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Mann + Hummel of Kalamazoo Seek to add 200 Jobs

PORTAGE — A Portage manufacturer is set to receive state tax breaks today for a project that would create 200 new jobs, more than doubling its work force here in the next five years.

Mann+Hummel USA Inc., which makes injection-molded plastic parts for the automotive industry, was expected to have a request for tax incentives approved by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority Board of Directors this morning in Lansing, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The tax credits are valued at $2.4 million over seven years, according to the MEDC.

The company is planning to invest nearly $20 million in its Portage headquarters and manufacturing space to produce a part for the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle under development by General Motors Corp., said David Gordon, chief financial officer of Mann+Hummel USA.

Mann+Hummel also is planning to close a plant in South Bend, Ind., and transfer work from that plant to Portage. The company employs 114 workers in South Bend, Gordon said.

Chevy’s Volt, which could be the first production plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid car to hit the U.S. market, is scheduled be on dealer lots in November 2010, according to GM. Plug-in hybrid cars can have their batteries recharged and the Volt is expected to travel up to 40 miles on a full charge without burning gasoline.

Mann+Hummel will produce a frame to hold the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries that contains coolant, Gordon said.

Laptop-computer users should be familiar with the heat generated by those batteries, Gordon said. “The frame will allow coolant to transfer heat away from the batteries,” he said.

The 200 new jobs in Portage would each pay an average weekly wage of $715, according to the MEDC. The company currently employs 185 people in Michigan, most of whom work in Portage.

“Our community’s ability to support cutting-edge, advanced manufacturing and diversification is showing itself time and time again invaluable to corporations with research and development needs,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First.

Mann+Hummel also may expand its Portage plant, Gordon said. The company has applied for funding from the federal government’s stimulus plan, which could help fund the expansion, he said. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included funding for automotive companies producing energy-efficient technology, including batteries for hybrid and electric cars.

“If that (funding) comes through, then it’ll happen sooner rather than later,” Gordon said of the expansion.

The new contract comes at a time when Mann+Hummel has seen its U.S. automotive business decline 40 percent this year, President Francisco Gomes Neto recently told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The drop-off in domestic auto production had caused the company to lay off about 20 percent of its work force, Neto said last month during a reception at the Portage plant celebrating a new contract with Ford Motor Co.

Mann+Hummel USA in Portage is the U.S. headquarters for Ludwigsburg, Germany-based Mann+Hummel Group.

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