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Investment brings jobs to Midwest

Updated: 2018-06-15

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York, China Daily USA

Investment from China is helping Indiana retain and expand the state's manufacturing industry.

When AM General decided to close its plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, in 2017, the community faced the prospect of losing over 300 jobs and having an empty building.

In stepped SF Motors, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of China's Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, to buy the facility to manufacture electric vehicles.

With Indiana Gov Eric Holcomb in attendance on May 30, SF announced it wouldill invest $160 million to renovate and retool the factory, which will produce two electric vehicle models and serve as the company's primary US-based manufacturing plant. The 35-acre campus will house the company's body and paint shop, general assembly and office administration.

"For us to have SF come in here and make this investment, it's a huge opportunity for our region," Bill Schalliol, executive director of economic development for St. Joseph County, Indiana, said in an interview. "A large number of those who worked at AM General will work at SF."

SF has already started hiring and plans to have around 200 people working at the facility by the end of the year.

The factory was built in 2001 for production of the now defunct Hummer vehicles. After Hummer production ended, the plant produced Mercedes R class vehicles.

"We are proud to partner with Indiana to create up to 467 new jobs, supporting the greater Mishawaka and South Bend economy," John Zhang, the founder and CEO of SF Motors said in a statement. "With this investment and renovation, we are well poised to bring our cutting-edge vehicles to the highway by 2019."

Schalliol said Chinese ownership of the plant is not an issue in the community, which is located near the Hoosier state's northern border with Michigan.

"I think by and large the community embraces it. We already have a diverse ownership mix in our economy and we understand that foreign investment is a good opportunity to get jobs."

"With a world of options, we're thrilled SF Motors chose to expand in Indiana," Holcomb said.

Meanwhile work continues on the construction of a new 276,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for BeijingWest Industries Co (BWI) in Greenfield, Indiana, located about 25 miles from Indianapolis.

In 2017, BWI selected Greenfield for the plant that is expected to employ 441 and produce automotive suspension components like shock absorbers and struts, according to Gregory Dronen, global facilities director for BWI.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held nearly a year ago. Company officials didn't respond to a request for comment although a picture on the BWI web site appears under the title "BWI Group Indiana Plant Construction Progressing."

Previously the company indicated the plant is scheduled to begin production in 2019. BeijingWest Industries is a joint venture of Shougang Corp and Beijing Fangshan State-Owned Asset Management.

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