GOSHEN — An international auto parts maker with a Goshen presence for 30 years expects to almost double its sales to $118 million thanks to several new contracts.
Benteler Automotive plans to add $26 million worth of new equipment this year to help it keep up with contracts for Ford, Lincoln and Honda vehicle models. Goshen Common Council voted Tuesday to declare an economic revitalization area for the plant, in preparation for giving a five-year tax phase-in on the investment.
Earl Mattson, plant manager, said the latest sales figures are about $65 million. Sales are projected to grow to $118 million by 2022 after Benteler was awarded new long-term contracts for parts like A- and B-pillar housing for several vehicles.
Those include the Ford Bronco, on an eight-year program, and the Honda CRV, for five years. Benteler has also been given multiyear contracts for the Ford Ranger, Ford Escape and Lincoln MK.
“I think the takeaway from this is, the programs we have landed are long-term programs – 5, 6, 7 years – so that means that we are going to stay stable,” Mattson said. “So we will grow from $65 million in 2020 to $118 million in 2022. We’ll have some programs phasing in and out, but we will be stable till 2024 at $100 million, $106 million in sales. That’s a huge growth for our plant and we’re excited to have that opportunity.”
The roughly $26 million investment includes a new hot steel line, at $11.8 million, as well as $3 million in press upgrades. It also includes $4.8 million to double the number of weld cells to 16 and $6.4 million to increase the number of laser units from 15 to 23.
The company is also investing $200,000 to train its workers, Mattson said. There are no new hires as part of the investment this year, but Benteler already employs 295 people in Goshen after taking on some of the other new contracts.
“We’re really going to get that growth from training. As we bring in this new technology, we have to talent up our workforce,” he said. “The plan is to talent up this plant so that we can compete globally.”
Council voted 6-1 in favor of the economic revitalization area declaration. A vote on the tax phase-in will follow in February.
Councilwoman Julia King voted against the measure after questioning why similar tax incentives aren’t given to other companies, and observing that the automotive industry can be very cyclical.
Community Development Director Mark Brinson said not every company meets the criteria for economic incentives. He said Benteler will have to submit compliance reports to show council that it’s making the investments it said it would in exchange for the abatement.
Councilman Gilberto Perez Jr. remarked on how much new automation is included in the $26 million investment. He said he’s interested in how the tax abatement positions Goshen to face the growth of robotics in industry.
“What will this shepherd in for us in the future of robotics? ... What opportunity do we have right now, with this particular abatement, to actually understand what robotics will do in our community with this particular plan?” he said. “What are the things that are going to be coming with more robotics to Elkhart County, and will we be competing as strongly with others, or is it, because we got in a lot earlier, we’re actually ahead of the game and we’re ready to talent-up our workforce?”