A major commercial truck and bus manufacturer announced Thursday it plans to invest more than $250 million to build a plant in San Antonio, bringing 600 jobs to the area.

Illinois-based Navistar, a global manufacturer of commercial vehicles, chassis, and diesel engines, plans to break ground for its Southside plant later this year and anticipates production will begin two years later.

The investment is contingent on state and local government approval of economic incentive packages.

“In San Antonio, it’s been a billion-dollar week,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a press event Thursday morning attended by city and state officials. “Let’s have more of these.”

On Tuesday, Toyota said it would invest $391 million in an expansion of its San Antonio plant. The same day, automotive parts supplier Aisin AW officially announced its plans to build a $400 million plant in Cibolo and bring 900 jobs.

“This project adds momentum already building in San Antonio, specifically on our South Side,” Nirenberg said. “We’ve been strategically preparing for this kind of project and we’re honored to welcome yet another global leader in manufacturing in our community.”

Navistar will build medium- and heavy-duty trucks at the plant, which officials said would complement the manufacturer’s existing assembly plants in Springfield, Ohio, and Escobedo, Mexico.

“Over the last five years, Navistar has made significant investments to improve our position in the market,” stated Troy Clarke, Navistar chairman, president, and CEO. “This investment will create a benchmark assembly facility to improve quality, lower costs and provide capacity to support anticipated industry growth, as well as market share gains.”

The Navistar plant will be located on a 426-acre parcel of land at 15770 South U.S. Highway 281 near Mitchell Lake and the Interstate 35 and 37 corridors, and near the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas plant. Commercial real estate firm JLL led the site selection process for Navistar.

The City is considering an agreement with Navistar for a 100 percent abatement of ad valorem taxes for real and personal property improvements within what would become the Navistar Reinvestment Zone. The project is located in a Texas Enterprise Zone and the Southside Independent School District.

County officials have touted the region’s proximity to Mexico as an ideal location for vehicle production. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff helped negotiate the deal with Navistar over a six-month period and reached an agreement at a meeting at its headquarters in late July.

“Navistar’s decision to locate their newest facility here is just the latest affirmation that our community is uniquely situated to host world-class companies in advanced manufacturing industries,” said Wolff. “I am as excited today as I was in 2002 when we worked together to bring Toyota to San Antonio.”

At an Oct. 1 meeting, County commissioners will vote to approve an incentive package that includes a 10-year, 100-percent tax abatement on real and personal property, a $250,000 skills grant for creating 250 new jobs paying at least $50,000 a year, a public infrastructure grant of up to $5 million for all site improvements, and a county economic development agreement up to $680,000, Wolff said.

A City of San Antonio spokeswoman said the City has not released the full details of its economic incentive package, but will do so at least 30 days prior to a vote, per new State laws that went into effect in September. The Council is expected to vote on the agreement in late October.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), whose district Navistar has targeted for the plant, said the company has already committed to contributing $348,000 to workforce initiatives in San Antonio.

“The commitments will help grow our workforce, particularly in advanced manufacturing, which is one of our target industries,” Viagran said. “Within a week, we have seen nearly $650 million in economic development pouring into our community. I am thrilled to see all of this, of course, in District 3, but what it also does for our entire area. This brings more jobs, more investment, more economic mobility opportunities for the South Side, San Antonio, Bexar County, and the entire region.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Nearly one in four medium- and large-size trucks on the road is
a Navistar International truck, according to the company website, and the company produces over a third of all school buses used in North America. The truck manufacturing side of Navistar’s business, which also includes parts manufacturing and financial services, reported revenues of $7.5 billion in 2018.

“We are so proud to have a company like Navistar, a leader in vehicle innovation, in San Antonio,” Nirenberg said. “It shows that our strategy to grow our advanced manufacturing sector is working.”

It is expected Navistar will rely on some of the same 23 supply companies Toyota’s plant brought to San Antonio, as well as bring new ones.

“Amazing things are made in S.A.,” said Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation. “It’s our job as economic developers to create an environment for success in the region. That means building the workforce and supply chain that enable companies like Navistar to build the things that change the world.”

(from left) Nirenberg’s Chief of Staff Jim Greenwood, SAEDF Chairman David McGee, and SAEDF President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera meet before the Navistar announcement. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

She said the jobs Navistar will bring to San Antonio are expected to pay annual wages of about $50,000, with leadership positions paying $90,000.

State Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) said he was proud to play a small part in San Antonio’s economic development success. “To the rest of the manufacturing companies, I would say the water’s fine, come on in.”

Navistar announced in June plans to invest $125 million in new and existing plants in Alabama. The City of Huntsville approved a $910,000 incentive package to lure the investment, according to reports.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.