A Michigan-based Indian tribe that operates five gambling casinos is completing a deal that will make it a partner in an injection molding business owned by one of its members. The Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians, based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is preparing to invest $4 million in Special Plastic Products Inc., as part of the tribe's plan to diversify outside the gaming industry and provide jobs for rural and minority workers.
The tribe's equity investment will make it an equal partner with Special Plastic Products owner Ernest Young.
The company, which will use the funds to triple its manufacturing space, injec-tion molds parts for the automotive, appliance and electronics industries. It operates a 30,000-square-foot plant in Fair Haven, Mich., near Detroit.
Young, who founded the business in 1975, is building a 90,000-square-foot plant in Pontiac, Mich., also near Detroit, to increase manufacturing capacity for his growing business. Young, a Chippewa from Sault Ste. Marie, will continue to operate the Fair Haven plant after the new Pontiac facility opens late this summer.
If all goes well, Young and the Chippewas may look at expanding the business with new plants in rural areas or near tribal lands in other states.
``Our main goal is to put rural Americans and Native Americans to work,'' Young said. ``The opportunity is fabulous.''
Chippewa spokesman John Hatch said the investment agreement for Special Plastic Products, which is expected to be completed soon, is the tribe'sinitial venture in the plastics industry. The tribe, representing 22,000 people, also owns and operates motels, convenience stores, an air charter service and a company that makes metal auto parts.
``This is our first step in plastics,'' Hatch said. ``It's a conscious effort to diversify our tribal economy.''
Special Plastic Products em-ploys 80 in Fair Haven. The Pontiac plant is expected to begin operating with 100 employees and eventually put as many as 300 people to work. Young said he hopes minorities will make up as much as 25 percent of the total work force.
The company operates 17 injection presses with clamping forces of 75-1,000 tons. As part of the expansion, Young plans to buy as many as six new machines in the 500- to 2,000-ton range. He said he is leaning toward purchasing presses from Van Dorn Demag Corp. or Cincinnati Milacron Inc.
Much of the recent growth at Special Plastic Products has been in the automotive sector. The company, with $9 million in sales last year, molds interior and exterior trim and under-the-hood components.
Young said the company also is working to develop new materials from recycled tires and nylon cloth.