Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
A $31.9 million investment in Battle Creek supports recent comments
made by Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, that “a broad economic recovery is suddenly gathering speed, calling millions of Americans back to work.”
Magna Cosma Casting
, which supplies parts to automotive manufacturers throughout the world, is poised to make that investment, depending on the approval of a tax abatement request that will be introduced during tonight’s (April 13, 2021) Battle Creek City Commission meeting, says Shabaka Gibson, Vice President of Retention and Workforce Development with Battle Creek Unlimited.
Plans call for Magna’s current facility to undergo a 50,000-square-foot expansion to support additional manufacturing for the automotive sector.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand in the economy and supply is having a hard time meeting that demand because supply chains are still in flux,” Gibson says. “Projects like these don’t happen overnight. It takes at least two years of planning before something like this happens. This may have been planned before COVID hit.”
Gibson agrees with the optimism being expressed about the nation’s economy and what that will do for Battle Creek.
“The future is pretty bright,” he says. “The question is when will this economic growth take off, how far it will go, and will it be taken advantage of locally.”
Magna’s Battle Creek expansion, at 10 Clark Rd N. in the Fort Custer Industrial Park, will add 68 new jobs during the next three years to the current 293-person workforce.
“The 68 jobs they’re proposing right now are programmed for the new work that will come in with the expansion. If that work expands, they will hire more people,” Gibson says. “Their intention is to hire a lot of local people and train them and also do some recruitment from outside of the area.”
The company will be hiring a mix of engineering, project management, and skilled employees, according to a press release from BCU.
“There’s going to be a little bit of a skills adjustment and a realignment of overall talent. I think we’re positioned very well in Battle Creek and the state of Michigan and our community college programs are positioned well to offer the necessary training,” Gibson says. “We’ll lean on them a little bit more in the next 24 or 36 months.
“I think that trend towards more training started a while ago. Sometimes workforce development and the needs of the workforce are not always aligned. A few things that are going to come on the scene are a lot more automation folks hired who will need higher-level skills. A lot of companies like to train individuals on automation themselves.”
Magna opened its Battle Creek location in 2013.
Bryan Bowersox, General Manager of Cosma Casting Michigan, says, “This expansion is about our employees and the team. We strive to attract, develop and retain the best talent by providing a challenging and rewarding environment in which to grow both personally and professionally.”
Battle Creek was selected over locations the company has in Alabama and Ohio, Gibson says. Magna Cosma Casting is a subsidiary of Magna International Inc.
, headquartered in Aurora, Ontario.
Gibson says he thinks BCU’s TRAIN (Talent, Recruitment, Attraction, Inclusion, iNcentive) program may have factored into the company’s decision to select Battle Creek.
TRAIN is a partnership
between BCU and participating Battle Creek employers, like the Kellogg Co., that matches incentive contributions to those who are willing to move to Battle Creek for their job. Entrepreneurs, freelance workers, and existing employees also are included. The program will commit at least 40 percent of awards to underrepresented demographics, including women, persons of color, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Funding is available for new or existing employees who move into areas within the city of Battle Creek’s corporate limits. It also provides a path to homeownership for eligible existing employees. The grant program provides up to $12,000 toward down payments on a home, rent, and moving expenses.
The funding amounts are awarded depending on the salary of an individual who decides to relocate to the city. For example, “If a company wants to hire someone moving from Indiana and their salary range is between $40,000 and $50,000, they will qualify for up to $8,000 which could go towards a down payment on a house or rental assistance for 24 months,” says Joe Sobieralski, President and CEO of BCU.
The second tier would be for individuals making between $55,001 to $79,199. They would qualify for grants of up to $10,000. The third tier is for salaries of $80,000 and above which would qualify for up to a $12,000 TRAIN grant.
Depending on the position an individual is hiring into with Magna, starting salaries will range from $15 to $35 an hour.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is supporting the expansion project by allowing the company to forgo paying State Education taxes for 12 years. The tax break is estimated to be worth $309,000.
“Magna’s continued investment in Michigan means good jobs for our residents and further solidifies our state’s continued leadership in advanced automotive manufacturing and mobility,” says Michigan Economic Development Corporation Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President Josh Hundt in the press release. “We’re pleased to work with our local partners and support this expansion as we continue to work toward economic recovery for all Michiganders.”