Ida Byrd-Hill Believes West Michigan, with 3 Battery Factories, Can Secure an $160 Million NSF Innovation Engine Award

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., May 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Ida Byrd-Hill, CEO of Automation Workz, a top 10 ranked U.S. cybersecurity bootcamp, with the support of W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is leading the West Michigan African American Tech Readiness Collaborative and feasibility study.  The West Michigan African American Tech Readiness Collaborative and feasibility study will celebrate unification of the Battle Creek/ Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids/ Benton Harbor/Albion/Jackson region with a Kickoff meeting at 7:30 a.m. on May 24 at 400 W. Michigan Ave. in Battle Creek. The event will feature a keynote speech by Allen Walker who will answer the question, “Can the Battle Creek region become a NSF Innovation Engine?”

Allen Walker is a senior advisor in the U.S. National Science Foundation’s newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). In this position, Walker focuses on potential partnerships through engagement with stakeholders across government, academia, industry, and nonprofits. He also advises directorate leadership on research and development strategy and policy. He acts as the TIP chief of staff supporting the assistant director.

While West Michigan has attracted 3 battery factories within a 60-mile radius it did not become an NSF Regional Innovation Engine in 2022.  Most of the NSF Regional Innovation Engines were designated in the US Southeastern corridor with its plethora of battery factories.

“This West Michigan region is attracting also sorts of tech employer investments, like the Ford-CATL Battery plant, LG Energy Solutions expansion, Ultium Cells battery plant and the Gotion Semiconductor plant,” Byrd-Hill says. “As the CEO of a tech startup, I see the Michigan information technology cluster replicating the 22% growth it experienced over the past 10 years.”

“Sadly, the Michigan Information Technology Industry Cluster Workforce Analysis for 2022 highlights that African Americans comprised only 7.6% of this workforce, while they make up 14% of the general population,” Byrd-Hill continued.  Automation Workz is known for its skills-based certification training that is leading low-income, women and people of color to high-paying middle-skilled tech careers.

The West Michigan African American Tech Readiness Collaborative includes these partners:

Alex Andrews

Talent First

Heather Ignash

Battle Creek Unlimited

Dr. Matias Soto

Andrews University

Dr. Alisha Davis

Grand Valley State University

Heidi Groulx


Dr. Michael Horrigan

Upjohn Institute

Alvin Hills

Midwest Tech Project

Dr. Herman McCall

Homestead Savings Bank

Michael McCullough

Calhoun County Broadband Taskforce

Brian DeRoo

Bronson Healthcare

Jakki Bungart-Bibbs

Michigan Works Southwest

Pastor Monique French

Washington Heights UMC

Pastor Chris McCoy

New Level Sports Ministries

Joseph Anderson, Jr.

TAG Holdings

Dr. Nakia S. Baylis

Village Network of Battle Creek

Danielle Williams

Amplify GR

Joseph Matthews


Dr. Preston Hicks

Goodwill Industries

Dr. Dennis Baskins

Kellogg Community College

Joshua Hilgart

Kalamazoo Defender

Rob Llanes

The Right Place

Dr. Dennis Bona


Kara Beer

Battle Creek Chamber

Sarah Klerk

Kalamazoo Promise

Erick Stewart


Dr. Kara Van Dam

Grand Valley State University

Dr. Sharon Vriend-Robinette

Corewell Health

Frances Hogsten


Dr. Keli Christopher

STEM Greenhouse

Dr. Tino Smith

Kingdom Builders

Gregory Moore

CMS Energy

Kellie Hoffman

Northern Initiatives

Come learn how the West Michigan African American Tech Readiness Collaborative lays the foundation for the $160 million NSF Regional Innovation Engine.

RSVP for the Kickoff meeting
Join the collaborative here.

Contact: Ida Byrd-Hill              

Phone: 313-483-2126

SOURCE Automation Workz