UPDATE: 180 new jobs headed to former AJ Wright distribution building

It won’t be long before a vacant South Bend warehouse is swarming with activity once again.

The old AJ Wright facility on the west side (1902 Sample) is about to get a new lease on life.

As job announcements go, this is a big one: 180 new jobs in 2014, with 200 more employees added over the next ten years. The average wage will be $12.50 per hour.

RV supplier Lippert Components will lease the building and occupy half the facility, while subletting the other half to a distributor of products from Bimbo Bakeries.

When AJ Wright abruptly closed its South Bend distribution center in 2011, it left some 600 people without jobs.

“That was an excruciating day and now I think this is a day that can help start a healing process,” said South Bend Sixth District Councilman Oliver Davis.

The facility in question is huge—some 530,000 square feet with 88 loading docks. The City of South Bend contributed $8 million to help build the facility and to lure AJ Wright to town.

“There’s not too many companies out there that need a $530,000 square foot building so it was nice that Lippert had the creativity and the business acumen to be creative and know that they want to lock down the building for the next ten years but they didn’t need to necessarily encumber the entire building today,” said Chris Fielding with the South Bend Department of Community Investment. “So bringing in a sub-tenant was certainly a smart thing to do.”

About 80 percent of Lippert’s business involves supplying the RV industry and Lippert is a company that already employs some 4,000 workers in Elkhart County.

A Lippert spokesman cited a labor shortage in Elkhart County as one of the reasons Lippert was now setting up shop in South Bend.

“Well it’s great to see them diversifying their base and bringing some of their activity over here to South Bend. They noted in particular that they were attracted to the workforce that they could draw upon here in South Bend,” said Scott Ford.

The city is being asked to contribute $250,000 to the Lippert project by purchasing equipment that will be leased back to the company.

Lippert has also requested a two year tax abatement for the project.

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