Auto parts maker to bring 300 jobs to Hegewisch

The tank in Hegewisch. Flex-n-Gate plans to bring nearly 300 jobs to the far South Side neighborhood.

Lucas Schmidt, The Times

Flex-N-Gate Corp. plans to hire nearly 300 workers at a new auto parts factory in Hegewisch, just across the state line.

The Urbana, Ill.-based auto parts supplier is investing $30 million into a facility that would supply Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, a massive just-in-time automotive factory that produces the popular Explorer sport utility vehicle and supports an ecosystem of suppliers, including in Northwest Indiana.

“The U.S. automotive industry is strong, and that’s also true here today in my beloved state of Illinois and in the great city of Chicago,” said Flex-N-Gate owner Shahid Khad, who also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. “We fully anticipate that our future operation here will be a difference-maker for Flex-N-Gate, Ford Motor Company, the automotive industry and workers here in the Chicago area.”

Next January, the company will lease a 288,000-square-foot warehouse that it will turn into a modern auto plant to supply Ford and other automakers. It expected to have the new parts factory up-and-running by the first quarter in 2019.

The trade publication Automotive News ranked Flex-N-Gate as the 10th largest Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM, supplier in the United States and the 38th largest in the world. The company makes a wide array of automotive parts for light vehicles, including complete bumper assemblies, mechanical assemblies, exterior plastic trim, complex welded structural assemblies, and aluminum and steel modular stamped body-in-white and chassis assemblies.

Flex-N-Gate currently employs more than 23,000 workers at 62 factories and nine R&D offices across the United States, Canada, China, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France and Spain. 

Chicago is giving the company tax credits as a reward for hiring at least 286 full-time workers over the next three years.

It's the second big investment recently announced in Hegewisch, where CRRC Sifang America is investing $100 million to build a 380,944-square-foot factory at 13535 S. Torrence Ave.

The company plans to employ 169 workers who will build new rail cars to replace Chicago Transit Authority trains that are 30 years old or more. That new plant will start cranking out 846 rail cars a year in 2019.

“We are seeing a manufacturing renaissance in Chicago, and today Flex-N-Gate is building on that momentum,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This new facility will create hundreds of new full-time jobs, bring tens of millions of dollars in new investments, and strengthen Chicago’s manufacturing ecosystem for generations to come.”

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.