MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey announced today that International Automotive Components Group North America, Inc. (IAC) plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.
IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. The project will create 119 jobs at the production site at 15911 Progress Drive in Cottondale.
In addition, IAC plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located at 318 Pappy Dunn Boulevard in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston, creating 63 jobs. The project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility, whose primary product is automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems, and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.
“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Governor Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”
“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” said Nick Skwiat, IAC executive vice president and president of IAC North America. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”
IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.
Headquartered in Luxembourg, IAC has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. Besides Alabama, the company operates manufacturing facilities in seven other U.S. states.
“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”
Officials in Tuscaloosa and Calhoun counties welcomed the company’s expansion plans.
“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” said Danielle Winningham, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”
“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” Mayor Jack Draper said. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”
Oxford’s Bridgewater Interiors Announces $10 Million Expansion
Oxford, AL- The Calhoun County Economic Development Council (EDC) is pleased to announce a $10 million expansion that will create 35 new jobs in Oxford. Bridgewater Interiors, a tier one automotive supplier, made the commitment official during the Oxford City Council meeting on Tuesday evening.
“After 16 years of successful operations in Calhoun County, Bridgewater Interiors is very pleased to embark on this next phase of growth and enhancement of our manufacturing footprint. We highly value our relationship with the Calhoun County EDC, and their support and collaboration on this project is instrumental in allowing us to bring good-paying jobs and economic opportunities to the region,” says John R. Cloud, CFO for Bridgewater Interiors, LLC. “The Calhoun County EDC has been in negotiations with Bridgewater Interiors on the proposed expansion for the last several months, said Larry Deason, board chairman of the Calhoun County EDC, and we are proud to have an industry of their caliber here in Calhoun County.”
The project includes an investment in machinery and equipment, increase in headcount, and a building expansion to support additional warehousing needs. “This expansion allows Bridgewater to continue growing, while establishing an infrastructure to meet customer demand,” says Kelvin Wright, plant manager at BWI’s Oxford facility.
Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County EDC explains the importance of teamwork to make a project work. “We could not have gotten this project done without Mayor Alton Craft and Oxford’s City Council. They continue to support the EDC and our local manufacturing industries, allowing us to bring new jobs into the region,“ said Hopper. Also proud of the expansion is Mayor Craft. “Industry plays a vital role in the City of Oxford, and seeing Bridgewater Interiors’ new $10 million expansion brings us great joy. This expansion means 35 new jobs for 35 families. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry in Oxford is continuing to grow and give families opportunities for a financial breakthrough, and that is celebrated by all of us. Thank you to the Calhoun County EDC and Bridgewater for their continued dedication and hard work in growing Oxford and families’ economic vitality that live here,” says Craft.
Bridgewater Interiors, which manufactures the seat systems for the Honda Pilot and Honda Passport produced nearby in Lincoln, opened in 2003 and currently employs more than 350 people.
Skilled Industrial Job Fair
The first in-person social distancing job fair was a huge success.
377 hourly AND salary job seekers.
Plans are being made now for the next fair.
11 industries/3 Staffing Agencies
Anniston Army Depot
Koch Foods Gadsden
Southern Metal Processing
The Skilled Industrial Job Fair held June 10 at the Oxford Civic Center brought 377 hourly and salary job seekers. A total of 11 manufacturing companies and 3 staffing agencies took hundreds of resumes over the 4 hour period, with nearly half receiving job offers. It was a huge win for Calhoun County, and plans are already in the works to host another industrial job fair.
Assistant Oxford Fire Chief Ben Stewart played a huge role in the successful planning and execution of the event. “It was such a pleasure to be part of this team that helped put the job fair together after the wave of job loss across our region. I was impressed by how fast it all came together after my initial meeting with Oxford’s Mayor Alton Craft, where he first mentioned this event. I want to thank Lorie Denton, the Director of Business Development at Calhoun County Economic Development Council, for kickstarting this event so quickly. I would also like to thank everyone for their hard work and willingness to work together to make this event successful.”-Asst. Chief Ben Stewart
“The Industrial Skilled Job Fair was a huge success. 377 people came through the Job Fair, and it took a lot of people from many different organizations to make that happen. Seeing everyone work together for the common good of others was a breath of fresh air. We look forward to hosting many other job fairs in the future.” – Mayor Alton Craft
A special thank you is deserved to everyone who attended the job fair, from the industries who supported this event as well as the people that arrived and showed patience while we practiced Covid-19 guidelines.
Missed the fair? Check out the careers tab on any of the participating industries websites. Make sure to follow the Calhoun County Economic Development Council’s FB page to stay informed about future events!
City of Oxford Calhoun County EDC Alabama Power Calhoun County Chamber City of Anniston
East Alabama Works GSCC JSU
One word is all Cody Grammer, operational excellence manager with Calderys, needs to describe the company’s relationship with the JSU Center for Manufacturing Support (CMS). That word is professionalism.
