Published in Manufacturing

Tool and die, aviation companies plan Southwest Michigan expansions

BY Thursday, March 31, 2022 04:19pm

Michigan economic development officials have approved performance-based grants for two companies planning $34 million in combined investments to create 77 jobs in Battle Creek and Benton Harbor Township.

In Battle Creek, Duncan Aviation Inc. plans to add one hangar, three support buildings and a new vehicle maintenance building. The aircraft services company’s $30 million investment expects to create at least 61 jobs.


The expansion received a $488,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The city and its Tax Increment Finance Authority also offered $2.5 million to assist with the addition of a tarmac around the hangar. 

The company chose Michigan over competing sites in Nebraska and Utah, according to state officials. Duncan Aviation has 39 locations across the United States and employs 638 people in Battle Creek.

Andy RichardsAndy Richards“At Duncan Aviation, we are excited to expand on over 24 years of success in Michigan,” Duncan Aviation Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Richards said in a statement. “This new facility will provide dozens of career opportunities for members of our local community and opportunities for advancement by our existing team members.”

The company uses Michigan Works! to reach local talent in disadvantaged areas and offers apprenticeships to unskilled workers. 

“Duncan Aviation is an exemplary company, providing high-quality, good-paying jobs. Duncan Aviation is always at the table partnering with the city of Battle Creek, (Battle Creek Unlimited), and community stakeholders to develop workforce and economic development solutions,” said Battle Creek Unlimited President and CEO Joe Sobieralski. “We are thrilled they chose Battle Creek to expand once again, growing to nearly 700 employees in the city of Battle Creek.” 

In Benton Harbor Township, a contract tool and die shop focused on manufacturing special tools and fixtures also is expanding its footprint. Bulk Ag Innovations LLC, doing business as West Michigan Tool & Die (WMTD), has achieved minority business enterprise certification through the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council and is gaining new opportunities in defense contracts. 

WMTD is expanding its operations in Benton Harbor Township to meet increased demand, with plans to add a bay and reconfigure machine building. The $3.4 million project expects to create 22 jobs. The development is supported by a $88,000 Micro Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The company chose Michigan over a competing site in Chicago, state officials said.

“WMTD is also looking forward to offering our expanded capabilities to new and existing clients as we work to leverage our Minority Business Enterprise certification to offer supplier diversity to the market,” WMTD CEO Victor Mowatt said in a statement. “MEDC, Michigan Works! and the Cornerstone Alliance have helped us to maintain during the last few challenging years and emerge ready for growth. We look forward to new opportunities and team members.” 

WMTD offers on-the-job training and also is developing a toolmaker apprenticeship program. Local economic development organization Cornerstone Alliance provided staff time in support of the project.

Adopted by the Michigan Strategic Fund in 2019, the Micro MBDP tool is designed to promote business growth, especially in rural areas or areas with high unemployment and target industries. The Micro MBDP provides grants, loans and other economic assistance to businesses for highly competitive projects in Michigan that have fewer job creation numbers than required by the original MBDP guidelines.

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