After an extensive search, Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems, a subsidiary of Yanfeng Visteon of China, has committed to constructing a 24,000-square-metre manufacturing and sequencing plant in Riverside, Missouri. The move is expected to create 263 jobs.

As part of its site selection criteria, the Michigan-based automotive supplier had to be close to General Motor’s (GM's) assembly plants in Kansas City and Wentzville, Missouri, just west of St Louis.

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“It was customer demand that created the opportunity,” said Bob Marcusse, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council. “But we had to compete for that opportunity because [Yanfeng] could have easily located in St Louis and served both plants from there.” Yanfeng has two operations in Detroit, Michigan, but none in Missouri or Kansas. Both states, which are known for their positive business climates, offered aggressive incentive packages.

“This was the first time [Yanfeng] had taken an extensive search,” said Christopher Chung, president and CEO of development agency Missouri Partnership. The site selection process took 15 months. During that time, Mr Chung recalled that his organisation was certain the project would go to Kansas [state], with Missouri missing out. “Kansas had a good available building, which would have cut down on costs and the timing of getting the facility ready,” he said. By sheer luck, however, another company leased the building. “That gave us a good opportunity to win the project."

Yanfeng’s new project, which represents a $45m investment, will be located in the relatively new Riverside Industrial Park, 6.5 kilometres from GM’s Kansas City plant. Currently, the park is attracting numerous automotive suppliers. From it, Yanfeng will manufacture interior trim components, including door panels, floor consoles and instrument panels for the two GM assembly plants in Kansas and Missouri. The plant is expected to be operational in early 2014.

Mr Chung predicts that the facility will not be Yanfeng’s last in the US. “I am sure it is going to want to grow its customer base in this market. Its brand is not well known here yet,” he said.

A key advantage of locating in the US midwest, Mr Marcusse pointed out, is the fact two major intermodal facilities will soon open in Kansas City. “That opens the door to a much smoother, less expensive transportation component than we could offer in the past."