Several of the region’s largest factories will see big investments this year.
The projects provide new sources of work and upgrades that will help the manufacturing facilities stay competitive and preserve jobs.
GM will invest $328 million in two cornerstones of the region’s auto manufacturing industry: the company’s Tonawanda engine plant and its Lockport components plant.
GM will pour $296 million into the Tonawanda site for a new engine line, retaining 854 jobs and creating 67 new jobs. The automaker will invest $32 million in new components production at the Lockport site. That project will retain 320 jobs, including 13 salaried positions.
GM had not yet provided details of the new products, except to say the engines will be the next step for its successful “Generation V” line that supports vehicles like full-size trucks and SUVs. The Lockport project involves powertrain cooling applications for three different vehicles.
The GM Tonawanda plant has about 1,700 employees, while the Lockport plant has about 1,400 employees.
Sumitomo Rubber USA
The company will spend $87 million on its Town of Tonawanda tire plant – known until recently as Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America – as it bolsters U.S. production of Falken-brand tires. Japan-based Sumitomo Rubber Industries reclaimed full ownership of the Tonawanda plant from Goodyear in 2015 and will rely on that site as its flagship U.S. manufacturing facility.
The Tonawanda plant has also restored administrative jobs in areas that used to be handled by Goodyear’s Ohio headquarters, helping push total employment to about 1,300 people. Sumitomo also plans to open a research and development operation at the plant, geared toward keeping up with U.S. customer trends and preferences.
The cereal maker’s Buffalo plant – best known for churning out Cheerios – will add Corn Chex and Honey Nut Chex to its production mix starting in May, as part of a $25 million investment. It was a big win for the 110-year-old facility, which has been making cereal since 1941. Buffalo’s plant beat out four other plants for the project. General Mills was looking for a new home for the Chex production after closing two other plants.
The South Michigan Avenue site, which has 417 jobs, also produces Kix, Total, Lucky Charms and Wheaties, along with Gold Medal flour.
Cummins is a manufacturing powerhouse in Chautauqua County, with its Jamestown engine plant. The Indiana-based company last year spent $40 million on an engine block line to support a new engine platform and also invested in assembly line upgrades and product testing. The new X15 engine series will serve heavy-duty trucks. The company expects to sell at least 40,000 units of the new engine this year.
Cummins isn’t adding jobs to its workforce with the new line, but the project helps maintain the Jamestown plant’s 1,400 jobs and secures its position within Cummins.
Ford Motor Co.
The automaker pledged $30 million in new investment in its Woodlawn stamping plant, among $9 billion Ford pledged to invest in its U.S. plants during the life of a four-year contract United Auto Workers approved in fall 2015. When that investment will be made at the Woodlawn plant, or what it will be used for, was not specified in the contract summary.
The plant has more than 900 employees, producing stamped metal parts for a variety of Ford vehicles. The site opened in 1950 and is a key supplier of parts to Ford’s Oakville assembly plant, just up the Queen Elizabeth Way outside of Toronto.