A devastating mid-Michigan flood is causing widespread disruption to the area’s manufacturing base — a problem that could spread to General Motors and bevy of small and large auto suppliers that call the region home.
Crumbling infrastructure and heavy, heavy rain dealt combined to wipe out two dams along the Tittabawassee River, impacting more than 10,000 residents, including thousands of evacuations while cutting off major trunk roads washing out bridges in seven counties around the industrial cities of Midland, Saginaw and Bay City.
At this point, the flooding hasn’t reached the area where many auto suppliers are located, and General Motors told TheDetroitBureau.com that its operations in Saginaw and Bay City have not been affected by the flooding, but the company is monitoring the situation. However, emergency management officials suggest that could change in the next 24 hours.
Saginaw County Emergency Management expects the Tittabawassee River in Saginaw County to crest in the early morning hours Thursday with the nearby Saginaw River following suit in the next 24 to 48 hours.
In addition to GM having facilities in that area, one of its larger suppliers, Nexteer is located there. It’s a major tier-one supplier that produces steering gear for General Motors and several other automakers, and the plant is in Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County.
“Nexteer Automotive’s Saginaw Operations have not been impacted by the recent, record-breaking floods in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region,” said Dennis Hoeg, Nexteer vice president and North America Division president, in a statement to TheDetroitBureau.com.
“However, many of our employees are personally impacted as they live in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Our Nexteer Team is partnering with local organizations, like the Saginaw County United Way, to help our local community during this difficult time.”
One supplier that could be impacted by the flooding is Dow Chemical. complex in Midland, which include a superfund site where old chemicals such as dioxin are buried, is now the home to seven different companies, making a variety of different products, including several used in auto industry.
Michael Robinet, an analyst with IHS Markit, said most of the material made in the Midland complex is used well upstream of any finished component shipped directly in a vehicle assembly plant. Moreover, suppliers such as Dow have other facilities making the same product. The auto industry survived a direct hit from hurricanes along the Gulf Coast in recent year including Katrina.
“The industry has gotten very capable of reacting and adapting to these kinds of situations,” Robinet said. Dow officials haven’t responded to the TheDetroitBureau.com for comment.