EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a statement from JR Automation CEO Craig Ulrich.
HOLLAND — State economic development officials have approved grant funding to support an automation manufacturer’s $10 million expansion at the site of a longtime Holland steel fabricator that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
JR Automation Technologies LLC — which designs, builds and integrates automated manufacturing and robotic technology on a global scale — plans to invest about $9.9 million to overhaul a 110,000-square-foot facility formerly operated by now-defunct Genzink Steel.
The Michigan Strategic Fund board today approved a $2.25 million Michigan Business Development Program grant in support of the project that promises to bring 140 new jobs to the area.
JR Automation plans to renovate the facility at 40 E. 64th St. in Holland to create both production and office space. State grant funding will help offset the costs of new machinery and equipment.
“The end result will be one of the largest, premier machine shops in the country in terms of capabilities and size,” according to a Michigan Economic Development Corp. memo to the MSF board.
“The state of Michigan and the MEDC continue to demonstrate their commitment towards keeping Michigan businesses competitive in the global landscape,” JR Automation CEO Craig Ulrich said in a statement. “Through their generous support and the hard work of Lakeshore Advantage, JR Automation will be creating one of the top machining and fabrication facilities in West Michigan, expanding our capabilities while allowing for more control and speed in delivering industry-best solutions for our customers.”
MEDC officials also stated that Michigan competed with the likes of Tennessee, South Carolina and Utah for the project. JR Automation’s global headquarters are at 4190 Sunnyside Drive in nearby Holland Township.
“The company has been a longstanding corporate citizen in Holland and would like to see this business continue to grow,” according to the MEDC. “However, incentive assistance is an important part of the business case, therefore, without assistance this important expansion would go elsewhere.”
“This project aligns with the MEDC’s strategic focus area of supporting a business in the target industry of advanced manufacturing and builds on the state’s work to position itself as the global leader in the future of automation,” according to the memo.
JR Automation operates 27 manufacturing facilities, including a recent 147,000-square-foot expansion in Holland that opened late last year. The company employes roughly 2,000 people, including 1,227 in Michigan.
In a transformational $1.42 billion deal completed at the end of 2019, Tokyo-based software giant Hitachi Ltd. acquired JR Automation, which at the time was a portfolio company of New York City private equity firm Crestview Partners.
The company has been a beneficiary of the race to automate that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a banner year in 2020, when JR Automation doubled its sales from 2019 and remained on a hiring tear.
The marriage between JR Automation and Hitachi brought together Hitachi’s specialization in artificial intelligence and internet of things (IoT) technologies with JR Automation’s focus on robotic system integration.
In a conversation with MiBiz last year, JR Automation CEO Craig Ulrich highlighted the opportunities this new dynamic afforded his company.
“We don’t think there is another company that has that type of blending of (operational technology) and I.T.,” Ulrich said at the time. “Even the large (companies), the big players in automation, don’t have that blending of I.T. and O.T. like we do. That’s really the purpose of the Hitachi purchase and we’re really just getting started on that endeavor to really get that blending going.”
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