“From the moment we first interacted with the team at the CMS,” Grammer said, “we knew right away that this team cared a lot about satisfaction for their customers and truly wanted to make a difference in the surrounding communities.”
Based in Jacksonville, Calderys provides customized refractory solutions to companies around the world. Calderys is a subsidiary of Imerys, the world leader in mineral-based solutions.
“We get our raw materials from minerals that are mined from the ground from various sites across the globe and use different recipes of those minerals to create an engineered, high-performing monolithic product,” Grammer said. “We then take that monolithic product and use it to create refractory shapes for our customers, mostly to line a furnace.”
As part of JSU’s Department of Applied Engineering, the CMS advances engineering practices in regional industries while providing practical learning experiences for JSU students. It also offers an avenue for applied research and education in areas of critical importance to manufacturing industries.
“We help them find better ways to manufacture their products,” explained CMS director Matt Rosser, “and they can invest in the technology that works best for their needs.”
The CMS currently employs three engineers and five engineering students. In addition to Rosser, who was named director in January, the team includes manufacturing engineers Natalia Esparragoza and William Thornton. The center has established relationships with the Anniston Army Depot, Alabama Specialty Products, Carmin Industries, Georgia Tech University, UAB and Calderys.
Grammer was introduced to Rosser and the CMS by Lorie Denton, director of business development for the Calhoun County Economic Development Council. Denton suggested that members of the Calderys leadership team attend an open house CMS was hosting. From that first meeting, a partnership was born.
“We have some of the same technology used by NASA,” Rosser said. That includes laser etching and engraving, machining and fabrication, molding and finishing equipment, robotics, and 3D printers for both plastics and metals.
It was the 3D printers that were integral in assisting Calderys. In its precast shop, where the company manufactures refractory shapes, workers use a lot of molds and re-usable inserts for pouring. Because of this, numerous suppliers from all over the country provide the them with different types of inserts made from various types of material. The process requires taking the mold and the insert and greasing them up well, so the refractory will release from the mold easily. Once the material is set-up in the mold, it’s removed. Sometimes these inserts are destroyed in the process and can’t be reused for months. That’s where CMS comes in.
“I sat down with Matt and explained to him my needs. and we came up with the idea to 3D print some inserts for some of our smaller pieces,” Grammer said. “This collaboration has saved Calderys time and money by being able to have the 3D printed inserts done much quicker than we could order some from another suppliers.”
With its limited amount of resources, CMS focuses on quality over quantity. “We’re making sure that the projects we take on aren’t the easy ones, the ones that just anybody can do,” Rosser said. “We’re wanting to challenge ourselves.”
According to National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), manufacturers in Alabama account for 17 percent of the total output in the state, employing 13 percent of the workforce. Total output from manufacturing was $37.98 billion in 2018 with an average of 267,000 manufacturing employees.
“Alabama is a manufacturing state, and that’s why we’re here,” Rosser said. “In this global economy, if you’re not advancing, you’re falling behind. Companies like Calderys are looking for someone to lean on. Someone that’ll help them be more efficient.”
The relationship between Calderys and the CMS is steadily evolving. “We have been able to send more detailed designs to them,” Grammer said, “and they have 3D printed specifically to our engineering designs.”
Calderys recently hosted the CMS team to show them its operations so they would better understand the company’s needs. Calderys also offered an internship where students could spend the summer working in the precast shop.
“It is easier for us to have someone working on this full-time, because I am not able to focus solely on it,” Grammer said, “and it would give the students at the CMS the ability to get some hands-on experience to carry with them upon graduation.”
Obviously, it’s the students who ultimately benefit from such relationships the CMS is fostering within the manufacturing industry.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Rosser added. “The student workers are getting a valuable experience and they don’t even realize it. They’re getting to work with equipment and technology that’s brand new, stuff they might not see anywhere else.”
By educating a new generation of workers, JSU and the CMS is continuing to strengthen Alabama’s manufacturing industry. “Alabama has a lot of opportunity for these types of jobs and not enough young adults to fill them.”
The EDC is fortunate to work with someone like Nathan who has such a great reputation with the Anniston Army Depot as well as our congressional delegation. Congratulations Nathan, and thank you for all of the hard work you continue to do for Calhoun County.
Local leaders say Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Economic Development Council for nearly two decades, played a key role in landing future repair work for the Army.
In the last year, Nathan Hill fought a battle for the future of Anniston Army Depot.
Not with bullets, but with bullet points.
One by one, Hill approached political leaders to remind them of what the depot does. In simple terms.
It’s the place where almost all of America’s armored vehicles come to be repaired, Hill told them. The work gets done cheaper and faster than at other plants, he said. And there’s room for more.
