Flex-N-Gate says it could hire up to 650 by fall
Auto supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp. confirmed Wednesday that it plans to build a $100 million plant at Detroit’s I-94 Industrial Park and could hire up to 650 people by the end of summer.
Shahid Khan, owner of Flex-N-Gate and the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, said at a press conference his company hopes to invest $95 million in construction and capital for a manufacturing plant that will supply parts for Ford Motor Co. Additional investments could make the value of the project $100 million.
The 350,000-square-foot facility will be the second major new tenant at the industrial park, if Detroit City Council approves the project. Mayor Mike Duggan said he hopes the council will consider the project by the end of the summer.
“(Flex-N-Gate) has found a really good, hard working workforce that is ready to be trained and ready to go to work,” Duggan said at a news conference. “When Flex-N-Gate has success, it says to a lot of other people that you can produce products in the city of Detroit of quality and you can do it at a competitive price.”
On Tuesday, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $3.5 million grant for the project. Also Tuesday, the Economic Development Corp. of the city of Detroit approved Flex-N-Gate’s purchase of 30 acres of the industrial park.
Flex-N-Gate is applying for a tax abatement with the state of Michigan and a Renaissance Zone city income and utilities tax abatement, Duggan said. The Michigan Strategic Fund board is expected to address a Renaissance Zone designation for Flex-N-Gate at its August meeting, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
“I don’t think it will be a terribly hard decision,” Duggan said. “(Currently) nobody’s paying any taxes on the property.”
Kahn said he hopes a majority of the 400-650 employees he plans to hire will be from Detroit. At full capacity, up to 750 could be employed.
He said the jobs would likely pay – when benefits are included – in the mid- to high-$20 range.
Prior to the Detroit facility opening, employees will train at another Flex-N-Gate plant. There are 11 manufacturing plants and one research and development facility in Michigan owned by Flex-N-Gate and its subsidiary, Ventra.
Khan said it will be up to the facility’s workers whether to unionize. Flex-N-Gate President Kevin Hamilton said they have not communicated with the United Auto Workers about the project yet.
Flex-N-Gate supplies exterior trim components, aluminum and steel modular stamped body in white and chassis assemblies, lighting and other original equipment manufacturer automotive products to the auto industry.
City Councilman Scott Benson — who represents the 3rd District, where the facility will be built — is leading an initiative to work with individuals living in the area to hear their feedback on the plan over the next six weeks.
Quincy Jones, executive director for neighborhood alliance, said the area surrounding the proposed plant has the highest percentage of unemployment in Detroit.
Khan and Duggan said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. helped to move the idea of the plant forward. Duggan said discussion to bring Flex-N-Gate to Detroit began in December.
Charlie Pryde, regional director of government affairs for Ford, said Ford recognizes Flex-N-Gate as one of its top global suppliers. “We look forward to the success of Flex-N-Gate’s operation and to continue to work together to power the city of Detroit and Michigan’s prosperity,” he said.
Steve Arwood, president and CEO of Michigan Development Corp., said the announcement of the new plant is another example of the change in Detroit. “This is the first major significant jobs industrial project we’ve helped bring back to the city,” he said. “(Detroit has) truly turned a corner, and there’s nowhere to go from here but more development around this area.”
Flex-N-Gate, founded in 1956, is based in Urbana, Illinois, and has 48 manufacturing and nine product development and engineering facilities throughout the world.
The Economic Development Corp. took possession of the industrial park in 2000, but within its first 15 years, only one company moved onto the 189-acre site. Earlier this year, Linc Logistics opened a $30 million, 500,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the Flex-N-Gate site that employs 150.
Duggan said he expects the remaining acreage of the industrial park to have plans for development in the next year or so.
Inquiries about jobs at Flex-N-Gate can be found at http://jobs.flex-n-gate.com. The website does not yet list the Detroit facility as a location.