Seeks Brownfield Status For Expansion

    GRAND RAPIDS — City Commissioners tomorrow will consider an amendment to the Brownfield Redevelopment Plan to include a $2.5 million redevelopment project proposed by Benteler Automotive.

    Plans call for demolishing the now-vacant Guardsman Chemical plant at 1350 Steele Ave. SW and constructing in its place a new 55,000-square-foot facility.

    “It’s part of an expansion,” said Chris De Hart, Benteler’s director of marketing.

    “It’s really an improvement in the logistics and flow of the business that’s currently being done partly at our other locations. It’s not a change or relocation of operations. It’s an improvement in plant efficiency that will help make us be more competitive.”

    Some $2 million would go toward construction of the new plant and installation of new equipment. Part of the investment includes clean up of the site, which is contaminated with asbestos and lead-based paint.

    Benteler Automotive develops and produces modules, components and parts for body, chassis and engine for nearly all global car manufacturers. It has 42 facilities in 18 countries and employs 11,500 skilled workers.

    Locally, Benteler operates its Hall Street plant at 50 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids and its Hagen Drive plant at 3721 Hagen Drive SW in Wyoming.

    The Guardsman property was not originally in the city’s brownfield plan, which the city commission approved in December 1998.

    The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority reviewed and approved the amendment to the plan last month, concluding that the amendment “advances a public purpose.”

    If city commissioners follow suit, Benteler would be eligible to claim a 10 percent Michigan small business tax (SBT) credit on its $2.5 million investment.

    The project also would involve tax increment financing.

    According to Benteler, construction of a new plant on the site will help retain 382 jobs and create six new jobs.

    The Michigan Economic Development Corp., through the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, makes the decision on all brownfield SBT applications.

    SBT credits are awarded to projects that:

    • Promote redevelopment in core communities and downtown areas.
    • Reuse existing facilities.
    • Retain jobs and create new jobs.
    • Have local funding sources, including tax increment financing and property tax abatements.
    • Have exhausted all other forms of financing.
    • Prove that the project would not be able to go forward without the SBT credit.           

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