DETROIT -- Fanuc Corp., one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive assembly robots, is planning to grow its Michigan presence by more than a third to 2 million square feet with an $86 million expansion.
The Japanese auto supplier's U.S. unit, based in Rochester Hills, Mich., purchased the former campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School at 2630 Featherstone Road in Auburn Hills last month for $18 million, according to Joe Cvengros, vice president of manufacturing, operations and facilities at Fanuc.
The property purchase included the 132,000-square-foot former law school building and an adjacent 67 acres on which Fanuc plans to construct a 655,000-square-foot plant for manufacturing, engineering and R&D.
In total, the new West Campus will span 788,000 square feet. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the fall with an expected completion by 2024.
The company plans to hire 100 workers as part of the expansion. It employs 1,200 in Michigan and about 1,500 nationwide.
The expansion follows the company's completion of a 461,000-square-foot North Campus in Auburn Hills in October 2019. Since then, business has boomed for Fanuc, which supplies CNC (computer numerical control) machines and robotics to the automotive industry.
The pace of automation accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as more manufacturers in Michigan and around the world looked to robots to fill the void left by the labor shortage. Warehousing, logistics and food and beverage have also been big growth areas.
"This investment in the future of U.S. manufacturing will help FANUC America meet the tremendous demand for automation solutions," Fanuc America CEO Mike Cicco said in the release.
The project still needs approval from the city of Auburn Hills. It is unclear what state or local incentives the company might be requesting for the development.
The company declined to provide details on the incentives it is seeking but said the project is "fully supported by MEDC and the city of Auburn Hills."
"As a leader in the robotics industry, their expertise will complement our diverse business base and will contribute to the city's strong local economy through jobs and investment," Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said in the release. "This development may very well earn us the designation as the community with the largest robotics footprint in the United States."
The plant will be built by Detroit area contractor General Development Co., which also constructed the company's North Campus.
The former law school building will remain and be used as office, administrative, technical and training space for Fanuc, said Bruce Brickman, co-owner of General Development.
"They'll be able to reuse a lot of that," Brickman said. "It was designed as a law school building with auditoriums and lecture halls, and it needed the right fit."
The new building will have 32-foot clearances plus 10 dock doors.
"Fanuc being an international leader in corporate citizenry, General Development is pleased to be working with both Fanuc and the great city of Auburn Hills once again," Gary Weisman, fellow co-owner of General Development.
The company generated net income of $1.15 billion in 2021, up 65 percent from the previous year, on $5.4 billion of revenue, up 33 percent year over year, according to its earnings report.