Auto parts plant expansion would add 112 new jobs

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


An auto parts manufacturer in the Windsor core is seeking city incentives to help it expand, renovate and add 112 jobs.

Flex-N-Gate plans a 12,500-square-foot expansion of its plant at Ellis Street East and Howard Avenue, where 580 people currently work, according to an administration report. Greg Atkinson, a senior planner with the city, said he understands the plant is bidding for new work within the company and the incentives provided by the city are part of the plant’s business case.

If the application is approved by city council, Flex-N-Gate would be the 36th approved application to the Economic Revitalization Community Improvement Plan, responsible for 2,227 new jobs since its creation in 2011.

Repeated calls and emails to company officials were not returned this week. Flex-N-Gate is a global automotive manufacturing firm headquartered in Urbana, Illinois, with 48 plans throughout the world. Atkinson said it’s his understanding that the plant is applying for the city incentives as part of its bid, and if it wins the additional work the $3.2-million project would proceed fairly quickly.

“It is a significant application in terms of the jobs,” he said Thursday.

The project involves spending $1.4 million to add 12,500 square feet of manufacturing space to the 253,996-square-foot building, plus $1.8 million for renovations of existing space for an employee cafeteria and new locker rooms.

The Economic Revitalization CIP was created to spur investment in certain economic sectors including automotive. Total jobs created by through these CIP applications is 2,227, according to Atkinson. That averages 64 jobs per application so the 112 jobs promised at Flex-N-Gate is almost double the norm.

The CIP’s biggest incentive is the Business Retention and Expansion Grant Program, providing grants to refund the municipal tax increase that happens when a plant is expanded or built. The grants are paid annually for up to 10 years.

In the Flex-N-Gate case, the expansion would cause the assessed value of the property to rise from $2.9 million to $4 million. The annual municipal tax would rise from $137,647 to an estimated $191,232 as a result, a difference of $53,585. Over 10 years, that difference would be given back to the company for a total savings of $535,850.

The grants represent 17 per cent of what Flex-N-Gate would invest, said Atkinson, who said the benefit to Windsor is not just the 112 new jobs, but helping to retain the 580 existing jobs. He noted that jobs are especially beneficial because the plant is located not in the outskirts but in the core, in a walkable neighbourhood where employees can live nearby.

“It’s good not to forget there’s also almost 600 jobs there that will be kind of shored up by adding this work, in addition to the new employees,” he said.

The most jobs created under the CIP is 324 at autoparts firm A.P. Plasman, 635 Sprucewood Ave., whose application was approved in 2015. German auto parts manufacturer Kauth is a close second with an estimated 300 jobs to be created in the coming years. Kauth announced its decision last year to build a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Windsor with plans to start production in 2020. The city provided $2.1-million in municipal tax rebates over 10 years to attract the firm.

The Flex-N-Gate application goes to council’s Development and Heritage Standing Committee on Monday.