ORION TWP., MICH. (WDTN) – The first phone call David Hicks, City Manager of Moraine, received regarding a Chinese company interested in the old General Motors plant was last April. Fast forward to today, not even a year later, it’s the future site of Fuyao’s first North American automotive glass manufacturing plant.
The company is not wholly new to the United States; there’s a distribution facility in Michigan.
We decided to drive the 250 miles for you to Orion Township, just north of Detroit, to see the impact Fuyao has had on that community of 35,000 people.
“I’m jealous,” smiled Chris Barnett, Orion Township supervisor. “I’m really excited for the Dayton area.” He called it a win for the entire region.
Unlike Moraine, Orion Township still has a General Motors assembly plant, but Barnett says the area was still desperate for jobs when Fuyao came to town in 2008.
“Anytime you have a company that starts with one job, in the worst downturn in my life, and turns around and creates 120 new jobs, it’s a huge win for our economy,” he said.
“Our lunches do depend on these businesses,” said Rhonda Pritchard, the general manager of Palazzo di Bocce, an Italian restaurant across the street from Fuyao.
“Almost every day you will see someone from that company. Not just one, but two or three. They also use us if they have meetings all day in the office, they’ll order large carry outs,” she said.
Pritchard has worked at the restaurant for 10 years, and says a sense of security has finally returned to her and her staff, “That they’re going to have jobs and will continue to make money, and maybe more, there’s that potential of making more.”
Big shoes to fill
Back in Moraine, the potential as Fuyao settles in is exciting to Hicks.
“It doesn’t fill up the whole building, and we’re replacing several thousand jobs with 800,” Hicks said as he discussed Fuyao moving into part of the Moraine plant. “So, it isn’t exactly the same, but it’s exactly what we were hoping would happen.”
The City of Moraine depends on income taxes for revenue. Hicks says that is why the 800 jobs Fuyao is promising and the $32 million payroll is so attractive.
When GM left town, so did a lot of workers. Hicks says Moraine has experienced a drop from $19 million in income tax revenue to about $12 million last year, and the city workforce has been reduced from 157 to 105 employees who are on 36-hours pay.
“Eventually, we’re going to recover and happily working 40 hours a week and things will be back to normal,” he said.
Hicks says Fuyao will occupy about 1.4 million square feet of the north section of the former GM plant. That means there will be a significant portion left over for future growth, either for Fuyao or other companies.
“They’re going from the northeast corner all the way over to Springboro Pike which will give them the area where the rail comes into the building,” said Hicks. “Then south, they haven’t told us exactly how far south yet.”
There’s a feel that’s unique to Fuyao buildings; they’re done according to the Chinese design practice of Feng Shui.
“Lucky for us it works very well for the Moraine facility,” said Kristi Tanner, Jobs Ohio Managing Director. She played a critical role in bringing Fuyao to Ohio, and visited a Fuyao facility in Russia last year that’s similar to the one planned for Moraine.
“The facilities that Fuyao constructs, in really all of their markets, are very open and they’re very bright; they have sun light in the roof to let in natural light instead of just having lighting in the building, which is very different than what you would find in North American manufacturing,” she described.
Fuyao chose Moraine over a number of other cities. “There’s no question we were trying to court them here in Oakland County,” said the supervisor of Orion Township.
We will take the win and hope it translates into even more opportunities.
“I know the impact Fuyao has had on our community, and multiply that times seven, or eight or nine and it will be an amazing impact on the Dayton region,” said Barnett.
We know you’re curious about the jobs and when the hiring will begin. So, we reached out to our partners at the Dayton Business Journal, and Don Baker said their sources are saying that Fuyao will start hiring management in May and use the Jobs Center to fill positions. He said they’re hearing Fuyao will begin hiring the majority of the workers towards the end of the year.
But first, Baker said they’re hearing Fuyao will close the deal on the building next month. Governor John Kasich has said he wants to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site in the spring.