Commemorating 120 Years of Supporting and Advocating for Michigan Manufacturers

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

For more than a century, the manufacturing industry has propelled Michigan forward — through good times and in challenging times. A lot has changed from the introduction of the Model T or Michigan’s Arsenal of Democracy — but one thing has remained true: MMA has been the state’s unwavering advocate for the manufacturing industry since 1902.

We are celebrating our 120th anniversary by looking not only at our past but at our collective future as the next generation of tinkerers and titans shapes our state’s economy, our livelihoods, our communities and families.

To appreciate that future, let’s take a look back through the decades of MMA’s evolution and the story of our state’s most vital industry.

1902 — 1931

MMA is Founded

MMA was officially founded in 1902 by 130 manufacturing leaders who joined together to address tax fairness and the creation of a workers’ compensation system to protect employees. This century also marks the first golden age of the automobile, as Michigan’s Big Three auto companies are born in the early 20th century. MMA preceded all of the major automakers —  Ford was founded in 1903, General Motors in 1908 and Chrysler in 1925 — and was at the forefront of a statewide and cultural shift as cities and industrial jobs began to boom.

1932 — 1945

Supporting the Great Arsenal of Democracy

Defined by one of the most impactful events of the 20th century, this era saw America entering World War II when everyone, especially manufacturers, did their part to support our fighting men and women. When Michigan’s manufacturers turned their attention to the war effort, the response was powerful. Automotive production lines quickly converted into building aircraft, armored vehicles and naval material. Detroit was termed the “Arsenal of Democracy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in one of his many fireside chat radio addresses to the nation.

During the challenges of the war period, MMA continued to meet the needs of manufacturers by becoming one of the first trade associations in the nation to institute its own group life insurance program in 1943. Even before the onset of the war, MMA developed an unemployment compensation act to assist workers during the Great Depression.

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Watch a brief video about MMA’s history below.

1946 — 1965

“Motor Capital of the World” and Entrepreneurship Rise

Post-WWII, Michigan, along with the rest of the country, experienced a generational population explosion. It certainly was a booming time for Michigan families as the postwar economy — propelled by the highest level of personal savings in the nation’s history — was primed and ready to soar to new heights. After the war, MMA was faced with having to adapt to faster, more innovative businesses needing solutions to employment, workers’ compensation issues and a more complex legislative environment. By this point, MMA’s insurance offerings began to grow and evolve in order to meet the needs of our members, which is a core concept that has helped MMA provide significant value and cost savings.

1966 — 1982

MMA Forms Committees to Address Legislation, Service Corporation is Founded

Continued growth and change within MMA was highlighted with the formation of the first policy committees to provide a valuable forum for members to help shape statewide policy. Committees on air quality, water quality and hazardous and solid waste worked to ensure new environmental regulations were fair, effective and didn’t unnecessarily burden the manufacturing industry. In 1976, MMA organized a product liability committee and examined product liability impacts, identified solutions, charted legislative options and drafted a workable, comprehensive bill.

In 1980, the MMA Service Corporation (MMASC) was founded as a for-profit subsidiary of MMA. Through MMASC, manufacturers could obtain “all-employee coverage” for accidental death and disability, dental coverage, workers’ compensation and property and casualty coverage for plants and equipment. Since that time, MMASC has continued to grow, providing tremendous value to members through the group buying power of over 35,000 insured employees.

1983 — 2002

Legislative Advocacy Spurs Growth

MMA’s work in the legislative arena not only impacts our members but these same policies and programs create more economic opportunities throughout the entire state. Advancing manufacturing interests supports a vibrant statewide economy, education and good-paying jobs. That is why, during this period and beyond, MMA has worked tirelessly to champion these opportunities that are vital to the health and livelihood of our communities. One of MMA’s most significant victories took place in 1995, with the rollback of the Single Business Tax, which had placed Michigan businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared with neighboring states.

2003 — 2022

MMA Adapts and Evolves

If the story of our last 120 years has taught us anything, it’s that MMA has adapted and evolved to support its members and the state. During the past 20 years, MMA has focused on its core mission of advancing the cause of manufacturing through effective legislative advocacy while at the same time expanding value-driven services to its members. Legislative victories like the elimination of the state’s Personal Property Tax in 2016 (saving Michigan manufacturers over $4 billion and counting) continued as well as the implementation of modern solutions to members such as enhanced networking events, online learning opportunities, workforce development solutions and more.

Looking to the Future

Michigan will continue to be the cradle of innovation and invention for generations to come and MMA will continue to advocate tirelessly on behalf of the entire industry to provide valuable services and resources to our members.

Sourced from past MMA Enterprise magazine issues.