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FCA has hired 4,100 Detroit residents for its new Detroit Assembly Complex

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has received acceptances from 4,100 Detroiters to work at its new Detroit Assembly Complex, which includes the first automotive assembly plant built in the city in nearly 30 years, Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday.

FCA's $2.5 billion investment to expand the former Mack Avenue Engine Complex into an assembly plant and update the adjacent Jefferson North Assembly plant will create 4,950 total new jobs. The Italian American automaker has extended 4,300 offers with the help of the city's Detroit at Work program.

The rendering is of the new Mack Avenue Assembly Complex once Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV invests $1.6 billion to convert the two plants in the future assembly site.

"Think about this: More than 4,000 Detroit families with a middle-class job," Duggan said during a news conference. "They start out at $17 an hour and ultimately work up to $28 an hour. This process is ongoing. The hiring is not done, and the list is not done."

Following on the success of that project, the city hopes to follow its lead by working with other employers interested in coming to the city and needing to recruit workers such as at Amazon.com Inc.'s facility planned for the old Michigan State Fairgrounds.

"Detroit at Work is probably becoming our single best competitive advantage in landing large employers," Duggan said.

The city of Detroit acquired more than 200 parcels of land and granted a tax break to Fiat Chrysler to make its expansion. As a part of its community benefits agreement mandated by city ordinance with neighborhood residents and the city, Fiat Chrysler committed to hiring from Detroiters first. In partnership with Detroit at Work, 1,100 job readiness events were held last fall and this spring resulting in 16,245 Detroiters being screened for the opportunity. More than 10,300 completed an application, and 5,500 were invited for interviews.

"The mayor mentioned he wasn't sure how this was going to go," said Ron Stallworth, FCA's external affairs lead. "The company wasn't sure how this was going to go either. We had some uncertainty and some trepidation.

"What we've come to realize is that we have some partnerships and strong leadership in the city of Detroit through Mayor Mike Duggan as well as Detroit City Council. Not only are these folks capable, but also business savvy."

And it won't end with 4,100 hires, Duggan added, noting the agreement provides that in any future hiring Fiat Chrysler conducts at the the new plant, it must interview from a screened list of Detroiters first.

"We are going to be committed to make sure there is always a supply of Detroiters first," Duggan said.

Production at the new assembly plant will begin in the first quarter of next year. It will build an unnamed new full-size, three-row Jeep SUV and the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. Jefferson North also will produce the Grand Cherokee along with the Dodge Durango SUV; FCA will shift its focus to updates there after Mack reopens, Stallworth said.

Until that happens, FCA has asked its hires to work on a voluntary basis at nearby plants, including Jefferson North, Sterling Heights Assembly and Warren Truck, as supplemental employees. Some 3,400 of the new hires have opted into that opportunity.

"This is a game-changing event in my life, not just because it is a well-paying job, but because it will allow me to develop skills necessary for the new plant and that I can transfer to other parts of my life," said Michael Killiwany, one of the hired Detroit residents who has started at Warren Truck.

Now, Detroit at Work plans to leverage the infrastructure into which it invested for the FCA effort for other employers such as at Amazon's $400 million facility planned for the fairgrounds that City Council approved Tuesday. The deal is expected to close Oct. 30.

"When Amazon came to talk to us about the fairgrounds, I told them, 'we're not giving you a tax break,'" Duggan said. "What we will do is we will be your partner in helping you recruit Detroiters to fill these jobs."

A rendering of the proposed Amazon distribution center at the Michigan State Fairgrounds at Eight Mile and Woodward.

The hiring of those 1,200 jobs is not expected to begin for another year, Duggan said, but conversations between Amazon and Detroit at Work have begun.

Detroit residents interested in working for either Amazon or Fiat Chrysler can go to detroitatwork.com to get into the pipeline.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble