Automation Alley Officially Adds 1,000th member

Chad Halcom
Crain's Detroit

A New England defense contractor expanding its operations in Southeast Michigan officially becomes the 1,000th member of Troy-based Automation Alley, today at the organization’s annual address to its members and board election.

Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot Corp., a supplier of nearly 2,000 military ground robotic units for coalition use in Iraq and Afghanistan, plans to open a Michigan field office in Troy as part of its efforts to expand near the U.S. Army Tacom Life Cycle Management Command in Warren.

Automation Alley, the nonprofit technology-based business association, had 1,016 member businesses and organizations as of late Monday; it reached the 900-member benchmark last July.

“Starting with just 44 members in 1999, we are now 1,000 members strong,” Alley Executive Director Ken Rogers said in a statement. “This is a goal that we’ve been striving for and with (support from the) business community, we’ve been able to become the largest technology business association in the state.”

iRobot was founded in 1990 by robotics specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, iRobot and Waltham, Mass.-based Foster Miler Inc., a division of QinetiQ North America, account for a majority of ground robotic units deployed through Tacom.

Foster-Miller has also expressed an interest in opening Southeast Michigan offices to be closer to Tacom. The U.S. Department of Defense has gone from using virtually no military ground robotics in the months immediately preceding the March 2003 deployment into Iraq to having 5,000 units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Tacom and the Tank-Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, also in Warren. Most units are devoted to explosive ordnance disposal or military intelligence-gathering and surveillance.


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