Lear’s Flint facility is already fueling renewed interest in city’s redevelopment efforts

Lear’s Flint facility is already fueling renewed interest in city’s redevelopment efforts

Flint’s Mayor, council members, state representatives and liaisons from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation stood next to backhoes and earth movers with golden shovels to celebrate the ground breaking of a 156,000-square-foot factory that will make seats for General Motors Corp. in Flint.

Lear is making a $29.3-million investment on this 33-acre site that will bring 600 jobs to the area.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Lear’s President of Seating Ray Scott stand at the foot of the  $29.3-million development expected to transform Flint’s business climate. Photo Maureen McDonald

“This is a great day for Flint, a tipping point,” says Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “We’ve been waiting for some sign of economic growth, an integral piece of Flint’s recovery. Nearby residents are happy.”

Indeed the happiest news is a job-creating factory and a gleaming new building on what State Rep Sheldon Neeley calls the poverty corridor.

“We could see major businesses setting up nearby,” he says. “A rebirth of a very active part of town.”

How active?

More than 18,000 people were employed in a series of office and industrial buildings on the site, according to Lawrence T. Gustin, General Motors historian and author who worked on the site when it was GM Buick Division’s world headquarters. Then it was called Buick City. That facility was shuttered in 1999.

“I have a lot of pride in Flint. It helped shape who I am today.” Ray Scott, President, Lear Seating

GM, which was founded in Flint, had 80,000 employees in the city until the late 1980s when the company was battered by recession and global competition and kept downsizing until nearly all the workers went home and the plants were closed.

Only tumbleweeds remained.

Today marked the beginning of a new story.

Ray Scott,  executive vice president of Lear and president of Lear’s seating business, chose the Buick City site because of its proximity to the home of many potential workers and the company’s commitment to give back to communities in which it operates.

“I have a lot of pride in Flint. It helped shape who I am today,” Scott says. “We had options for other locations that we considered, but what was important to us was that this was the right thing to do from a community standpoint. To build a modern, state-of-the-art facility at that location is very symbolic and historic.”

Lear worked with GM and the city of Flint to attain the site. The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a $4.35 million Michigan Business Development performance-based grant to help build a sub-assembly and final assembly of automotive seats.

Construction will start immediately, Scott says.

A pair of giant yellow earth moving machines stood ready for action. The new factory will open in 2018, surrounded by green space to improve the overall look of the neighborhood.

Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson says the mayor and council worked closely with Lear officials to get tax abatements from the city and grants from the state.

“We passed a resolution that a percentage of jobs must come from Flint,” he says. He, and everyone attending the groundbreaking hope this is the long-awaited catalyst for investments. It looks mighty likely.

See more Lear-related coverage from TheHUB: Lear brings 600 jobs to Flint and a commitment to help revitalize the city

https://youtu.be/sLZJJSmGmhw

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