Snyder, Duggan unveil plans for Southwestern High

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Detroit — An abandoned, vandalized high school in Southwest Detroit will receive new life as part of an up to $31.9 million investment from India-based auto supplier Sakthi Automotive.

The multi-year investment will utilize much of the 1920s-era Southwestern High School for a training center for high-tech manufacturing jobs in connection to production of lightweight aluminum castings, officials announced Monday

"A building that was a center for education for almost a century is going to become an education center today as well," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a ceremony at the high school located at 6921 W. Fort. "That's the kind of partner that Sakthi has been, they're going to be training Detroiters for the jobs of the future."

Newer portions of the high school will be demolished as part of the development, but the original historic structure facing Fort, as well as the gymnasium, will be redeveloped.

When all expansions are completed by 2017, the roughly 70-acre Sakthi Manufacturing Campus will contain an estimated 1.2 million square feet of space across four facilities and employ about 650, including 70 jobs that will move from China.

Officials said construction will start immediately, with portions expected to be completed by year's end.

Mayor Mike Duggan, foreground, announces the project backed by Gov. Rick Snyder, left, and Manickam Mahalingam.

In the last year, Sakthi Automotive, a part of $1.2-billion industrial conglomerate Sakthi Group, entered into purchase agreements for the old GM Fisher Body plant just east of its main building on Fort, and the former American Mailers building to the west, to house its expanded manufacturing operations.

Sakthi Group chairman Manickam Mahalingam touted the investment as part of a long-term objective to grow the company and support southwest Detroit.

"We are here, as we say, in a Catholic marriage," he said on Monday. "We are going to be here for a long time … we are not going to walk away tomorrow."

Duggan, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other public officials praised the investment as the most recent example of a new, collaborative partnership between the city and state and the public and private sectors.

"A lot of groups rallied to make this happen," Snyder told reporters after the announcement. "When we all work together, that's the best way to win together."

The Michigan Strategic Fund is committing $3.5 million to Sakthi to support the expansion. The city of Detroit, through federal funds, is adding another $900,000 for demolition costs of the high school.

The company, according to state officials, chose the grant over offers of free land, training grants and low-interest construction loans dangled by other states including Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina. Officials said the development is being made possible thanks to a deal between Sakthi, its partner, ProVisions, and the Detroit Public Schools to purchase the vacant high school building.

Mayor Mike Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday are to announce a significant expansion of automotive development in Detroit with a plan that will include vacant Southwestern High School. The plan will create hundreds of new jobs, generate millions in new investment and will include development at the old school Detroit, Mi, May 11, 2015. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News)

"This is the kind of partnership that we should have," Duggan said. "It was a combination of the state and the city and the school district working together."

This is the second time the state has worked with the south India-based company. In 2012, Sakthi received a $1.5 million incentive from the Michigan Business Development Program to open the Detroit plant.

Earlier this year, U.S. and Detroit officials touted Sakthi as a success story after the company pledged to hire at least two formerly incarcerated individuals each month.

For information on how to apply for jobs as part of the Sakthi expansion, applicants can email humanresources@sakthiautousa.com