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 Southern Auto Corridor News
September 25, 2012

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to For even more economic development news in the South, including all project announcements, go to And for more information on rural development in the South, go to EDITOR'S NOTE: On August 31, 2012, The Randle Report launched

BMW's South Carolina plant named exporter of the year
The National Association of Foreign Trade Zones has named BMW Manufacturing its exporter of the year based on U.S. Department of Commerce data on the value of its cars being exported from its assembly plant in Greer, S.C. BMW's plant in Greer builds more than 1,000 vehicles a day and is the exclusive exporter of the X3, X5 and X6 models. 
Mando America begins hiring at new rural Georgia facility
Automotive supplier Mando America has begun hiring at its new $200 million plant near Hogansville, Ga., north of Columbus. The new facility is about to open and when it does it will house 200 workers, ramping up to 400 within three years. The company supplies Kia, Hyundai and other automakers. 
Nissan's Mississippi plant finally gets some footing
When Mississippi landed its first automotive assembly plant more than 10 years ago, it wasn't a secret that Nissan had trouble finding qualified workers for the facility. In fact, I talked to Jimmy Heidel, the former state-level economic development director in Mississippi about the situation and he said to me, "Mike, what did they expect? We have very few people in Mississippi who have ever operated robots." Well, that was then and this is now. Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant is really gaining some footing in the Southern Auto Corridor as the Japanese automaker has positioned the facility as a hub for its domestic production of large vehicles. Three new models will roll off the lines at Canton as Nissan moves Frontier pickup and Xterra SUV assembly from its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to Mississippi. The plant already produces the Titan pickup, Armada SUV and the NV commercial van in Canton. As a result of the new lines, employment at Nissan's Mississippi plant is expected to top 5,000 at the end of the year. Nissan employs about 6,000 in Smyrna.   
New models set for Missouri GM plant
In September, General Motors announced its Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant will build an all-new GMC Canyon pickup. The Detroit automaker is investing $380 million in its Missouri facility that will also assemble the all-new Colorado pickup. GM ended production of those two models at its plant in Shreveport, La., which is closing.
Automotive parts retailer to open distribution center in Lakeland, Fla.
Missouri-based O'Reilly Auto Parts announced it has submitted a site plan for a 350,000-square-foot distribution center in Lakeland, Fla. The project is expected to create 400 new jobs. 
No announcement, but Volkswagen is preparing for another expansion
As of this writing, Volkswagen has not announced a major expansion of its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. However, in late September, Chattanooga officials awarded a contract to Wright Brothers Construction for site work that most likely will be part of a large VW expansion. There are rumors that VW will build a new facility to mirror its current plant that assembles the Passat sedan model. The new facility is expected to build an SUV model. The German automaker is already in the midst of an expansion of the Chattanooga facility that will bring its workforce to about 3,500 to meet demand for the Passat. 
Toyota breaks ground on Huntsville, Ala., engine plant expansion
Japanese automaker Toyota broke ground in September on its 300,000-square-foot expansion of its V6 engine plant in Huntsville, Ala. The $80 million project will bring total investment to more than $700 million for Toyota in Huntsville. The deal will create 125 jobs, bringing Toyota's total to 1,150 in Huntsville. 
Vehicle assembly returns to GM Tennessee plant 
For the first time in three years, GM is again assembling vehicles at its Spring Hill, Tenn., facility. The first Chevy Equinox model rolled off the line on September 4. The plant was idled in November 2009, but now over 1,800 workers are producing the Equinox at the former Saturn facility. 
Solar farms heat up in Tennessee
Workers installed the first of 33,600 solar panels at “Project Titan” in mid-September. And when Volkswagen turns on its solar park late this year, the site will generate enough electricity to power about 1,200 Chattanooga homes, according to the automaker. But VW plans to use the power to help run its Enterprise South industrial park factory and produce 12.5 percent of its energy needs. The 65-acre solar park, estimated to cost about $30 million, will be the state’s biggest at 9.58 megawatts. Tennessee’s largest solar park currently is a 5 megawatt facility in West Tennessee.
Japan-based TASUS invests $19 million in Florence, Ala.
Japan-based TASUS Corporation, an automotive plastic component firm, began construction on a $19 million, 104,000-square-foot injection molding manufacturing facility in Florence, Ala., which will create more than 135 new jobs. The company produces plastic automotive parts and has clients that include most major North American automobile manufacturers.
German auto supplier Boysen to build near Vance, Ala.
German automotive supplier Boysen USA said it will build a $34 million plant near Vance to supply exhaust systems for Mercedes-Benz's new C-Class. The company will build a 120,000-square-foot plant on 22 acres north of the MBUSI plant, bringing about 99 jobs to Tuscaloosa County. 
GM begins hiring binge in Austin
General Motors announced in September that it will hire 500 information-technology workers to staff a new center in Austin, Texas, a step in GM’s plan to build its own global IT infrastructure. Currently, 90 percent of the company’s IT work is outsourced. GM wants 90 percent of its IT work done internally within five years, which would result in the hiring of thousands of employees. The Austin location is the first of what likely will be four “innovation centers,” GM said in a statement. It is hiring software developers, business analysts and other IT workers.
BorgWarner expanding in Oconee County, S.C.
BorgWarner, a global automotive powertrain supplier, announced plans to expand its current facility in Oconee County, which will generate 30 new jobs. “Demand for our products has increased and South Carolina has provided us with an excellent business environment, so this expansion is the right step for our company,” said Andy J. Mickus, general manager of BorgWarner TorqTransfer Systems North America. 
Hyundai kicks off third shift
The Hyundai plant in Montgomery added a third shift in early September, a first for the Korean automaker's Alabama operations that is aimed at meeting growing demand for its state-built cars. The company announced the move last spring and has since hired more than 800 workers. The move means the plant will operate around the clock, Monday through Friday. The new employees, as well as veteran ones, have been spread among all three shifts to ensure there are experienced workers at all times, said plant spokesman Robert Burns. 

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