Ford Motor Company announced a $200 million investment to build a new data center in Flat Rock—the second of two in Michigan—as it braces for an estimated 1,000 percent increase in data usage due to the creation of new connections between automotive and computer technology.
The company formed Ford Smart Mobility a year ago to grow its leadership in the connectivity, manufacturing and support of electric and driverless cars. And, Ford would be hard-pressed to succeed in the digital revolution without adequate infrastructure for storage, processing and integration of the 200 petabytes coming its way by 2021.
“Ford Smart Mobility and expanding into mobility services are significant growth opportunities,” President and CEO Mark Fields wrote in a post on the company's website. “Our plan is to quickly become part of the growing transportation services market, which already accounts for $5.4 trillion in annual revenue."
Last year, Ford began construction on a complete overhaul of its 64-year-old research and engineering campus near Detroit. Ford said it envisions having 30,000 employees on two Silicon Valley-like campuses in Dearborn, rather than scattered across the city in some 70 buildings. More than 7.5 million square feet -- nearly triple the size of the Empire State Building -- will be transformed.
The plan includes a new 700,000-square foot design center to replace the sprawling product development center and historic design dome. The new campus, expected to be mostly complete within seven years, will be served by a network of autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles and electric bikes, Ford said.
News of the investment in a second data center comes after Ford announced in January that it would spend $700 million on its Flat Rock Assembly plant to make it a facility for creating electric and autonomous vehicles—and add 700 new jobs—music to the ears of President Donald Trump.
The morning of Ford’s announcement—one that included another $1 billion in investments upgrades and another 130 jobs in its Michigan plants—Trump tweeted his delight at the news:
Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017
Of that $1 billion, $850 million will go toward upgrading its Michigan Assembly Plant to support the return of the Ford Ranger and Bronco. Ford will spend the other $150 million at its Romeo Engine Plant to expand capacity for engine components for several of its vehicles, creating or retaining 130 jobs staying in the U.S.
That brings the total of investments by Ford in Michigan over just three months to $1.9 billion. Over five years, Ford has spent $12 billion on its U.S. plants and created nearly 28,000 jobs in the states.
Ford posted its second-best profits in history in 2016, with net income at $4.6 billion, and an adjusted pre-tax company profit of $10.4 billion.