In an industry and a region where for too long headlines called out closures and consolidation, last month’s opening of a brand new Inergy Automotive Systems fuel-tank manufacturing facility in Huron Township, Mich. was welcome news, and perhaps a harbinger of something bigger.
Inergy, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of French firm Plastic Omnium, told Plastics Technology that the 292,000-square-foot plant with capacity to blow mold 1.5 million fuel tanks annually, is one of the company’s largest operations in the world (worldwide it makes more than 18 million tanks annually).
The company invested $110 million in the facility, which was built to accommodate eight co-extrusion fuel-tank blow molding machines. Inergy noted that this plant will utilize the company’s patented twin-sheet blow molding (TSBM), which allows for easier integration of components inside the shell to create tanks with complex systems architecture and low evaporation emissions. Inergy’s standard tanks utilize a 6-layer construction with EVOH as a permeation barrier layer. The new plant will blow mold tanks ranging from 50 to 200 liters.
Motor City commitment
So why Huron Township and why now? The company explained that when Inergy purchased the Milan Fuel System business from Automotive Component Holdings, LLC and Ford Motor Company back in June 2011, it announced at the time that it would transfer operations to a smaller, more efficient site.
The spokesperson said that as part of the original agreement to acquire the business, Plastic Omnium was required to build the plant within a 35-mile radius of the former Milan operation. “Huron Township came forward with a very strong proposal for us to build within their township,” the spokesperson said.
During an opening gala that drew dignitaries from state and local government, as well as the French ambassador to the U.S. and automotive OEM representatives, Inergy’s American head, Mark Sullivan, laid out the importance of the brand new operation.
“We are not only celebrating the opening of this facility, but our commitment to the state of Michigan and the growth of the automotive industry as a whole. We strongly believe in the skilled workforce here in the automotive capital of the world, and we are proud to increase our footprint in this great state.”
Inergy Automotive Systems, which was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Levallois-Perret, France, has 6,000 employees spread among 32 production sites and five technical centers in 19 countries. In Michigan, the company employs 1,007 among three sites in Troy, Adrian, and now Huron Township.
U.S. manufacturing, which added 19,000 jobs in October, has added 510,000 manufacturing positions since January 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the last 45 months, the sector has added jobs in 36. Who is leading the way? Michigan.
"The auto industry will see some more jobs as foreign companies will invest in plants here, and that means more jobs for making cars as well as in auto-related industries."- Tony Cherin, finance professor emeritus at San Diego State University.