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 Autocar chooses Birmingham for truck assembly plant

(Provided Photo)

Times Staff Report

(Provided Photo)

Hagerstown, Ind.-based Autocar will invest $120 million to expand and open a manufacturing plant in Jefferson County to build its heavy-duty cab-over-engine trucks. The company is being established in an existing one million-square-foot complex located in both Center Point and Birmingham and is expected to create 746 jobs.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey made the announcement today at the Birmingham Business Alliance, with Autocar executives and Jefferson County, City of Birmingham and City of Center Point officials. Governor Ivey said Autocar’s plant in Birmingham marks the state’s fourth major automotive OEM assembly plant and one that will bring a new dimension to Alabama’s strong automotive sector, which is already home to Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and numerous suppliers.

“Alabama is a powerhouse in automotive manufacturing, and Autocar’s new heavy-duty truck assembly operation in Birmingham will add a new dimension to the state’s activities in this vital sector,” Governor Ivey said. “The company is making a significant investment in its Alabama operation and creating the kind of well-paying jobs that are a priority of my administration as we declare that Alabama is open for business.”

Autocar was founded in 1897 and is the oldest motor vehicle brand in the United States. It built America’s first truck in 1899 and pioneered many technical innovations now common in all cars and trucks. Autocar’s hundreds of customers include most major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Baltimore, and Charlotte, most national waste-hauling fleets, and many of the largest retailers, food manufacturers, and freight logistics companies in North America.

Autocar’s Chairman, Andrew Taitz, said “Autocar carefully considered locations across the country and selected Birmingham for many reasons. Among them are access to a great business environment, strong state and local governmental partners, a skilled workforce, and proximity to our customers and suppliers.”

Jim Johnston, Autocar’s president added “With this new million-square-foot plant in Birmingham and our new local employees, we’ll better meet the needs of our existing customers and be able to engineer new specialized products for different applications and markets. We’re excited that Autocar brings a dynamic and growing new employment opportunity to your community, offering new manufacturing jobs and training.”

Autocar, once fully operational, will generate $645.1 million annually in economic impact, which includes a nearly $229 million annual contribution to Alabama’s GDP and $130.1 million in earnings to Alabama households from 2,655 direct and indirect jobs, according to an impact study from the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.

For the Birmingham metropolitan area, operations at the company will generate $600 million annually in economic impact, which includes $224 million contributed to the metro’s GDP, and $123.9 million in earnings to households from 2,538 direct and indirect jobs.

Autocar has hired some employees to begin production, which were recruited, screened and trained by AIDT. The company is currently hiring Assembly Team Members, Team Leaders, Material Handlers, Fabricators and Maintenance Technicians. Available job openings can be found through AIDT, at www.aidt.edu. Average annual base compensation for all employees, ranging from management to production, will be $58,656.

Autocar worked closely with the State of Alabama Department of Commerce, the Jefferson County Commission, the City of Center Point, the City of Birmingham, AIDT, the Birmingham Business Alliance and others on this major economic development project, code named Project Sunrise.

“After months of negotiations under the project name Sunrise, it is my distinct honor, on behalf of the entire commission, to formally welcome Autocar to Jefferson County,” said Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington. “These new, high-paying manufacturing jobs are a direct result of the tireless, cooperative efforts of the company, the state, the county and the cities of Center Point and Birmingham. We are confident that Autocar’s suppliers will find a welcoming environment here as well.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said the impact of Autocar will be felt positively throughout Birmingham, as the region’s automotive sector strengthens. The property sits within the city limits of both Birmingham and Center Point.

“This is a great day for Birmingham as we welcome another major vehicle manufacturer to Alabama,” said Mayor Bell. “The automotive industry is strong in the Birmingham region and we look forward to working with Autocar on its future growth and with its suppliers looking to locate here. Our strong workforce and unmatched quality of life have helped us attract yet another world-class company.”

Center Point Mayor Tom Henderson said bringing Autocar to the Birmingham area is a huge boost for the city. The company will occupy the former Meadowcraft building on Pinson Valley Parkway, which has been empty since 2009.

“Autocar’s decision to locate a plant here is an important win for the Center Point community,” said Mayor Henderson. “Not only does this fill a previously empty building and provide jobs for our citizens, it also will have an impact that will be felt for a long time in Center Point and in the surrounding area. The city’s infrastructure, education system and much more will reap the benefits of Autocar’s decision to produce its trucks here. We welcome and thank Autocar for their tremendous investment.”

The Birmingham region’s workforce and competitive cost of doing business continue to be strong selling points to attract business here, said Dr. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and 2017 BBA Chairman.

“Autocar’s decision helps validate what we’ve known all along, that the Birmingham region provides a superior labor force, an unmatched quality of life, and a significantly lower cost of doing business, not just for manufacturing but for all types of businesses,” said Watts. “We are proud to welcome Autocar to the growing family of premier corporate citizens in our area.”