Honda supplier to open in Springfield, build $10M new plant

7:09 p.m Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 Business

A Japanese auto parts firm that supplies Honda will invest more than $10 million and bring 20 new jobs to a Springfield business park, and local leaders said the manufacturer has the potential for significant growth.

Topre America will open a plant next year at the Champion City Business Park in Springfield, the first development in that site that once was home to an old Navistar factory.

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The company will manufacture high-strength steel parts for the Acura MDX. Honda has previously announced it will begin production of that sport utility vehicle at the company’s plant in East Liberty beginning next year.

Initially Topre workers will produce the front bulk head for the vehicle, Vice President Brad Pepper said.

To make the deal work, local investors will build a 20,000-square-foot facility at the business park to lease to the company for three years, said Horton Hobbs, vice president for economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. The firm then has options to expand, continue to lease or buy the building.

Topre will be the first company to move into the 30-acre business park at the intersection of Lagonda and Belmont avenues.

The company hopes to pick up additional work from Honda, Pepper said, and if so could expand rapidly. It hopes to secure work on the next model of the vehicle, but to do so it needs to have a facility in the area.

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In the U.S., the company also operates facilities in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and an engineering office in Maumee, Ohio, and employs about 860 workers overall, said Natalie Caudle, the company’s human resources manager.

“We decided we’re going to come to Springfield, Ohio,” Pepper said. “We’re going to make a plant and produce this product close to Honda with the hope that we’re going to get that next model.”

The company could know whether they will secure the additional work from Honda as early as the first half of next year.

Topre has a history of expanding at its other facilities across the U.S., Hobbs said, and the firm could become a major employer in Clark County. A plant in Spartan, Tenn., grew from 12 employees to 150 workers and Topre is now building a $50 million stamping facility nearby that will employ another 100 workers.

“I believe very strongly that the next future of our community is going to be tied directly to Topre America,” Hobbs said. “I saw what they’ve done in every place they’ve gone and I believe it’s going to happen here.”

Topre’s global sales were about $400 million in 2004, Pepper said, but that number has since risen to $1.6 billion in global sales in 2016.

Several other communities in Ohio and other states vied for the new facility. But Pepper said Springfield’s location near major Honda sites in East Liberty and Marysville, as well as plants in Indiana and Kentucky made sense. And he said Hobbs and other local leaders worked harder than many other communities to make the deal happen.

“At the end of the day, geographically it’s located correctly between Honda Indiana, Honda Ohio, Marysville, (East Liberty), and to Toyota in Kentucky,” Pepper said. “We supply all those plants and we think there’s potential later on we might pick up business from Subaru in Indiana.”

No state or local incentive packages will be required as part of the deal, Hobbs said, but it’s possible a property tax abatement for the facility will be pursued.

The move is an important first step to begin development at the Champion City Business Park, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said. It took about a decade to make the site available for new industrial development.

The redeveloped industrial park opened in 2013 but has a history dating as far back as 1882. The then-International Harvester shifted its operations to the Lagonda Assembly Plant in the 1920s to manufacture and assemble trucks, and the site was one of the longest-running manufacturing properties in the state when it closed in 2002.

Navistar then worked with the city to redevelop it into a business park.

“The creation of 20 new jobs is great news for Springfield and the development at Champion City Business Park is the start of what we hope will be a long-lasting investment in Springfield,” Copeland said.

Topre specializes in stamping and producing high-strength steel products, which are increasingly in demand as the auto industry shifts toward strong, lightweight materials that can withstand crashes but are also light enough to improve fuel efficiency.

“There are a lot of stampers in the world,” Pepper said. “But there are only a few companies that can stamp high-strength steel and make it form correctly. That’s our niche in the market.”

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