Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S33

losses of GM's downsizing. In the late 1970s,
the automaker employed over 76,000 people
in the Flint area. Today, the number is just
over 6,000.
The hope for a comeback is also predicated
on encouraging a variety of investment-
including nonautomotive-to help diversify
an area that was once solely an automotive
powerhouse.
"The expectation here is that we are moving
toward a much more diverse economy,"
Karcher said. "We support and welcome as
many automotive jobs and companies as
possible and, at the same time, know the
industry changed so much."
Kristin Dziczek is vice president of the
Automotive Communities Partnership in Ann
Arbor, Mich., a membership-based program
that work to increase automotive investment
in the Great Lakes states. Lear's investment
in Flint is significant, Dziczek says, because
its Buick City site has been orphaned for so
long in the Racer Trust, the pool of properties
GM created a decade ago to dispose of its
abandoned sites.
"Buick City is one of the largest properties
in the Racer Trust," Dziczek said. "Moving
any manufacturing into a hard-hit area like
Flint does have a broader impact on the
community than moving into a crowded
metropolitan area."

INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES
Despite the welcome enthusiasm, there
were still challenges Lear had to overcome to
invest there.
In Lear's initial search for a spot in Flint,
Jason Scott, global vice president for Lear's
GM seating group, said it appeared at first
glance that the brownfield site did not have

Lear's new lines take shape.
Below: Lear will also ship
product to Indiana.

the necessary infrastructure to support a
modern assembly plant.
"We thought we'd go into a brownfield
facility," the vice president said of the early
plans. "But when we did our due-diligence
and site selection, it became very evident
that the structure had not been updated in
the past 30 years, which forced us to opt for a
greenfield-type facility there.
"I think because of the economic and
social climate out there with General Motors
reducing their workforce in the area, and
Buick City closing, there wasn't a desire to
update," he continued.
One of the opportunities in re-sparking
the vacant Buick City location is that much
of its land remains available for greenfield
potential. Hundreds of its acres - 360 of them,
to be exact - are open for new construction.
Lear now owns 33-acres of Buick City and

plans to leave of a third of that undeveloped
as its own green space.
But greenery aside, Buick City remains
a brownfield designation, Dziczek said,
and new uses require the customary site
cleanup and subdividing. Lear additionally
made improvements for security and
health precautions, such as installing
additional lighting around the site and
implementing a water filtration system.
But those add-ons required minimal
extra costs, according to the company.

THINKING POSITIVE
Dziczek says Flint's location favors a GM
supply chain. "It's not that far to come to a Ford
or FCA plant," she says, "but it is in GM's realm."
Lear's new plant will serve as a just-in-time
seat supplier to GM's Flint operations. But it
also will demonstrate that suppliers can set up
there and extend their reach beyond Flint. The
operation also will supply GM's Fort Wayne,
Ind., assembly plant.
Another plus for setting up in Flint, says
CEO Scott, is that local residents are ready to
work.
He thought a few hundred people might
show up for a job fair Lear recently held at a
Flint community college. Instead, 2,500 people
came. Now he's hoping the supply chain will
follow Lear's lead.
"Some of our own suppliers could put up
a facility," he says. "It's going to take multiple
steps like this to get any positive momentum,
and hopefully a lot of steps are going to
happen."

E C O N O M I C D E V E L O P M E N T G U I D E / J U LY 2 0 1 8

33



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry

Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - Intro
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S1
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S2
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S3
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S4
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S5
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S6
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S7
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S8
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S9
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S10
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S11
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S12
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S13
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S14
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S15
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S16
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S17
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S18
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S19
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S20
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S21
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S22
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S23
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S24
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S25
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S26
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S27
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S28
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S29
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S30
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S31
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S32
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S33
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S34
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S35
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S36
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S37
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S38
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S39
Guide to Economic Development in the Global Auto Industry - S40
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