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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/15/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Northwood losing auto supplier

Advance Engineering says it will consolidate in SE Michigan

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A Northwood metal stamping plant that supplies parts for Honda will close later this year as its parent company consolidates operations at a newly purchased facility in southeast Michigan.

Advance Engineering Co.’s Wales Road plant is expected to shut down by Nov. 1, said Ed Schimmel, the chairman of Northwood City Council’s economic development committee.

City officials said they learned of Advance’s plans last week only when the local plant manager asked for a meeting with Northwood’s city administrator.

The plant was established as a tool and die shop in 1954 as Progressive Industries Inc. The business grew and expanded, eventually securing a contract to supply brackets to Honda. The founding family sold the business in 1996. Advance Engineering of Redford, Mich., purchased the facility in 2000.

Company officials did not respond to phone messages and emails from The Blade.

It was unclear Friday how many employees the business currently has. The plant was once one of Northwood’s top employers with well over 200 employees, but as of 2012 was no longer in the top 10.

An employee told The Blade that employment varies between 100 and 200, depending on how many temporary workers are employed at any given time.

Advance also has a packaging and assembly facility in Oregon. The future of that facility is unclear. Oregon City Administrator Michael Beazley said city officials have been talking with the company about their plans, but no decisions have been made.

In Northwood, city officials were caught off guard by Advance’s announcement.

“They had not approached us about any offers to stay, so it kind of surprised all of us that it was their intention to leave,” Mr. Schimmel said.

Advance is consolidating its two metal facilities near Canton Township, Michigan, which is between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation said Advance plans to spend up to $6.5 million there, creating 150 jobs. An employee in Northwood told The Blade that Advance has given employees there the option of moving with the company.

The state of Michigan has offered Advance a $400,000 Michigan Business Development Program grant for the project.

Had Northwood officials known Advance was thinking about leaving the city, they would have made an effort to keep them, Mr. Schimmel said.

“If we had known they were looking to move, we definitely would have tried to retain them with any options we had available,” he said.

Northwood City Administrator Bob Anderson said that during his conversation with Advance’s local plant manager it was clear the plans were a done deal.

“I don’t know whether there’s anything we could have done if we’d have known sooner or not,” he said.

Mr. Anderson said city officials will be talking about what happened and what they can do to help prevent such losses. He hopes the building will be sold to a firm that will locate in Northwood.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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