By Ann Sanner
COLUMBUS: A Chinese company will build an automotive glass-making plant in Southwest Ohio, creating up to 800 jobs and revitalizing a former General Motors factory site, officials said Friday.
Officials from Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. and the owner of the site signed an agreement in Columbus. The company is making a $200 million investment at the site in Moraine, near Dayton.
Ohio officials said it’s the biggest Chinese investment yet in Ohio. Gov. John Kasich said it’s a reaffirmation of “both our strong workforce and our state’s leadership role in automotive and glass manufacturing.”
State officials say the plant is expected to begin operations late next year, employing 800 people within three years. The General Motors assembly plant employed 1,100 workers when it closed in late 2008.
Fuyao plans to buy more than 1 million square feet of space in a deal worked out with the state’s private development arm, JobsOhio, with involvement by local and regional development officials.
Details of incentives offered the company were not immediately disclosed. Ohio said other Midwestern states and some in the South also completed for the plant.
“We appreciate Ohio’s strategic location, workforce and pro-business environment in making this decision to open our North American facility,” Cao Dewang, Fuyao’s chairman, said in a statement.
Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive in Southfield, Mich., said that Chinese and Indian companies have established other auto-related operations in the United States. But he said the Moraine investment is a major development.
“It’s quite sizable,” Robinet said. He said the plant site near Interstate 75 would put the supplier within about four hours of automaking plants in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana producing more than 3 million vehicle units combined annually. He added that the redeployment of the former GM site for auto-related use is a success story, since a number of other former auto plants around the country remain vacant or were converted for unrelated uses.
“This is a little more the exception than the norm,” Robinet said in an interview.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, among those in Ohio’s congressional delegation involved in pushing for the plant, called it an economic boost. He said it likely will also spur jobs at suppliers and distribution centers.
Industrial Realty Group acquired the former GM plant site in 2011 and renamed it Progress Park. Smaller companies already are operating there. IRG is also the developer of the new Goodyear corporate headquarters in Akron and is marketing the vacated Goodyear buildings along East Market Street. IRG has named the project EastEnd.
The General Motors plant that produced sport utility vehicles had employed more than 4,000 people before its decline and end while the U.S. auto industry struggled in the last decade.
An HBO documentary short about the Moraine plant called The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant was nominated for an Oscar.