Jess Bailey (R), direct materials purchasing manager at Safelite Group, speaks in an interview with Xinhua in Dayton of Ohio, the United States, on July 26, 2019. When Chinese leading automobile glass manufacturer Fuyao took over the site of former General Motors facility five years ago in Dayton, Ohio, local community cheered at the possible boost it could add to the rust belt city's revitalization efforts. (Xinhua/Zhang Fengguo)
by Xinhua writers Wang Wen and Liu Guoyuan
MORAINE, the United States, July 200 (Xinhua) -- When Chinese leading automobile glass manufacturer Fuyao took over the site of former General Motors facility five years ago in Dayton, Ohio, local community cheered at the possible boost it could add to the rust belt city's revitalization efforts.
"We drove past that desolate plant all the time. We always wondered what's going to happen to that space, who's going to come and fix it," said Jess Bailey, direct materials purchasing manager at Safelite Group.
She was glad to learn a manufacturing company was building plant on the site, one that she now visits almost weekly as one of its major customers.
For Shannon Duff, the benefits Fuyao has brought could be felt more directly.
When General Motors closed its facility in the 2008 financial crisis, Duff was among the thousands that were laid off.
"A lot of people that I worked with lost everything. They lost their houses, their cars; families fell apart," said Duff, who became a stay-at-home mother until Fuyao started hiring local workers.
Having worked at Fuyao for more than four years now, Duff could still recall her seven years of working at the same location with General Motors.
She said while she was happy working for both companies, she has had more opportunities to improve her skill set at Fuyao.
In General Motors, she installed the headliners on top of the Blazers. With Fuyao, she has learned to build the windshields manually, put all the brackets on by hand, and know the measurements, instead of relying on a robot to do it.
Duff enjoyed being delegated different tasks than her daily routine in Fuyao.
"I like to be flexible. With General Motors, it was come and do your job and go home," she said.
Her 21-year-old daughter is also working at the plant while continuing her college courses online.
"I told her this company likes to promote employees from inside. So if she finish her courses in business, she may be able to get an office job and be my boss," said Duff.
Christopher Cormack, 24, has worked at Fuyao for more than 4 years. He started as an hourly employee and is now a salary employee who supervises the lamination assembly.
Thanks to Fuyao, he is now in the automobile manufacturing industry like his father and grandfather did. He plans to stay with the company for a long time and seeks promotion opportunities internally.
In 2014, Fuyao acquired a former facility of General Motors in Moraine, a city in Ohio state, and turned the venue which was shut down amid the 2008 financial crisis into a 2-million-square-feet glass manufacturing plant with a total investment of over 2000 million U.S. dollars.
The investment has brought a great many job opportunities to Dayton and areas nearby.
The plant now employs more than 2,200 people, the vast majority of whom are locally hired, including those who were laid off when General Motors closed its facility.
For each job that the plant creates, there are two or three more created indirectly along the supply chain, as more people will join component suppliers, logistics companies, construction contractors, waste management plants among others.
"When we all lost our jobs, we didn't think we were going to get good jobs like that around here anymore," said Duff.
Fuyao has put many efforts in creating a home feeling for its employees and in strengthening the bond among them. The company now offers one-on-one master training programs for the workers to learn skills and organizes trips to China for select employees during the Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year.
Cormack joined one of the trips to China and visited multiple cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Qingdao. He said the manufacturing facilities and technologies he saw during his visit was eye-opening.
Dayton used to be a thriving midwestern manufacturing hub. Initially built around waterways and later railroads and surrounded by fertile farmland, it was especially strong in aerospace and automobile manufacturing.
As U.S. manufacturing industry withered and companies relocated their plants to places outside the United States, the city experienced declines in population, wages, and home values.
Local governments and business associations have worked hard to attract foreign direct investments, cultivating its talent base and offering favorable tax and energy policies.
Following Fuyao's footstep, other manufacturers and technologies companies are coming to take root in the once prosperous manufacturing city.
"It's great to see people are finally coming back and keeping the community where it used to be," said Bailey.
Aside from job opportunities it brought, Fuyao has been actively serving the local community. It has established Fuyao Glass America Hardship Fund to help workers in need and regularly interacts with local residents, donates to the local hospitals, public schools and local disaster relief organizations, with assistance of Heren Charitable Foundation U.S.A. launched by Fuyao Chairman Cao Dewang in 2017.
After a major tornado hit the Dayton area in May, Fuyao organized a team to donate bottled water to the most affected nearby city of Trotwood as well as collaborated with the local community water drive. Twelve volunteer teams composed of Fuyao employees prepared hot meals for families in the West Milton community. They barbecued food for approximately 7200 community members.
Bailey, who was born in Dayton and now works in Columbus which is about 70 miles northeast of Dayton, said she was grateful Fuyao has been taking care of her hometown.
She said she was relieved hearing how Fuyao through charity has done above and beyond for its associates in the community to get them back on their feet and help rebuild their houses.
The automobile glass manufacturer came to the United States in order to meet its customers requirements, expand its global footprint, and "localize" in the U.S. market, and the move has yield fruitful results.
Its plant in Dayton, the largest single-sale glass manufacturing facility in the world, produces 4.5 million sets of automotive glass and 4 million windshield glass each year.
Safelite, the company Bailey works for, is the largest auto glass specialist company in the United States with more than 720 locations nationwide. It specializes in replacing all types of damaged vehicle glass and has been a customer of Fuyao for more than 10 years.
Their businesses grew tremendously in the past decade, from only 200,000 units to several millions of units every year, the majority of which came from the Dayton plant.
She said with a Fuyao plant in Safelite's "back yard," the company can now enjoy much shorter lead time which allows it to be more strategic on its inventory, more value added services, and easier communication, on top of the high-quality products Fuyao always provides.
"Our technicians want to have replacement glass that simply matches the exact same piece of glass they take out of the car. Fuyao is one of the top producers in the world," said Bailey.
She added that Fuyao and Safelite work closely on automobile glass technologies so that Safelite "is able to service our customer even more timely on all the brand new models that are out in the market."
(Xinhua correspondent Zhang Yichi in New York contributed to the story.)