Hemp legalization included in new farm bill could ‘open the floodgates’ on nascent industry

Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado. 

RJ Sangosti | Denver Post | Getty Images
Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado.

The final 2018 Farm Bill is expected to be voted on as early as next week. The bill would legalize hemp cultivation and could be a catalyst for explosive growth in a nascent industry that some forecast could top $20 billion by 2022.

The long-awaited bill would remove industrial hemp from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, making it a lawful agricultural commodity. The hemp legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier this year also allows states to become the primary regulators of hemp cultivation, enables researchers to apply for federal grants and makes the crop eligible for crop insurance.

“This open the floodgates for this industry to grow very rapidly and scale on a national level,” said Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group, a cannabis market researcher based in Chicago.

The lion’s share of the roughly $800 million U.S. hemp market today is for products that include the non-psychoactive compound CBD, cannabidiol. Products infused with CBD are used for a wide range of medical conditions, ranging from epilepsy and multiple sclerosis to arthritis and chronic pain. Laws involving CBD products differ in each state.

Investor interest

Up to now, industrial hemp production in the U.S. has been restricted to mostly research and pilot programs although imports from Canada, China and Europe have helped fill domestic demand for everything from hemp seeds to fibers. The legalization of hemp cultivation could boost investor interest across the sector.

“In the long run, it’s all going to be managed and controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just like corn, soybeans and everything else,” said Chris Boucher, CEO of Farmtiva, a California-based hemp cultivation company. “It will also become an agricultural commodity, which in turn will allow crop insurance and Wall Street will be able to invest institutional funds into the hemp industry.”

Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado. 

RJ Sangosti | Denver Post | Getty Images
Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told reporters Tuesday the farm bill could be passed as early as next week.

“With any luck it’ll be passed by the end of next week, but knowing how things go around here it may drag into the week after,” said Peterson, who is expected to become chairman of the House agriculture panel in the new Congress.

A day earlier, Peterson told Minnesota Public Radio he was considering becoming a hemp producer.

“I may grow some hemp on my farm,” he said. “I’m looking at it. There’s a big market for this stuff that we’ve been ceding to Canada and other places.”

Hemp is a cannabis cousin of marijuana but it contains low levels of THC, the chemical that produces a “high” for pot users. Industrial hemp is used to make everything from apparel, foods and pharmaceuticals to personal care products, car dashboards and building materials.

“The vast majority of the market right now is going for CBD products,” said Brightfield Group’s Gomez. “You can find some hemp seed-based beauty products or hemp in some cereals and things like that, and there’s such usage on the fibers for like clothes and other industrial purposes, but that’s really minimal right now.”

Brightfield Group estimates the domestic hemp market could reach $22 billion in the next four years. The estimate factors in the hemp amendment in the farm bill becoming law.

Edible marijuana infused products by Dixie are displayed at the Cannabis World Congress Conference on June 16, 2017 in New York City. 

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Edible marijuana infused products by Dixie are displayed at the Cannabis World Congress Conference on June 16, 2017 in New York City.

Hemp Industry Daily projects the hemp-derived CBD retail market will reach between $2.5 billion and $3.1 billion by 2022, which assumes growth in retail penetration but a scenario of no major change in current federal policies concerning hemp.

Tobacco states push hemp

“There are three words why we have hemp now, and those words are tobacco state Republicans,” said Kristin Nichols, editor at Denver-based Hemp Industry Daily, a publication owned by MJBizDaily. “There’s been strong support from lawmakers and politicians up and down in former tobacco states looking for a replacement crop.”

The hemp provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill were in the Senate version of the legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader McConnell. The Kentucky Republican put himself on the joint Senate-House conference committee formed to hammer out the details of the final farm bill.

“I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this,” McConnell said in June when discussing the hemp legalization legislation before the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Mine are particularly interested in it, and the reason for that is — as all of you know — our No. 1 cash crop used to be something that’s really not good for you: tobacco. And that has declined significantly, as it should, given the public health concerns.

