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Truck manufacturer Navistar International is ratcheting up its investment in San Antonio, where it is building a massive plant near Mitchell Lake on the city’s South Side.

Navistar said this week it has acquired property near that plant that will host additional engineering facilities, adding at least 50 new jobs for engineers, technicians, and staffers involved with procurement.

Navistar president of operations Phil Christman said in a statement that the new property would support the company’s work in self-driving and internet-connected vehicles, as well as its growing investments in vehicle electrification.

The Illinois-based manufacturer – which produces commercial trucks, buses, military vehicles, and engines – said its total investment in the region now tops $275 million and will create over 650 jobs, pending a tax abatement for the new property being sought from the city and county.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement that the company’s decision “shows our focus on manufacturing innovation is paying off.” He said the company was interested in the city’s workforce development program.

“They are creating jobs in San Antonio, and we expect more to come,” he said.

In September 2019, the company announced plans for a 900,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in San Antonio to produce heavy-duty trucks, including its new electric-powered trucks. The groundbreaking for the site took place in June 2020.

The new property, located approximately 8 miles from the plant site, will house a testing center to validate components of the company’s electric trucks. Also planned for the property is a facility to customize trucks for buyers.

Navistar purchased the 148-acre property from Halliburton Energy last month, county records show.

The $25 million price tag included nearly 200,000 square feet of building space, the company confirmed.

Project engineers responsible for designing and finishing the San Antonio plant expect to begin working at the new property in June, the company said.

The company’s decision to boost its investment was spurred by local and state leaders having created a “business climate that supports manufacturing innovation and has attracted a talented workforce,” Navistar president and CEO Persio Lisboa said in a statement.

Tom Long, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation’s chief development officer, praised Navistar’s investment and said the organization looks forward to continuing working in partnership with the company.

“Navistar continues to demonstrate what an outstanding addition they are to our San Antonio business community,” he said. The new facilities “would build on their initial investment in our community and competitively position Navistar’s San Antonio operations for the future.”

Next month, the city and county will consider economic development incentive packages to support Navistar’s increased investment in the region, the company said.

Manufacturing is one of San Antonio’s largest industries, with a reported $40.5 billion economic impact from 2016 alone, according to the latest industry-wide report from the San Antonio Manufacturers Association.

“Navistar being here is going to help that economic impact,” said Rey Chavez, the association’s president. “We’re just going to grow more and more.”

He pointed to Navistar’s upcoming plant as part of local manufacturing’s growing transportation sector, joining projects like Toyota’s plans for a $400 million expansion of its Southside plant. Aisin AW, a Japanese manufacturer producing transmissions for Toyota, is also building a $400 million plant in Cibolo.

Manufacturing jobs in San Antonio have largely recovered from the hit they took at the beginning of the pandemic, numbers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas show.

In December, the latest month for which numbers are available, employment was down just 1% from last year, when the industry employed roughly 51,000 workers. For comparison, employment overall in San Antonio is down nearly 6.5%.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.