By Norb Franz
Defense contractor BAE Systems was praised Thursday by federal and local officials at the formal opening of the company’s new four-story office building on Van Dyke Avenue in Sterling Heights.
The 164,000-square-foot, glass exterior facility south of 15 Mile Road is the new home of more than 300 employees – most of them in engineering, program management and prototyping. It includes a 61,000-square-foot prototype facility for the design, development and testing of ground combat vehicles. The 81-acre campus – formerly occupied by TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. – also has an adjacent, 5,000-square-foot building supporting a renovated 0.4-mile test track.
“Talk about an incredible success story to have BAE” in Sterling Heights, said Congresswoman Candice Miller. “They made the right decision to come here. We are so delighted BAE has chosen this area.”
Congressman Sander Levin pointed to the U.S. Army’s TACOM and TARDEC facilities in neighboring Warren, and the former Army Tank Plant, as part of the historical importance that Macomb County has played in the nation’s defense efforts. He called the opening of the BAE office building as “another rung up the ladder.”
BAE decided to build the new campus – a $58 million project – in 2007. The groundbreaking was held in 2009. Since then, the defense contractor has effectively met the increasing demands of its customers – which include TACOM and TARDEC — for affordability and efficiency, said Frank Pope, president of BAE Systems’ Land & Armaments Sector.
He told a crowd of approximately 300 that included employees, military representatives, executives and government officials who gathered for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting that the project represents the best of what private and public sectors can achieve when working together. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority board approved a state tax credit valued at $25.2 million over 14 years. Sterling Heights officials proposed a 12-year property tax abatement saving the company $4.6 million. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimated that BAE’s new facility would generate more than $923 million in income for Michigan workers over the term of the tax credit.
The environmentally-friendly office building was constructed to Gold LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification. That makes it the first of its kind in the city. Pope said it uses 15 percent less energy, and 44 percent less water, than conventional buildings with its own recycling program. Other highlights include:
*Twenty assembly bays and supporting labs.
*A 225-seat auditorium.
*State-of-the-art communications systems.
*A 2,000-square-foot fitness center.
The company has allocated “preferred” parking spaces for low-emission and hybrid vehicles.
“This facility is a game-changer,” Pope said of the architecture and its employees. “Here, we have a workforce that is unique to the region.”
BAE provides engineering and program support for several military vehicles, including the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Its motto: “We protect those who protect us.”
The new office building reduces the number of BAE locations in Sterling Heights from three to one. It has room for almost 650 employees.
Observers predict the new complex will be a major boon to the local economy.
“It’s a great day for our city. It’s a great day for BAE,” Mayor Richard Notte said. “We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”
The delighted mayor said the project is so exciting he likened it to sex – drawing loud laughs from the crowd that gathered in a tent under a sunny sky with the temperature in the mid 70s.
“The anticipation of things to happen,” he explained.