As published in Toledo Business Journal - October 1, 2018

Tower Automotive’s facility in Bellevue

Tower Automotive’s facility in Bellevue

Tower Auto investing $29M in Bellevue

New investment and expanded facility to support redesigned 2021 Ford F-150

Tower Automotive Operations USA I, LLC, an integrated global manufacturer of engineered automotive structural metal components and assemblies and a subsidiary of Tower International, Inc., is investing close to $29 million in its Bellevue facility. The company is adding 73,000 square feet to its current 377,450 square foot facility and is expected to add 16 new positions and retain 363 positions because of its new e-coating line at the facility.

According to Derek A. Fiebig, executive director for investor and external relations, Tower’s investment includes $17.75 million for machinery and equipment, $11 million for the building, and $200,000 for the land.

When speaking about why Tower Automotive is expanding, Fiebig said, “Tower currently produces frames for the Ford F-150, and this expansion project is to support the upcoming redesigned model year 2021 F-150 launching in the second half of 2020.”

He noted that the project began earlier in the summer and is expected to be complete next summer. Monroeville-based Janotta & Herner is the general contractor for the project.

The project, according to industry sources, was competing with Michigan at the company’s Plymouth plant for the expansion. The Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) played a leading role in managing the execution of this highly competitive project, noted John Gibney, vice president, marketing and communications of the RGP.

“Both the RGP and JobsOhio worked closely in securing a critical grant to support necessary infrastructure upgrades,” said Gibney.

Tower primarily serves original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Ford, Volkswagen Group, Fiat-Chrysler, Volvo, Nissan, Daimler, Toyota, BMW, and Honda.

“The Bellevue facility ships to Ford Motor Company’s truck plants in Dearborn, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri,” said Fiebig.

The company’s products include body structures, assemblies and other chassis structures, and lower vehicle systems and suspension components for small and large cars, crossovers, pickups, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

Tower Autmotive produces full frames for its customers

Tower Autmotive produces full frames for its customers

According to the company, its capabilities includes cold forming, in which it produces stamped parts using precision single-stage, progressive, tandem, and transfer presses; hot forming, in which it provides customers with ultra high strength steels (UHSS) for automotive body structures; joining, including gas metal arc welding, resistance spot welding, capacity discharge, drawn arc, laser welding, and friction stir welding; continuous improvement, embracing Lean Six Sigma, labor best practices standardization, and advanced product quality planning (APQP) to drive productivity and quality while managing new programs on time and on budget; product technology, investing in computer aided engineering, design and manufacturing (CAE/CAD/CAM) software; process technology, consisting primarily of stamping and welding operations, system and modular assembly operations, and coating; program management, following the Advanced Quality Project Plan and is engaged and involved with customers from the early stages of the program definition; and expertise, working together with its customers in various stages of production, including development, component sourcing, quality assurance, manufacturing, and delivery.

Tower International, according to Fiebig, has strategically located production facilities in the United States, Germany, Belgium, Slovakia, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, and the Czech Republic, supported by engineering and sales locations in the United States, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, and India. The company employs approximately 7,600 people globally.

“Tower is expected to grow North American revenue to $1.5 billion for full year 2018 up nearly 40% since 2014. The growth has been fueled by the industry trends of outsourcing, lightweighting, and favorable product mix as the market shift from cars to trucks and sport utility vehicles,” said Fiebig.

Dave Sabo, economic development directory for the City of Bellevue, noted that the company is receiving an Ohio Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) incentive.

The CRA program is an economic development tool administered by municipal and County government that provides real property tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings. CRAs are areas of land in which property owners can receive tax incentives for investing in real property improvements. This program permits municipalities or Counties to designate areas where investment has been discouraged as a CRA to encourage revitalization of the existing housing stock and the development of new structures.

“This means any new addition to a building that Tower is going to add on out there, they could qualify for up to 15 years of tax abatement. On that particular piece of real estate, it would be determined by the County Auditor once we get the application in – Tower’s estimated costs of what that project was with pictures with before and after shots and send it to the Auditor – and we will set that in place for them,” said Sabo. “So they continue paying real estate taxes on their existing building, obviously, but they also had a CRA involved for its past expansion. So they are currently in one, but this would qualify, and in lieu of that, to keep support for the schools, we have what is called a service payment. Since they will be abated for the real estate taxes, we line up with Bellevue City Schools and EHOVE Career Center since some of our kids attend there, they pay a service payment annually to these schools as a service payment in lieu of these taxes. It’s 25% of what their normal taxes would be. So it’s still a saving for them, but it supports the schools.”

The current expansion follows a previous expansion at the same facility in 2015 in which Tower added 364 robots in total to help mass produce frames for an undisclosed contract. For that expansion, the company added 150 new employees, which, at that time, tripled the employment there. In 2015 for that project, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 50%, seven-year tax credit to Tower for the creation of $5,979,000 in new annual payroll as a result of its expansion project.

“We always look to continue to keep and help existing business, as well as attract new businesses, but they have 363 employees there now and it would have been a big hit to our economy if we lost them, so we are very happy they made the decision to stay and expand, and we absolutely support them 100% with any project going forward. So it’s great we were able to hang onto those jobs, and it’s creating more jobs as well. But we want to hang onto everyone we can, service them as best as possible, and we are excited about this current expansion,” concluded Sabo.

The company began operations at the Bellevue location in 1991 with the Ford Econoline van.

 

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