- Katherine Collins Staff Writer
Parts are now rolling off the assembly line at a new manufacturing plant in Springfield as the first part of a $55 million project is completed.
Topre America, a Japanese-based manufacturer, held a grand opening at its Springfield plant Tuesday, where it began making parts for Honda about three weeks ago, according to plant General Manager Pete Steiner.
The auto parts supplier has committed to bringing 85 jobs at its location in the Champion City Business Park but Steiner said the business has potential to grow to more than 400 jobs.
The plant will also make parts for Toyota.
“Springfield’s a great central location,” Steiner said. “There are many possible customer locations within a days transit from Springfield.”
The company chose Springfield after meeting with community leaders and visiting, Topre Vice President Brad Pepper said.
Executives visited a food truck rally in Springfield, went to lunch and even got their haircut, he said.
“We were very impressed with how friendly the environment was,” Pepper said. “…I think we earned their business. But also we have a history of this kind of operation and we have a site that’s perfectly situated for stamping.”
The city fought for Topre’s expansion project, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.
“We wanted it,” he said. “We were very, very hungry.”
Topre is breathing new life into the site, Hobbs said.
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“This was the old historic International Harvester stamping facility, the site that we’re on today and had thousands of jobs at this site,” Hobbs said, “and many many, families in our community have been touched by that.”
The site, now known as the Champion City Business Park, was vacant for almost 20 years, he said, after Navistar closed and then tore down its old factory there. The business park was completed in 2013 after the city and Navistar spent a decade of cleaning up industrial contaminants and improving infrastructure at the site.
“It’s a rebirth of sorts for this part of town and certainly a re-invigoration of manufacturing for our community,” Hobbs 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.
Springfield’s manufacturing background makes it a great place to find workers, Hobbs said.
“We’re a perfect location,” he said. “Both logistically but also availability of workforce.”
The company plans to have its stamping facility completed by October of 2018.
Topre will receive a tax abatement from the city of 75 percent off the increased value of its property taxes for the next 15 years. The company in exchange has agreed to add at least 85 jobs over the next three years. It if doesn’t hit its employment goals, the abatement calls for the manufacture to repay the property taxes.
The Springfield plant’s estimated annual payroll is about $3.45 million. This is Topre’s first plant in Ohio. It currently has a plant in Alabama.