SAN JOSE (KCBS) – The comeback of the American auto industry may depend on whether the high tech engineers needed to design cutting edge cars will consider living in Detroit instead of the Bay Area.

“There’s definitely a war on talent,” said Jim Bazner, vice president at MSX International, a Michigan head hunting firm tasked with helping Ford, General Motors and Chrysler lure engineers from Northern California.

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KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Bazner said the car makers and their original equipment manufacturers have been trying to woo promising Stanford students to a century-old industry where tech jobs are increasingly common.

The car stereo has slowly given way to Internet radio as gas engines are slowly replaced with motors powered by lithium ion batteries. The smart phone, too, has changed the driver’s relationship to the computers that make even the engine hum.

“It’s really information technology expertise and specialty engineering capabilities,” Bazner said, that make today’s new automobiles an attractive challenge for workers who might have pursued careers in Silicon Valley.

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While unemployment in traditional blue collar jobs remains high, Detroit officials said more high tech positions are opening up. Michigan’s jobless rate dropped to 10.4 percent in February, the state’s lowest in two years.

Some of the big car companies’ manufacturers are event trying to replicate the casual workplace culture that’s become commonplace in cities like Palo Alto, San Jose and Santa Clara to make relocating more attractive.

Selling a city that most recently made headlines for a staggering population drop can still be a tough sell, but Bazner said Detroit appears to be on the verge of a turnaround.

“We were down, but we’re not out,” he said.

“There’s definitely resurgence. There’s definitely a spring in people’s step.”

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