Capital Avenue Economic Development Area
The Capital Avenue Economic Development Area was established in 2001 to help facilitate a major economic development proposed for construction on land adjacent to the existing AM General HMMWV (HMMWV, pronounced Humvee and often referred to as Hummer) production facility on McKinley Avenue. In 2000, St. Joseph County and City of Mishawaka officials were presented an opportunity to partner with AM General and General Motors to assist in creating a development ready industrial site to allow General Motors to build a new automobile manufacturing facility that would produce the Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle which was a large SUV that is based on a modified GMT820 platform that is the basis of the Chevrolet Tahoe as well as other GM pickup trucks.
The St. Joseph County Redevelopment Commission established an economic development area so that a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District could be established around the proposed site that would collect tax increment to pay on a bond that would be used to pay for needed infrastructure and land acquisition that would be required to accommodate the project. The City of Mishawaka provided staff support and managed the property acquisition process acquiring and relocating property owners adjacent to the proposed site. The City also extended utilities to the proposed development site.
In 2002, the H2 facility opened and began manufacturing the H2 vehicle. The H2 was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2003. A four-door pickup truck version with a with midgate that opens the vehicle's interior to the external cargo bed was introduced for 2005 as the "H2 SUT" (sport utility truck). During this time, the adjacent MV-1 facility began construction of a civilian Hummer model (dubbed by GM as the H1) until June 2006 when it ceased production of that vehicle model. The H1 was a popular vehicle owned by many celebrities and sports athletes, most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger. Based on changing customer needs, the H2 ceased production in 2009.
The Capital Avenue EDA is a prime area for industrial and commercial development. Many of the key elements to facilitate such development are present, including major electrical service, gas service, large land parcels, and suitable soil conditions. In 2018, the County will be clear of all bond debt obligations from the H2 project and will begin a process to identify projects and project sites that could use targeted resources to assist in improvements in road, highway and rail access as well as the extension of municipal water and sewer service which would allow for this area to see moderate to higher growth in commercial and industrial site development for the foreseeable future.
SF Motors - - electric vehicles to be made at former AM General H2 Facility
On a stage in the heart of Silicon Valley, a business rolled out a product with major implications for manufacturing in the South Bend region. SF Motors, the company that in November 2017 purchased the former AM General Commercial assembly plant in Mishawaka, unveiled a pair of electric vehicles that will be produced there. Challenging electric vehicle giant Tesla, SF Motors hopes to develop vehicles with high performance and integrated technology that can aid and sometimes even take over driving responsibilities.
SF Motors CEO John Zhang said that his interest in electric vehicles was piqued when he experienced the acceleration that electric power can provide. “I remember the acceleration when I first drove an electric car,” Zhang said, “I was hooked.”
The 2-year-old electric vehicle company, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, plans to build a pair of electric crossover SUVs called the SF5 and SF7. While the company’s headquarters are in Silicon Valley, its two production facilities will be in Mishawaka and Chongqing, China. Zhang praised the “engineering and manufacturing expertise” in the Midwest, citing its importance in the company’s future success.
According to Jim Finn, chief production officer for the company, production at both facilities will begin later this year, with plans to reach production of 200,000 vehicles per year. Both plants will handle the full production line for the vehicles, from body welding to battery production to final assembly, Finn said. SF Motors’ website said the Mishawaka plant will have as assembly capacity of 50,000 cars annually.
The Mishawaka plant will also feature advanced automation, including a fully automated body shop and quality control. Still, the company plans to employ around 3,500 workers worldwide. Todd Leahy, formerly the general assembly manager for AM General, will manage the Mishawaka plant.
The SF5, the company’s mid-market crossover, will be sold on preorder later this year and on the road by 2019. Jason Wallace, brand director for SF Motors, said that he couldn’t give a specific price for the vehicle, but said it's “expected to be in the $50,000 range.” “The SF5 is sort of a mid-range vehicle for us,” Wallace said. “Our vision is to create an entire portfolio of products for everyone. The SF7 would really be more of a premium vehicle.” The company didn’t provide a timeline on the release of the SF7.
Yifan Tang, chief technology officer, said the SF5 and SF7 will be capable of zero-to-60 acceleration in less than three seconds, rivaling some of the world’s fastest combustion engine cars. The cars will also have 1,073 horsepower, far exceeding typical vehicle capabilities because of the advantages provided by using electric, rather than internal combustion. The batteries that provide all that power will have a roughly 300-mile range.
By 2020, the vehicles will be fitted with protective autonomy, including systems that “handle typical driving tasks,” Tang said. The autonomous features will also learn how a driver behaves, Tang added, adjusting to habits and possible shortfalls.
The company is also planning to share its electric drivetrain technology with others, to speed the adoption of electric vehicles worldwide, and continue developing new technologies, including what SF Motors officials say will be the first solid state batteries, as opposed to typical liquid or polymer electrolyte batteries, in electric vehicles.