Gov. Whitmer Announces New Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation

May 15, 2024

Col. John Gutierrez, USMC (Ret.) announced as executive director with decades of military expertise

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in announcing the new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation (ODAI), which will help grow the state’s defense and aerospace industry.  

ODAI will build on the storied legacy of the Michigan Defense Center, increasing awareness of Michigan’s capabilities, supporting attraction and expansion of businesses that champion Department of Defense-related activities, and enhancing commercial and defense-related aerospace segments poised for growth.  

“Michigan is all-in on defense,” said Governor Whitmer. “With our new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and its new director, we are positioning Michigan to build on its long, proud legacy of leadership in these sectors. We will compete with other states and nations to grow our defense and aerospace economy, harnessing our strong base of talent and building on our powerful ecosystem of businesses in this space. Let’s keep growing and diversifying our economy while supporting our service members and uplifting our industry partners.” 

The office also announced Col. John Gutierrez, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) as its new executive director. Col. Gutierrez has more than thirty years of experience in acquisition, operational, and joint assignments. He began his military service in 1990, enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Hospital Corpsman and served until 1995. In 1996, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and served until 2024. He most recently served as the portfolio manager for Logistics Combat Element Systems, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. 

Col. Gutierrez holds a B.S. in biology from Arizona State University, an M.S. in management from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, an M.A. in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and a masters of military studies from the U.S. Marine Corps University. He has also completed post-graduate studies in project management at George Washington University and in advanced project management at Stanford University. He is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College.

Additionally, Col. Gutierrez holds multiple personal, unit, campaign, and foreign awards, is a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps, and holds the highest level certifications in program management and contracting. 

“I am deeply honored and excited to serve as the executive director for the newly established Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Col. Gutierrez. “I feel privileged to join this critical effort at such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Democracy is under threat on a global scale, not seen since the Cold War. Recent events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s attempt to disrupt freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Straits, along with ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, underscore the challenges confronting the United States and its Allied Nations. Michigan, renowned as the Arsenal of Democracy and a beacon of industrial prowess, holds immense potential. I look forward to working with government officials, business leaders, stakeholders, and partners to leverage Michigan’s defense and aerospace capabilities in order to meet the evolving needs of our nation and its allies at this decisive time.” 

“Michigan has a proud legacy as the Arsenal of Democracy and this new office will ensure our state continues to be a national leader in this critical mission,” said Sen. Webber, R-Rochester Hills, who co-chairs the bipartisan Michigan Legislative Aerospace and Defense Caucus. “I commend our legislative, administration, and MEDC leadership for their shared vision and dedication in charging forward to grow our state’s aerospace and defense industry.” 

“On behalf of the Michigan House of Representatives and the bipartisan Michigan Legislative Aerospace and Defense Caucus, we are proud to build on Michigan’s legacy as the Arsenal of Democracy and usher in a new era of industry and national security leadership with the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Rep. McKinney, 14th House District and caucus co-chair. “I am committed to working with my colleagues and the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation to bring additional investment and economic development to our great state.” 

“I am exceptionally proud of the work that we’ve accomplished over the course of the past several years at the Michigan Defense Center, and I am excited to see this important work advance to the next level within the Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation under Colonel Gutierrez’s leadership,” said Mark Ignash, interim executive director of the Michigan Defense Center and senior sector development director and defense advisor for the MEDC. “It’s an honor to welcome him in and I look forward to working hand in hand with him to continue to drive growth within Michigan’s robust aerospace and defense industry, as well as elevate and support our second-to-none defense community here in Michigan.” 

 

Michigan’s Defense and Aerospace Ecosystem 

The defense industry contributes $30 billion in economic activity for the state of Michigan, supporting more than 116,000 jobs and representing nearly 4,000 Michigan businesses serving the defense, defense aerospace, and homeland security industries. 

The Michigan National Guard also boasts five major installations and additional armories, including the National All-Domain Training Center in Grayling and one of the largest Air National Guard bases in the nation at Selfridge in Macomb County. 

ODAI will support the growth of defense and aerospace-related jobs in Michigan while increasing federal Department of Defense spending and industry-related R&D in the state.  

The new office will also support growth in advanced aerial mobility innovation, testing, and attraction in both defense and commercial-related applications, leveraging the work of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) around Advanced Aerial Mobility.   

 

Additional Support for the new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and its executive director, Col. Gutierrez: 

“Michigan has always played a pivotal role in the security of our nation,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The budding relationship between the ODAI and the Michigan National Guard will help us promote the full potential of our training facilities through investment and awareness. This combination will help us live up to our professional obligation to provide service members with the most relevant and demanding training experience so they will excel on the battlefield of tomorrow.” 

“The NDIA Michigan Chapter is pleased to hear the MEDC has selected Col. John T. Gutierrez, USMC (Ret) as the new Executive Director for the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Valde Garcia, president, NDIA. “Col. Gutierrez is a known entity here in Michigan, and we look forward to supporting him and the MDC, to continue to move Michigan’s defense sector forward to bring additional recognition, funding and programs its way.” 

“In 2022 defense contract awards performed in Michigan reached $5.5 billion, ranking Michigan 22nd among states. There’s great potential to rank even higher, with tremendous opportunity for our defense and aerospace industry to compete, win, and drive greater economic impact,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army (CASA) Michigan. “Establishing an Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation in Michigan shows the state is invested in protecting and growing this sector and the jobs that come with it.”  

“For years Macomb County and our partners across the region and state have helped protect and grow the defense industry,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “Through private sector innovation and installation modernization we have positioned ourselves as the defense center of the Midwest. With the announcement of the creation of the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, we have made another major commitment to ensuring that we continue to protect those who protect us.” 

“Oakland County would like to thank retired Colonel Gutierrez for his service to our country and we look forward to partnering with him as we advance defense and aerospace initiatives and opportunities,” said Oakland County Deputy County Executive Sean Carlson.   

  

Learn more about the new Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and the state of Michigan’s robust defense industry.