Detroit start-ups move into empty auto plants

A stroll around the factory floor here reveals the kind of assorted automotive projects that fire imaginations.

Classic Fords and Chevrolets under restoration are parked in neat rows, including a Mustang customized for the ill-fated revival of the Knight Rider television series and another that’s a custom prototype for the Chinese market. A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, yet to appear in showrooms, waits to be prepped for auto show display.

So far, two small auto companies share the cavernous space in the former auto plant in this Detroit suburb. Working together as Automotive Performance Industries, the hunt is on for at least a couple more entrepreneurs who can join up to follow the same model — working on their own projects or as a team.

The rebirth of a former car factory as a business incubator for small start-ups aiming to make it big someday, points to a hopeful trend in the auto industry. More of the old factories left behind by the cutbacks of Detroit’s Big 3 automakers during the recession are becoming homes to myriad new businesses. Sometimes the sites stay devoted to automotive uses, but other businesses have swooped in as well — from herb growers to shopping-center developers. They are creating jobs that can begin to replace some of the thousands lost when General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler cut back over the past decade.

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