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 Southern Auto Corridor News
May 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.comAnd for more information on rural development in the South, visit www.SmallTownSouth.com.

Industrial robot purchases in the U.S. will rise by 300 percent in nine years
The number of robots used in the manufacturing process will jump by nearly 300 percent in less than a decade according to ABI Research. In 2016, 40 percent more robots were sold last year compared to 2013 says the Robotic Industries Association. And, according to the National Economic Research Bureau, for every new industrial robot sold and installed into the workforce, six jobs on average were eliminated. Last year, the U.S. automotive industry accounted for 70 percent of all robots sold in North America. According to Forrester Research's Future of Jobs report released in April, automation and robotics will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027. At the same time, however, the new technology will create 15 million jobs, leading to a net loss of almost 10 million jobs. 
 
More manufacturing jobs reshored in 2016 than offshored
According to the Reshoring Initiative, for the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs reshored to the U.S. than offshored in calendar year 2016. Last year, 77,000 manufacturing jobs (tying the 2014 record) reshored and 50,000 offshored, giving the U.S. a net gain of 27,000 jobs. On average from 2000 to 2006, about 220,000 jobs offshored each year. That has now dropped to about 50,000 and that total continues to drop. According to the Initiative, the South remains the top region for reshoring and foreign direct investment with the Midwest coming in second. Since 2010, more than 338,000 manufacturing jobs have reshored back to the U.S. 
 
Volvo moving equipment into South Carolina plant
Sweden-based, China-owned Volvo's Berkeley County plant is gearing up to make the S60 sedan in the Palmetto State. The $500 million, 2.3 million-square-foot facility is ahead of schedule, meaning mass hiring for the facility will come sometime in the fall. Volvo will begin testing its machinery at the plant in August and the first vehicle will make a test run through the body shop, paint shop and final assembly lines by the end of this year. The company expects to hire 2,000 workers for its first phase. Volvo sold 82,724 in the U.S. last year, its best year since 2007. 
 
Volkswagen to build a small SUV in Chattanooga
In May, the first SUV made at Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant rolled off the line. Called the Atlas, the mid-sized SUV is a seven-seat model. VW announced in April that it will now add a smaller five-seat SUV at the plant. No date for production has been set. VW also assembles the Passat sedan at the plant. 
 
Toyota's big Kentucky expansion will be felt in adjoining states
Toyota's April announcement of a massive retooling of its largest assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., will most certainly positively transform the Kentucky economy. The $1.3 billion expansion will also affect states around the Commonwealth, particularly suppliers in Tennessee, which sits between Toyota plants in Kentucky and Mississippi. The expansion is one of the largest in dollar amounts by any automaker in the Southern Auto Corridor. The Kentucky plant will be refitted to handle the Toyota New Global Architecture. That plan means assembly lines can be quickly shifted to produce stronger selling models. Toyota employs nearly 10,000 employees in Kentucky and over 8,000 at its Georgetown assembly plant. 
 
It costs less to operate your business in the South
According to a report published in the spring quarter by Chicago-based Anderson Economic Group, eight of the 15-lowest business tax burdens are states in the South. Oklahoma had the lowest tax burden for businesses and North Carolina had the third-lowest. Making the top 15 in lowest business costs in the South were Missouri, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama. 
 
Chinese FDI in the U.S. continues strong run
Chinese investment in the U.S. continues to mostly be mergers and acquisitions, but there is a growing list of greenfield projects. Chinese FDI is not slowing down in 2017 as some experts have predicted it would. In 2016, the Chinese invested $46 billion in the U.S., making it one of the largest countries of foreign direct investment in the U.S. The $46 billion blew past the previous record of $15 billion from the Chinese in 2015, according to the Rhodium Group. Among the largest acquisitions last year were HNA Group buying networking and software distributor Ingram Micro for $6 billion and Chinese appliance maker Haier Electronics' purchase of General Electric's appliance unit for $5.4 billion. According to Rhodium, there were 40 Chinese deals valued at $9.3 billion in the first quarter of this year. Nine of those projects were located in the South. 
 
