German auto supplier to open plant employing 400 in Plymouth Twp.
A German auto supplier is expanding its operations in Michigan with a new manufacturing facility in Plymouth Township.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s governing body approved Tuesday a $2.7 million performance-based grant to Webasto Roof Systems Inc., a subsidiary of the Webasto Group, a sunroof, convertible top and heating systems manufacturer.
The company plans to invest nearly $48 million into the new building near Schoolcraft and Haggerty Road to create 441 new jobs after obtaining several contracts from Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
"We're very happy about this project," Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise said. "It's going to create new jobs and improve our tax base. We're hoping it will kickstart a part of our township that has been underutilized in recent years and spur more development in the Schoolcraft and Haggerty Road area."
The 300,000-square-foot facility will produce automotive roof systems with capacity to expand to other product lines in the future, said Edis Tokovic, Webasto Roofing Systems' advanced manufacturing engineering and operations excellence director. It is expected to open by the end of 2020.
"It means we are exceeding our current capacity and need to expand," Tokovic said. "We are very excited to extend our presence here in Michigan and that we are looking forward to bringing this facility online as soon as possible."
It is part of Webasto's plan to double its sales revenue in the next two to three years, according to the economic development corporation. The parent company's sales totaled $3.8 billion in 2018.
Indiana and Ohio also offered incentive packages, but Webasto chose Michigan based on criteria of customer and supply chain locations, labor force, facility availability, logistics cost and overall business environment.
Plymouth Township also has offered to provide a property tax abatement.
Webasto has more than 800 employees at other locations in Michigan, including at manufacturing facilities in Plymouth Township and Rochester Hills.
Qualified new jobs
In addition to the grant, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board on Tuesday approved a revision to its Michigan Business Development Program guidelines to broaden the definition of "qualified new jobs."
A statutory amendment now allows businesses to include non-Michigan residents as "qualified new jobs" under the program's grant and loan requirements so long as no less than 75 percent of the jobs are held by Michiganians. The change applies to projects approved after March 29 only. The MEDC's approval Tuesday aligns the program's guidelines with the amendment's language.
"We think it is a positive change that will allow us to continue to keep our tools up to date and to best compete for the projects that we are working on," Josh Hundt, chief business development officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corp, said on a call with media ahead of the board's meeting Tuesday.
The board also approved a new Jobs Ready Michigan Program that will designate up to $10 million of funds under the Michigan Business Development Program for performance-based grants to cover training expenses for companies expanding or locating projects in Michigan.
The Michigan Business Development Program's Strategic Growth Project Program also will be expanded to include geographic areas that are underserved by current programs, including municipalities with a population less than 15,000, cities with an unemployment rate greater than the state average or communities in geographically disadvantaged areas such as Michigan Opportunity Zones.
"Changes we are making to the existing Michigan Business Development Program will help us in the war on talent as we work to attract new businesses and jobs to Michigan," Hundt said.
The board on Tuesday also authorized its manager to submit a proof of claim and release on its behalf against Sierra Oncology Inc. The Michigan Strategic Fund lost almost $4.2 million in net value after investing into the Canadian biopharmaceuticals company.
The class-action lawsuit filed in 2016 by Sierra shareholders alleges the company and its management team misrepresented and omitted material facts in its initial public offering concerning the effectiveness of an experimental lymphoma treatment.
The proof of claim and release would allow the strategic fund to participate in a proposed cash settlement of $7.2 million distributed to shareholders based on their respective alleged economic loss.
The strategic fund has seen about a $4.2 million decline in its net value in Sierra after investing more than $5.4 million into the company. The economic development corporation also has an investment in Sierra.