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 Southern Auto Corridor News
December 28, 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 To keep up with economic development in the rural South, go to For up-to-the minute coverage of sports in the South, visit

Korean automotive parts supplier Mando creating 660 jobs in Small Town Georgia
In late December, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Mando Corp. will build a new casting plant in Meriwether County, Ga., investing $80 million. The deal is projected to create 660 jobs. Gov. Deal visited Mando officials at the Seoul headquarters during the fall of 2011. Over the past 30 years, much of the casting industry has moved overseas, however, Mando's expansion into the casting business in Georgia will enable the company to better serve its customers in the U.S., including Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler and GM. For more information on economic development in the rural South, go to 
GM to locate 1,000-employee center in metro Atlanta
General Motors will announce in January that it has picked a former UPS facility in Roswell, Ga., for a new technology development center that could house as many as 1,000 workers. In December, GM purchased the facility and an official announcement is expected in early January. For more information on the South's automotive industry, go to
Huntsville to host first public hearing on $1 billion national manufacturing initiative
Huntsville, Ala., will host the nation's first public hearing on President Obama's $1 billion National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative. The proposed effort will bring local and state governments, educators and companies together to help design new technologies to improve manufacturing and innovation in the U.S. The hearing, hosted by the U.S. Department of Defense, will be in Huntsville on January 16. 
Nissan to celebrate 10 years in Mississippi
It has been almost 10 years since Nissan began assembling vehicles at its Canton, Miss., plant. The plant opened in 2003 with two lines, but now it assembles seven models, including the Altima sedan and several trucks. The Japanese automaker, which employs about 5,000 workers at the plant, will celebrate its 10th anniversary later in 2013. 
Nissan opens billion dollar battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
Nissan's lithium-ion battery plant located next to its massive assembly facility in Smyrna, Tenn., opened in December. The batteries are used in the all-electric Nissan LEAF model. Combined, the battery facility and modification of the assembly plant to accommodate LEAF assembly represented a $1.7 billion investment by Nissan. That investment was backed by a $1.4 billion DOE loan. The projects are expected to eventually create about 1,000 jobs, 300 of which are already filled. 
Supplier adding jobs in Alabama
California-based, minority-owned supplier Vistech, is expanding its facility in Jasper, Ala., through a program run by Toyota. The tier-2 supplier of fender liners will add 10 workers to its current workforce of 30. 
As C-Class assembly nears, Mercedes readies for hiring wave
The C-Class, the first-ever sedan model made by Mercedes-Benz in the U.S., will soon spark hiring at the German automaker's plant in Vance, Ala. The model will join Mercedes' SUV lineup at the plant by early 2014. About 1,000 new jobs are expected to be created with the C-Class. 
Mercedes sees record production at Alabama plant
In 2012, Mercedes-Benz plant saw a record high of 182,000 vehicles built at its plant in Vance, Ala. A record for exports of vehicles built at the plant was also set at or around $6 billion. 
President of Toyota Mississippi is excited about Tupelo plant
In an article published in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in December, Masafumi Hamaguchi, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, said that he is excited about the prospects of the plant landing another line. Toyota's Mississippi plant, the newest in the U.S. for the Japanese automaker, has been assembling the Corolla model for only 15 months now. "Compared to other Toyota plants," Hamaguchi said, "our team members are still very young. It was a bit difficult in the beginning, but we have been getting better and better every day. That makes me very proud and very happy." 
1,000 more workers now on the line at GM's Texas plant
About 1,000 new workers have been hired in recent months at GM's large SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, bringing employment there to about 3,500. The facility is still undergoing a $530 million expansion, which includes a new stamping plant that will add a third shift in the spring of 2013. 
Judge rules that Kia must release hiring records
SB&D reported to you more than a year ago that about 150 former union workers -- most of which worked for Ford and GM before those two plants were closed in the Atlanta area four years ago -- applied for jobs at the Kia plant in West Point, Ga., and only a few were hired. None of those hired were line workers. A lawsuit was filed and in December a judge ruled that Kia must release records about how Georgia's QuickStart program helped hire the workers for the plant.  
Daewon expanding in Opelika, Ala. 
