GRAND RAPIDS — A need to house the company’s administrative functions closer to its customer base prompted Benteler Automotive’s decision to relocate its North American corporate headquarters from Grand Rapids to suburban Detroit.
Benteler Automotive plans to combine its corporate headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as testing, engineering and product development operations, into a single 80,000-square-foot facility it will lease in the Oakland Technology Park in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit. Benteler hopes to complete the move by October.
The relocation, which will affect about 200 salaried workers in Grand Rapids, most of whom will make the move to Detroit, is designed to produce efficiencies in Benteler’s operations and enable the company to work more collaboratively with its Detroit-based automotive customers on product research and development.
“It’s just easier and faster to be able to do it when you’re local,” Benteler Director of Marketing Chris DeHart said.
Benteler Automotive North America, a division of German-based Benteler A.G., produces chassis components and exhaust and impact management systems for U.S. and foreign automakers.
The relocation of the North American corporate headquarters, housed on the fifth floor of the Huntington Bank building in downtown Grand Rapids, will not affect Benteler’s manufacturing operations that employ about 2,000 people in three local locations, as well as plants in Kalamazoo and northern Indiana.
“We don’t have any plans to change our manufacturing,” said DeHart, who’s based in Benteler’s Livonia sales and marketing office, which also will move as part of the relocation. “We have strong ties to that area which will continue and grow.”
Benteler will also maintain some testing operations in the Grand Rapids area, he said.
While delighted that Benteler’s local manufacturing operations and its extensive supplier base will remain untouched by the relocation, Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Program in Grand Rapids, is disappointed to lose a corporate headquarters.
“We would have liked to have kept them here and we tried,” Klohs said. “There are some things we could influence and some things we couldn’t.
“I understand the logic. I don’t like the logic, but unfortunately that’s the way it turned out this time,” she said.
In making the move, Benteler Automotive sought and received a small assistance package from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which provided a $27,500 worker training grant and a four-year, 50 percent tax abatement valued at $216,530 on the state’s 6-mill school property tax.
“The MEDC is pleased to have this new investment in Michigan, and to provide assistance for the relocation to Auburn Hills,” MEDC Chief Executive Officer Doug Rothwell said in a prepared statement.
Benteler became eligible for the assistance through the 50 new jobs it will create with the relocation, MEDC spokeswoman Jennifer Kopp said.
“We feel this is a good move. The company is investing $13.8 million in the state and creating new jobs,” Kopp said.