Voestalpine breaks ground as first Highland 75 occupant
by Jason Lowrey
Nov 15, 2012 | 6214 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Voestalpine Groundbreaking
Thomas Strauss, Southern regional director of the U.S. Commercial Service, represented U.S. Ambassador to Austria W. Eacho III at the groundbreaking ceremony. BRANDEN CAMP/The Daily Tribune News
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Voestalpine, the global Austrian manufacturer of steel products, has taken the first step in constructing its approximately 50 million euro facility in the Highland 75 industrial park. City, county, state and national representatives were on hand to join company executives for the groundbreaking ceremony.

The 50 million euro investment, which converts to approximately $62 million, will be the most important part of voestalpine’s recent global expansion said Kurt Hinterholzl, a board member of voestalpine’s Metal Forming Division.

“I want to say the most important project of this four [part] project is this project here. This is a strategic project for us. This is the most visible project among the voestalpine group. Everybody is watching this project inside of voestalpine, outside of voestalpine,” Hinterholzl said. “Therefore this project is very, very important not only for us. This is a strategic point project and this was also one of the reasons why we decided to build in Cartersville.”

Voestalpine is expanding by building new plants on four continents in order to supply Daimler AG, owner of Mercedes-Benz, with components for the new C Class, which Hinterholzl said was designed to be built on a global scale. New plants will be built in China, South Africa, Romania and Germany in addition to the Cartersville plant.

“We really can be proud that we actually, for the time being, are able to realize this important project and this, really, a very important project for our whole group and, I think, for this region here,” Hinterholzl said.

Voestalpine, Hinterholzl added, has considered an expansion into America since the mid-1990s. While its first attempts to enter the country were failures, the company reconsidered the idea in 2007 and decided to build its own plants.

Georgia was one of the states on the list from the very beginning, according to Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey. A voestalpine executive had contacted Georgia’s economic development office in Munich, Germany, he said.

“The office in Munich is the head of our European office. It plays a significant role in what we do. A lot of projects on the European side get started through that office, bringing us the projects. So anytime the relationship’s there in the front end, it helps in their mind to know Georgia is a player and why we’re there. ... It’s an essential part of what we do,” Cummiskey said.

Cummiskey was one of the many speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony. He praised the Highland 75 site and the foresight many Cartersville and Bartow County leaders had in creating the industrial park.

“We don’t do this alone. We don’t do this without you. We’re simply there to help you and this piece of land — this piece of land is perfect. ... Clarence, you can’t have a better send-off than this. Thank you for all the years you’ve been up here and all the things you’ve done because, without you, we wouldn’t be here,” Cummiskey said to Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown.

Brown described the groundbreaking as a “dream come true.”

“This is a wonderful day for me; it’s a dream. It’s a vision we’ve had for many years and we made a dream come true about [voestalpine] being the first one in the park,” he said. “You’re the kind of company we’ve always dreamed of having.”

Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini expanded on Brown’s comments on how voestalpine is a good fit for the area and he thanked all the people who made the groundbreaking a possibility.

“From the very beginning the company took an approach that they didn’t want to put a building somewhere, but they wanted to be a part of a community where they located. ... I’m happy to welcome a world-class manufacturer like voestalpine to our community, but more than that I’m happy that all the people who put their time, talent and sweat into this park will now see the fruits of their labor.”

Santini thanked former Cartersville mayors Mike Fields and Sam Smith, the JDA board members and the staff and the Georgia Department of Economic Development for all their work.

Voestalpine had narrowed its options down to two sites, Cartersville and a site in Alabama near the Mercedes-Benz plant. While Daimler pressured the company to locate in Alabama, Cartersville’s central location to other manufacturers — such as Volkswagen in Tennessee and BMW in South Carolina — provided voestalpine with future opportunities. Georgia’s Quick Start adult education program, which prepares students for technology intensive jobs, was another attractive feature that brought the company to Cartersville.

While every area and state speaker welcomed the company and its executives, JDA Chairman James Jarrett said that it was necessary to redefine the word welcome for the occasion.

“Oftentimes we think of the word welcome as something that’s a point in time, an event. But I want to say to you that our welcome will continue,” he said. “We make a commitment that until you feel at home here you’re welcome here, and we will continue to make you feel welcome and we commit ourselves to help make you successful.

“We know that our success as a community is connected to your success as a company.”

Voestalpine executives, in turn, thanked Brown, Santini and the JDA for their hard work in negotiating with the company.

“Of course, I have to mention the people of Bartow County,” said Peter Bernscher, head of the Business Unit Automotive Body Parts in the Metal Forming Division. “Its representatives, they were supporting us, they were convincing us. Mayor Santini — I’ve seen today — he was helping us get convinced that Bartow and Cartersville Joint Development Authority was supporting this project. So thank you again for this support that brought us to this decision. But it doesn’t end, and it will not end here. So we need you even in the future.”

Although U.S. Ambassador to Austria William Eacho III was slated to speak at the event, he was unable to attend. In his place Thomas Strauss, the Southern regional director of the U.S. Commercial Service, commented on voestalpine plant’s potential for job creation. He estimated the plant would hire 220 employees and potentially generate 400 to 600 additional jobs from vendors and suppliers as well.

The Cartersville plant will operate under the voestalpine Metal Forming Division, which has contracts with Daimler and the Volkswagen Auto Group. It will fulfill contracts for a variety of components with the ability to expand in the future by starting with pressing, stamping, welding and assembly activities when it first opens. According to a press release, the plant may expand in the near future to include hot forming of steel and laser-welded blanks.

Hinterholzl hoped the plant could one day serve domestic or other foreign manufacturers in addition to the company’s current customers.

Even though a timeline is not yet available, Bernscher said he would like to see the “first step of our investment” open in six months.

Voestalpine is not yet taking job applications for the Cartersville plant. However, job seekers can send their resumes to vsjobs@locationbartow.com and any vendors interested in contracting services can email vsvendors@locationbartow.com.