Mercedes-Benz is investing $248.2 million to build two very large facilities in Bibb County as the automaker expands its physical footprint into the Birmingham metro area.
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, the official name of the Alabama operations of the global automaker, broke ground today on its Global Logistics Center and a new after-sales North American hub. The two facilities will be 800,000 square feet and 1.3 million square feet respectively and are being built on 278 acres in the Scott G. Davis Industrial Park near Woodstock.
The groundbreaking today comes one day after Mercedes announced the new facilities as part of a $1 billion investment that will also add a new battery manufacturing plant to its auto production campus in Tuscaloosa County. That will allow electric vehicles to be produced at the plant for the first time.
The announcements this week are part of a celebration marking 20 years of Mercedes building vehicles in Alabama, a move that has dramatically reshaped manufacturing in the state.
“In the Birmingham region we’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of that activity,” Brian Hilson, CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, said. “But this takes it to a new level. This is the first time we’ve had an actual Mercedes facility physically located in the seven-county Birmingham metropolitan area.”
“Mercedes-Benz has had an incredible economic impact on the state during its first 20 years, including an enormous benefit to the Birmingham metro area,” said Shane Kearney, economic development project manager with Alabama Power, who worked on the projects. “These new facilities in the Scott Davis Industrial Park are going to play a vital role in the company’s ongoing success. This is significant for Bibb County and the entire metro area.”
The Global Logistics Center, which was codenamed “Project Hermes” during the secretive recruitment process, chose the Bibb County site over a site in Georgia. It will take vehicles from the Tuscaloosa plant and turn them into what is known as knock-down kits to be assembled in other countries. It is expected to open in 2019.
“This is going to expand significantly in the future,” said MBUSI CEO Jason Hoff. “We already send kits now to India and some other Far East countries. We will not only be doing those countries in the future, but we will also be expanding that to include Russia.”
That will add to an export volume that already makes Mercedes the state’s largest exporter.
Hoff said the after-sales North American hub, which was codenamed “Project Bright Shiny,” will provide overseas markets with spare parts. It will consolidate those operations from three existing warehouses in the state and is expected to be operating by the end of 2020.
Although it is in the metro area of Birmingham, Bibb County itself is deemed a rural county by the state.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said even though the Mercedes plant is only five miles away from the Bibb County site, MBUSI’s investment in Bibb County goes a long way in boosting fortunes there.
“Any time we have new projects come into the state like this, it is a sign post that we’re beginning to see results in our strategy,” Canfield said. “We’ve got more to do. Rural Alabama still needs more activity and more investment, but this is a good sign post for us to measure some good success.”
Bibb County Commissioner Ricky Hubbard said the county’s successful recruitment of MöllerTech a year ago was a turning point.
“We knew then that we were capable of recruiting world-class companies like Mercedes-Benz,” he said.
In addition to the 429 direct jobs at the facilities, the study estimates they will create 1,285 indirect jobs with more than $41 million in additional annual earnings.
Total state and local taxes generated by direct and indirect economic activity associated with the two facilities over 20 years are estimated at $38 million for the state, $33 million for the metro are and $24 million for Bibb County.
Total economic impact on the state is estimated at $394 million during the construction phase and $109 million annually after the new facilities are operating.