Michael Haggerty had never worked on such a cool project.
Since coming out of Kettering University with an engineering degree, the Flint native had been involved in embedded systems design for automobiles. He had worked on door controls for vehicles, for example, and controls for power liftgates. But people don’t usually notice those kinds of things unless something goes wrong with them.
The project he’s working on now, on the other hand, is actually quite sexy. It’s an automotive amenity that catches your eye. A showstopper.
It’s just a car charger for a phone. But it’s wireless. And it’s part of the future of connected vehicles.
“All you would have to do is place your cell phone on top of the charging surface and it would automatically transfer power to the phone without plugging it in,” said Haggerty, a hardware engineer at Molex near Flint. “It’s pretty exciting technology.”
It’s pioneering, high-tech work and it’s just one mile from Haggerty’s home in Michigan’s I-69 Thumb Region, which offers a perfect mix of big-time professional opportunities and small-town living. You can learn more about the area and see job postings here.
Haggerty says he doesn’t take jobs for the location or the pay as much as for the challenge of the work. But in the case of getting hired at Molex, he has been able to do have it all.
Like a lot of engineers, Haggerty took a job in the Detroit area after college. But a few years later when he and his wife were expecting their first child, the couple settled down in Grand Blanc, just outside Flint.
Suddenly, Haggerty’s work commute became a toilsome hour – or longer, depending on weather and traffic. Soon, the early-morning departures for work and late-evening returns home began wearing on his young family.
Then Haggerty’s wife read a news article about an innovative engineering company building a new facility in Genesee County, just down the road from their house. He checked into it and found a job posting for exactly someone in his kind of position and experience level.
Now, Haggerty’s commute lasts about four minutes – which has opened up 10 hours per week in his schedule. So, when he’s not busy shaping the future of human mobility, he has time to pop home for lunch with his family, teach at a local school and drop his daughter off at preschool.
And he’s home by 5 o’clock.
“That would have never been possible if I were still working in Detroit,” said Haggerty, 28. “It’s been a positive change for me and good for my family, too.”
Welcome home to the I-69 Thumb Region. High quality of life. Low cost of living. Bountiful natural resources. And lots of good jobs for skilled professionals like Haggerty.
Molex, for example, is setting the pace for automotive connectivity in its new 43,000-square-foot research and development facility – the one Haggerty’s wife read about in the news. The company is working on connectivity features and vehicle-to-vehicle communications applications that will be central to the future of transportation, as it looks to have hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in its connected vehicle services division by 2020.
Many other businesses also are expanding in The Thumb:
- Urgent Design & Manufacturing, Inc. recently added 65,000 square-feet to its facility in Lapeer for rapid prototyping
- Cargill built a 75,000-square-foot animal feed production plant in Owosso, west of Flint
- HP Pelzer Automotive Systems, Inc., a manufacturer of soft trim automotive parts, added a new production facility in Port Huron and 124 jobs
- Cross Winds Energy Park II in Tuscola County about 90 miles northwest of Detroit is now generating 44 megawatts of renewable energy and is bringing more wind turbines online in a third phase this year
- Lear Corp. constructed a 160,000-square-foot automotive seat manufacturing facility at the site of the former Buick City administration building in Flint.
Yet, all the big business comes with the pleasures of a small community.
“I like that I can raise my kids in Genesee County,” said Jason Stoddard, global director of engineering for validation and test equipment at Molex, and general manager of the new R&D facility. “Our school systems are fantastic, and our pace of life is just a little bit easier.
“People like living here. They like that small-town feel. The house prices are significantly better here. Your cost of living is lower, and you can feel it.”
Stoddard had an experience similar to Haggerty, driving back and forth to a job in metro Detroit while living in The Thumb. He, too, is now enjoying the best of both worlds by living and working in Genesee County where the schools are great, and his kids can get outside and play by riding bikes and four-wheelers.
Plus, the work is as challenging and innovative as anywhere. The components developed by Molex are used in vehicles manufactured by leading automakers worldwide. The company’s building in Genesee County includes a chamber for 360-degree antenna testing on vehicle, one of only four of its kind in the world.
Molex has a growing need for engineers in a wide range of specialties, while fellow employers in The Thumb offer solid career opportunities for skilled professionals in other areas. The region is expected to add more than 4,000 new jobs over the next five years, according to an economic study by EMSI.
“We are working on the high-tech stuff that’s five years out from where automotive is right now,” Stoddard said. “Not only can I give you a high-tech job that pays you well, but I can do it here in (the Thumb Region).”