Study: More than half of closed auto plants in region have found new uses

Posted on December 8, 2011

Of the 61 automotive manufacturing plants that have closed in metro Detroit since 1979, more than half have been repurposed for a new use.

Metro Detroit has fared slightly better than the rest of the country in reusing auto plants, with 56 percent of the factories reused, compared with the national average of 48 percent.

Reusing auto sites was the topic of a study released today by the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, which studied the status of every automotive manufacturing site closed since 1979.

“It was particularly surprising to learn how many communities have had some success in repurposing former automotive sites,” Valerie Sathe Brugeman, project manager of the Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies group at CAR and the study’s lead researcher, said in a release.

“When an auto manufacturing plant closes, the job and income loss often causes an economic shock. But many communities have found ways to recover and at least partially restore property values and employment.”

Since 1979, 267 of the 447 automaker manufacturing plants in the U.S. have been closed, representing 60 percent of the facilities, according to the report.

Of those that closed, 42 percent shut down between 2004 and 2010.

Of the 267 closed facilities, 48 percent have been repurposed to new uses or are being repurposed.

Groups involved with the study expect it to help government leaders and investors look at past examples, said Jay Williams, director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, one of the entities working on the study.

“While each community with a closed automotive facility faces unique challenges, this report helps shine a light on how community engagement, a focus on flexibility and the involvement of the private sector, nonprofit groups and all levels of government can help them recover,” Williams said in a release.

Finding new uses for large auto manufacturing plants has been a hot topic in metro Detroit, as nearly every real estate firm is marketing a former manufacturing site of some kind.

Large facilities such as the 4.2-million-square-foot Ford Motor Co. Wixom plant are being marketed right now, along with the former General Motors Corp. facilities such as the 5 million-square foot Willow Run plant.

Southeast Michigan auto plants: Life after death

The CAR study includes an exhaustive list of every auto manufacturing plant. The following are the facilities from Southeast Michigan and the status of the property; whether it has been repurposed or not.

Chrysler Conant Trim Plant, Hamtramck
Chrysler Detroit Universal Joint, Dearborn
Chrysler Detroit Trim, Detroit
Chrysler Dodge Main, Hamtramck
Chrysler Huber Foundry, Detroit
Chrysler Introl Division-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor
Chrysler Introl Scio Township Plant, Ann Arbor
Chrysler Old Mack Stamping, Detroit
Chrysler Trenton Chemical, Trenton
Chrysler Warren Tool and Die, Warren
Ford (ACH) Chesterfield, Chesterfield Township
Ford (ACH) Monroe Components, Monroe
Ford (ACH) Ypsilanti-Spring St., Ypsilanti
Ford Auto Alliance Flat Rock, Flat Rock
Ford Dearborn Glass Plant, Dearborn
Ford Mt. Clemens Groesbeck, Mt. Clemens
Ford Northville Engine Components, Northville
Ford Vulcan Forge, Dearborn
General Motors Conner Street Stamping, Detroit
General Motors (Delphi) Interior & Lighting Systems, Auburn Hills
General Motors Detroit-Fort Street, Detroit
General Motors Fisher Body Division — Plant 37, Detroit
General Motors Fisher Body Division — Plant 40, Detroit
General Motors Fleetwood Assembly, Plant No. 18, Detroit
General Motors Livonia Trim, Livonia
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Clark Street Assembly, Detroit
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Clark Street Stamping, Detroit
General Motors Romulus Transmission and Service Parts Operation, Romulus
General Motors Willow Run Assembly, Ypsilanti

General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac North Operations, Pontiac

Chrysler Mercury Plastics Company, Clinton Township
Ford Mt. Clemens Lafayette, Mt. Clemens
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac Central Assembly, Pontiac

Chrysler New Baltimore, New Baltimore
Chrysler Conner Ave Assembly, Detroit
Chrysler Detroit Axle, Detroit
Chrysler Jefferson Ave. plant, Detroit
Chrysler Lynch Road Assembly, Detroit
Chrysler McGraw Glass, Detroit
Chrysler Mound Road Engine, Detroit
Chrysler Vernor Tool and Die, Detroit
Chrysler Vernor Trim Plant, Detroit
Chrysler Winfield Foundry, Detroit
Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant, Dearborn
Ford (ACH) ACH Utica, Utica
Ford Wayne Assembly, Wayne
Ford Wixom Assembly, Wixom
General Motors (American Axle) Detroit Manf. Complex, Hamtramck (2 listings)
General Motors Chevrolet Motor Division, Detroit
General Motors Fisher Body Plant 21, Detroit
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Chassis Livonia, Livonia
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Grey Iron Castings Pontiac, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Livonia Engine, Livonia
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac Assembly (Fiero plant 17), Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac East Assembly, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac Engine Plant, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac Pre-Production Operations, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac Stamping Plant, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Pontiac West Assembly, Pontiac
General Motors (MLC/RACER) Willow Run Transmission, Ypsilanti

By Daniel Duggan, Crain’s Detroit