Automotive supplier Lear breaks ground for a seat-manufacturing plant in Hammond, IN, that will produce seats for Ford’s SUV platforms starting with ’20 model-year vehicles.

Construction of the 240,000-sq.-ft. (22,320-sq.-m) plant will start immediately, with sub-assembly and final assembly of seats expected to begin in April 2019. The factory will employ about 875 workers who will transfer from Lear’s existing facilities in Hammond and Portage, IN.

Plant manager Michael Segvich says at the groundbreaking that Lear has outgrown its current 100,000-sq.-ft. (9,300-sq.-m) factory, which opened in late 1994 and employs about 575 workers. To keep up with demand, Lear in May 2015 moved part of its Hammond operations and nearly 300 employees 20 miles (32 km) to Portage.

Lear is building the new plant on a 30-acre (12-ha) site leased from Crown Enterprises.  “We wanted to stay in Hammond, but we know space in the city is hard to find,” says Hammond native Segvich, who joined Lear in 1995 as an assembly-line worker. “As we were exploring options, we were very fortunate that this land was available for lease.

 “The current plant in Hammond is landlocked, so expanding that facility is physically impossible,” he says. “We also don’t want to interfere with current production, so constructing a new building is our best option.”

The Hammond Redevelopment Commission approved a $4 million incentive to support Lear’s $30 million capital investment at the site. “We’re pleased to be able to combine our operations into a single modern facility, which will optimize our ability to deliver the highest-quality Lear seats to Ford Motor Company,” says Ray Scott, Lear executive vice president and president of the company’s seating business. “The new site keeps our operations close to Ford, which is essential.”

Lear broke ground on a second seating plant in early October in Flint, MI, on a portion of General Motors’ former Buick City complex, once the world’s largest automotive manufacturing complex of its kind and which closed in 1999. That facility, set to begin initial production in April and reach full production by 2019, will supply GM’s Flint Truck assembly plant. Lear has not named specific models.

jirwin@wardsauto.com