Denso is to spend US$37m on machinery and equipment to expand automation at its Michigan (DMMI) manufacturing facility in Battle Creek.

The spend supports localisation of component manufacturing for several customers. The Michigan strategic fund (MSF) also awarded the supplier a performance-based grant for up to $687,500 to train current and future employees preparing for higher skilled jobs. The grant will also provide funds for English as a second language (ESL) training with a manufacturing focus that DMMI will create and share with the community.

"The jobs Denso offers today are significantly different than when we started production in Battle Creek 30 years ago," said Andris Staltmanis, DMMI president. "We are excited to make this investment to train and prepare our current and future employees for these higher-skilled, higher-paying, sustainable jobs. This is a critical step to help us stay competitive and we appreciate the support from the Michigan strategic fund."

DMMI has created 300 lead associate positions, a new, skills-based production job designed to support product manufacturing. MSF funding, combined with a $125,000 training and relocation incentive from Battle Creek Unlimited, will support both on-site training classes and formal instruction at Kellogg Community College [Battle Creek is also home to the global cereal maker – ed]. Lead Associates receive more than 130 hours of formal instruction in addition to extensive on the job training.

"In addition to lead associate training, DMMI is excited to develop and share ESL training designed for manufacturing careers," Staltmanis said. "Helping our ESL employees be more successful on the job will open pathways for them to move up in the company and realise their potential."

Manufacturing-focused ESL curriculum will also benefit the community through partnerships with local cultural and educational institutions who will be invited to use and adapt the materials.

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"A more educated community reaps benefits beyond where the employee works," Staltmanis said. "Denso is the largest manufacturing operation in Battle Creek but our partners in the Fort Custer Industrial Park and other areas will also be able to access this specialised information to benefit their workforce and the broader community."

DMMI is planning to hire 125 employees as a part of the investment and training initiative.

DMMI is the lead production facility for Denso's Thermal Systems North American Centre (TAC) and the largest employer in Battle Creek. It manufactures automotive air conditioning and engine cooling components and systems, including condensers, radiators, CRFMs (condenser, radiator, and fan modules), heater cores, evaporators and HVAC units .The DMMI campus in Battle Creek covers 1,380,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and administrative floor space in six buildings on over 100 acres of land, and is the largest facility in Fort Custer Industrial Park.