MöllerTech officially opened its $46.3 million auto supplier plant in Bibb County this morning as the Mercedes-Benz supplier prepares to produce parts for the next generation of vehicles at the German automaker’s Alabama plant.
The plant already has equipment installed and 50 workers in place in the facility in the Scott G. Davis Industrial Park.
“About 18 months ago we had the groundbreaking. So, here we are in this wonderful facility and with 50 people employed already,” said Steve Jordan, MöllerTech North American CEO. “A lot of these individuals have already grown within the organization, so I’m looking forward to employing more. I think we will be up to 220 at the end of 2019.”
Those workers will produce interior parts to go in the vehicles that Mercedes will build in neighboring Tuscaloosa County after the automaker completes a $1 billion expansion later this year.
“It’s a challenging time for us as we get ready for the next generation of cars,” said Jason Hoff, CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International. “We have a lot of work to do on our own facility. We’re completing our $1 billion investment that we announced a couple of years ago. So, you know, it’s getting into the crunch time.”
Economic developers are feeling that “crunch time” as they seek to provide industrial sites and a workforce ready to take jobs as the automotive industry continues to grow in the state.
“We expect to continue to see growth in the automotive sector,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said. “With the density of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) locating in the state of Alabama, we’re going to see more and more interest from the supply chain looking at Alabama because, hey, Alabama is the now the center and the heart of the Southern automotive sector.”
Within the existing automotive industry in the state, Alabama has to be ready to shift as the industry shifts into areas like electric vehicles and other advances.
“The supplier market has to be responsive to (change) as well and as that happens in economic development we have to be prepared with sites and facilities,” said Brian Hilson, CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “We also have to be prepared from a workforce standpoint because we will have new technologies and workforce requirements that will go with those that we will have to be ready for.”
Canfield said Alabama is already working closely with and their suppliers to prepare for change years in advance.
“The interesting thing that we find about the automotive sector that really makes it a lot of fun to work with is they’re thinking so far in advance,” he said. “So, when we engage with the automotive OEMs and tier ones and other suppliers down the line – whether they’re tier two or tier three – we’re talking about impacts that are going to occur three to five years in the future. That really helps us get a better understanding of the direction and the flow of the automotive sector in Alabama.”
Jordan said even before the new MöllerTech plant produces its first part for Mercedes, his company is already anticipating getting a contract for future work.
“Our company is 290 years old. We’ve just opened this building and we plan to be here for many, many years to come,” he said. “So, with this next generation of Mercedes vehicles we currently have, we want future ones as well. We hope to have a great future and partnership with Mercedes.”