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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 09, 2017 1:00 am

GM supplier plans on adding 100 jobs in Whitley County

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

A third supplier to General Motors – a company based in Columbia City – has announced plans to expand and add jobs.

Advanced Assembly LLC will invest $7 million in production capacity and about 100 additional workers, according to a news release issued Friday by the Whitley County Economic Development Corp.

The company manufactures and assembles seating systems for Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks produced at GM's Fort Wayne assembly plant in Lafayette Township.

Last week, two other GM suppliers, Android Industries and its sister company, Avancez, announced expansions totaling $14.7 million in Allen County facilities.

Advanced Assembly is a joint venture between Comer Holdings LLC and Lear Corp., both based in Michigan.

The new investment will be in manufacturing and information technology equipment at the plant in Columbia City, including three new assembly lines to increase production capacity.

A new shipping system and additional material storage systems also will be added, according to the news release.

The new jobs will make Advanced Assembly the fourth-largest employer in Whitley County. The company employed 324 people as of February.

Jon Myers, president of the economic development corporation, said Advanced Assembly has been in Columbia City for about 10 years.

In an unusual move, he said, the county's redevelopment commission approved the company's and the economic development corporation's request for a $235,000 training grant instead of a tax abatement.  

Tax abatements reduce a company's local taxes for a period of time, typically 10 years, in exchange for investing and creating jobs.

“We're seeing that the unemployment rate is so low that we're saying, 'Doesn't it make sense to invest in the company by investing in the skills of the workers, who are also taxpayers?'” he said.

Companies may come and go, but workers' skills may pay off in the future, he said.  

At the level of the grant, Myers added: “Money will come back (to the county) in a year or two because it will come back in taxes.” 

He said this was the third or fourth time training money was provided to a company. The money will come from payments into a long-established tax increment financing district, or TIF district, he said. 

“Advanced Assembly has been a part of our community for nearly 10 years, and we are proud that they have chosen us for this expansion,” Myers said.

“It is a tribute to their current employees and a vote of confidence in our local workforce.”

Hiring for the new jobs, in production and logistics, could come by fall, according to company officials.

“We are proud to reinforce our presence in Columbia City, and enhance development of this community where our valued employees live and work,” said Leonard Fox, vice president of operations for Integrated Manufacturing and Assembly, another joint venture between Comer and Lear.

rsalter@jg.net