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New Office, Leadership Will Drive Future Mobility in Michigan

The Office of Future Mobility and Electrification is set to become a catalyst of transportation innovation in the state. Trevor Pawl, a former executive at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will lead that charge.

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Michigan hopes to grow its stature as a center for next-gen transportation with the launch of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME). The new office also comes with a new C-suite title — the chief mobility officer.

Trevor Pawl has been named to fill the post. Pawl formerly served as senior vice president of business innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, helping to head up mobility initiatives like PlanetM. 

“Our focus is a cleaner environment, a sustainable future. And so, how do we not only attract electric vehicle production, but also the charging infrastructure, and then create the incentives where people want to actually buy these things and use them?” said Pawl, outlining the vision for the OFME.

Some of the goals for the new mobility office will focus on increasing investment in the transportation industry, and creating job growth tied to autonomous vehicles, electric cars and “smart infrastructure.”

The OFME will also be involved with engaging more mobility startups.

“There’s a lot of software solutions out there that require rapid prototyping and low-run manufacturing,” said Pawl. “Michigan is awesome at that. So how can we begin to build those bridges in a way that brings along some of our traditional manufacturers on this new mobility journey that everyone’s on?”

The office is structured to have a strategic policy unit to create a regulatory policy environment in the state “in a way that makes sense,” said Pawl.

These strategies could explore charging network incentives, multi-state partnerships to develop EV networks, as well as research and development tax credits, or fleshing out the issues affecting the deployment and operation of ground drones.

“We’ve initiated within that strategic policy unit, a council on future mobility and electrification,” said Pawl, explaining the council is to be made up of both public- and private-sector representation.

Developing partnerships across university, public- and private-sector entities to further develop electric and autonomous transportation infrastructure and manufacturing in Michigan will be top-of-mind for the new Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.

“We believe Michigan can lead national conversations, based on our experience,” said Pawl.

Pawl also wants to build a transportation tech ecosystem that keeps talent in the state.

“Right now we’ve got some ground to make up. We’re not necessarily the first place folks are going right now to build an electric vehicle, and I don’t think that should be the case,” said Pawl. “We have all the pieces here to be globally competitive. And this office is going to work to change that narrative.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.