'Not your typical auto plant,' FCA tells residents near proposed project
Fiat Chrysler leaders gave residents a closer look Wednesday at a proposed $2.5 billion investment on Detroit east side.
The automaker's representatives talked about the project's layout, its hiring process and how it will address environmental issues.
“There’s a lot of consideration about how we fit into this community,” said Ron Stallworth, in external affairs for FCA. “This is not done willy-nilly or accidentally.”
The meeting at UAW Local 7 was the third of five scheduled for the city’s Community Benefits Agreement process, which includes establishment of a Neighborhood Advisory Council and the series of community meetings. The city’s goal is to submit an agreement to the City Council by April 12.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said its proposed Mack Avenue Assembly site will include buildings for general assembly, paint shop and body shop. There also will be a test track. The Jefferson North Assembly Plant will have a test track, quality center and paint shop.
The state-of-the-art project will be aesthetically pleasing, said Ben Monacelli, FCA’s senior manager of new manufacturing building construction.
“I know what’s real important to us is how we make the site look from the outside …” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give you a picture that this is a place you want to be. We want employees — you’ll want to work here. We want the residents around here to say it’s not your typical auto plant.”
FCA plans to invest $1.6 billion in expanding its Mack Avenue facilities, which will add 3,850 jobs, and $900 million investment in the Jefferson North Assembly Plant on Conner Street, which will bring 1,100 jobs.
Hiring will begin in the late first quarter of 2020, officials said.
As of Wednesday, the city had one month left to acquire 200 acres of land and secure the City Council's approval for the development.
Meanwhile, the automaker has been working closely with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for several months on the concept of the plant, it said.
“The air permit that we need for the plant has to meet their tough regulations and their emission standards, and we work closely with them,” said Greg Rose, FCA’s director of environmental health and safety.
The paint system at the Mack facility will be water-based versus solvent-based. The permit will make it the lowest emitting paint facility in Michigan, Rose said.
Rose said FCA will be mindful of its water usage and its overall impact on the area's sewage system.
“We’re very focused on minimizing our impact on the water in the area,” he said. “We’re very focused on minimizing the water we require. That’s a difficult task sometimes.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority board approved the purchase of 14 acres of leased land from the Great Lakes Water Authority in an effort to provide the acreage Fiat Chrysler needs for its expansion. The authority will buy the property at 11900 Freud and 11900 Jefferson for $1 million. The agreement includes an easement for the regional water system to access to the Conner Creek CSO Facility.
The Detroit News reported this week that the automaker appears poised to qualify for at least three types of state tax incentives or subsidies as part of its plan to invest $4.5 billion in five Michigan plants and create 6,500 jobs in Metro Detroit.
The city is expected to provide about $12.1 million in tax abatements over 12 years.
Residents last week elected two residents to a nine-member Neighborhood Advisory Council. They are residents Rhonda Theus and Michelle Jackson.
Additional members were announced Wednesday. The City Council’s three appointees are Jerry King, Juliette Okotie-Eboh and Jay Henderson. The Detroit Planning and Development Department named four appointees: Darnell Gardner, Henry Williams, Curtis Perry and Thomas Hardiman.
Okotie-Eboh, a 30-year resident in the area, said she wants to make “sure that this part of the city has a future. That our young people have a future. The jobs are what excites me most.”
Audrey Carter, a resident of the Jefferson Chalmers area, said the city has made some improvements to the area, but she’d like to see investment from the automaker.
“There are more areas we need to see redeveloped in our area,” Carter said. “We need a recreation center in this area.”