take from your experience?  How might it benefit them to be aware of Turkey?

FUCHS:  Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  And in addition, a lot of their industry expertise is similar to ours—automotive, agriculture and so there’s a lot of alignment there.  There’s some great opportunities for partnership.  Prima Civitas is become the landing pad for anyone looking to either connect from Turkey with Michigan or vice versa.  So we’re creating right now the Center for Turkish Business Services.  We’re offering office and manufacturing space needs. We can assist you with finding legal assistance, so that Turkish businesses and investors, Michigan businesses and investors can link up and benefit from the growth of both.