Flint Goes Big with New Auto Assembly Plant

The Michigan Strategic Fund in late August approved a $4.35 million state grant to the Lear Corp., a Southfield-based auto supplier, to build a 150,000-square-foot building and the location of the former administration building at Buick City.

Lear chose to develop the historic Flint site over moving production to Mexico, according to a state memo. Flint has offered a 50% tax abatement to the company to reduce the overall cost of doing the project in Michigan, the memo said.

Flint City Council approved Lear's development agreement in June, in which Lear pledged to "use efforts to hire locally whenever reasonably possible" for two years, according to documents obtained by MLive-The Flint Journal in a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Construction on the project is to be substantially completed 18 months after work begins, according to the documents. Lear Corporation previously said it intends to purchase the property from RACER Properties LLC and that the building will be used for manufacturing automobile seats.

The company hopes to begin construction this month and open for operation in the spring of 2018.  There also will be a new city bus stop near the property under the development agreement.

Elliott P. Laws, of EPLET, LLC, administrative trustee of RACER Trust, said the company was "pleased by Lear Corporation's decision to make such a significant investment in Flint. These are the types of investments that lift communities and spur even more investment and growth. We will continue our diligent work to attract buyers to maximize the redevelopment potential of our former industrial properties in and around Flint."

City officials also are to help Lear secure any local, state or federal economic incentives in connection with the redevelopment and speed up the permitting and approval process to meet the manufacturer's construction schedule.

Lear previously said manufacturing would be a clean process with no emissions and that the plant plans to use treated water rather than raw water.

Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust was established by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to sell off unwanted GM assets.

The Buick City automobile complex on Flint's north side opened in 1904 and became known as "Buick City" in 1985. Abandoned by GM during its bankruptcy, the last Buick rolled off the plant's assembly line in 1999, and the plant's operations ceased completely in 2010.

In December 2014, American SpiralWeld Pipe Co. began operation on the site's northernmost edge, supplying water transmission pipe for the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline.

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