FLINT, Michigan — The outside of the new Lear factory in Flint stands in stark contrast to much of its surroundings. Located in a storied part of town known as Buick City, this plant (where seats are manufactured) shines fresh and sleek along the industrial, mostly brownfield, corridor.
Inside is something even more important: People.
Sitting on 30 acres, the Flint site joins a family of over 260 Lear facilities around the world. Lear is a top General Motors supplier and rates 148 on the Fortune 500 list. President and CEO Ray Scott said Lear’s priority is leading in quality. To do that, this plant will need 600 employees when it goes into full production by 2019, Scott said.
Scott himself grew up in the Flint area and called the August grand opening of the facility an “emotional day.”
“I’m a product of Flint, so this is a really special day for me,” said Scott, who is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Michigan-Flint and the Kettering University’s Board of Trustees. “It’s where I grew up. It's a part of who I am.”
Giving a tour of the Lear plant, Ronnie Thompson said he’s been a Flint resident “all 46 years of my life.” He also was among the first 40 workers hired at the Flint plant.
“I’ve been in the factory business for 18 years,” Thompson says with an easy smile, matching his stride. “Lear is the first company I’ve worked for that really has had us go out and engage with the community, which is great because Flint is home and I get to help people directly in my neighborhood.”
Thompson stops along the wall looking at a mural inside the factory. Painted by local artist Kevin Burdick, the mural connects Flint’s roots with Lear connecting to its future. “You know I remember when the economy was high, everyone was living pretty good, and then those factories came down and the jobs left. It kind of brought us down,” he said. “Now that you have a company like this coming in, it shows other companies the quality we still have to offer here.”
Thompson’s co-worker Cameron Jackson hired in around the same time. “Not having to drive out of town to maintain a stable income is one of the biggest reliefs you can have, I think,” he said.
Ismeralda Moyet also was one of the first hires, but she brings a different perspective. She serves as continuous improvement coordinator and said she appreciates the company culture because “(they) listen to all of us as if we are in corporate.”
Moyet, who lives in Pontiac, said she also really loves the family environment here and the community.
“You know, because I’m the type that doesn’t go by what people tell me, I want to work and find out on my own,” she said, “And that stereotype that you often here about Flint just gets shattered once you really meet and get to know the people here.”
Moyet now says she’s looking at buying a home here next year.
Current and future job openings are located on Lear's website