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Posted on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Auto supplier JAC Products plans $6.7M manufacturing expansion in Saline

By Nathan Bomey

JAC Products Inc., a Saline-based auto supplier whose employment level fluctuated dramatically during the auto crisis, now says it plans to hire 87 new workers to fuel the growth of its roof rack manufacturing business.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Economic Growth Authority Board this morning is expected to approve a $572,970 tax credit for JAC Products, which plans to hire workers to increase its production capacity in Saline. JAC said in its tax credit application that it would invest $6.7 million to support its expansion.

The expansion plans come after a tumultuous period for the auto supplier, which reduced the number of workers at its 180,000-square-foot Saline plant from about 400 to fewer than 200 in December 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

But the closure of JAC’s top competitor in 2009, the stabilization of the auto industry and new versions of its roof racks add up to a positive outlook, said Dan Smoke, JAC's chief financial officer.

JAC is producing new roof rack systems for several major automakers, including Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler and Hyundai.

The company told the MEGA Board in its tax credit application that it has 412 workers in Saline and plans to hire 87 over the next few years.

That contrasts with the company's situation in January 2010, when JAC told that it had 475 employees in Saline.

In an interview this week, Smoke said many of the workers at JAC in January were temporary employees. He said the hires supported by today's MEGA tax credit would be “permanent, W2, full-time” workers.

“We’re in a positive mode really in all of our locations as the industry continues to hopefully recover for some time to come,” he said.

JAC, which has been leasing 30,000 square feet in a 70,000-square-foot facility directly adjacent to its current building, has negotiated a deal to take over the entire building to support its expansion. The company will maintain its existing facility at 225 S. Industrial Dr.

JAC signed a 10-year lease at the next-door facility, 151 S. Industrial Dr., with landlord Varsity Drive Co. Inc., which is owned by Ian Schonsheck, Richard Hartigan and Stephen Dackin, according to state documents. Smoke said JAC dealt directly with the owners on the deal.

The building’s other tenant, car wash machinery maker Huron Valley Sales, plans to move to another facility, officials said. Huron Valley Sales' president, Doug Deal, could not be reached for comment. JAC paid a small amount of moving costs to support Huron Valley Sales’ move, Smoke said.

“It made sense to rent this plant because we could get a move-in quicker” than elsewhere, Smoke said.

JAC Products currently employs about 480 workers at its plant in Georgia, where the company is manufacturing racks for solar panels; about 60 people in Shelby Township, where JAC is making thermal separators for use in lithium-ion batteries; 40 in Pontiac; 107 in Germany; and 90 in Portugal.

Smoke said JAC strongly considered launching its expansion at its plant in Georgia. But he credited the MEGA tax credits, a tax abatement promised by the city of Saline, and JAC’s local heritage for making the difference.

“It demonstrates a firm commitment by the company to support the local Saline area, to support Michigan, to support the auto industry,” he said.

Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Michael Finney said in a statement that JAC Products’ expansion “can be credited to the wealth of advanced manufacturing talent here that can and will support the company’s growth.”

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell said JAC's expansion has the city's blessing.

"We’re just glad that they’re continuing to grow within the community and very supportive of their positive momentum," she said.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:32 p.m.

Thank you JAC Products, Saline and the rest of Michigan welcome the good news!


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

Yipee! for Free Money! Thank you, stupid Michigan Taxpayers! Now pony up! Dumb as a box of rocks, you are, to quote Yoda.