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Giant Ford parts distribution center plants flag amid marijuana dispensaries

Posted By: The Toledo Blade on March 21, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Ford Motor Co. is nearing completion of a giant parts packaging and distribution center in Monroe Township, a part of the business that became notable during last year’s United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three.

Ford’s newest parts distribution center is located at 14741 LaPlaisance Road, just west of I-75 and in the middle of the township’s bevy of recreational marijuana dispensaries at the intersection. It is called the Monroe Packaging Center.

Township Trustee John Manor said the 1.1 million-square-foot monolith is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Ford has pledged to employ 600 at the facility when it is fully operational.

“It’s an outstanding anchor for the LaPlaisance corridor,” Mr. Manor said.

Ford needs to make some minor plumbing adjustments at an eye-washing safety station to get a temporary certificate of occupancy to open, said Kim Fortner, Monroe Township community development director and zoning enforcement officer.

She said Ford is planning to lease the facility from a limited liability company that developed it. The cost of the project, she said, totals about $64 million in permits pulled so far, including $38 million for the exterior construction and $22 million for the interior buildout, pump station and utility room.

She said it is, by far, the largest structure ever built in the township.

Ford will use the facility to package parts trucked from the factory, then store them and deliver them to 25 nationwide parts depots it operates for distribution to franchise dealers, Ford spokesman Lars Weborg said in a statement Wednesday. Dealers use the parts for customer repairs and maintenance.

The center also will ship directly to dealers for critical repairs, he said.

“The Monroe Packaging Center will enable us to provide Ford and Motorcraft parts to customers and dealers more quickly, as our most efficient and technologically advanced U.S. packaging facility,” Mr. Weborg said. “We are happy to create hundreds of new local jobs and look forward to contributing to the Monroe Township community.”

He said the packaging facility will open for some process and machinery testing next week.

The importance of auto parts depots fell in the spotlight last fall during the contract talks between the Detroit Three and UAW.

As part of a rolling strike strategy, UAW President Shawn Fain struck the parts depots of General Motors and Stellantis NV during the second week of a strike against the Detroit Three, ratcheting up pressure on the carmakers to settle. Ford was spared a shutdown of its depots because Mr. Fain said it was making progress in its talks with the union.

The strike of the GM and Stellantis depots, however, quickly caused parts shortages at their dealers and inconvenienced customers wanting or needing original-equipment parts for their repairs. GM brands include Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick, while Stellantis U.S. brands are Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.

Harley Shaiken, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley and a former GM autoworker, said the strategic use of the parts depots by the UAW during the strike gave greater consumer appreciation for them.

“The strike raised their visibility in the public eye,” Mr. Shaiken said. “Up until then, they had been invisible.”

Adding to their profile, President Biden selected GM’s Willow Run parts distribution warehouse in Van Buren Township for his historic visit to a UAW picket line on the 12th day of the strike.

The UAW settled its strike with the Detroit Three in November, winning record wage gains and a restoration of a long-lost cost-of-living inflation adjustment, among other gains.

Mr. Manor, the township trustee, said the new Ford parts warehouse will change the complexion of the intersection. It adds industry and blue-collar jobs to an area that now hosts more than a half dozen marijuana dispensaries serving consumers from Michigan, Ohio and points beyond.

He said it defuses criticism from many residents that the dispensaries, while lavishly restoring empty storefronts in the area, portray a checkered image of the township.

“There has been criticism that we have too many eggs in one basket,” he said of the dispensaries.

Mr. Manor said the Ford packaging warehouse has fast access to the freeway for the trucks that will soon be going in and out.

And the prospective opening next year of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River to Canada makes the location even more convenient not only for the Ford depot but several large tracts of empty land in the township that could house warehousing and logistics operations, he said.

LaPlaisance has been fitted with roundabouts and a traffic light at the entrance of the center, Mr. Manor said.

Truck traffic will be considerable on the road given that the distribution center has about 100 doors, he said.

The advent of several marijuana dispensaries had already raised patron traffic in the area, though Mr. Manor said the stores have not been disruptive either from a crime or traffic standpoint.

The Monroe Packaging Center is located on about 142 acres that once was home to the Harbor Dunes Golf Club. Much of the work force when it becomes operational will be represented by the UAW.

“The location was selected because of its proximity to I-75 and other Southeast Michigan distribution centers,” Mr. Weborg said.

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