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Michigan gives company $2.5mm grant for new $18mm factory project to build dredges

A sign marking the Shiawassee County border is shown on April 25, 2023. A company says it's planning to build a new facility in the county -- on 50 acres in Venice Township.

Posted on May 1, 2023

A company that’s planning to expand its operations to build autonomous dredges has picked a 50-acre Shiawassee County site over a competing site in Indiana for its expansion.

Laura Slieff, president of L.J. Inc., told MLive-The Flint Journal that a $2.5-million Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant approved for the company has helped seal the decision.

L.J.’s current 35,000-square-foot headquarters on Miller Road in Flint Township can’t be expanded further, according to a memorandum to the Michigan Strategic Fund Board of Directors, and the company needs more room for building autonomous dredges used to excavate material from harbors or other bodies of water.

The memo says only three companies currently build dredges in the United States — none in Michigan — and L.J.’s project will result in “the first autonomous dredge company in the world.”

The MSF board approved the $2.5 million grant for the project on Tuesday, April 25.

The agency said its $2.5-million grant will support the company’s investment of up to $18.25 million in the project and the creation of up to 250 new jobs. It said the state support would offset the cost disadvantage of acquiring land and building a new facility here compared to a move-in ready site the company had also considered in Indiana.

“We’re excited to be moving everything under one roof,” said Slieff, who founded the company in 2010 with three employees and a van that has grown to 115 employees today.

Slieff declined to discuss details about the 50-acre building site the company has identified for the project in Venice Township, part of which borders Genesee County.

Company officials are working with the township on the project, she said, and the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership is expected to approve a real estate property tax abatement, according to MEDC.

The agency’s memo says L.J.’s new jobs will pay an average wage of $37.26 per hour plus benefits.

“The company offers every employee a generous benefits package, including paid health care, a retirement package, and short and long-term disability benefits,” the memo says. “It is also known for employing individuals with challenged backgrounds, empowering them to learn new trades, and providing them with on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities.”


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