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Fuyao Moraine plant will be ‘unique,’ rep says

In a first-ever interview with local media, a high-ranking Fuyao representative said his company is focused on evaluating the purchase of part of the former General Motors plant in Moraine for an 800-job auto glass manufacturing operation.

The representative of Fuyao Glass asked not to be named in order to respect the privacy of the company’s chairman, Cao Dewang, who on Jan. 10 signed an agreement in Columbus confirming a plan to buy 1.4 million square feet of the former GM plant as early as April or May.

The Fuyao (pronounced “FWEE-ow”) representative spoke this week with two Dayton Daily News reporters for nearly an hour, on everything from the Chinese auto glass manufacturer’s plan to create 800 new jobs to his appreciation of the work state development officers did to draw Fuyao here. It was the company’s first media interview since the Jan. 10 announcement.

“Our goal is to create 800 jobs locally,” the representative said. “That is our goal. It maybe takes a couple of years to reach that goal.”

Fuyao’s evaluation of the acquisition or “due diligence” research could take 90 days or longer, he said.

“We don’t anticipate any major issues, but again, that’s the reason we do the due diligence,” he said. “Nobody can predict what the outcome from that is.”

Details about how workers will be found, selected and trained are scarce. But Kristi Tanner, a managing director for JobsOhio, and Dave Burrows, director of economic development programs for the Dayton Development Coalition, expect local agencies to be involved in sorting applicants for job openings at Fuyao.

“We do think that the (Montgomery County) Job Center will be a big help going through the applications and categorizing people as to where they fit best,” Burrows said.

Fuyao’s planned Moraine investment will be $200 million, an historic first for a Chinese automotive related manufacturing operation in the Midwest.

Tanner of JobsOhio, the state’s private development arm, said the state usually gives projects like this one several years to create the full number of expected jobs. While a state incentives package for Fuyao has not been finalized, she expects the same kind of latitude to be offered to Fuyao.

“For the most part we give companies those three years to create those jobs,” Tanner said. “And sometimes (we) go out to five, just depending on the project and the number of people to be hired. Fuyao will have its own timeline for the hiring, but from an incentives standpoint, we will give the company between that three- and five-year window to bring those people online.”

The initial agreement between Fuyao and Industrial Realty Group — the developer who bought the Moraine plant in 2011 — was signed less than three weeks ago. In a signing ceremony with Gov. John Kasich, Dewang said operations would start at the plant sometime next year. The Fuyao representative who spoke with the Dayton Daily could not be more precise or provide updated information.

The plant will focus on automotive glass for auto assembly plants. Sheet glass will be shipped to Moraine from a variety of sources, imported from Fuyao plants in China and perhaps from North American glass sources, as well, the representative said.

“As you know, this is a huge project, and different needs will be evaluated as we go forward,” he said.

He could not say whether experienced Fuyao employees will transfer from other company sites to Moraine to train new employees.

But Fuyao is growing in the United States and hiring locally where it exists. The company has a different facility in Lake Orion, Mich. There, 120 employees work today, but the company plans to add about 80 jobs by the end of the year, he said.

“So far, (there are) 100 percent local hires in Michigan,” the Fuyao representative said.

Asked where Fuyao has a plant most similar to the kind of operation planned for Moraine, the representative pointed to a plant opened last year in central Russia, about 150 kilometers southwest of Moscow.

“We do have a similar, but not quite exact(ly similar), manufacturing facility in Russia,” he said.

The planned Moraine facility will be unique in at least one notable way, he added. “Moraine is the first one, the very first glass manufacturing plant of Fuyao to be built within an existing building. That makes it unique already.”

He could not say whether Fuyao’s work in the Dayton region may attract other Chinese companies. But he thinks the project is getting and will get attention.

“We are respected in China,” he said. “We are also respected by our competition. Especially in China, in business, when you make a decision to invest in certain areas, it will cause some attention, that’s for sure.”

The representative credited JobsOhio and the coalition — JobsOhio’s arm in west central Ohio — for drawing Fuyao to Moraine. He singled out Tanner and Burrows for praise.

“Throughout the whole project, they played a pivotal role,” he said. “I think that’s a fair statement.”

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