According to Nichols, cannabis generally grows well in areas where tobacco production once thrived, such as Kentucky and North Carolina. In the case of Kentucky, the state received over $2 billion in Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds and is using some of money to invest in growing its hemp industry.

Both chambers of Congress passed the farm bill in June but major differences between the bills caused a delay in finalizing an agreement. An agreement in principle on the bill was reached in late November.

Hemp legalization is just one element of the wide-ranging farm bill. The legislation also covers farm subsidies and food stamps as well as trade and rural development policy.

The House’s version of the farm bill didn’t originally include hemp legalization amendment. But the final version expected to be filed Monday and be voted on as early as Wednesday or Thursday in the House includes McConnell’s amendment.

The farm bill is usually renewed every five years and the last one expired Sept. 30. The previous farm bill, from 2014, relaxed hemp laws and allowed farmers in a handful of states, including Kentucky, to grow the crop as part of research projects.

“This will open up a lot of new markets for retailers who have been cautious,” said Lex Pelger, science director for Bluebird Botanicals, a Colorado-based company producing hemp derived CBD products. “What we’re doing is already legal under the 2014 Farm Bill, but the power of the 2018 Farm Bill is that it clearly clears hemp for general commerce.”

Easy to grow crop

Pelger said hemp is growing in Colorado despite the state not having a reputation as a farming hub. “It grows really well in a large range of climates and a large range of soils,” he said.

More than 77,000 acres of hemp were planted in research and development programs this year, according to VoteHemp, an advocacy group. That is up sharply from 2017 when there were nearly 26,000 acres of hemp crops planted.

At least 40 states have legalized industrial hemp farming or done pilot programs, usually research through a university or state agriculture agency. The hemp legislation also allows states to become the primary regulators of hemp cultivation, allows researchers to apply for federal grants and makes the crop eligible for crop insurance.

California is the nation’s largest agricultural state but so far has lagged when it comes to hemp production. Hemp can be more profitable to grow than tobacco or even some other key crops.

“You can make $20,000, $40,000 or $50,000 an acre on hemp, depending on percentage of your CBD,” said Farmtiva’s Boucher. He said fiber and hemp seed crops will produce less on per-acre basis but still be “maybe twice as much as corn.”

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed state legislation allowing industrial hemp cultivation in the state starting in 2019. Given the favorable climate in parts of California, farmers can get up to two crops per year of hemp plants.

“California is the big agricultural monster and if these farmers really get into hemp, they could take a good chunk of the supply chain,” said Farmtiva’s Boucher. “Unfortunately, we’re three or four years behind Colorado, Kentucky and Oregon and so we have some catching up to do.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Clutch Announces the Leading Web Design Agencies in the United States for 2018

 Clutch unveiled a list of the leading web design agencies across the United States today. These designers are experts in the latest design techniques and work closely with clients to ensure that their websites fit their unique style and business goals.

This report recognizes over 1,000 companies for their ability to deliver and commitment to client satisfaction.

“In today’s competitive digital landscape, having a unique and eye-catching design for your website is essential to stand out from the crowd,” Clutch Business Analyst DJ Fajana said. “These leaders have not only demonstrated creativity and a deep understanding of the industries they work in but also ensured that their clients are informed and happy throughout the entire design process.”

It’s free to get listed on Clutch, but only the most highly recommended companies are named as leaders in Clutch’s annual reports. These web designers have gone above and beyond to prove their industry expertise and ability to deliver.

Clutch’s research is ongoing. For a chance to be listed on Clutch’s 2019 report, apply now. It’s a free, two-step process that takes less than 20 minutes

[“source=ndtv”]

Microsoft’s CFO is keeping an eye on gaming now that it does $10 billion in annual revenue

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. 

Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Stifel on Wednesday published a note saying it has lowered its rating for Facebook shares from “Buy” to “Hold,” saying political and regulatory blowback could restrict how the company operates in the long term.

“Facebook’s management team has created too many adversaries — politicians/ regulators, tech leaders, consumers, and employees — to not experience long-term negative ramifications on its business,” the firm said in a note.

The lower rating comes after a rough year in which Facebook has experienced numerous scandals, a 30-million user data breach, declining and stalling growth in key markets, an executive exodus and its worst stock performance since going public in 2012.

Stifel also published the latest results from an on-going survey of Facebook users.

The results showed 79 percent of those surveyed now believe Facebook’s impact on society is neutral or negative, compared to 73 percent in survey results published by the firm in January. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents said they rarely or never used Facebook Stories, Marketplace or video, which are some of the company’s key new products.

Stifel said there is no downside to holding Facebook shares, but the firm no longer believes the company’s upside is what it once was.

“We believe Facebook will struggle to return to the company that it once was or that investors expected it to be in the long run,” the note reads. “We prefer Amazon, Alphabet, and Netflix, as U.S.-based mega caps with similar thematic trends and more stable operating environments.”

Facebook board: Sandberg's request to probe Soros 'entirely appropriate'
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Microsoft’s CFO is keeping an eye on gaming now that it does $10 billion in annual revenue

Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Nov. 29, 2017.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images
Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Nov. 29, 2017.

Microsoft has been in the gaming business since the turn of the century. Finally it matters to the company from a financial standpoint.

“Amy Hood, our CFO, she likes to tell me I’ve made the spreadsheet now, and she says that can be a good thing, and I’m on the spreadsheet. So she’s going to pay attention,” Microsoft’s executive vice president for gaming, Phil Spencer, said on stage at the Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Today Microsoft is one of the top public companies by market capitalization, alongside Amazon and Apple. Sales of Xbox consoles and online services means Microsoft is less dependent on revenue from other products, like Windows, Office and enterprise software. In its 2018 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Microsoft surpassed $10 billion in gaming revenue for the first time.

Spencer, who joined Microsoft’s senior leadership team alongside Hood and CEO Satya Nadella last year, pointed to several investments the company has made in gaming recently, building on earlier moves like the $2.5 billion Mojang acquisition. and its purchase of game-streaming company Beam, which has since been rebranded to Mixer.

“We’ve acquired and started seven new first-party studios in the last year. We obviously don’t do that without tremendous support from Satya and Amy,” Spencer said. “We understand content is a critical component of what we’re trying to go build and the support from the company has been tremendous.”

One of Microsoft’s stated growth opportunities in the future is cloud-based gaming, which could make the technical limitations of consumers’ devices less important and expose Microsoft’s gaming content for wider consumption. Spencer talked loosely about its cloud gaming initiative, called, Project xCloud, on Wednesday.

“We focus first on an Android phone because there’s over a billion Android phones on the planet and it’s a place that the content that we’ve natively built up over the past decades on our platform hasn’t been able to reach,” Spencer said.

This strategy builds on Microsoft’s past efforts to bring richer capabilities to Android. But Google, the company behind Android, has started working on cloud gaming with its Project Stream initiative, Spencer said. And meanwhile Amazon, which is the leader of the cloud infrastructure market, has its own gaming division, he said.

“We’ll have multiple business models that will work with streaming, but the connection of streaming with the subscription model makes a ton of sense,” Spencer said. “You see it in music. You see it in video. So you can look at Project xCloud and you can look at something like Game Pass, and you can see there’s natural synergies.”

On stage, Barclays asked Spencer how Microsoft differentiates from gaming subscription offerings from EA and Sony.

“For us, it’s all about how we reach 2 billion gamers,” Spencer said.

“If you build the market around a couple hundred million people that are going to own a game console or a high-end gaming PC, then your business model diversity can actually narrow because your customers are narrow. But when you think about reaching a customer with this content where their only compute device could be an Android phone, you think about, well, what are all the ways that that person pays for content if they do at all today?”

Microsoft will bring its Game Pass subscription service to PCs, and eventually it will be available on every device, Spencer said.

[“source=cnbc”]

Newcastle United could be the latest Premier League soccer team to have American owners in $382 million takeover

The owner of English Premier League team Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, is reportedly in talks with an American financial investment firm over a potential sale of the club.

A successful deal would bring his tumultuous 11 years in charge at the club to an end. Ashley is also the majority shareholder in U.K.-based sporting goods chain Sports Direct and gave an interview to Sky News earlier this week saying discussions over a sale “are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.”

Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. 

Jan Kruger | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

It’s now believed the bid he was referring to is from the financial advisory company Rockefeller Capital Management. Rockefeller is thought to be working with former Manchester United and Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon as part of a consortium, but it’s not known if a formal bid has been lodged yet.

Ashley could be considering as many as three other offers from interested parties — all thought to be around his £300 million ($382 million) valuation.

“I am hopeful — for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody,” Ashley said Monday, adding that he was not in exclusive talks with any party.

Ashley bought a controlling stake in the club in 2007 for around £134 million. He has a reported net worth of $3.8 billion and has often been criticized for a lack of investment in the playing squad at Newcastle. He added that any potential buyer must be able to provide transfer funds.

“I’m very keen to sell it to the right buyer so that everybody’s happy,” he added. “That would be good news.”

The club based in the north east of England has officially been up for sale for a year, but according to Ashley recent bids were all deemed to be unsuitable.

In order to complete any takeover, all bids are subject to the Premier League’s fit and proper person’s test, which could take as long as two weeks to complete. This would make Ashley’s estimation of a finalized deal by January 1 seem ambitious at this stage.

[“source=cnbc”]

Hermes reigns in Glassdoor’s latest ‘Best places to work’ in France survey, outshining the likes of Ubisoft and Amazon

 

In its fourth year of running a top employers list for France, Glassdoor has seen several companies — like Thales and Airbus — make a reappearance over the years. This December however, the company that’s been hailed as the best place to work for 2019 is a newcomer to France’s list: fashion designer Hermes.

It’s fair to say that France is renowned for its luxury brands, yet Hermes is the only group from this field to make it into this year’s top 10, with Louis Vuitton and L’Oreal coming in at 11 and 16 respectively. Instead, a few other industries fill the top 10, including transportation and retail.

To compile, Glassdoor assessed the input that workers give when offering feedback, in addition to recent ratings, which are on a scale from 1 to 5. The top 10 firms found in this Glassdoor list surpassed the average global rating of 3.4; with each group receiving a figure of 4.2 or higher.

CNBC Make It breaks down the top 10:

10. Amazon

Coming in at number 10 is e-commerce titan Amazon. With a global workforce of more than half a million, Amazon is renowned for its job creation with the e-commerce group stating that in the past five years, it’s created over 125 jobs every day in the States alone.

While office perks vary from country to country, some benefits mentioned include access to medical care and career development programs.

9. Leroy Merlin

Another retailer that’s winning over workers as well as consumers is French-headquartered Leroy Merlin.

Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center. 

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center.

The DIY group’s operations are featured in about a dozen countries, with 100,000 staff members employed to keep the retailer functioning around the clock.

Having placed on Glassdoor’s “Best Employers” for France since the survey began in 2016, the retailer attributes one reason why it remains popular among employees, is that it sees people as the “central resource” of the business.

8. Thales

Moving up from last year’s no. 24 spot, Thales is all about being a responsible leader in the transport, security and defense spheres. While Thales has attributed “acting responsibly” as a crucial quality to its long-term success, it’s not the only qualities it aims to foster.

Inside the firm, Thales is dedicated to supporting its staff, through promoting diversity, team collaboration and career development — it even has an in-house university to support employees through any part of their profession.

[“source=cnbc”]

Microsoft is making its first web browser for the Mac in 15 years

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company event in New York in May 2017.

Source: Jason DeCrow, AP Images | Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company event in New York in May 2017.

Microsoft’s web browsing technology is coming back to the Mac.

On Thursday Microsoft said that its Edge browser, which was introduced in 2015 as part of Windows 10, will be coming to the Mac as part of a broader rethinking of the company’s browser strategy.

Edge was one of the biggest new features of Windows 10 when it became available in mid-2015. But it hasn’t taken off, despite Microsoft’s attempts to promote it in its own properties, like the Bing search engine. Google’s Chrome had around 62 percent share in November, while Edge had about 2 percent, according to StatCounter. Apple’s Safari had 15 percent, and Microsoft’s old browser, Internet Explorer, had 3 percent share.

In the past few years, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has come to embrace open-source technologies more openly. It has added broader support for Linux in Windows and in the cloud, for example. Now, after depending heavily on its own browsing engine technology, Microsoft will make Chromium, the open-source heart of Google’s Chrome browser, a key part of Edge, essentially acknowledging that Google’s technology has become dominant.

Microsoft will also become a major contributor to the Chromium project as it looks to make Edge even more widely available.

“Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence,” Microsoft Windows corporate vice president Joe Belfiore wrote in a blog post on Thursday. That language implies Edge will become available for Windows 7, for one thing.

One report previously suggested that the company would release a browser to replace Edge. Instead, the company is refining Edge to benefit multiple constituencies.

“People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices,” Belfiore wrote in the blog post.

“Web developers will have a less-fragmented web platform to test their sites against, ensuring that there are fewer problems and increased satisfaction for users of their sites; and because we’ll continue to provide the Microsoft Edge service-driven understanding of legacy IE-only sites, Corporate IT will have improved compatibility for both old and new web apps in the browser that comes with Windows.”

This isn’t the first time Microsoft is building for the Mac, and it certainly isn’t the first time Microsoft is packaging up a browser for Apple’s Mac operating system. Apple offered Internet Explorer for the Mac but said it would stop coming out with new versions of the software in 2003.

Microsoft expects to have a preview build for developers to try in early 2019, Belfiore wrote.

[“source=cnbc”]

Apple is in talks to buy a violent Israeli TV show and sign Richard Gere as lead, dispelling the myth that it wants only family-friendly video

Actor Richard Gere filming on location for 'Arbitrage' on the streets of Manhattan on April 11, 2011 in New York City.

Bobby Bank | WireImage | Getty Images
Actor Richard Gere filming on location for ‘Arbitrage’ on the streets of Manhattan on April 11, 2011 in New York City.

Apple is in advanced talks to buy rights to a gritty Israeli TV show called “Nevelot” (English translation: “Bastards”) and adapt it for the U.S., beating out bids from competitors including Showtime, FX and Amazon, according to several people with knowledge of the deal. The show’s plot involves two military veterans who go on a youth-focused killing spree because they believe today’s kids don’t understand the sacrifices of their generation.

While the details are still being worked out, show-runners Howard Gordon and Warren Leight are in negotiations to reformat it for the American market, perhaps under a different name, according to people familiar. Both have had critical success as TV show-runners, with Gordon co-helming “24” and “Homeland” and Leight behind “In Treatment,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

Richard Gere is also in talks to star in the series. Apple and 21st Century Fox will be co-producing. The project was previously in development at HBO.

All sides are still talking, and the deal is not yet finalized. It could fall though, the people said, if certain agreements were not reached, including budget.

Apple, Gordon and Gere declined to comment. Leight did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox said no deal is done and declined to discuss details.

The purchase of a violent show seems in contrast to Apple’s traditionally prudish standards for apps it sells in the App Store. In that vein, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that Apple did not want shows that included violence, politics or rude language.

But multiple people who have spoken to Apple and have knowledge of their thinking in recent months say that’s simply not true, and TV-MA content is fair game.

Apple’s heads of programming, Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who started in June, have been working overtime to dispel the myth that Apple is interested only in family-friendly material.

In general, Apple wants high-impact content based on things people have heard of, like books, franchises or ideas that have resonance, according to people who have spoken to the company. It’s not wedded to existing formats that need commercial breaks, emphasizing unusual formats like anthologies and content that doesn’t fit within the traditional 30-minute and 60-minute time slots. The company is emphasizing it’s looking for “different” content, as long as it has substance and isn’t gratuitous.

The push is pitting them directly against deep-pocketed distributors like Netflix and Amazon, who also are hungry for content that is likely to get acclaim. Apple has indicated it is willing to pay premium prices for shows that have awards potential.

Looking for Apple’s ‘Breaking Bad’

Van Amburg and Erlicht, who were previously presidents of Sony Pictures Television, are highly respected in the entertainment industry. One of their biggest successes was bringing “Breaking Bad” and its showrunner Vince Gilligan to Sony.

The duo has made it very clear they are now looking for Apple’s version of the series, which revolved around an high school teacher turned meth dealer.

But so far, the projects Apple has announced aren’t rocking the boat. “Amazing Stories” has been described as a softer version of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” while “Top of the Morning” is a broadcast news drama — basically a safer version of HBO’s “Newsroom,” as one person characterized it.

Despite the push for its “Breaking Bad,” Apple is not only interested in adult content. It’s also in the market for kids’ programming, focusing on buying shows for preschoolers this year. Starting next year, the company will start looking at shows for school-aged children. It is expected Apple will have parental controls to help parents shield children from watching inappropriate content.

The immediate goal is to build a content library for an upcoming media service, several people said. At some point next year, Apple will announce the product and offer the content for free on its devices. The first slate of shows have a tentative deadline of spring 2019, and the company is expected to spend $4.2 billion on content through 2022 per Variety.

But in conversations with TV show creators and agents Van Amburg and Erlicht have also painted a long-term vision of more advanced interactive and immersive content. These plans are not imminent and are not driving which shows they’re aiming to buy, but are rather an example of the kind of advantages Apple could bring to the table.

Some industry executives have questioned if Apple has a chance to steal eyeballs away from Netflix, Amazon and other industry leaders considering the already competitive landscape. WarnerMedia has indicated it too is willing to invest heavily into new shows and movies.

Still if the money is there, there’s no reason for show makers to turn it down. More services mean more players to bid up prices. As one executive noted, everyone is more than happy to take Apple’s money until it ends.

[“source=cnbc”]

Southwest Airlines flight overruns runway in Burbank

A Southwest Boeing 737 lands at Los Angeles International Airport on May 24, 2018. 

Hollywood Burbank Airport remains open. All Terminal B gates remain open and Terminal A Gates A1-A5 remain open. Runway 8/26 has been closed due to the incident. Runway 15/33 remains operational. Please check your flight status with your airline.

[“source=cnbc”]

Fiat Chrysler plans to open factory in Detroit to build new three-row, Jeep Grand Cherokee: Sources

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles assembly workers build 2019 Ram pickup trucks at the FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, October 22, 2018. 

Rebecca Cook | Reuters
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles assembly workers build 2019 Ram pickup trucks at the FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, October 22, 2018.

Fiat Chrysler, riding a wave of strong truck and SUV sales, is planning to build a new final assembly plant in Detroit even as other American automakers scale back operations in the U.S., according to people familiar with the plan.

The assembly plant, an old Mack II Engine Plant that closed in 2012, will build a new three-row, Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV starting in 2020 as the automaker moves to keep up with strong demand for utility vehicles, the people said. A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler would not comment on the report, nor confirm the automaker’s plans.

The move comes as the industry faces pressure from President Donald Trump to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and stands in stark contrast to the recent decision by General Motors to stop production and idle five plants in North America including four in the United States.

Daimler CEO arrives at White House for auto meeting

Daimler CEO arrives at White House for auto meeting   11:43 AM ET Tue, 4 Dec 2018 | 02:01

GM has come under fire after announcing last week that it plans to cut 14,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, citing a weakening economy, the escalating trade war and a desire to reposition itself as a smaller, more nimble company. Ford is also scaling back, saying last week that it planned to cut a shift at two of its U.S. plants in an attempt to avoid more onerous layoffs.

Detroit will lose two GM facilities altogether. Both were performing well under capacity and contributing to a dismal capacity utilization rate of just 76 percent across the United States, far below Fiat Chrysler’s rate of 90 percent.

Fiat Chrysler’s plants are running at close to capacity due to continued strong demand for trucks and SUV’s. Overall, Fiat Chrysler’s sales in the U.S. are up 8 percent this year, easily outpacing the industry less than one percent according to the market research firm Autodata.

[“source=cnbc”]