New investments would bring 1,000-plus SE Mich jobs

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

A trio projects proposed for Southeast Michigan could bring 1,130 new jobs and $158 million in new investment to the area.

The Michigan Strategic Fund on Tuesday approved performance-based grants for LG Electronics USA Inc., Lear Corp. and Penske Logistics LLC, providing millions in economic support that would potentially return far more in spending in the region. Following approval by the quasi-public agency, officials with each company indicated an intention to move forward with their plans.

The projects include:

■LG Electronics plans a new 250,000-square-foot facility in Hazel Park to assemble and package batteries and other components for the auto industry. In addition, the company will expand its existing engineering facility in Troy. It’s a combined investment of $25 million that would result in 292 jobs. The Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $2.9 million grant for the project.

■Penske Logistics, a subsidiary of Penske Truck Leasing, plans a 606,000-square-foot refrigerated and frozen-food warehousing distribution center in Romulus. The center represents an estimated local investment of more than $98 million and could generate as many as 403 jobs. The fund approved a $2.5 million grant for the project.

■Automotive seating maker Lear Corp. plans a 156,000-square-foot building for production of full-size truck seating in Flint. The company is to invest more than $29 million and generate as many as 435 jobs in a city that is desperate for new investment. The fund approved a $4.35 million grant for the project.

“It means everything to our city,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Tuesday. “We’ve talked about going from crisis to revival. This shows people that it’s something we’re poised to do and it shows the direction we’re heading in.

“Talk about economics and a boost to the community – this is it.”

A Lear spokesman said the company is locked in to its Flint project and looks forward to being part of the city’s recovery. The new facility will be built on the former site of the Buick City Administration Building.

“This will be our newest facility – world class,” said Mel Stephens, Lear’s senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. “We had other options, but the whole purpose of (performance-based grants) is to keep jobs in Michigan.”

Lear chose Michigan over competing sites in the United States and Mexico.

LG officials made clear to Michigan officials they had been examining multiple sites for their investment, including locations in Ohio, Indiana and China. On Tuesday, LG Electronics USA Spokesman John Taylor said: “We are 100 percent committed to Hazel Park and Troy.”

Its sister company, LG Chem, announced in February it would build a 100,000-square-foot addition to its Holland, Michigan electric-vehicle battery plant. That addition would add as many as 150 new jobs.

Penske officials indicated the Michigan Strategic Fund approval clears the way for them to move ahead with their Romulus project.

“We’re pleased to be making this investment and bringing new jobs to Michigan,” Marc Althen, president of Penske Logistics, said an email response to The Detroit News. “The location of the facility was ideal for the needs of our business and we look forward to breaking ground on the project this fall with InSite Real Estate, who is building the warehouse on our behalf.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement released Tuesday: “These employers could have grown anywhere but chose to invest in Michigan’s future. Professional trades and high-tech jobs keep growing here, which is why we need to remain committed to career development and closing the skills gap.”

Jeff Mason, CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said, “These new investments underscore Michigan’s expanding economy, and the appeal and promise of the state’s logistics capacity, automotive industry and autonomous vehicle potential along with a renewed commitment to manufacturing jobs. These high-impact developments could prove to be a catalyst for additional investments.”

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