Aluminum company to hire 550 in heart of Appalachia
A metals company will build a $1.3 billion facility near the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, pledging to hire 550 employees earning average salaries of $70,000 in an area devastated by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs. Braidy Industries says the 2.5 million-square-foot facility in Greenup County, Ky., will produce aluminum for the automotive and aerospace industries, two of Kentucky’s largest manufacturing sectors. The company expects 1,000 workers will be needed to build the plant next year, with construction to be completed in 2020.
 
KAAP to expand in Bowling Green, create 129 jobs
Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products (KAAP) will expand for a seventh time in Bowling Green, investing more than $51 million and creating 129 full-time jobs. KAAP will add more than 108,000 square feet to accommodate new production lines and equipment.
 
Trio of Tennessee auto suppliers announce expansions
A trio of automotive suppliers in Smyrna, Tenn., will add 520 jobs in expansion plans totaling $142.4 million. Federal-Mogul will add 285 jobs, Topre America plans for 145 new jobs and Steel Technologies for 90. All three companies will receive tax incentives.
 
Auto parts supplier creating 100 jobs with major expansion in Alabama
Auto parts supplier Hanwha Advanced Materials America is investing once again in its Opelika, Ala., plant. The Seoul, South Korea-based manufacturer plans to invest nearly $20 million into its factory with 100 new jobs being generated over three years. The parts supplier will employ more than 400 people when the dust settles, with its total investment in the Opelika plant rising to nearly $80 million. It began making parts there in 2005.
 
Brake plant to add 160 jobs in $40 million North Carolina expansion
Continental North America will spend $40 million to expand its Morganton automobile brake plant, adding 160 jobs in the process. The added capacity will allow the company to make its new MK C1 braking system. 
 
Volvo to export cars from South Carolina to China
Volvo, the Sweden-based, Chinese-owned carmaker, is planning to export cars to China from an American plant. The factory being built in Berkeley County, S.C. will employ 4,000 workers and produce a small sedan that will be sold in Europe and China beginning in 2018. Hakan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars, said producing cars in the U.S. for export, particularly to China, offers a powerful rebuttal to accusations that China is taking U.S. jobs.
 
Toyota announces major Mississippi investments
Toyota Motor Corp. is making a major financial investment in its Blue Springs, Miss., manufacturing facility with the announcement of a $10 million visitor and interactive training center as well as $350,000 in donations for education and literacy. Officials announced the investments at the recently celebrated 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the $1 billion plant in Union County.
 
Toyota to spend $1.3 billion on Kentucky factory
Toyota will spend more than $1 billion to overhaul its largest production plant in the world. The $1.33 billion investment in the auto giant’s Kentucky factory, which employs 8,200 people, will help the plant make Camrys more efficiently and will speed up production timelines.

 
Paducah automotive supplier plans 50-job expansion 
UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries plans to expand its presence in Paducah, Ky., with a $3.3 million investment expected to bring an additional 50 jobs. The project will include machining centers, robotics and additional fabrication equipment. 
 
American Metals Group bringing 80 jobs to Childersburg, Ala.
American Metals Group is starting up in Childersburg with a $5.3 million investment, and looking to bring about 80 jobs. The company manufactures cold drawn steel bars for the automotive, construction and energy industries.
 
Wabco opens $20 million Lowcountry expansion
A Brussels-based automotive supplier is growing its existing Lowcountry footprint. Wabco recently celebrated the opening of its $20 million manufacturing facility in North Charleston, which will supply parts to major truck, bus and trailer manufacturers. The 55 new hires bring the facility’s total to 230 employees. 
 
Honda to expand Alabama plant
Honda once again plans to expand its Alabama factory to take advantage of car buyers’ demand for larger vehicles. The Japanese automaker will invest $85 million to expand its Lincoln, Ala., plant by next year. The report also indicated that the Talladega County Commission approved tax incentives for the project last week. Honda invested more than $750 million in the plant since 2011, including a $71.4 million engine assembly facility that opened in 2015. 
 
Kentucky auto supplier spends $20 million
Combined with its operations in Bullitt and Nelson counties, a supplier for the automotive industry will spend almost $50 million and hire 35 to expand its current facilities in Shepherdsville. Tower Automotive Operations USA received preliminary approval for tax incentives through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.
 

  
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