Dormant for 20 years, there is now new life at the former Buick City Administration Building in Flint, Mich. and Ray Scott, Lear CEO couldn’t be happier about it.
“I was born in Flint and have a long history with this location,” explains Scott in a video last year talking about the company’s decision to build in Flint. “Both my Mom and Dad worked for Buick and during college, I worked at the unit flow through terminal which was a sequencer to Buick City. Ironically, we are now putting up a JIT facility to service Truck and Bus (GM) , where I worked as well.”
On August 11, 2018, plans turned into reality as Lear, a global supplier of automotive seating and electrical systems which was founded in Detroit in 1917, celebrated the opening of the first auto supply plant to open in Flint in 30 years.
The new 156,000 -sq. ft. facility will employ 600 by the end of 2019. The plant, whose conveyor system utilizes Lear's proprietary LPS (Lear Production System), will produce seats for General Motors Co.'s assembly plants in Flint and Orion, Mich.
Global Vice President Jason Scott said its proximity to GM's plants was helpful. But he said the company saw another type of opportunity in Flint, which has faced some rough times recently.
"We felt like we could be a part of the solution," Scott said, "not that we can fix the problem, but be a solution and a small solution," as reported by Brenda Nobel in Detroit News.
The state also stepped up to help the city. The Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved a $4.35-million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to support Lear’s $29.3 million capital investment at the site, which includes the subassembly and final assembly of automotive seats.
The plant is also operating under a new management style which calls for members of the line, instead of salaried superiors, to manage many aspects of their teams, from hiring to providing quality assurance to supporting their peers.
With regard to environmental concerns, the plant will be a zero waste to landfill. Additional elements that will further contribute to the plant's environmentally-friendly footprint include energy-efficient lighting and an area dedicated for green space—30%of the 33-plus acre site.
While much is new in the state-of-the-art plant, the past is not forgotten. The plant pays homage to the community with an old photo of the Buick City Assembly Plant in the lobby, and a graffiti mural of important Flint sites, including a park Lear renovated with new landscaping, a picnic area, a playscape, basketball courts and asphalt walking paths.
The strength of the ties to Flint is intertwined with its relationship with GM. "We have a long relationship with Lear during its 100 years of business," said Tom McMillen, executive director, Interiors & Safety, Global Purchasing & Supply Chain at General Motors. "Lear has earned GM's coveted Supplier of the Year designation 16 times and our partnership continues as we both commit to this next phase for Flint.”
GM has invested almost $3 billion in Flint since 2009. And this year in June the company broke ground in June on a 1.1 million-square-foot, $65 million automotive parts processing center in a Burton, which is right next to Flint. It is the company’s largest single investment in a warehousing and logistics facility in the United States in nearly 40 years.
"This facility and this team wants to be an inspiration to bring manufacturing back to Flint and that really set the bar high,” said Tim Reedy, Lear’s Flint Plant Manager as reported on ABC12.com. “It really takes that world class mentality to do it, and we have the people here."
And it’s the people, those that Ray Scott grew up with and worked alongside that was a primary motivating force for setting up this plant in Flint. “Bringing back jobs to Flint was critical to our decision process.”
Ray Scott is proud to help his hometown. “Flint is a city that just keeps fighting back.”