Daewon America, a Korean supplier of coil springs and stabilizer bars for Hyundai, Kia, GM and Chrysler, announced in December it is investing $16 million for new equipment at its plant in Opelika, Ala. The deal will create 30 new jobs.  
NGK Sparkplugs announces expansion in W.Va.
Japan-based NGK Sparkplugs announced in the fall it will add 11,000 square feet of space and hire 34 more associates at its Sissonville, W.Va., campus. The expansion comes as the company begins to produce M12 sparkplugs and ZFAS oxygen sensors for vehicles. 
Automotive supplier expanding again in Central Carolina
JTEKT, an automotive systems supplier, has announced plans to expand its Koyo brand bearing facility in the Columbia, S.C., metro. The parts supplier to Toyota, BMW and GM will invest $130 million in the project, which will generate 175 new jobs. 
German supplier picks Auburn, Ala., for HQ
Automotive supplier RAPA (Rausch & Pausch LP) announced in December it will establish its U.S. headquarters and production facility in Auburn, Ala. RAPA makes high-precision automotive parts for German transmission manufacturer ZF. The deal will create 105 new jobs. 
Falling behind in the rural South: We now have even more work to do in our non-metro regions
By Mike Randle
Much progress has been made in the 80 years since Franklin D. Roosevelt explained that one of the biggest problems the nation faced was the extreme poverty seen at the time in the American South. What occurred after that was of course the New Deal, TVA, and many other economic development efforts designed to help bring the South out of the depths of despair, a hole it hadn't crawled out of since the beginning of the Civil War. Think of it as the domestic auto bailout that helped the Midwest, but multiply it by about 36 in today's dollars. 
Progress came, particularly during World War II, as the manufacturing machine to supply the war was built mostly in the South. Military bases were constructed in many of the South's rural regions in lightening quick fashion, employing hundreds of thousands. In fact, more military bases were built during and after World War II in the South than all of the other three U.S. regions combined. 
In the early 1970s, metro areas were growing faster in the South than any other region. Major markets such as Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston were destinations of choice for hoards of people from up north seeking work. That continued throughout the region almost unabated for three decades. 
During that time, the South was so popular with migrating families and companies that the migration was felt essentially region-wide; from its rural regions, to the small markets on to mid-markets, some of which were were Greenville, S.C., Raleigh, Nashville, Austin, Tampa Bay and Orlando. No longer can those metros (and plenty like them) be labeled as mid-markets. 
Yes, the South -- all of it -- dominated the nation economically for 30 years. Then came the recession of 2001 and the recession of 2007-2009. 
Other downturns in the South's incredible 30-year run weren't really felt in the region. Oh, they were felt elsewhere, but not in the South. We were too busy building homes and shopping centers and creating jobs for the massive influx of human beings moving to the South each and every day. If anything, a downturn simply meant more people and companies would seek the South for a better way of life. 
Then we hit the decade of 2001 to 2010. I wrote in 2003 that the recession of 2001 seemed to hit the South as hard as the other three U.S. regions. I wrote in the middle of the Great Recession that the South was affected by that downturn more so than the other three regions, outside of the region's western states such as Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. 
I had no idea exactly how bad 2001 to 2010 slammed the South's economy -- especially its rural areas -- until I saw a post on around Christmas. The post's headline read, "The Concentration of Poverty is a Growing Rural Problem." The story came from the website. 
The long history of poverty FDR spoke about in the 1930s associated with the South was region wide at the time. Today, though, it is located predominantly in the rural South and the poverty rates have increased dramatically since the millennium. 
New information has shown that the poverty rate for the U.S. non-metro population was 16.5 percent in 2006-10, up from 14.8 percent in 2000. But it is much worse in the South. 
Here is an example: of the 193 non-metro counties in the U.S. (rural) that have been newly defined as high poverty from 2006-2010 by the federal government, 156 are located in the South. Those figures do not apply to the hundreds of counties in the South that have a long history of being distressed. These are new ones!
So, what do we do? It starts at the top. Southern governors must understand that our rural regions are falling behind faster than we realize and just 15 years ago they were doing so well. 
