May 07, 2014 - By Dan Shriner
There is a non-descript warehouse factory on Silverbell Road in Orion Township that few residents, outside of its employees and the region's auto companies, had heard about until recently.
This world-class facility became known a couple of weeks ago when Governor Rick Snyder announced that Fuyao Automotive North America, located in the warehouse on Silverbell, was planning to spend $15.3 million to expand and add 102 new full-time jobs.
But, to automakers this factory — that employs mostly residents from the Orion area and surrounding communities — is one of the best suppliers of automotive glass in the world. The company, established in June 2008, provides warehousing, assembly, repackaging, inspection, program management, engineering design and sales support services of automotive glass to automotive original equipment manufacturers. The company is a subsidiary of Fuyao Glass Industry Group, an international manufacturer of automotive glass.
The local facility provides glass and supply services to Chrysler, General Motors, Kia, Hundai, Honda and Ford.
The Orion Township-based Fuyao's success had grown to a point that it is now considered to be a leader globally in auto glass production. It employs about 100 local residents.
General Motors awarded the Orion Township Fuyao factory its coveted Best of the Best Suppliers in 2013 and in five of the past six years since Fuyao began its operations on the site in 2008. Only one percent of all GM suppliers worldwide are honored with the Best of the Best and there were only 68 suppliers in the world who received it in 2013.
Chrysler also has recognized Fuyao as one of its top quality suppliers
For a company to receive GM's Best of the Best recognition in five of the six years since its inception is unprecedented.
What may come as a surprise is that the company is Chinese owned and has successfully melded into America and its culture while providing some very good employment opportunities to Oakland County residents.
It may seem odd to some that local Fuyao employees are achieving their American Dream with the help of a Chinese company.
But, for many of those who work there, there are no surprises but instead a culture that helps them grow.
Chris Feng is the director of Fuyao and had a vision when he opened the plant in 2008 to help build a company that was great at building quality auto glass but also one that embodied a culture of respect among employees and management. He left Chrysler to start the Fuyao facility.
"We have a team approach. We work together and want to develop a full and capable auto industry worker. We also promote family and a good and respectful working environment.
"We have some real and great stories here."
Feng gave samples of three men who began as laborers in the facility, worked hard and have advanced to leadership roles. One of them now travels the world managing the company's relationships with auto companies and others.
Another had previously worked as a cashier at a grocery store. After he was at Fuyao for three years, he learned the business, took responsibility and received some education. Now, he is a programmer of robots and is important to the company's success.
Another man worked previously in lawn care before joining Fuyao. He began in general labor and worked hard to learn business. "He was very hands-on and worked hard to become a manager," Feng said
"We have a culture here that we train and help people grow. We have several employees who have several other family members working here. We are like a family, but better in some ways. Most of our workers can do nearly any job here. They will never say 'that's not my job'. Everyone here cooperates and does what is necessary."
Chris Skope was the first employee hired in 2008. He recalled when he and Feng walked into the warehouse on Silverbell Road.
"I started working in 2008. It was an empty warehouse. When we started no one knew where we were going but we worked hard," Skope said. "What is great about Fuyao is that when someone walks in the door, with no or limited experience, there are no limitations. It's all about what you want to make out of it. There are great opportunities here."
Nick Fallon who is employed as Fuyao's quality manager is from Lake Orion and lives now in Oxford.
"He does so much more than just quality," Feng said. "He can be IT manager, quality manger, production and warehouse management. We do not limit people."
Fallon said he recently interviewed a new employee and told her about the unique culture. He said she later came to him and expressed some surprise that the culture of cooperation and respect was accurate.
"I told her that we have a great culture. Everyone helps each other, encourages each other and if you need something just ask. She later came to me and said she was surprised that it was the way I described it," Fallon said.
Orion Township supervisor Chris Barnett said he did not know about Fuyao until recently. He said he has been very impressed with the company and how much it helps local residents and, in turn, local businesses.
"This is a great success story. We are thrilled to have Fuyao in our community. They are building a great culture and family here and providing great opportunities for our residents."
Orion Township officials are working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as well as the Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs department to see if the company can receive some tax abatements for the project, Barnett said.
For now, Fuyao is seeking to hire about 102 new employees. Initially the company is seeking those with experience in project management but also general laborers who will have opportunities to advance.
The expansion will mean that Fuyao will take over the entire warehouse where they are now housed. The plans call for expansion of more than $15 million by adding equipment to manufacture auto glass assembly parts.
The project's investment and jobs will also lead to a $1 million grant from the Michigan Business Development Program, which is part of the Michigan Strategic Fund. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Ohio, Alabama and Georgia.
Orion Township is expected to provide support for the project in the form of a Public Act 198 property tax abatement.
Those interested in positions at Fuyao can send resumes to email@example.com.