The 48213 ZIP code represents one of the poorest areas of Detroit, which is itself the poorest big city in the U.S., according to census data. With a median annual household income of $21,372, almost half of its residents live in poverty.
But that ZIP code is the priority recruiting area for 500 job openings at Flex-N-Gate Corp.'s soon-to-open $160 million factory there.
The auto parts giant, of Urbana, Ill., and owned by billionaire Shahid Khan, plans to begin producing metal and plastic parts for the Ford Ranger pickup in October at the plant in Detroit's I-94 Industrial Park.
To do that, it must hire and train about 500 workers. And to do that, Khan set his sights on 48213.
In an era where manufacturers are fretting about a shortage of human power and a dearth of technical talent, Khan's strategy is to reach out to available workers where they live. Flex-N-Gate has received more than 16,300 applications for the openings. Fewer than 200 of them have come from residents of the targeted ZIP code, but the company also is considering other Detroit residents. Forty-eight people have been hired for production jobs so far.
Despite being in the UAW's hometown, nothing has been said about whether those jobs will be union-represented, and company officials declined to discuss the wage scale.
“Employees at all plants enjoy a collaborative workplace where their input is valued and recognized," a company spokesman said in an e-mail when asked about the potential for UAW organization at the plant. "We respect their choices.”
A UAW spokesman said in an e-mail: "It’s the UAW’s policy to not publicly discuss organizing strategy."
Applicants said they were responding to ads for entry-level wages of $13 an hour, with higher wages based on experience, and 40-cent raises after a probationary period.
"There's a lot of people who need jobs, and Flex-N-Gate will be good for them," said Edward Parker, a new hire who lives nearby the plant. "It's a good opportunity. The wage is going to be what people are really interested in."