I remember the late Tennessee Governor Ned Ray McWherter telling me in the fall of 1993, mere months before he left office, "Mike, my work in economic development in my state has always been focused like a laser on our rural areas. Nashville doesn't need me." 
Auto supplier growing in the Volunteer State
International Automotive Components is expanding its Dayton, Tenn., operations. The Michigan-based automotive interiors supplier is investing over $7 million in the project that will create 50 new manufacturing jobs. 
NHK Louisville expanding
Japan-based NHK Louisville, a maker of springs for the automotive industry, is investing $19 million in its plant. The deal will create 50 new, full-time jobs. 
Here's a switch: Automotive parts supplier picks a site in Florida and it is a reshored deal to boot
Unlike most states in the Southern Automotive Corridor (, Florida doesn't see much of anything when it comes to the automotive industry. But Gray Swoope, the former director of the Mississippi Development Authority, now heads up Enterprise Florida and he is a veteran at recruiting companies in the automotive industry. Well, Florida got one in the fall quarter when SB Mfg., picked a site in Pasco County for a new plant. The company will produce aluminum castings from recycled aluminum. The casting parts were formerly produced in China. The deal is expected to create 75 jobs.  
Perfection Clutch investing in Missouri
Aftermarket automotive parts supplier Perfection Clutch is locating a distribution facility in Hazelwood, Mo. The $1.3 million deal will create 10 jobs. 
Honda reveals new Acura MDX to be built at Alabama plant
Acura, the luxury line from Honda, unveiled its redesigned 2014 MDX model at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The SUV will be assembled at Honda's Talladega, Ala., plant this year. 
Triumph Motorcycles moving NA HQ near Atlanta airport
U.K.-based Triumph Motorcycles has moved its North American headquarters from Newnan, Ga., to an office building near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. No report of additional jobs was made.
Grenada Stamping expanding in rural Mississippi
Grenada Stamping, a supplier of parts to the automotive, appliance and HVAC industries, is expanding for the third time in two years in Grenada, Miss. The latest expansion will add 35 jobs to the total workforce of 250 at the plant. 

Honda to be 'net exporter' of vehicles from North America
Officials with Japanese automaker Honda, which operates a plant in Alabama in the Southern Auto Corridor, said in the fall quarter that it expects to export more of its U.S.-made cars than it imports within two years. 
Green truck maker adding jobs in North Carolina
NEAH Transportation, a maker of solar-powered refrigeration units for trucks, is adding workers at its new facility in Shallotte, N.C. The deal is expected to create 250 jobs within three years. 
Chattanooga-made Passat exceeds 100,000 in sales
Volkswagen's Chattanooga-built Passat model exceeded 100,000 in U.S. sales for 2012 on December 1. Sales are 35 percent above the same period in 2011. 
Auto parts manufacturer expanding in Georgia
Decostar Industries, a subsidiary of auto parts supplier Magna Exteriors, announced it is adding 64,000 square feet of space next to its existing facility in Carrollton, Ga. The deal will create about 120 new jobs. 
Curious Kia project
At first, it was described as a $1.6 billion investment by Kia to expand its plant in West Point, Ga., as well as to expand its supplier base. Turns out it’s another bond agreement between Troup County, the city of West Point and the state of Georgia. The Kia plant was started in Troup County with a $1.1 billion bond, but the company has reached the capacity of that bond. The new bond deal would give Kia the option of using the new $1.6 billion in bond funds when the market is ripe for growth. It is essentially a line of credit for the Korean automaker. 
German supplier setting up shop in Kentucky
iwis, a German automotive supplier, announced in the fall it will establish its first U.S. plant in Murray, Ky. The $12.5 million project will create 75 new jobs. 
Axle maker expanding in York County, S.C.
Transaxle Manufacturing of America, a manufacturer of vehicle transaxles, announced it is expanding in York County. The deal represents an investment of $7.5 million. 
Schaeffler Group adding jobs in S.C.
Automotive and industrial component supplier Schaeffler Group announced in the fall quarter it will expand its existing operations in Chesterfield County, S.C. The $40 million investment is expected to create 190 new jobs. 
