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Flex-N-Gate unit expanding Michigan operations

Ventra Evart LLC, a subsidiary of Illinois-based auto supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp., is purchasing a vacant 138,000-square-foot building about a mile from its current facility in Evart, Mich., to accommodate growth.

The project is a $3.75 million investment and would create 50 jobs within one year, according to a March 20 news release from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The investment includes major renovations to the building, which sat vacant for six years and "was in disrepair," Flex-N-Gate's Director of Energy Mellissa Kendall said March 26 in emailed responses to Plastics News, an affiliate of Automotive News.

Ventra Evart makes exterior automotive components such as taillamps, fog lamps, fascias, rockers, spoilers and wheel flares. It supplies to Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla Inc. 

The company's existing facility in Evart is 538,000 square feet and has 1,066 employees. The additional facility will be for light assembly and warehouse space. Kendall said the company expected production to start as early as this week, and it will ramp up with growth over the next year. The site will initially employ between 25-30 people.

"This will allow more room in the main facility for molding expansion," she said. "We are currently putting in a new molding row for our facility to accommodate four more injection molding machines ranging from 700-ton to 1,900-ton [conventional] and 1,650-ton four-barrel rotary multishot machines." 

The auto parts molder has been awarded a $350,000 performance-based grant from MEDC's Michigan Business Development Program, contingent on job creation, base level of employment and investment. 

MEDC said Ventra chose the site over a competing location in Ohio. The Evart building previously housed dairy processing operations for Dean Foods Co. The company shuttered the facility in 2013.

"The community support has been great," Kendall said. "The local officials have supported the expansion and worked during the Christmas holiday to help expedite the closing. Being a small community, it was important that we continue to work together to grow our community."

Other investments

In May 2018, another Flex-N-Gate subsidiary announced it had acquired a facility in Ionia, Mich., which is about 75 miles south of Evart, to stamp bumpers for the Ford Ranger midsize pickup. The unit, Ventra Ionia Main LLC, said it was planning to invest $4.85 million in the 48,900-square-foot plant and create 109 jobs. 

The company's existing operation in Ionia, which includes the production of front and rear bumpers, trailer hitches and chrome-plated plastics, covers 724,000 square feet and employs about 1,300 people. 

Parent company Flex-N-Gate, a supplier of bumpers, exterior trim, lighting, chassis assemblies and other automotive products, is headquartered in Urbana, Ill., and employs more than 26,000 people across 62 facilities worldwide. It is owned by Illinois billionaire Shahid Khan, who also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Flex-N-Gate ranks No. 33 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $7.55 billion in 2017, the most recent year available.  

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