Local leaders say Hill, who has been the military liaison for the Calhoun County Economic Development Council for nearly two decades, played a key role in getting the Pentagon to name Anniston as the future repair depot for the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle, a new generation of armored vehicle that the Army is just beginning to build.
For his work on that effort, Hill was named The Anniston Star’s 2020 Citizen of the Year. Executive Editor Anthony Cook made the surprise presentation at Thursday’s annual meeting of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s not so much about what the AMPV means for Anniston now,” Greg Potts, Hill’s colleague on a state military stability board said in an earlier interview. “The really important thing is what this means for Anniston 30 or 40 years from now.”
Hill grew up in Jacksonville, and his career is a case study in just how tightly the Army is woven into the local economy. His father, Richard, worked at the depot, a massive 15,000-acre facility where thousands of civilians, under the command of Army officers, repair and rebuild small arms, tanks and other armored vehicles.
After a stint in the Air Force, Hill too came to work at the depot, first as a civilian accountant, then in a series of other administrative jobs, rising to the post of deputy commander back in the 1990s, when the “commander” title could be applied to civilian and military administrators alike.
He saw the depot through the 1990s Base Realignment and Closure, when Congress pared back America’s military bases to fit the needs of the post-Cold-War world. That process closed Fort McClellan, the Army training base that had been the economic backbone of the community.
Fighting off losses
Across town from McClellan, though, the depot came through the BRAC unharmed.
Workers still stream into the depot at the start of every shift, as do transfer trucks carrying tanks and APCs on trailers. Most residents never see the massive workshops where those tanks are refurbished, but they’re in many ways the heart of the local economy, employing more people in Anniston than any other enterprise.
There’s always work to do at the depot, because tanks and weapons face routine wear and tear, but global conflict and domestic politics have a huge sway over the amount of work that comes through Anniston. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought the depot a grim windfall, as battle-damaged vehicles returned to be fixed.
Drawdown in those wars, nearly a decade ago, cost the depot hundreds of jobs. Contracts to supply weapons to other countries, such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia, helped bring some of those jobs back.
The only other way to bring new jobs to the depot is to take on repair of some type of new vehicle. That’s why local leaders took notice when the Army announced its plan to phase out the M113, a Vietnam-era personnel carrier, and replace it with a new creation, the AMPV.
Anniston is where the M113 comes for repairs, but there was no guarantee Anniston would be tapped for work on the new vehicle.
The biggest problem: The new vehicle would be based on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which goes to Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, for repairs. And Texarkana sits near three other states — Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana — each with its own senators and congressmen, able to lobby for work in their backyards.
Building for the future
Hill says he began contacting the area’s lawmakers about the AMPV about five years ago, when it was still largely a footnote in defense discussions on Capitol Hill.
“We tried to tell them that this is a big thing for Anniston,” Hill said.
The trick, depot advocates say, was making the pitch simple.
“This is a 50,000-word essay, but Nathan has to get it down to one page if he wants to convince people in Washington,” said Potts.
Hill did exactly that, rendering the case down to simple points that could be fit on a single page.
His message: Anniston already repairs most of the nation’s combat vehicles. The depot has been cost-effective, according to past evaluations by DoD officials. And it has room to take on more work.
Hill took that message to Montgomery, securing the support of Gov. Kay Ivey, who wrote to Congress about the issue using points largely drawn from Hill, according to depot advocates. And he kept making those points to DoD officials and lawmakers — being careful to stick just to arguments about what Anniston can do for the Army.
“What we wanted to do was make it as apolitical as possible,” he said.
Depot advocates say Hill, with his voluminous knowledge of the depot, was the best person for that job.
“He’s extremely knowledgeable,” said Robert LaBranche, director of the state’s Military Stability Commission. “He has all the facts and figures in his head.”
The next fight
The depot finally landed the AMPV work in May. Hill is cautious about estimates of how many jobs it will create — but for him, the point is that Anniston will have those jobs well into the middle of this century.
The AMPV will have to accumulate some wear and tear before it even comes to Anniston, but beginning in the 2030s, repairing the vehicle will be an industry here.
While Anniston waits for that work, the depot is also seeing smaller victories. The Pentagon in 2017 announced it would move the center for repairing military locomotives from Hill Air Force Base in Utah to Anniston, bringing 33 civilian jobs. That new center seemed to be on hold last year when President Donald Trump raided military construction funds to pay for construction on a border wall.
Hill last week said it’s still possible the project could move forward without delay, with defense officials looking for other money that could pay for the needed construction.
“It should be on schedule,” he said.
Depot advocates say they don’t expect another round of the cutbacks known as BRAC — but if there were one, they say, the depot is in a good position to come out with more work, not less. Despite the loss of the fort in the mid-1990s BRAC, the depot has fared well.
