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Gone:Promise of 118 'Good jobs with good benefits' slips from Orion's grasp



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May 05, 2010 - The ax fell Monday.

The big manufacturer isn't coming to Orion with its jobs, its tax revenue, or anything else.

The company, in fact, has flat-out changed its mind about the project that, just weeks ago, appeared to hold great promise for Orion.

Supervisor Matthew Gibb broke the news at Monday's regular township board meeting.

"Lear Corp...who we were so excited about coming to Orion Township, has now pulled the proposal and will not be coming to the Ashley Capital facility," said Gibb. "They didn't give much of an explanation; they were extremely apologetic. I suspect they're changing gears and maybe filling capacity elsewhere."

Lear, in partnership with Integrated Manufacturing & Assembly, was proposing the lease of space from the vacant Ashley Capital building at 325 W. Silverbell Road, where the company planned to produce automotive seat component sub-assemblies for several vehicles.

The project was set to create 118 new jobs—10 salaried and 108 hourly positions—in Orion Township.

"Good jobs with good benefits," said Lear Corporation tax manager Kirk Fisher, as he addressed the Orion Township Board in April.

Mel Stephens, Lear's vice president of communications, said the decision was based on a "reassessment" of the company's current needs.

"We appreciate the fine offer and the welcome we had in Orion Township," Stephens said, noting the 118 jobs will stay in Michigan -- just not in Orion. "We're an automotive supplier in a global market; we're continually changing course to reevaluate our position."

Initially, the company said it would need to make minor building modifications, as well as purchase and install new machinery, equipment and IT components at the Ashley Capital facility.

With estimated start-up costs hovering just over $1 million, the company was requesting the township grant a tax abatement on real and new personal property, with a combined value of $1,008,000.

"We can do work at multiple locations," Stephens said. "This is not a reflection on the location."

The final word?

"We have no plans to reinstate the project," he said.

The township, according to Gibb, recently "discovered it was not acting under a unified policy regarding the processing and consideration of tax abatement applications," and is currently working with legal counsel to develop new documents.

The announcement from Lear, he said, while disappointing, would allow the township to "take a breather."

"It somewhat takes the immediate urgency out of us having some directive policy," Gibb said. "Particularly the agreement that would come along with any tax abatement policy."

Lake Orion Review Editor
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