An abandoned, vandalized high school in Southwest Detroit will receive new life as part of an up to $31.9 million investment from India-based auto supplier Sakthi Automotive. The multi-year investment will use most of the 1920’s Southwestern High School as a training center for a few high-tech manufacturing jobs to produce lightweight aluminium castings, officials said. “A building that was a center for education for almost a century is going to become an education center today as well,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a ceremony at the high school located at 6921 W. Fort. “That’s the kind of partner that Sakthi has been, they’re going to be training Detroiters for the jobs of the future.”
Newer portions of the high school will be demolished as part of the development, but the original historic structure facing Fort St, as well as the gymnasium, will be redeveloped. When all expansions are completed by 2017, the roughly 70-acre Sakthi Manufacturing Campus will contain an estimated 1.2 million square feet of space across four facilities and employ about 650, including 70 jobs that will move from China. Officials said construction will start immediately, with portions expected to be completed by year’s end. Sakthi Group chairman Manickam Mahalingam touted the investment as part of a long-term objective to grow the company and support southwest Detroit. “We are here, as we say, in a Catholic marriage,” he said on Monday. “We are going to be here for a long time … we are not going to walk away tomorrow.”
Duggan, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and other public officials praised the investment as the most recent example of a new, collaborative partnership between the city and state and the public and private sectors. “A lot of groups rallied to make this happen,” Snyder told reporters after the announcement. “When we all work together, that’s the best way to win together.” The Michigan Strategic Fund is committing $3.5 million to Sakthi to support the expansion. The city of Detroit, through federal funds, is adding another $900,000 for demolition costs of the high school.