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Gov. Whitmer Announces Funding to Fix Roads and Support 729 Jobs in Berrien and Wayne Counties

LANSING, Mich., (January 5, 2022) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) have awarded two state Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) grants that will support a total of 729 new and existing jobs in Berrien and Wayne Counties. The grants will help fund infrastructure improvements related to an expansion of Whirlpool’s technical facilities in St. Joseph and Lear Corporation’s new seat manufacturing plant in Detroit.  
 
"These grants will help us put Michiganders first and demonstrate our ongoing collaborative efforts around economic development and infrastructure here in Michigan," said Governor Whitmer. "We will continue to stay laser-focused on growing our economy, creating good jobs for Michiganders, and ensuring safe roads for drivers in every community."  
 
City of St. Joseph, Berrien County  
“The City of St. Joseph is excited to learn that it was awarded a TEDF-A grant by the Michigan Department of Transportation,” said John Hodgson, City Manager, City of St. Joseph. “It will bring the city one step closer to funding the much-needed reconstruction project and associated improvements on Upton Drive. We are very pleased that MDOT is supporting Whirlpool’s commitment to southwest Michigan with the construction of the new St. Joseph Technical Center.” 
 
St. Joseph and the surrounding region is home to Whirlpool Corporation's Global and North American Headquarters Teams, Consumer Insights and Service Teams, Cooking and Refrigeration Technology Centers, Laundry and Dishwasher Technical Center, appliance warehouses and other facilities that employ over 4,000 people locally. These facilities work in partnership with each other, with employees traveling between sites on a regular basis. Upton Drive serves as the main access route for approximately 75% of people using the Whirlpool Laundry and Dishwasher Technical Center which houses over 400 employees in its current building and 1,200 within the complex.  
 
“St. Joseph and the surrounding region is home to Whirlpool Corporation's Global and North American Headquarters’ teams, with multiple facilities employing upwards of 4,000 people locally,” said Eleanor Reece, Whirlpool Corporation VP of Communications. “Upton Drive serves as a main access route for many of those employees, and these improvements will benefit our business as well as other businesses and residents using that roadway. The timing of the grant is perfect, as more and more people are using this road network to access the beaches, enjoy the restaurants and other local amenities, including those that will live in the new $20 million multi-family housing development and work at the new $60 million Tech Center being built by Whirlpool Corporation along that corridor.” 
 
In 2019, Whirlpool began exploring options for another significant capital investment project - the renovation or replacement of its Laundry and Dishwasher Technical Center on Upton Drive. After extensive evaluation of their global locations, remaining in St. Joseph seemed most beneficial providing roadway improvements could be made that would continue to support their employees travelling between multiple buildings and interstate suppliers. The poor and deteriorating condition of Upton Drive is a concern as it jeopardizes access to the facility by both employees and suppliers. Finely calibrated equipment is delivered to the Technical Center on a regular basis. These deliveries need a smooth road surface for secure transportation as upheavals and jarring from poor surfaces can damage the delicate equipment. Cement supplier LaFarge Corporation regularly transports its heavy loads along Upton Drive and uneven surfaces intensify the impact these vehicles have. 
 
“This announcement is recognition of the key role that Southwest Michigan plays in Michigan’s economy, and we are grateful for the state’s support,” said Rob Cleveland – President and CEO of Cornerstone Alliance. “State partners have been unwavering in their commitment to helping Whirlpool grow jobs for Michiganders. Economic development projects are often complex and there are many partners on every project. This commitment from MDOT is a key component of the project. This grant will keep high paying jobs in Southwest Michigan and make it possible for Whirlpool Corporation to attract talent from all parts of the world.” 
 
The City of St. Joseph will reconstruct Upton Drive from Momany Drive south to the Cul de Sac. The reconstruction will create a uniform road surface that reduces jostling of sensitive equipment, provides easy access by employees, and provides well drained roadways that alleviate flooding and icing hazards.  
 
The total project cost is $4,866,859. The TEDF Category A share of the project is $992,000, with the City of St. Joseph providing the balance (64%) through a combination of local funds and an EDA grant. 
 
City of Detroit, Wayne County  
“As a just-in-time supplier to global automakers, location and nearby infrastructure are key requirements to help us deliver products with world-class quality and innovation on time to our customers,” said Frank Orsini, Lear Executive Vice President, and President, Seating. “We would like to thank the Michigan Department of Transportation for providing funding from the Transportation Economic Development Fund to improve roads in the area and contribute to the economic growth of the City of Detroit.”  
 
Lear Corporation is a worldwide manufacturer of automotive seating and automotive electrical systems. The company is headquartered in Southfield and has more than 174,000 employees globally working at 257 facilities in 38 countries.  
 
Lear Corporation secured a contract with General Motors to supply automotive seating systems to its new Factory Zero in Hamtramck, a 2021 TEDF recipient. Lear required a new manufacturing facility close to Factory Zero to deliver on this contract. It found a site partner in NorthPointe Development, who was considering a project to redevelop the former Cadillac Stamping Plant. 
 
The problem for both companies was that the surrounding road network was in very poor condition. The adjacent roads, Devine Avenue and Athens Avenue, were in such poor shape that both were barely usable and would not be able to accommodate the increased traffic from the redeveloped property. The City of Detroit pledged to work to obtain funding to reconstruct the two roads. With this assurance, NorthPoint committed to invest $71,000,000 to demolish the old plant and construct a 684,000 square foot facility. Lear Corporation committed to occupying 416,125 square feet of the new building, investing $50,000,000 in production equipment, and hiring 329 new employees by 2025. 
 
To accommodate the needs of Lear Corporation to have improved access to the site, the City of Detroit will reconstruct Devine Avenue from French Road to Athens Avenue, and Athens Avenue from Harper Road to Devine Avenue. The project will include the addition of crossings compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act at all intersections. The railroad crossing signs on Devine Avenue just west of the facility will be moved to accommodate the sidewalk improvements. To accommodate direct access to the new facility, Northpointe Development will construct a new driveway to the facility along that is referred to as Easement A.  
 
The total project cost is $2,250,328. The TEDF Category A share of the project is $1,704,683 with the City of Detroit providing $545,645 in match. Total participating construction costs are $1,704,683. The TEDF Category A share of construction is $1,704,683, or 100%. The City of Detroit will provide $360,497 for non-construction project-related costs. In addition, the City of Detroit will provide $175,063 for non-participating sidewalk replacement.  
 
Enacted in 1987 and reauthorized in 1993, the TEDF helps finance highway, road and street projects that are critical to the movement of people and products, and getting workers to their jobs, materials to growers and manufacturers, and finished goods to consumers.   
           
TEDF "Category A" or "Targeted Industries Program" grants provide state funding for public roadway improvements that allow road agencies to respond quickly to the transportation needs of expanding companies and eliminate inadequate roadways as an obstacle to private investment and job creation. Eligible road agencies include MDOT, county road commissions, cities and villages. More information about the program is available online at www.Michigan.gov/TEDF.  
 
Cornerstone Alliance is a non-profit, investor-governed economic development organization. Our focus is to increase employment opportunities, private sector capital investments and the local tax base in Michigan's Great Southwest. We offer specialized business services particularly in economically distressed areas.