Eighteen years after the first Mercedes-Benz rolled off the Vance assembly line, the automaker is still going strong, announcing a $1.3 billion, 300-job expansion, a project that will only grow Alabama’s vibrant export market.
The expansion at the Tuscaloosa County plant will increase total investment at the plant to about $5.8 billion, and will increase the workforce of full-time Mercedes employees to 3,800, al.com reported.
BCA members that are involved in the project are Saiia Construction and C.S. Beatty Construction. They are doing the project’s earthwork.
The expansion is called Project Gateway, said Jason Hoff, head of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Alabama operations. Hoff said the expansion is a testament to the commitment of the plant’s workforce.
“We call it a gateway to the future,” he said. “We’ve been the home of Mercedes SUVs for almost 20 years, and this just further cements our position.”
The majority of the work is expected to be complete by the middle of 2017, and equipment installation will follow. The project will support the next generation of the plant’s SUVs.
The 300 new positions are permanent ones, plant spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said, and 50 of them will be highly-skilled engineering positions.
The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed the most valuable export from each state based on data collected annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and thanks to Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes, Alabama’s largest export is cars and passenger vehicles.
Cars and passenger vehicles account for 34 percent of all state exports. In 2014, Alabama exported some $6.64 billion in autos, up about 2.8 percent from the previous year.
The review factored in the largest export as a share of a state’s total exports; a state’s exports as a share of all U.S. exports; and a state’s largest international trade partners, as well as employment figures.
AL.com reported that crews already have begun moving dirt for the project, which will include the construction of a new 1.3 million-square-foot body shop, the rebuilding of part of the existing body shop, an expansion of the SUV assembly shop, and various logistical and information technology upgrades.
Incentives for the project include $80 million in sales and property tax abatements over 20 years, according to the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.
Mercedes began producing vehicles at its Tuscaloosa County factory in 1997. Today, workers there build the GLE-Class SUV, which used to be called the M-Class, as well as the GL-Class SUV, C-Class sedan and GLE Coupe.