Roger Moore has seen some changes during his time at the Sterling Heights Stamping Plant. In fact, he describes the difference from what he first experienced—when he started working at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) plant in 1996—to today as “night and day”.
"When I first came here it just looked like a plant," Moore says. "Now its a facility
—it's cleaner, it's brighter, it's a nice place to come, it's a nice place to work."
FCA's announcement last week to invest $4.5 billion in its existing Michigan plants means that the Sterling Heights facility will receive even more of a boost, with a $163 million share of the funds and more than 80 new jobs at the plant.
Moore runs multi-million dollar equipment as a press operator and toolmaker, and says the investment will mean 30 new sets of dies (which stamp out automotive parts), as well as new robots for assembly lines. But the real value is in job security.
Like many Michigan workplaces, the plant was hit hard by the financial crisis. In 2009 the situation became so dire that employees were walked off the premises, lights were turned out and workers were unsure if they would have a job the next day. Plant manager Lance Schwartz says the workplace, thankfully, has doubled in employees since then.
“It’s been a tremendous rebound since the darkness of 2009,” he says.
Schwartz grew up in Sterling Heights and comes from three generations of Chrysler employees.
“I watched the bankruptcy of the early 80s and I know what it meant as a kid, so for me it’s personal.”
Moore too is proud of how far the plant has come since then. “They’re bring work back in-house," he says. "That’s a major plus.”
Schwartz says that expanding the press lines meant that all of FCA's Jeep Wrangler product stamping can be done within the plant, while previously it was outsourced. For the staff, it is a big deal.
“Every chance that we get, as a part of the FCA family, to receive more work for our customers means more security for our team,” he says, “more security for their families.”
The recent FCA announcements outline three vehicles that the Sterling Heights stamping plant will be a part of, which comes a relief to Schwartz and his team.
“As a plant community, we are always on edge to hear what is that work that we are going to be be phasing out and what are we going to get to replace it with,” he says. “To hear that we are going to be a part of the new Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer—that’s all very exciting.”
The automotive company's investment isn't lost on city officials, either. Sterling Heights mayor Michael Taylor says he was thrilled to learn of the plans, and says the city will continue to support FCA as it grows.
“Sterling Stamping is currently home to more than 2,300 jobs and it’s wonderful to hear we’ll be adding more to that workforce," says Taylor.
As part of the larger plans, FCA announced that it intends to spend $1.6 billion converting two plants that comprise the Mack Avenue Engine Complex, invest $245 million in their Warren Stamping plant and spend $900 million retooling and modernizing their Jefferson North assembly plant. The moves are estimated to create nearly 6,500 new jobs.
“Three years ago, FCA set a course to grow our profitability based on the strength of the Jeep and Ram brands by realigning our U.S. manufacturing operations,” says FCA CEO Mike Manley.
“[This] announcement represents the next step in that strategy. It allows Jeep to enter two white space segments that offer significant margin opportunities and will enable new electrified Jeep products, including at least four plug-in hybrid vehicles and the flexibility to produce fully battery-electric vehicles.”