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Detroit luring manufacturers to industrial park, vacant land

DETROIT (AP) — Inside a fenced construction site on Detroit’s east side, heavy machines are digging, shoving and hauling away tons of dirt in preparations for the latest addition to the city’s industrial landscape.

Auto parts supplier Flex-N-Gate is expected to bring 750 jobs to Detroit when it completes its 350,000-square-foot (32,500-square-meter) plant at the Interstate 94 Industrial Park. It will join several other firms that are investing millions of dollars where only so many years ago manufacturing jobs were disappearing.

The changes come as Detroit, like many other Rust Belt cities, looks to lure firms with just what they’re looking for: vacant land where they can build and grow.

“I do not think Detroit is a tough sell. What we find when we’re speaking with prospects is they want to be within a rich and robust cluster of other automotive and other advanced industries. We have that healthy supply chain with regard to automotive and advanced manufacturing,” said Peter Chapman, Detroit Economic Growth Corp. executive vice president for business development.

A 2012 study found Detroit had about 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) of vacant land across its 139 square miles (224-square-kilometers). Quasi-governmental groups such as land banks are empowered by cities to find, acquire and clean up the land to compete with suburban communities that have open expanses of cleaner soil. Since most of the vacant land isn’t connected, those groups buy up adjacent lots here and there to make usable larger pieces.

Detroit’s prime site for new…

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