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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

Mexican parts supplier heads for Ohio site

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

MONTPELIER - In a reversal of NAFTA-aided flights of manufacturers heading south of the border, a Mexico City auto parts supplier is planning to open a Williams County factory that within three years would employ 77 people making coil springs for suspensions.

SANLUIS Corporacion S.A. de C.V.'s proposal would be the first known investment statewide by a Mexican company and the first to seek assistance from the Ohio Department of Development. The Rassini Chassis Systems L.L.C. factory could open later this year in leased space with leased equipment and pay an average of $18.17 an hour, according to information from the state and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

The proposed Montpelier factory would reverse some recent job losses from companies moving operations to Mexico, a process eased by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Philips Display Components factory in Ottawa, for example, is eliminating 1,450 of 1,750 jobs as most television-tube making operations are moved to Mexico.

No one from the $522.1 million Mexican company or its parts-making division, SANLUIS Rassini International, Inc., could be reached for comment yesterday. The division has a technical center in Plymouth, Mich., and factories in Mexico and Brazil supplying parts to DaimlerChrysler AG's U.S. side, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and other automakers. The Mexican firm also mines gold and silver.

The Rassini division anticipates a chance to become a leading coil-spring manufacturer for the U.S. auto market as traditional suppliers, such as Visteon Corp., exit the business to make more profitable parts, according to information supplied to the state.

Besides coil springs, the Rassini subsidiary makes brakes, leaf springs, and other suspension parts. The company made leaf springs for the Toledo-made Jeep Cherokee, which ended production in June, and supplies them for the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, and other light trucks.

The port authority plans to lease $9 million worth of factory equipment to the company, and it received approval for a $1.5 million loan for the project this week from the Development Financing Advisory Council.

The State Controlling Board is expected to consider final approval for the seven-year loan at a 2 percent interest rate and a $100,000 grant in three weeks.

To help buy the equipment, the port authority plans to issue up to $7 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds under the Northwest Ohio Bond Fund Program, Mr. Arkebauer said.

The Mexican firm will be able to buy the equipment after five years, he said.

The Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit Authority in June approved a 60 percent, nine-year tax credit for the project. The Mexican business must maintain the Montpelier factory for at least 18 years as part of that agreement, according to the state.

The Rassini firm plans to lease a shell building finished to its specifications and owned by Montpelier developer Square Feet Unlimited for 10 years, said Mr. Arkebauer of the port authority. The company is ordering and refurbishing equipment, he said.



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