It was big news back in 2007. A Japanese-based car parts manufacturer, Keihin, wanted to come to Capac, put up a sizeable building and start hiring more than 200-plus employees. The subprime mortgage crisis had begun in 2006 and the state’s economy was showing signs of stress so this level of business investment was a welcome surprise.
Then-Governor Jennifer Granholm attended the July 2007 groundbreaking ceremony—the same week Capac celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding—and the 120,000 square-foot plant was up and running the following April.
The company began adding additional production lines within that first year and boasted a workforce of 182. They made additional multi-million dollar investments into the facility in ensuing years that created new jobs or retained current ones. Back in 2011, the company said that 15 percent of the plant’s workforce lived in the village limits.
When headlines broke about Honda- Hitachi merger in the fall, there weren’t any hints that cutbacks were coming.
Last week’s news that the plant will shut down in 2021 was equally unexpected considering that the local economy and the manufacturing industry seem to have rebounded from leaner times.
Like other closures, Keihin’s departure will be a loss for families, other businesses and the school district. The village will lose out on tax dollars and people in need of a job will have one less local option.
In recent years, the plant did a lot to help Capac Community Schools. Keihin has donated recess equipment and school supplies, volunteered physical labor on school grounds and visited classrooms to talk about science and engineering, plus hosted school tours to showcase the work they do.
The business has also supported and participated in Capac Chamber of Commerce events and stayed engaged in the community with school supply drives, yard sales and the like.
Events like company mergers, regardless of current economics, have a way of bringing about suprising changes and that seems to be case here. The company has said declining sales and the inability to generate new business at an adequate pace played a role in their decision to shutter the plant. It seems like a rather large investment to walk away from but corporations have ways of absorbing loss into their overall businnes structure. Unfortunately, the loss of jobs and economic activity won’t likely be as easy for Keihin’s employees and the Capac community to absorb.