It’s only been open a few weeks, but the latest addition to Blue Springs’ industrial base is already producing auto parts and a wealth of new, well-paying jobs.
Faurecia, a French-based worldwide auto parts manufacturer, has moved into its new 250,000 square-foot facility north of Interstate 70 and east of Lake Remembrance. And while the plant still isn’t close to full employment or full capacity, it’s still come a long way in a short time.
“We started this process just about a year ago with nothing but a bean field and hopes and dreams,” said David Ralston, the manager for the Blue Springs plant. “It’s been a very busy flurry of activity from September to now to get us to this point. And we’re on track with our schedule.”
It was just last March that the Blue Springs City Council approved the rezoning of the 25-acre site for the plant, which sits just south of the Kohl’s Distribution Center in eastern Blue Springs. The council earlier approved a $69-million tax abatement plan for the facility. Construction began shortly after the rezoning, and Faurecia moved into the finished building last November.
The Blue Springs facility, one of three in Missouri and 330 operated worldwide by Faurecia, will eventually have more than 300 employees making parts used in Transit vans and F-150 pickup trucks assembled at the Ford Motor Company plant in Claycomo. If all goes as planned, Ralston said the facility could be fully operational by July.
The plant is currently shipping parts, but those parts are coming from a Faurecia operation in Louisville, Ky., that are double-checked for quality in Blue Springs. Once it gets a final OK from Ford, the Blue Springs plant is to begin shipping its own parts on Jan. 28.
“We’re producing parts here; we haven’t shipped any of them to Ford yet because we have to get final verification,” Ralston said.
Ralston said the plant will initially produce right and rear door panels for the Transit as well as right and left rear door panels for the F-150. By May, it will also make center consoles and instrument panels for the Transit. The parts are made using the latest technologies for injection molding and ultrasonic and vibration welding.
When revealing plans for the plant last year, Faurecia said it would hire 300 for manufacturing jobs requiring skilled or semi-skilled labor. Renita Higgins, the plant’s human resources manager, says there are currently 240 employees – 165 hourly workers and 75 salaried. Higgins said the starting pay for production employees is $14.25 an hour. Process techs and cement techs for injection molding are making upwards of $18 an hour.
“We are still planning on hiring more people,” Higgins said. “I actually have orientations coming up in the next couple of weeks so we will be up above that 165 (production worker) number by the end of January, maybe more around 220 and probably by midsummer potentially up to that 300.”
Higgins said a job fair in December drew more than 400 people, and she has hiring events planned through March. Most of the people hired so far, she said, come from the Eastern Jackson County area.
“We’re drawing a lot of people from Oak Grove, Grain Valley, Buckner, Bates City, and Blue Springs too,” Higgins said. “We definitely want to be involved in the community and draw people from that community.”
And so far, Ralston said, the plant is drawing a high-quality work force from the area.
“It’s been amazing,” Ralston said. “The people of the Blue Springs area, the workers that we’ve hired, are excellent. They’re very conscientious, they very involved, they’re really good people.”