Voestalpine opens factory, breaks ground on expansion
by Jason Lowrey
Apr 23, 2014 | 3312 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Voestalpine Opens Plant
Philipp Schulz, CEO of voestalpine Automotive Body Parts, left, shows visitors on a tour a mechanical press at the company’s new manufacturing plant in Bartow County. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As the Austrian company voestalpine celebrated opening its automotive body part factory Tuesday, it also broke ground on the facility’s second phase.

Voestalpine is the first occupant of the Highland 75 industrial park on Cass-White Road, jointly constructed by Cartersville and Bartow County. Voestalpine first broke ground on its plant in November 2012, and parts were rolling off preproduction lines less than a year later.

Once all the plant’s phases are built, the company estimates it will create 220 jobs with a total investment of $70 million.

“This is an exciting day for us and we think you chose a great community to invest in and a great company has invested in Bartow County,” said Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor in a press conference prior to the ceremonies. “This is exactly the type [of] company we want to recruit for our community — advanced manufacturing. We think we have the tools to train future workers. We’re just so excited you chose Bartow County.”

The Cartersville plant is officially voestalpine Automotive Body Parts Inc., a subsidiary of Metal Forming Division, which comprises one part of the larger voestalpine organization. The entire company is privately owned in Austria and in the latest reported fiscal year had revenues of $15.8 billion. CEO Wolfgang Eder said during the press conference that his company has moved away from being solely a steel producer and has expanded into a technology and capital goods group. Among the company’s clients for its automotive parts, he said, are BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

Herbert Eibensteiner, the head of the Metal Forming Division, said the plant’s second phase will focus on a production technique named phs-ultraform, a hot-stamping method that creates lightweight, high-strength steel with improved corrosion resistance.

“The first thing we were asked by the car manufacturers, they asked us in 2004 to develop a high-strength steel which has corrosion protection,” Eibensteiner said after the Tuesday morning press conference. “This was the goal at the end and it last until 2008. We have developed such a product and now we roll it out and it’s becoming more and more ... known to the [original equipment manufacturers] and this is part of our success to provide this high-strength steel and have this very good corrosion resistance.”

The phs-ultraform line capacity, Eibensteiner added, has been completely filled even though the line does not yet exist.

During a later presentation inside the plant, Philipp Schulz, CEO of voestalpine Automotive Body Parts, spoke about the Cartersville plant’s purpose within the larger company, which has 500 companies and sites worldwide and 49 locations in the United States alone.

“This is a local facility for our global customers. That’s it in a nutshell,” Schulz said. “We are very grateful to have products that are demanded globally — also a success that is owed to many, many fathers. What’s the goal of this operation? We are building here a central southern hub to serve our European key customers — not solely, but ultimately in the beginning — and there’s a vying industry combining the advantages of a large group in the background with the flexibility of a new and lean organization.

“... We chose Cartersville in Bartow County as a central location in the midst of our customers here in the South. ... We looked for business friendly and future-oriented leadership and out of more than 30 candidates that we extensively looked at and had negotiations with, finally Cartersville was our choice. ... What distinguished Cartersville to other communities that we spoke with was the willingness to work with us — the willingness to listen and to go with our needs and make whatever was needed possible.”

Schulz thanked local and state officials for their assistance in helping voestalpine select its site and get the plant operating. Following further remarks from Eder and Eibensteiner, Schulz asked Eder and Cartersville-Bartow County Economic Development Executive Director Melinda Lemmon to jointly reveal the plant’s 1,100-ton servo press and other cold forming equipment. Following the curtain drop, Peter Bernscher, head of Business Unit Automotive Body Parts, spoke about the phs-ultraform line that will be installed during the expansion.

Lemmon said the day was “very special,” as she had never seen or heard of a joint ribbon cutting and groundbreaking ceremony on the same day. Though the second phase had been expected, she believed voestalpine had moved it up.

“I think it has a lot to do with their ability to grow and to do great things and I think this is a great location for them to do that in considering not only proximity to their customers, but especially workforce and community support. I think they’re going to be very successful here,” she said.

During the press conference Eder explained voestalpine’s Strategy 2020, which calls for hitting $27.1 billion in revenue by the 2020-21 fiscal year. Though he acknowledged it was a high target, he believed the company would meet its goal. In his remarks at the factory opening, he acknowledged the Cartersville plant’s importance in voestalpine’s automotive efforts and expansions.

“Cartersville will be the future center, the heart of voestalpine’s North American automotive activities,” Eder said. “I am convinced it will be a strong and ambitious plant. It will be one of the driving forces for the extension of our American business from last year $1.3 billion to more than $3 or $4 billion. We count on Cartersville. We count on our customers. We count on our team. Good luck. Thank you.”