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Foreign Investment Breathes New Life Into Ohio City

December 8, 2016

Guest blog post by Kristi Tanner, Automotive Senior Managing Director, JobsOhio

On October 7, Fuyao Glass America, a subsidiary of China-based Fuyao Group, celebrated the grand opening of its auto glass manufacturing facility in Moraine, a small industrial city just south of Dayton, Ohio. The company invested nearly $600 million to convert a shuttered General Motors assembly plant into the world’s largest auto glass fabrication facility – the largest capital investment east of the Mississippi by a Chinese company.

Many of us involved with the Fuyao project had the good fortune to tour the facility at its various stages of life. I recall seeing the plant before it closed when GM employed nearly 2,000 people producing the Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Envoy. Its transition from a behemoth building sitting empty during the recession to the world’s largest auto glass fabrication facility employing more than 2,000 workers today is how we know a long-term vision and collaborative approach are must-haves in any economic development strategy.

A coordinated effort and long-term vision to attract foreign direct investment is a must-have in any economic development strategy. Had local leadership not fought to keep the building from being demolished in the early days of the GM closure, we would never have been able to find a strong industrial developer willing to take a risk on the facility. Similarly, without the strong partnership and collaboration between SelectUSA, JobsOhio, the Dayton Development Coalition, Montgomery County and the city of Moraine, among others, we might never have been about to attract this company that is now giving hope to a city hit hard by job losses during the Great Recession.

The story behind Fuyao’s decision to redevelop the shuttered facility in Ohio is a textbook case illustrating how local, regional, state and national economic development organizations can work together to successfully attract foreign direct investment in the United States. Here’s how the story began.

Fuyao had expressed a desire to build a manufacturing plant in the U.S. to put the company’s automotive glass production closer to its North American customers. This led JobsOhio, the state’s private, non-profit economic development corporation, to attend the grand opening of Fuyao’s plant in Russia in September 2013. At the event, I presented Fuyao Group’s Chairman Cao Dewang with a personalized letter from Governor John Kasich inviting him to visit Ohio. The exchange led to an invitation to visit Fuyao’s corporate headquarters in Fuzhou, China, where I spent a day touring the operations and meeting with Chairman Cao other company leaders.

At around the same time, Cao was invited to attend the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C. He decided he would travel to the U.S. for the event to meet with – and ultimately visit – the finalist sites for Fuyao’s planned U.S. manufacturing facility. He liked what he saw in Moraine – a skilled and available workforce, an existing plant near a rail line and an interstate highway, and easy access to both suppliers and customers. He also recognized Ohio’s genuine desire to support Fuyao’s long-term success in the U.S.

Fuyao’s investment has breathed new life into the plant and the city of Moraine. Hundreds of people who had been out of work now have jobs, including some that worked in the plant for GM. Income tax revenue from the new plant already is allowing the city to make much-needed road improvements. The plant is stimulating additional growth in Dayton’s automotive industry. Local economic development leaders are eager to see if Fuyao attracts additional Chinese investment in the region.

This is how today, combined with a globally connected economy and a coordinated effort among economic development leaders at every level, a Chinese company is now helping make the American Dream come true. The proof is history-making results for communities, states and companies alike.

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