Chinese glass supplier to reopen part of GM Moraine plant

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A Chinese automotive glass manufacturer today agreed to buy a large portion of the former General Motors SUV plant in Moraine, Ohio, and said it plans to create about 800 jobs within five years.

The company, Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. Ltd., said it would invest $200 million in the plant, which GM closed in 2008. The plans, revealed during a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse with Gov. John Kasich and Fuyao Chairman Cao Dewang, were described as the largest Chinese investment ever in Ohio and the largest Chinese automotive investment ever in the United States.

“Ohio is thrilled by its new partnership with Fuyao,” Kasich said in a statement. “Chairman Cao has a bold, long-term vision for his company and it’s great that Moraine, Montgomery County and Ohio are part of it.”

Fuyao (pronounced “FWEE-ow”) is China’s largest automotive glass supplier, capturing 65 percent of the market in its home country and 18 percent globally. It said customers of the Ohio plant, which is in a suburb of Dayton, will include GM, Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai-Kia Automotive.

Fuyao currently supplies glass for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Patriot and Compass; Chevrolet Cruze, Impala and Sonic; and the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, among other vehicles.

“We appreciate Ohio's strategic location, workforce and pro-business environment in making this decision to open our North American facility,” Cao said in the statement. “We are making such an investment in Moraine to better service our important OEM customers in the United States and North America.”

Fuyao said it plans to use more than 1 million of the plant’s 4.1 million square feet and begin glass manufacturing by the end of 2015. The project depends on approval of federal, state and local incentives. Some 500,000 square feet already is occupied by five other companies, including a GM parts distributor, according to the city of Moraine’s Web site.

Industrial Realty Group, which bought the plant in 2011 from the trust created to dispose of assets that GM discarded in its 2009 bankruptcy, has been dividing the site into multiple, smaller buildings. IRG’s president, Stu Lichter, described Fuyao as the “big fish” he had been seeking to take over a large portion of the plant, which last built the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy.

Lichter said his firm is pleased to have prevented the plant from being torn down.

“If it was demolished, there would never be jobs here again,” he said at today’s press conference. “We set out to eliminate the possibility that this plant would be demolished so we could be here today.”

Kasich noted called Cao “one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs,” citing a 2009 “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Ernst & Young. The Hurun Report, which ranks China’s wealthiest citizens, named Cao the country’s most generous philanthropist four times.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter


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