- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan has approved $17 million in funding to help convert the site of a former General Motors plant that once pumped out World War II-era bombers into an autonomous car testing facility.

The American Center for Mobility - a joint initiative between the state, the University of Michigan and business leaders - is planned for 311 acres at the Willow Run site in Washtenaw County’s Ypsilanti Township. Officials hope the site will become a global center for research, development and testing for self-driving vehicles.

The investment finalizes acquisition of the land and facilitates the design and construction of the site, Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said Tuesday.

“We are making a major commitment to the next chapter of the state’s legendary automotive history,” Snyder said in a statement. “In the next decade, Michigan will be in the international forefront in responding to the opportunity to reimagine transportation, an unfolding world of autonomous vehicles that requires collaboration among private industry, academia and government.”

The state had previously approved a $3 million grant to kick-start the project, which Snyder highlighted during his state of the state address in January.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board - part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. - also on Tuesday approved a $5.7 million performance-based loan for an auto industry supplier in Flint. The loan to C3 Venture could be converted to a grant if the company meets job-creation milestones.

C3 Venture is planning a $9.7 million investment that could lead to 380 new jobs. The company will make interior plastic automotive components along with injection molding and tooling.

“I’m very pleased to see this manufacturing plant established within the city, and hope it is the first of many new employers to invest in Flint,” Snyder said.

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