PARIS — Here at Europe’s largest trade show for the business of land warfare, tucked among booths dedicated to drones and armored vehicles, is an arguably unexpected slogan: “Michigan. Pure Opportunity.”
The motto appears at the bottom of giant flags dangling from the rafters of the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center and in front of the ubiquitous hand sanitizers. The catchphrase comes from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
It’s a near-constant reminder that the U.S. state is open for business.
The thinking behind the state’s brightly lit booth and advertising is simple: Defense spending in the United States is expected to top $800 billion this year, but the worldwide military market is expected to exceed $2 trillion. Michigan’s economic development leaders want to increase export sales for the state’s companies.
They’re hardly the only ones. Economic development agencies representing Georgia, Washington, Oregon and Arizona are among the 1,700 exhibitors presenting at the conference. The overwhelming majority of presenters are from Europe, with about 200 from North America, according to show organizers.
Michigan’s economic development officials boast that the state is home to 126,000 defense jobs as well as U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and the service’s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center.
In marketing materials, the state claims it produces the most military vehicles in the United States, citing the U.S. Commerce Department.
Michigan is also home to GM Defense, a subsidiary of General Motors, which broke into the defense market in the U.S. when it landed a contract with the Army to build the service’s Infantry Squad Vehicle. General Dynamics and BAE Systems are among the other prime defense contractors with offices in the midwestern state.
But at a trade show like Eurosatory, lesser-known firms — like Great Lakes Sound and Vibration, which focuses on solving sound, vibration and shock problems, or Huron Industries, which is a sealant and lubricant supplier for the nuclear industry — are looking for new clients. State-themed pavilions help offer that chance.
Eurosatory is not a unique experience for Michigan representatives, who attended the last in-person iteration of the show in 2018 and have participated in other international defense conferences.
By working with officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration and traveling to such events, the offerings from Michigan companies can get more exposure, said Jake Schroeder, the international trade development manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a public-private organization. Otherwise, “they might not be able to dedicate the resources.”
Mike Gruss is the editor in chief of Sightline Media Group.