Study: Autocar’s new Birmingham plant to have $645 million economic impact

Study: Autocar’s new Birmingham plant to have $645 million economic impact
Workers are already making trucks on the Autocar assembly line in Birmingham. (Bruce Nix / Alabama NewsCenter)

The new Autocar LLC truck assembly plant in Birmingham will lift the area economy by more than $645 million per year, which includes a boost to the state economy by $229 million annually, officials said.

An economic impact study from the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce Center for Business and Economic Research finds that today’s announcement from Autocar goes well beyond the $120 million in initial investment and the 746 jobs created by the company.

Gov. Kay Ivey joined company officials and local elected leaders along with economic developers to announce the Autocar project, which is already operating in half of a 1 million-square-foot facility in Pinson Valley.

“Alabama is a powerhouse in automotive manufacturing, and Autocar’s new heavy-duty truck assembly operation in Birmingham will add a new dimension to the state’s activities in this vital sector,” Ivey said. “The company is making a significant investment in its Alabama operation and creating the kind of well-paying jobs that are a priority of my administration as we declare that Alabama is open for business.”

Autocar assembly plant seen as major economic development win for Birmingham area and Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

All told, 2,655 direct and indirect jobs with more than $130 million in annual earnings will come from the Autocar project, the economic impact report found.

“We’re committed to bringing world-class companies like Autocar to Alabama, where they will discover an environment that allows them to flourish and find success,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We look forward to building a lasting partnership with the company and supporting its efforts to build another great ‘Made in Alabama’ product.”

Founded in 1897, Autocar is the oldest motor vehicle brand in the United States. It built America’s first truck in 1899 and pioneered many technical innovations now common in all cars and trucks. Autocar’s customers include major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Baltimore and Charlotte, most national waste-hauling fleets, and many of the largest retailers, food manufacturers and freight logistics companies in North America.

“You may not know our name, but you probably see our trucks several times a day,” said James Johnston, president of Autocar. “Some of our current Alabama customers include Cullman County, Houston County, Madison County, Waste Management, and Waste Connections and we’re looking forward to more opportunities with our city and state partners.”

Johnston told Birmingham, Center Point and Jefferson County officials to expect a sales call.

The former Meadowcraft buildings that now house Autocar’s operations are on property that is in both Birmingham and Center Point.

“I’m so excited, I may not be able to talk,” Center Point Mayor Tom Henderson said as he stepped up to the podium at this morning’s announcement at the Birmingham Business Alliance in downtown Birmingham.

“Autocar’s decision to locate a plant here is an important win for the Center Point community,” he said. “Not only does this fill a previously empty building and provide jobs for our citizens, it also will have an impact that will be felt for a long time in Center Point and in the surrounding area. The city’s infrastructure, education system and much more will reap the benefits of Autocar’s decision to produce its trucks here.”

Henderson presented Autocar Chairman Andrew Taitz with a key to the city.

“We’ve appreciated your fine Alabama hospitality from the day we stepped foot here,” Taitz said. “I would like to express our appreciation for the productive partnership we’ve developed with the state, county, cities, Alabama Power, and for the strong support throughout from BBA. Your efforts played a key role in enabling us to embark upon this landmark initiative for both Autocar and Birmingham.”

Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington lauded the teamwork that won the Autocar project.

“These new, high-paying manufacturing jobs are a direct result of the tireless, cooperative efforts of the company, the state, the county and the cities of Center Point and Birmingham,” Carrington said. “We are confident that Autocar’s suppliers will find a welcoming environment here as well.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said Autocar builds on a vital industry for this part of the state.

“The automotive industry is strong in the Birmingham region and we look forward to working with Autocar on its future growth and with its suppliers looking to locate here,” Bell said. “Our strong workforce and unmatched quality of life have helped us attract yet another world-class company.”

Autocar’s Taitz agreed with Bell that those were factors and the Pinson Valley site had the “whole package” compared to other sites in other states the company considered.

“This project represents a significant expansion of Autocar’s existing operations, which we were able to accelerate to meet rapid growth,” Taitz said. “I can tell you that we conducted a comprehensive review of many possible states and locations, and Birmingham was selected as the most attractive destination for our new facility for a number of reasons.”

Taitz listed access to a great business environment, strong state and local government leaders, a skilled workforce, proximity to customers and suppliers, reliable production resources and world-class educational institutions (“all of whom field premier football teams, as I understand,” he said).

Dr. Ray Watts, president of UAB and chairman of the BBA, said he was pleased to hear Autocar’s remarks about workforce and competitive cost of doing business.

“Autocar’s decision helps validate what we’ve known all along, that the Birmingham region provides a superior labor force, an unmatched quality of life and a significantly lower cost of doing business, not just for manufacturing but for all types of businesses,” Watts said. “We are proud to welcome Autocar to the growing family of premier corporate citizens in our area.”

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