Economy

Chinese biz to put plant at former Ohio GM site

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Chinese company will build an automotive glass-making plant in southwest Ohio, creating about 800 jobs and revitalizing a former General Motors factory site, officials said Friday.

The chairman of the Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. and the owner of the site signed an agreement at the Ohio Statehouse 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. The plant is expected to begin operations late next year, employing about 800 people within three years. The General Motors assembly plant employed 1,100 workers when it closed in late 2008.

"Ohio has been through some difficult times, but we are doing better," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told Fuyao's chairman, Cao Dewang. Kasich said the deal reaffirms the state's leadership role in the automotive industry.

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 have not been finalized and were not immediately disclosed. Ohio said other Midwestern states and some in the South also completed for the plant.

The company said Ohio's location, workforce and business environment were key factors in the decision. The manufacturer expects to start hiring for management positions in May, with manufacturing employees coming onboard at the end of the year, Cao told reporters. Fuyao plans to begin production by June 2015.

Speaking through a translator, Cao said he did not anticipate the deal falling through. "This investment is actually due to the demand of our customers," he said. "And they believe we should be here, because we provide a large percentage of their products."

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 auto-making 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." At least seven smaller businesses already are operating there, said Stu Lichter, the real estate group's president and chairman. "This is the big fish."

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.

Associated Press writer Dan Sewell contributed in Cincinnati.

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