Bridgewater Interiors awarded $2M grant for Mich. plants

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DETROIT — Seating supplier Bridgewater Interiors LLC plans to expand capacity at two Michigan plants and add 400 new jobs after receiving a $ 2 million state grant.

The Michigan Strategic Fund’s board on Tuesday approved the grant to incentivize the Detroit-based auto supplier to expand in its home state instead of Ohio.

Bridgewater Interiors is planning a 20,000-square-foot expansion of its Lansing plant to manufacture seats for General Motors’ Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave. The Traverse and Enclave are assembled at GM’s Delta Township plant west of Lansing.

The company is making a $ 16 million capital investment in facilities and equipment.

Ronald Hall Jr., CEO of Bridgewater Interiors, said Tuesday that the state grant also will help support continued operations at its original Detroit plant on West Fort Street.

The Detroit plant had previously supplied seats to General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which has been idled to be retooled for electric pickup production.

“We’ve really not wanted to give this site up,” Hall said of the Detroit plant. “This assistance from you will be very instrumental in cementing the stability of this site for a very long time.”

Bridgewater Interiors is retooling its West Fort Street plant in Southwest Detroit to build seats for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and plans to be back in production by September, Hall said.

“The (Michigan Strategic Fund) support approved today will facilitate additional building up-fit, new equipment, and new hiring to support an additional Ford program, with production for that program beginning in 2022,” Hall said Tuesday in an e-mail to Crain’s Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.

Bridgewater Interiors had been considering adding jobs and manufacturing on existing floor space at its Northwood, Ohio, plant just south of Toledo, according to a Michigan Economic Development Corp. briefing memo for the MSF board.

The auto supplier’s suburban Toledo plant has “a higher density of talent that has prior automotive seat-building experience” than the Lansing market, according to the MEDC memo.

“In addition to the greater pool of talent, the wages in Ohio for these positions are less than in Michigan and would provide the company significant savings,” the MEDC memo said. “Incentive assistance is necessary to make the expansion in Michigan a competitive decision.”

MEDC staff recommended the $ 2 million grant for Bridgewater Interiors in part to “offset the cost differential comprised of the wage rate differences” between Northwood and Lansing and the cost of expanding the Lansing plant.

Bridgewater Interiors has 2,300 employees, 1,800 of whom work out of its facilities in Detroit, Warren and Lansing, Cloud said.

Founded in 1998, Bridgewater Interiors is a joint venture between Adient (formerly part of Johnson Controls Inc.) and Epsilon Technologies LLC, a minority-owned company founded by Hall’s late father, Ron Hall Sr., who passed away in 2016.

Epsilon owns 51 percent of Bridgewater, Hall Jr. said.

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