Dakkota Integrated Systems to bring $55 million plant, 625 jobs to Detroit to supply FCA

July 9th, 2019 | By Annalise Frank & Chad Livengood | Crain’s Detroit Business

Dakkota CEO Andra Rush addresses a press conference at an announcement of her company’s plan to build a new manufacturing plant at the site of the former Kettering High School in Detroit.

In what’s likely the biggest new supplier deal to come alongside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ east-side Detroit assembly plant investments, Dakkota Integrated Systems LLC announced Tuesday it plans to build a new $55 million plant on former Detroit school properties.

Dakkota plans to build a 600,000-square-foot facility employing 625 people on 32 acres at the former Kettering High School property along Van Dyke Avenue and nearby Rose Elementary School site. The school district sold the properties for $2.6 million last month.

Dakkota company leaders, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. agency announced the project late Tuesday morning in front of the shuttered Kettering High School building on Detroit’s east side.

The Kettering and Rose schools are to be razed to make way for the new manufacturing plant that would supply “major components” for FCA US LLC’s new Jeep assembly plant on Mack Avenue, Dakkota CEO and president Andra Rush said. But Dakkota has pledged to preserve the big blue letter “K” in front of the Kettering building along Van Dyke Avenue near I-94.

The news comes as the city angles for suppliers to expand in Detroit alongside Auburn Hills-based FCA’s $2.5 billion investment and 5,000 new automotive jobs planned at two east-side plants. Duggan has previously hinted that the city was in talks with logistics and supplier teams to create more jobs on top of Fiat Chrysler’s.

Like the FCA Mack Avenue plant, where construction has been underway for well over a month, Dakkota will be under a tight deadline to build a new plant in time to begin supplying parts to FCA by the fourth quarter of 2020, when FCA wants new Jeeps to be rolling off the assembly line at the Mack plant. Dakkota expects to partially open by next spring, Duggan said.


‘Even more new jobs’

In a statement, FCA praised Dakkota’s investment in the city.

“While this new facility will bring even more new jobs to the area and strengthen our manufacturing footprint, we also believe that investments like this one will help build a more vibrant community and provide stability for the future,” the automaker said. “We encourage others to take notice and join us in investing in Detroit.”

Dakkota landed one of the first major contracts with FCA at its Detroit plants, and it approached the city about needing to locate within 7 miles of the Mack assembly plant, Duggan said in a speech Tuesday.

“It’s not as easy as you think to find these sites in the city of Detroit that are this large, but we had this site ready to go …” he said.

Duggan said more suppliers would come, but he declined to comment on land assembly progress or other specific possible deals.

“We’ve got a number of other conversations with suppliers for the FCA plant. Probably not as big as 625 jobs (with Dakkota),” he said. “I expect this will be the biggest new supplier plant, but I expect we’ll see some others in the 200-300 employee range that make the other parts for the Jeeps …”


Pushing forward

Construction is expected to begin within 60 days of the deal closing.

For the project to go forward, Dakkota will be seeking city planning commission approval to rezone the land from residential to manufacturing. It has signed on Detroit-based Devon Industrial Group as construction manager and Detroit-based Walbridge as developer. Walbridge executives declined to share renderings, but said they expect its design to remain in line with other Dakkota facilities while taking surrounding community into account…..

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