Michigan Town to Get New Auto Plant, 100 Jobs

Three Rivers is a city in Southwest Michigan, whose township seat bears the same name, and they have been known for being among the last holdouts of the auto industry's desertion some many years ago. American Axle & Manufacturing is an auto parts manufacturer in the city that employs hundreds of people for decent wages. Thanks to a $2 million grant from the city, this plant is expected to start an expansion soon that will create another 100 jobs for people in the area.

Three Rivers might be close to Detroit, but their economies are worlds apart. By and large, Three Rivers was able to keep a lot of its jobs around. However, due to the Covid pandemic, they also fell on hard times, and so another hundred jobs added is a great thing for this community. Another good thing here is that half of the 100 jobs offered will be for low-skill workers. Sure, this means lower income paid out, but it's also a chance for people who aren't skilled craftspeople to take on a labor job that pays the bills without needing any specialty training.

The most shocking part of this story is that the plant in Governor Gretchen Whitmer's state was chosen for expansion over one in Mexico that would have cost a fraction of the price. It is unclear if Whitmer is offering any sort of specialized deal to get the company to expand in Michigan. All we know to date is that a hundred more jobs are expected to show up in Three Rivers in the next few months. These jobs can lead to much better jobs in the factory and people can easily make a career out of such a profession.

The company that's planning on the expansion is no stranger to the area. In fact, they started right next door in Detroit in 1994 and still have 16 facilities in the state. So, it's very conceivable that they decided to expand on their home turf without Whitmer having to promise them anything. Of course, the $2 million grant given to help assist was probably the main reason, as Mexico was likely not offering to help pay for the expansion.

In total, the auto parts manufacturer is putting in $38.6 million into the factory to expand its size as well as buying new machinery and equipment. All but the $2 million grant are private funds. As it stands as of Thursday, June 24, everything's ready to move forward.

Hoping to Avoid Past Mistakes

There are a couple different schools of thought as to why auto manufacturing fled from Michigan like it was on fire. Though these schools of thought still do have some overlap, like in assigning at least some of the blame to greedy auto manufacturers that did not wish to pay employees a fair wage for their labor. Of course, by the time the last auto companies were abandoning the state, unions were pushing for insanely favorable deals, like $60 an hour as a starting position, months of paid vacation like school teachers, two-hour lunches, and more. This might not be the only reason the auto companies left, but it was certainly part of the reason.

Michigan, specifically the city of Three Rivers, is hoping to avoid this same fate. While there are union workers in this existing factory, there's also an understanding here now that wasn't around some decades ago, in that Michiganers realize that they need jobs and cannot afford to strong-arm the manufacturer with a list of demands. These automobile companies can operate for pennies on the dollar in places like Mexico, and they won't even be bogged down by all the safety standards of the US. So the companies have options, while the workers do not.

Surely that sounds like a gross imbalance of power to some, though we have to live the lives we have and do not always get to live the lives we want. There are compromises to be made from people who need the jobs and in the companies offering them. Luckily for Southwest Michigan, this is an existing plant that's held in high esteem and treats its workers fairly, and they're just expanding on the plant, not creating one from scratch.

If Michigan were to keep more of these companies around and have more of them expand on what they're doing, those "Motor City" days might just rise again.

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