San Antonio: Scores Another Manufacturing Win with Navistar’s Truck Assembly Plant Announcement
Featured Photo (above): Navistar, a leading commercial vehicle manufacturer, plans to build an assembly plant in San Antonio’s South Side. Image: Navistar
by Edmond Ortiz
San Antonio (Bexar County)—San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) announced Thursday that Navistar International Corp. is opening a commercial vehicle assembly facility in South San Antonio.
Navistar, a global manufacturer of commercial vehicles, chassis and diesel engines, plans to build the plant as part of a $250 million capital investment, generating 600 jobs for the area.
As of Thursday morning, Navistar had not confirmed the exact whereabouts on the South Side it will build the plant, but according to a San Antonio Express-News report, it will be near the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center.
Coincidentally, the land use law firm Brown & Ortiz shepherded a zoning request through the Zoning Commission on Sept. 16 to change a 426.5-acre tract adjacent to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center from Farm and Ranch to Heavy Industrial. Heavy Industrial accommodates very high volumes of truck traffic.
There is no tract of comparable size so near the lake that also has direct access to U.S. Highway 281, which would be the preferred means of egress-ingress for such a large manufacturing enterprise. Prior to the Zoning Commission’s action, the Development Services Department and the Planning Commission both recommended approval.
“Staff does not find evidence of likely adverse impacts on neighboring lands in relation to this zoning change request. Typically industrial is not encouraged near residential uses, however the required buffers provided adequate spacing and boundaries between uses. Plan supports buffers and transition zones between industrial and other uses,” the city staff report said.
SA Miers Ltd., a shell company from McAllen, owns the site where Navistar will likely locate its factory. Image: Google Earth.
The land has been owned by SA Miers Ltd. since 2012, but SA Miers Ltd. is merely a shell company controlled by Mrr-Gp LLC, which in turn is a shell company controlled by Rioco Corp., a private real estate investment and commercial development company in McAllen. There’s been no official confirmation that a Rioco entity is selling to Navistar, however, it is a common practice for the seller to obtain the zoning needed by the buyer while the property is under contract.
On Oct. 31, San Antonio City Council will consider a city incentive package for Navistar’s prospective development. Bexar County Commissioners Court will consider a county incentive package Nov. 5. The state of Texas recently approved a Texas Enterprise Fund package to support the project.
Pending incentive approvals, Navistar will break ground in 2019 and is anticipated to begin production within the next two years, according to a SAEDF press release.
“Over the last five years, Navistar has made significant investments to improve our position in the market,” Troy Clarke, Navistar chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a press release from the company.
“This investment will create a benchmark assembly facility to improve quality, lower costs and provide capacity to support anticipated industry growth, as well as market share gains.”
The new plant will have the flexibility to build Class 6-8 vehicles, complementing Navistar’s existing assembly manufacturing footprint, which includes truck assembly plants in Springfield, Ohio and Escobedo, Mexico, the company’s release stated.
The Illinois-based company, the fourth biggest truck producer in the United States, traces its origins back to 1831 when Cyrus McCormick created the first known mechanical reaper.
Navistar opened this parts distribution center this summer in Memphis, Tennessee. Image courtesy of Navistar.
Navistar’s products, parts, and services are sold throughout a network of nearly 1,000 dealer outlets in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, and more than 60 dealers in 90 countries. The company operates facilities on six continents.
Local, state and county leaders gathered Thursday to laud Navistar’s decision to invest in San Antonio.
The announcement comes the same week as Aisin AW, an auto transmission manufacturer, said it would build an assembly plant in Cibolo.
Also, Toyota Motor Corp. announced this week it will spend $391 million in the first major renovation to its truck assembly plant in South San Antonio, part of the company’s $13-billion investment commitment toward its stateside operations through 2021. Aisin AW is a Toyota supplier.
Area business and political leaders have said San Antonio’s manufacturing sector achieved major gains this week. Navistar recently opened a parts distribution center in the Memphis, Tennessee area.
“San Antonio is winning and we are committed to creating even more opportunity for every citizen to win, too,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said about Navistar in the release. “Navistar is one of the world’s most innovative companies and we share a vision for the future of our region.”
The manufacturing industry currently has a $40 billion annual economic impact on the San Antonio region. With these recent announcements, this number is expected to grow, according to SAEDF. In particular, the economic impact of the Navistar facility is projected at $5.6 billion over 10 years.
“Thousands of people in our county make their living in manufacturing,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in the release. “These are the kinds of jobs that not only provide a good living, but can change a family’s circumstances for generations.”
“Amazing things are made in San Antonio” SAEDF CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera added in the release. “It’s our job as economic developers to create an environment for success in the region. That means building the workforce and supply chain that enable companies like Navistar to build the things that change the world.”
A recent economic impact study conducted by Steven Nivin, assistant professor of economics at St. Mary’s University, calculated the 10-year impact of the recently announced Toyota expansion and two related suppliers.
The conservative impact was quoted at more than $10 billion in 10 years, with an employment multiplier of 40,000 jobs, the news release stated. Holistically, recent manufacturing projects in the region are expected to generate increased economic activity, creating a ripple effect in the community.
“Navistar’s and Toyota’s decisions to invest here demonstrate San Antonio is ready for business,” said San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh in the release. “With our central location, city-owned utilities, robust workforce and valuable training partnerships, San Antonio is the ideal location for businesses to invest and thrive.”
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.