"There is nothing going on in Silicon Valley or anywhere else ... that is more advanced than what is going on here," Bill Ford said Friday at the "Revitalization & Business: Focus Detroit" conference at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A century ago, Detroit was "kind of a sleepy little town" that was "was transformed overnight" by the automobile, Ford said.
With the industry starting to build plug-in electrics, "here we are again, 100 years later," he said. "It is my belief that the best and the brightest will be ... descending on Michigan. So if you are thinking about staying in Michigan, please do. We need you."
Ford board member Anthony Earley, chairman of DTE Energy, predicted that electric cars and battery development would bring 40,000 new jobs to Michigan by 2020.
"Detroit and Michigan have positioned themselves as the epicenter for this technology," Earley said. "We've got assets that many cities don't have. ... And then we can start to build the image that this is a city that is on the rise."