| DETROIT, April 24
DETROIT, April 24 U.S. auto parts maker
Flex-N-Gate will build a plant in Detroit in what local
officials described on Monday as the first new investment by an
automotive supplier in decades for Motor City, the cradle and
former beating heart of the car industry.
"This is the largest automotive supplier investment in
Detroit in more than 20 years," Mayor Mike Duggan said at a
groundbreaking ceremony under a light blue spring sky on
Detroit's northeast side. "We're starting to compete and win
Urbana, Illinois-based Flex-N-Gate will invest $95 million
in the plant, which will employ 400-700 people and supply parts
to Ford Motor Co. It is scheduled to open in the first
quarter of 2018.
Flex-N-Gate owner Shahid Khan said Ford was the "great
impetus" behind locating the plant in Detroit and said it aims
to employ locals. Workers would earn up to $27 per hour
including benefits and the plant will use state-of-the-art
automated technology "in order to pay people a living wage," he
The supplier makes plastic exterior parts, especially front
ends, and headlights.
A Ford spokeswoman said the company would not provide
"specific production details at this time" on which models the
plant's parts would be used.
Pakistan-born Khan, who also owns the National Football
League's Jacksonville Jaguars, came to the United States decades
ago to study mechanical engineering at the University of
Auto plants once proliferated across Detroit, and many today
are empty red-brick hulks. Only General Motors Co and
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) still have
operational plants in the city.
Over decades of decline, Detroit's population fell to
700,000 from a peak of 1.8 million people in 1950, reflected in
the many vacant and decaying homes in the area around the future
Since going through bankruptcy earlier this decade, Detroit
has experienced a slight renaissance with businesses and artists
The plight of American manufacturing, as well as
immigration, were the focus of Republican President Donald
Trump's election campaign. Trump has criticized automakers for
building cars in Mexico and talked up announcements of U.S.
investments by Ford, GM and FCA, including some that had been
announced before he took office.
Khan said the decision to invest in Detroit predated Trump's
presidency. But he said that in the U.S. automotive industry
today, "you have to have a social conscience. You can do that
and still make investments like this."
(Reporting By Nick Carey)