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The U.S. Auto Industry is Jumpstarting the Manufacturing Sector

With more competitive labor agreements, automakers are building more in the United States, retooling and refurbishing existing plants, and backshoring operations.

November 2011
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Supplier Side Gains Traction
On the supplier side, McElroy said some of those auto-industry companies "are giant, doing tens of billions of dollars in sales with tens of thousands of employees." Like the automakers, they too have all been doing extremely well.

"A lot of them went out of business in the last downturn or consolidated. But those companies that survived the huge turmoil are in pretty good positions right now," he explained. "They're also investing millions into U.S. manufacturing facilities and technical centers. For example, Japanese company Denso and two German supplier firms - Continental and Bosch's auto division - all have a presence in Detroit as well as in the U.S. South/Southeast."

The Midwest, in particular, continues to experience a major uptick in investments in auto technical facilities. "In the last decade, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia have put big tech centers in Michigan," McElroy said. "And despite all the problems in the auto industry, there is no greater collection in the world of automobile people, resources, and facilities than in this state.The Japanese and Koreans all want to tap into that expertise. Honda has huge facilities [nearby] in Ohio and Indiana, for example."

Also in Indiana, Wieland Designs, Inc. announced last April that it would spend $1 million to expand its operations in Elkhart County and create up to 120 new jobs by 2015. The company manufactures furniture and transportation interior components for the auto industry and other sectors. CTA Acoustics, Inc. of Madison Heights, Michigan, shared its plans to invest $9 million to lease and equip a 93,000-square-foot facility in Orland, Indiana, and create up to 140 jobs by 2014. The new plant will specialize in under-hood and under-dash insulation for the GM truck and SUV lines in Indiana and Michigan.

And Sunright America, a Japanese manufacturer of automotive fasteners, plans to expand its 170,000-square-foot facility in Columbus, Indiana, and add up to 100 jobs by 2014. It primarily manufactures weld nuts and flange nuts, and supplies its products to nearly 80 customers, including Toyota and Hino.

Further east, Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America plans to invest $50 million in a 75,000-square-foot expansion of its Russells Point, Ohio, plant to boost its capacity for casting aluminum transmission cases. The new assembly line is part of a 200,000-square-foot expansion that will increase the plant's capabilities to manufacture Honda's latest transmission technologies.

Moving to the south, in August, Delphi Automotive said it would invest about $15 million to upgrade its Brookhaven, Mississippi, facility in preparation of getting new business with an auto client. The company is a leading global supplier of electronics and technologies for the auto industry. Also, manufacturing firm C&F Group of Galway, Ireland, announced that Kingsport, Tennessee, would be the site for its first U.S. facility. The $12.5 million automotive project will create 450 new jobs over a four-year period. C&F makes decorative and functional trim for the automotive industry, among other products.

Also in August, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas announced that it had chosen Berea, Kentucky, as the site for its third Kentucky manufacturing facility. The new plant will produce electric-drive motors for next-generation hybrid and electric vehicles. When completed, the $74.5 million project in Madison County will create 130 jobs and increase Hitachi's Berea work force to over 1,070 workers.

And Bridgestone Americas announced it would make a $1.2 billion investment in South Carolina at two plants. Plans call for building a new 1.5 million-square-foot off-road radial tire manufacturing facility in Aiken County, and expanding its existing passenger/light truck tire plant also located in Aiken County.

Sumter County, South Carolina, will be home to Continental Tire the Americas' new $500 million tire manufacturing plant, which will create 1,700 jobs; and the company is also investing $4 million to expand its Lancaster County, South Carolina, headquarters, a project adding 80 jobs.

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