Indian auto supplier, Sakthi Group expanding into abandoned Detroit high school

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, alongside business officials, are set to announce a "major automotive manufacturing expansion" in Southwest Detroit, city officials announced Monday.

The announcement will include a plan to create hundreds of new jobs, generate millions of dollars in new investment and involves in part the redevelopment of vacant Southwestern High School, city officials said.

Duggan and Snyder will be joined by Manickam Mahalingam, the chairman of Indian automotive supplier Sakthi Group, as well as by ProVisions President and CEO Murray Wikol, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and former Southwestern High School and University of Detroit Mercy Basketball Coach Perry Watson. The announcement is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. behind Southwestern High School, 6921 W. Fort Street.

Last month, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $3.5 million performance-based grant for an expansion in Southwest Detroit by Sakthi Automotive Group that includes a $31.8 million investment add 350 new jobs.

According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Sakthi Automotive chose Detroit for the expansion over competing sites in Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina.

In addition to the grant, the city of Detroit and MEDC are recommending the expansion receive a Renaissance Zone designation at a later date. The city is also supporting the expansion with a tax abatement.

Sakthi arrived in the Motor City about five years ago. The company was interested in safety-critical component manufacturing for the auto industry, and found the capacity to do so in Southeast Michigan.

Marcia Gebarowski, senior development finance manger for the MEDC, says in a video promoting the investment that the average salaried wages for regular, new jobs at the Detroit site will be in the $40-50,000 range.

According to Automotive News, Sakthi has also committed to hire at least two recently paroled Michigan felons per month. The company had initially hired four, and their work ethic reportedly far out-clipped their peers.

"We're seeing they (hired parolees) are more motivated and productive because they know this is their second chance," CEO Lalit Verma told Automotive News. "I've met with each of them personally and have told them they need to go the extra mile to show the community they are worth this chance."

Verma told the news outlet the parolees are making $11 to $13.50 an hour.

Sakthi Automotive's parent company has about $1.2 billion in annual revenues. Based in southern India, its vertical operations include sectors such as textiles, dairy, sugar, finance, transportation and logistics, dealerships, energy and media.

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