Kobe expanding in Bowling Green
Kobe Aluminum Automotive is expanding its operations in Bowling Green, Ky. The $11 million deal will generate 15 new jobs. 
Retooled Kentucky Corvette plant to add 150 temporary workers
As GM prepares to launch the next generation Corvette model after retooling its Bowling Green plant -- the only place in the world where the sports car is made -- it is also adding workers. GM announced in November it will hire 150 employees to work at the facility from four to 18 months to help get the plant up and running. 
Porsche breaks ground on new headquarters in Atlanta
In November, Matthias Mueller, chairman of Porsche AG, was on hand for the groundbreaking of the German automaker's new North American headquarters near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. When completed, the new headquarters complex will include an "experience centre," including a 20-acre test track that can be used by customers and employees to test drive Porsche vehicles. 
Fontaine Trailer expanding in Alabama
Fontaine Trailer announced in the fall quarter it is adding 100 jobs at its facility in Jasper, Ala. The company makes heavy-haul platform trailers. 
Automotive supplier adding jobs in Jasper, Ala.
Amtex, an automotive parts supplier, is expanding in Jasper, Ala. The project is expected to create 75 new jobs. 
Canadian company establishing operations in Bowling Green
Davert USA, a Canadian-based company, has chosen Bowling Green, Ky., as its first U.S. location and plans to create 20 new, full-time jobs and invest more than $2.3 million in the project. The company provides solutions for metal fabrication. 
Honda celebrates 2.5 millionth ATV built at South Carolina plant
In the fall quarter, Honda of South Carolina marked the 2.5 millionth all-terrain vehicle production milestone at its plant in Florence County, S.C. The company also plans to invest $27 million and add 65 workers at the facility for production of Honda's next generation side-by-side, multi-utility vehicle. 
U.S. needs more free trade pacts to beat Mexico
VW officials in Chattanooga are competing with sites in Mexico for another vehicle line. VW's Chattanooga site has room to build a second factory for another vehicle line, but VW officials in Germany may prefer to put the line in Mexico. Audi, a VW subsidiary, announced in April it will build a plant in Mexico to build an SUV. That facility was the third new automotive assembly plant won by Mexico over the Southern Automotive Corridor since the recession ended. As of the end of this year, there have been no new assembly plants announced in the South; however, almost all existing plants are working three shifts. The most glaring reason Mexico is currently beating the Southern Automotive Corridor for the facilities is the fact that the U.S. has only 19 free trade pacts, while Mexico has free trade pacts with 44 different countries. As a result, vehicles built in Mexico can be exported to more countries without having to pay import duties. Those taxes and fees can add up to 10 percent of the cost to build a vehicle. 
Korean supplier expanding in Kentucky
INFAC North America announced in the fall it plans to expand its Campbellsville, Ky., plant. The Korean automotive parts supplier is investing $6.5 million and adding 20 jobs in the deal. The company supplies GM, Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia with control cables, solenoids and other parts. 
Automotive and aerospace coatings company expanding in Upstate South Carolina
RMF, a provider of corrosion resistant coatings for the automotive and aerospace market, is investing $13 million to expand in Greenville County, S.C. The deal will create 20 new jobs. 
Sunroof manufacturer creating 65 new jobs in Kentucky
Webasto Sunroof Systems announced plans to expand manufacturing operations in Lexington, Ky., in the fall quarter. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear met with Webasto officials at their headquarters in Germany over the summer to discuss the project. The $10 million deal will create 65 new full-time jobs. 
Hyundai considering building another U.S. plant
In November, John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai's U.S. operations, said that the Korean automaker is seriously considering building another U.S. plant. Its sister company Kia secured a $1.6 billion line of credit with various Georgia governments to take care of any future expansion of its plant in West Point, Ga. Both automakers have posted sales records in 2012 and Hyundai's plant in Montgomery, Ala. and the Kia plant in Georgia are working third shifts. 
Dennen Steel opens plant in Small Town Mississippi
Dennen Steel cut the ribbon on its steel stamping facility in Iuka, Miss., in the fall quarter. The plant will serve markets in the South for the automotive, appliances and HVAC industries. The plant, located in Tishomingo County, will house about 50 workers. 

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