THREE RIVERS — Under optimal market conditions, the largest employer in St. Joseph County could add some 300 new jobs by the end of 2013, official of American Axle Manufacturing say.
Mayor Tom Lowry and members of the Three Rivers City Commission on Tuesday granted American Axle a 50-percent tax abatement over 12 years on $82.8 million in new equipment and facility upgrades at its Three Rivers plant that could allow the company to create around 300 jobs. The tax break will save the company about $200,000 a year in property taxes, said Three Rivers City Manager Joe Bippus.
American Axle is planning a $102-million investment at the Three Rivers site, part of an overall $1.1 billion corporate expansion to create components for a passenger/crossover vehicle being developed and introduced by a yet-unnamed manufacturer. William Smith, executive director of government affairs and community relations from the company's Detroit-based world headquarters, and Karl Kontyko, personnel director of the Three Rivers site, attended Tuesday's commission meeting and indicated the identity of the manufacturer would likely be revealed at some point before production begins at the end of 2013.
Lowry and commissioners complimented American Axle for its commitment to the Three Rivers plant, which currently manufactures rear axles for light trucks and axles for heavy-duty trucks.
Commissioner Daryl Griffith said he hasn't forgotten about a pending tax tribunal case, through which American Axle is attempting to lower its taxable value, which, in turn lowers the company's tax base.
As much as he would have liked the case to be resolved before a vote on the tax-exemption was before the commission, Griffith said the number of jobs American Axle's expansion will bring to the community is too great to ignore.
"We don't really have a choice. a lot of communities out there are screaming for these jobs ... thank you, American Axle, for investing in our community," Griffith said.
Chris Son, company spokesman, said the new line will further diversify American Axle's product portfolio. He said the company has a target of achieving 40 percent of its revenue from clients other than General Motors, and the new line will foster that goal.
The Three Rivers plant has approximately 770 hourly and salaried employees, company officials said.
By Jef Rietsma, Special to the Kalamazoo Gazette