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Gilbert’s Bedrock may build Detroit factory for a startup backed by Bill Gates

Signature Associates' Brad Viergever  and Chris Calvano are proud to have been a part of this deal.


Posted By: Detroit Free Press on July 25, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

A Bill Gates-backed startup is eying land in Detroit near the demolished Southwestern High School as a possible location for a factory that would make energy-efficient windows and create hundreds of jobs.

Under one scenario, Dan Gilbert’s real estate firm, Bedrock, would construct a building that it would then lease to the startup, Ypsilanti-based LuxWall.

LuxWall is making preparations for high-volume production of its novel vacuum-insulated window glass. The company was started in 2016 and billionaire Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures is among its financial backers.

LuxWall plans to open its first production plant, Factory 1, in Litchfield Township in Hillsdale County, where it could employ up to 111 people, according to state development officials.

For its Factory 2, which development officials say could employ as many as 342 people, LuxWall is looking at various sites in Detroit, including Bedrock-owned land near the former Southwestern High School.

But LuxWall also is looking at Ohio and Indiana for Factory 2. The neighboring states are said to be dangling lower electricity rates and “attractive incentive proposals” to lure LuxWall.

The LuxWall jobs would pay an average wage of $1,653 per week plus benefits, which calculates to nearly $86,000 per year, according to state development documents.

On Tuesday, LuxWall CEO Scott Thomsen asked board members of the Michigan Strategic Fund in Lansing for a $6 million performance-based grant. Only if the company builds both factories in Michigan would it get all the grant money.

He said that one Detroit site LuxWall is considering is in southwest Detroit at Fort Street and Waterman that is owned by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock firm. Since 2020, Bedrock has owned 37 acres in that general area, including the site of the old Southwestern High School and the former campus of defunct auto supplier Sakthi Automotive Group USA.

The former high school, 6921 W. Fort St., opened in 1921, closed in 2012 and was demolished early this year. LuxWall’s CEO didn’t say precisely where at the intersection Factory 2 might go.

“Bedrock would construct the building and then we would obviously lease the building from Bedrock, and then we will scale that building,” Thomsen told the board.

Representatives for Bedrock and LuxWall did not respond to Free Press inquiries for more details about the potential site or when LuxWall expects to make its decision for Factory 2. The area is near the future Gordie Howe International Bridge. A representative for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. said they could support a property tax abatement for LuxWall if the company ultimately chooses Detroit.

“We really love where the wage rates are at — very strong — especially relative to other manufacturing industries currently in the city,” David White, senior director for business development at the DEGC, told the Michigan Strategic Fund board.

LuxWall currently has 49 employees and is already producing some windows in Ypsilanti. The company is not yet cash-flow positive, its CEO said, but hopes to be by the third or fourth quarter of 2025. They plan to sell their windows to residential and commercial customers.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board voted unanimously to approve the $6 million grant. Factory 1 and Factory 2 could eventually produce up to 600,000 window units per year, according to state development documents.

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