In a rousing celebration of business investment and global cooperation, Fuyao Glass America officially cut the ribbon to its Moraine plant Friday before 700 guests, marking what the company expects will be decades of success.
And the company’s chairman predicted continued brisk hiring — up to what he estimated would be 3,000 workers in Moraine.
Having produced glass for more than a year already, the world’s largest automotive glass production plant employs 2,000 people and expects to hire 300 to 500 more in coming months.
But Cho Tak Wong — chairman of Fuyao Glass America’s corporate parent, Fuyao Glass Industry Group — said after the ribbon cutting that, in time, he expects the Moraine plant to have 3,000 workers.
It was the largest predicted employment estimate the chairman has publicly used regarding the company’s biggest American facility.
John Gauthier, Fuyao Glass America president, cautioned that Cho did not attach a timeline to that expectation.
In a press conference, a Chinese journalist asked Cho how many jobs he thought he would create in the United States in a decade.
“10 years is a long time, and it’s hard to predict,” Cho answered through an interpreter.
In total, Fuyao has invested $600 million in Moraine and $1 billion total across the United States, in facilities in Illinois, Michigan and South Carolina.
“We think there’s great significance with the opening of this facility here,” said Cho, who is also called Cao Dewang. “It will contribute to the healthy development of the Sino-U.S. relations.”
Guests at the grand opening event held just outside the plant off Encrete Lane expressed their appreciation, most of them noting that Fuyao refurbished and rebuilt a vehicle assembly plant that had been shut down by General Motors nearly eight years ago.
“Your commitment to an area of the state that was in need of a big win cannot be overstated,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said.
“We’ve seen a really terrific transformation of a building that had been vacant for far too long,” said Gov. John Kasich, speaking in a video recorded for the grand opening.
“We really consider this to be a team effort, to really take a dream and create a reality, a reality that’s behind us today,” said Dan Curran, former president of the University of Dayton (UD) and now an independent board member for Fuyao Glass America.
The grand opening events took place on a summer-like morning before a stage set up just outside the plant. Videos ran continuously on dual screens on either side of the stage.
In recorded videos played on the screens, company leaders talk about bringing Fuyao to Moraine, creating a plant with the capacity to make the glass for one in four cars in the United States.
In one video, Cho is featured, talking about his humble origins in China, of selling fruit on the street as a child, and of how his parents were his first teachers in life.
“Never lose your dignity when you are poor,” Cho said.
He started the company in 1987, deciding to make glass in China when he saw that almost all automotive glass at that time was imported to his country.
For seven straight years, Fuyao has made a list of top 500 Chinese private companies. Today, Fuyao Group bills itself as the world’s largest automotive glass manufacturer.
Taylor and others noted that Fuyao might have built an American production plant anywhere, but the chairman chose Ohio.
“You will not be disappointed,” Taylor said.
Curran and others praised Cho for working to be “visible” in Dayton and Ohio. And after a ribbon cutting on the stage, he was swarmed by people on all sides.
“One of the most important things we can build anywhere is relationships,” Kasich said.
Cho came to Ohio at the invitation of JobsOhio and Dayton Development Coalition officials, visiting the area and the then-empty plant in 2013.
“As he walked the plant, he had a vision,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton.
In January 2014, in a statehouse ceremony in Columbus with Kasich, Cho first announced his intention to buy the plant.
He did five months later, writing Industrial Realty Group Principal Stu Lichter — who bought the property in 2011 — a $15 million check in a meeting at Sinclair Community College.
Plant reconstruction began in June 2014. Speaking through a translator Friday, Cho said the plant’s capacity will be sufficient to supply glass for 4.5 million automobiles and 4 million aftermarket glass sets — making the once-empty plant the world’s largest single-site auto glass factory.
“We are also very pleased to see that the local workforce has welcomed us greatly, and we appreciate their talent,” the chairman said.
After six months of trial production runs, the plant has all the business certifications it needs to do business with its customers, he said.
“We have started production on a grand scale … (but) there is going to be more hard work for us,” Cho said.
Sangetta LaForges, a General Motors supply chain manager, said the presence of the Fuyao plant in Moraine has already lowered supply chain costs in North America for automakers.
Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China relations, greeted the audience of 700 in Chinese and English, saying he hoped the Moraine plant would “prosper like a red fire.”
“What we are witnessing today is the future of US-China relations,” Orlins said. “For years, U.S. companies invested in China. They made profits, but what they did (as well) was build communities in China.”
Now, Chinese companies have invested some $61 billion in businesses in American communities, and they will probably invest another $30 billion more just this year, he said.
Said Orlins: “I salute Dayton for the work you did in bringing them here.”
In a luncheon held after the ribbon cutting at UD’s River Campus, Samuel Palmisano, retired IBM chief executive, said Fuyao’s experience in Moraine and and Ohio offers lessons for the rest of the world, at a time when international trade and rapidly growing technology are viewed with skepticism or fear.
“This community had the insight to understand that was a good thing and not a bad thing,” Palmisano said. “People are not trained today to look at the world through a global lens.”
Elected officials who spoke recounted their roles in first salvaging the former GM plant and then introducing Fuyao to the area.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Turner and Judge Dodge, a Montgomery County commissioner, recounted the years since 2008, when GM first declared its intention to shut down the SUV assembly operation in Moraine, an operation that employed some 2,400 workers at one point.
“Fortunately, we held the scrappers off,” Brown said.
The chief fear was that the property would be sold to developers who saw no need to keep the plant structures standing.
Said Turner: “There were those in Washington who thought that jobs would not come back.”
Michael Fullenkamp, a Fuyao Glass America supervisor, was hired in August 2014, and he remembered his first time he walked the plant and its property.
“I found a dirty, dark and very wet building,” he said. He recalled guards telling him that at night, coyotes sometimes could be seen running across parking lots overgrown with weeds.
“This is a very important day for us, one we worked a long time for,” said John Gauthier, Fuyao Glass America president.
Fuyao Glass America
Employees: 2,000. Another 300 to 500 expected by end of 2017, with up to 3,000 possible in total.
Investment: $600 million by global parent Fuyao Glass Industry Group, the largest producer of automotive glass in the world.
Capacity: Able to supply glass sets for one in four cars in North America.
Size: 116 acres, 1.7 million square feet.
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