Auto suppliers Magna, Lear look to new Detroit plants, minority joint ventures for growth

Alma L. Figueroa

Hester has been president of LM Manufacturing since 2019 and spent the past two decades in the C-suite of procurement and logistics provider Global Automotive Alliance. He will have a 51 percent ownership stake in LAN Manufacturing and oversee operations, while Magna provides funding for the $18 million build-out of the seating plant.

Hester said the JV is an opportunity to put his broad manufacturing skill-set to work while also providing 390 new jobs paying an average of $900 per week plus benefits.

“The transition, the pivot that (Magna) made, which I thought was brilliant in terms of, ‘Hey we’re not just manufacturing car parts, we’re actually a mobility company’ — that aligned with my vision and how I think the city and also the state is trying to maintain its leadership position in those areas,” Hester said. “So to me, I saw a golden opportunity.”

The new jobs are expected to come with union representation, Magna confirmed. The company is not required to prioritize Detroit residents for the roles, but it has worked closely with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit at Work to recruit residents, Hester said.

“It’s not a requirement, but it’s something we value,” he said. “We feel very strong, very pro-Detroit. We believe that we can go get the talent we need from Detroit.”

Additionally, Magna and LAN Manufacturing are hosting robotics clinics at a handful of Detroit public high schools and aiming to create a manufacturing entrepreneurial club, Hester said.

Detroit has become a more attractive place to do manufacturing because of Duggan’s courting of automakers and suppliers, access to a large talent pool and some localization of supply chain in light of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic to war in Ukraine, Wyskiel said.

“I don’t think anyone would have predicted all that to happen the way it has,” he said. “It’ll probably reshape to some extent the supplier community. It’ll always be a balance between cost, making sure you have a stable supplier, and one that can maintain quality. But the equation could change and perhaps the advantage for Detroit is the proximity of really good tier ones and tier twos, really good leaders, really good people.”

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