Duggan touts job potential of Flex-N-Gate

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Future jobs for Detroiters were in focus Monday afternoon as Mayor Mike Duggan and Flex-N-Gate owner Shad Khan touted the progress of an auto parts plant under construction on the city’s east side.

The $160 million facility, Flex-N-Gate Detroit, is more than half complete and expected to open in October. The plan is to hire more than 400 positions, ranging from managers, salaried and hourly manufacturing positions. The plant sits in the 7000 block of Georgia, between Mount Elliott and Van Dyke, not far from the Coleman A. Young International Airport.

“This is the largest auto plant built in 20 years,” Duggan said. “We’re going to have 400 people working here. It’s going to be open in October, and it’s been a remarkable process.”

Flex-N-Gate builds vehicle front-end parts, such as headlamps and bumpers, for automotive manufacturers. Ford Motor Co. awarded the company a long-term contract to manufacture parts.

“Ford gave us a challenge that they would like urban renewal and jobs created in the city of Detroit,” Khan said.

Construction was underway Monday afternoon at the plant, which is nearly 60 percent complete. It sits on land that was formerly the site of 350 houses. The homes were razed before the facility’s groundbreaking in April. Walsh Construction, which has a regional office in Detroit, is the general contractor for the project.

The building is about 454,000-square-foot and will house six stamping presses and 14 injection molding machines, said Bill Beistline, vice president for global procurement for Flex-N-Gate. Equipment will also include assembly cells.

Khan said the facility will be state of the art.

“Highly automated but flexible,” he said. “Our goal is more brain power, less muscle.”

As an incentive, Flex-N-Gate received a $5.9 million property tax abatement from the city and a $2.6 million federal grant to fund road improvements on the south side of the site. The Michigan Strategic Fund also approved a $3.5 million grant for the project.

The auto supplier has committed to hiring 51 percent of the construction workers from within the city. Thirty percent of the construction contracts for the site will go to Detroit companies. Although Khan and Duggan have not said if a percentage of the manufacturing jobs are reserved for city residents, there will be an “emphasis” on hiring in the city with residents getting first priority.

Duggan said Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, approached him, saying Detroit was his first choice for the facility.

“I promised him at the end of 90 days, he would have a great site on great terms, and it worked out very well for both of us,” Duggan said.

As of Monday, there were about 60 Detroit jobs posted on the company’s website. Focus: HOPE will provide the training and the city will pay for it, Duggan said. Courses are expected to start in February and run through December.

Starting wages for the positions have not yet been released; however, Khan said the plan is for a living wage with benefits.

Duggan said employers such as Flex-N-Gate are a strategy to the city’s recovery.

“You can continue to bring in employers at 400 or 500 at a time; jobs that someone with a high-school degree who is willing to get additional training to raise their skills,” he said. “That’s how this city comes back.”

Those interested in training and employment can visit here.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN