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 Southern Auto Corridor News
February 2017

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to www.RandleReport.com. For all projects announced in the South, go to www.SB-D.com. And for more information on rural development in the South, visit www.SmallTownSouth.com.

Bell cow of Alabama's automotive industry turns 20
In February 1997, the first M-Class SUV rolled off the assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. Since that day 20 years ago, Alabama's automotive industry captured two more assembly plants -- Hyundai in Montgomery and Honda in Lincoln, Ala. Also, Toyota built a huge engine plant in Huntsville and hundreds of automotive suppliers now call Alabama home. Mercedes has invested almost $5 billion in its plant in Alabama to date. The three automakers in the state assembled more than 1 million cars, trucks and SUVs in 2016. 
 
Hankook Tire to complete Tennessee plant; to hire 1,200
South Korean tire maker Hankook will complete its new factory in Clarksville, Tenn., later this year. The plant will meet growing demand boosted by increased sales of vehicles made by Hyundai in Montgomery, Ala., and Kia in West Point, Ga. Hankook officials said they expect up to 1,200 workers will be housed at the Nashville area plant by the end of the year. 
 
Auto parts supplier investing in its Kentucky plant
Windshield manufacturer Pilkington North America is investing $7.5 million in manufacturing and technology upgrades at its plant in Versailles, Ky.  
 
Huhoco Group investing in new Georgia plant
Germany-based Huhoco Group is investing $24 million and creating 200 jobs as it builds a new plant in Bartow County, Ga. The company refines metal products for the automotive and construction industry.  
 
$230 million plants breaks ground in Corpus Christi
Chemours, a maker of a new environmentally friendly refrigerant for automobile air conditioners, broke ground in the winter quarter on a $230 million plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. 
 
Automotive facility expanding in North Carolina
Keihin Carolina System Technology, a company that assembles and tests electrical components for Honda, is expanding its operations in Edgecombe County, N.C. The plant, which is located in Tarboro, will see an investment of $13 million with the addition of 42 jobs to the 400 currently employed there. 
 
Forklift manufacturer signs deal with Volvo, will expand in Summerville, S.C.
Forklift maker Kion North America is investing $5.7 million in its plant in Dorchester County, near Charleston, S.C. The expansion is related to a contract with Volvo, which is building an assembly plant in nearby Berkeley County, S.C. The project will create 50 jobs. 
 
Automotive parts industry has grown substantially since 2012
A new study by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) shows that employment in the auto parts manufacturing sector has grown by 19 percent since 2012. More than 871,000 Americans are employed by parts manufacturers in the U.S. In addition, motor vehicle parts manufacturing contributes $270 billion in employee compensation in the U.S., up 22 percent from 2012. 
 
South Carolina adds manufacturing jobs for fifth consecutive year
The state of South Carolina added 2,030 manufacturing jobs from September 2015 to September 2016, according to Manufacturers News. Automotive OEM and parts suppliers accounted for 1,454 of those jobs. It was the fifth straight year the Palmetto State added manufacturing jobs. The state is home to 4,629 manufacturers employing over 270,000 workers. Manufacturing jobs in the state have grown by 7.4 percent since September 2011. 
 
GreenTech Auto closes its factory in Mississippi
Electric car startup GreenTech Automotive has shut down its factory in Tunica County, Miss. After starts and stops, the plant opened in the Delta in 2014, first reporting it would make a small two-seat electric car called MyCar. GreenTech later struck a deal with a Chinese automaker to develop an electric car based on an existing gasoline model. 
 
Elio Motors announces another production delay
Shreveport, La.-based Elio Motors has delayed initial production of its three-wheel vehicle from late 2017 to 2018. The startup small car company still needs about $300 million to get up and running. 
 
South Korean automakers to spend $3.1 billion in the U.S.
Officials with Korean automakers' Hyundai Motor Co. and KIA Motors Corp. said in the winter quarter they will collectively spend $3.1 billion in the U.S. in the next five years. The investment is more than the $2.1 billion the two automakers spent in the U.S. in the last five years. Hyundai operates its only U.S. plant in Montgomery, Ala., and KIA operates its only U.S. plant in West Point, Ga., just 81 miles from the Hyundai plant. The companies are also considering constructing a new assembly facility in the U.S. to build their luxury brands, which are currently being imported from Asia. 
 
Response Packaging expansion creates 100 new jobs in Greenville County, S.C.
Response Packaging, a returnable packaging manufacturer, is expanding its existing facility. The expansion is projected to bring $5 million of new capital investment, and will accommodate the growth of the automotive industry in the region. The company supplies original equipment manufacturers and provides manufacturing, design and prototype support.
 
Teknor Apex investing $32 million to expand Tennessee facility
Rhode Island-based materials supplier Teknor Apex will spend $32 million to build a 200,000-square-foot distribution facility at its site in Haywood County, Tenn. The water hose manufacturer, already the largest employer in the county with more than 600 employees, will also be adding 50 new jobs.
 
Lear Corporation expands manufacturing in South Carolina
Lear Corporation, a supplier of automotive seating, is expanding its existing operations with more than $7.7 million in new capital investment in Spartanburg County. The expansion will launch the automotive seating programs for South Carolina’s Volvo and BMW assembly plants.
 
Asahi plans $40 million expansion in Kentucky, 50 jobs
Asahi Bluegrass Forge Corporation plans to expand its manufacturing facility in Richmond, Ky. Asahi, which specializes in press forging for the automotive industry, producing gears, bearings and joints and transmission parts, would create 50 jobs.
 
GM to spend an additional $1 billion on U.S. plants
General Motors has announced it will spend an additional $1 billion on U.S. manufacturing plants. . .a move the automaker estimated would add or retain 1,500 jobs. The company will also move 450 jobs from GM supplier plants in Mexico back to the U.S. In addition, GM is adding 5,000 jobs to its finance and technology operations. Factories to be affected will be announced throughout the year.
 
Jones Plastic expanding in Tennessee, adding 52 jobs
Custom injection molder Jones Plastic & Engineering Co. plans to expand its Camden, Tenn., production plant with a $4.5 million investment expected to create 52 new jobs. Founded in 1961, the business began molding caps for whiskey bottles, but has evolved into a major supplier in the appliance and automotive sectors with 2,400 employees worldwide.
 
Auto manufacturer adding 100 jobs in western Kentucky
Kayser Automotive Systems is expanding into a facility next door to its current plant in Fulton, Ky. The company will add 100 jobs as part of a $26 million investment to make mechanical and passenger-cabin automotive parts.
 
LKQ Corporation plans major expansion in Nashville
LKQ Corporation, a distributor of specialty parts to repair and accessorize autos and other vehicles, will expand its regional headquarters in Davidson County, Tenn., and expects to create 150 jobs. 
   
Tire company makes hub expansion in Grand Prairie, Texas
Continental Tires has decided to expand its North Texas distribution hub in Grand Prairie, bringing the total footprint of the building to more than 1 million square feet of industrial space. 
 
Bridgestone makes additional $180 million investment in Wilson, N.C.
A year after Tennessee-based Bridgestone America Tire Operations announced a five-year, $164 million investment in its Wilson facility, the company announced that it would be making an additional investment of $180 million over the next 10 years at the site. The expansion will include 16 new jobs as production gets underway in fall of 2018. 
 
Proterra to triple production in Greenville, S.C.
Electric bus maker Proterra plans to triple production at its Greenville facility in 2017, thanks to a $140 million infusion of cash. The new investment should boost Proterra’s 165-employee workforce in Greenville by 25 jobs.
 
Toyota plans to invest $10 billion in U.S. over five years
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to invest $10 billion in the U.S. over the next five years -- the same as in the previous five years -- to meet demand and upgrade plants to build more fuel-efficient models according to North America CEO Jim Lentz.  
 

  
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