Willys Overland creating jobs, again!

Published: Dec. 17, 2018 at 10:03 AM EST
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For generations, the Willys Overland Jeep plant fueled Toledo's economy.

More than a decade ago, the site was shutdown as production moved to a state-of-the art plant a couple miles away.

But there's new life that should take the Overland site well into the century.

One-hundred years ago, this site was home to America's automotive industry.

The Overland site saw automobiles roll off production lines for 98-years.

In the Second World War, that meant jeeps as well.

The site was jammed with buildings where busy workers cranked out autos.

In 2006, jeep workers were given a commemorative video when the plant closed.

Four-years later, the Port Authority bought the land and a developer to put up a spec building hoping to entice new businesses.

Paul Toth, President and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority says, "When you get to control apiece of property as a public entity and control what type of impact you have for the community, that's where the impact comes in."

That control proved important when an automotive auction company expressed interest in the site maybe employing about 20 people.

Fortunately control of the land meant the Port Authority could dictate the types of businesses it wanted here.

Dana was first to see the opportunity at Overland.

Now 500 people make about a million axles a year for the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Ranger out of this clean and efficient and robotic plant geared toward the future of automobiles.

Ken Andres with Dana Corporation admits, "We are transforming ourselves into highly engineered products that will support our customers and electrification is a big piece of that."

Not all the businesses on the new site have an automotive tie.

All-Phase electric is constructing a 30,000 square foot building on land the Port Authority wasn't even going to develop.

But the location along the highway proved too tempting to all-phase.

Chad Trennepohl says "We're able to get around the city and service our companies really, really easily from this location. The history part of it is just a really cool added bonus."

And another added bonus; a high-tech solarfield that will sit on land that cannot be developed because it's in a floodplain.

The panels will eventually produce energy for all the businesses here. Toth says, "The goal is to take the revenue generated off the solar and invest it right back into the community around the Overland Industrial Park."

That nearby neighborhood once supplied the labor for the old Overland complex. The hope is, this transformed site can get those folks back to work again.

In just three years, this land has gone from generating no value to now being worth more than $40-million dollars.

The Port Authority hopes some of that tax revenue can be used to buy new parts of this site to create new businesses and new jobs that last 100 years.