“To those who were here in the pre-1995 days I’m sure it seems like you’re in a valley,” LaBranche said. “But the growth at the depot has been steady since then.”
The Army last week announced that it was canceling its bids for another proposed new vehicle, a self-driving armored personnel carrier that would have been a replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It’s a project Defense Secretary Mark Esper alluded to in a visit to the depot last year.
Depot advocate Potts said it’s too early to say whether the robo-Bradley project is truly dead or simply headed back to the drawing board.
“I’m not going to speculate,” he said. “It’s too soft and gooey to worry about now.”
Hill, however, has already been thinking about building the case for bringing a future vehicle here.
Potts said there’s nobody better to be in charge of making the case for the installation.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without Nathan’s leadership,” he said.
Auto Custom Carpets, Inc. is the largest manufacturer of automotive replacement carpet in the world and they are relocating to Oxford with a $5.13 million capital investment. ACC was landlocked at their current Anniston locations and desperately needed to expand. When they learned that the old Hager Hinge building on Hwy 78 W in Oxford was possibly available, work began between ACC, the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, and the City of Oxford to help keep ACC employees here in Calhoun County. Currently the company is split into 4 separate locations across the county, as well as a warehouse located in Georgia. Due to the efforts of all three parties, Calhoun County is now able to keep those jobs, plus some, by consolidating into one large warehouse. According to Don Hopper, Executive Director for the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, the alternative could have been us having to watch them relocate to another county, or even state, to find adequate accommodations. “We are proud that ACC calls Calhoun County home. The EDC discussed the project and we wanted to do everything we could to keep ACC in our area,” Hopper says. “This is just another example of how working with existing industry can help our area grow. The partnership with the Company, the City of Oxford, and the EDC has worked seamlessly.”
On December 17, 2019, ACC and the EDC asked the Oxford City Council to abate the noneducational sales and use taxes, as well as property taxes for the next 10 years. Because of this joint effort, 140 plus jobs are now staying in Calhoun County.
Ken Howell, president and CEO of Auto Custom Carpets, and president of the Oxford City Schools Education Foundation, explains that the improvements and updates to the old Hager building will be extensive, but the company hopes to have all operations under one roof shipping out product in less than three years.
Keith Howell, vice-president of Auto Custom Carpets explains, “Auto Custom Carpets, Inc. is a family and employee owned company. We have family that are employees and employees that have become our family. We are very excited that the Hager Hinge property will provide the opportunity for all of us to be in one Calhoun County location. ACC is immensely grateful for the help we received from Don Hopper, Lorie Denton, and the Calhoun County Economic Development Council. We also appreciate the Oxford City Council’s assistance and support for our expansion. We look forward to our new Oxford home and the possibilities it will present.”
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today released the following statement in response to the U.S. Army’s announcement designating the Anniston Army Depot (ANAD) as the primary Depot Source of Repair (DSOR) for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV). This selection was based on evaluation criteria which examined facilities, labor force, experience, stability, and depot-level repairable capabilities.
“The Army’s decision to select Anniston Army Depot for this work highlights the Depot’s world-class workforce, first-rate facilities, and proven track record of combat vehicle repairs,” said Senator Shelby. “This contract will preserve and expand ANAD’s role in maximizing our military readiness for generations to come. I am confident that this announcement will shape the future of Anniston and bring significant economic growth to the region.”
The AMPV is replacing the Vietnam-era M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, of which vehicle repairs are currently assigned to ANAD. The Army plans to spend billions of dollars to buy thousands of AMPVs. The AMPV will be faster and have stronger armor than the M113. Repairs that will take place at the Anniston facility will optimize existing capabilities of the vehicle while also maximizing military readiness.
Senator Shelby has proactively led efforts over the past year to promote the work in Anniston, having had multiple conversations with Army Secretary Mark Esper, as well as sending a letter to Esper highlighting the importance of these repairs taking place at ANAD.
ANAD has roughly 3,600 employees and an economic impact of over $1 billion, making the Depot the largest employer in Calhoun County
The City of Oxford proudly hosted our region’s largest career showcase event at the Oxford Civic Center March 12-14. Worlds of Work, also known as WOW, welcomed over 8,ooo 8th and 11th graders from seven counties throughout the three day period. The mission behind such a large scale event is to equip students with one more tool in their toolbox when it comes to deciding their future career path. They were given hands-on opportunities to try out different types of skilled trade careers which are highlighted in ten career ‘worlds’- Agriculture & Natural Resources, Automotive & Manufacturing, Communication and Media, Construction, Energy & Utilities, Engineering, Healthcare, Information Technology, Public Service, and Transportation.
Worlds of Work Committee leaders say they continue to see success in changing a sometimes negative career stereotype into a positive one as soon as the students, teachers, and parents have the opportunity to learn more about skilled trades. Most students and educators are surprised to learn that manufacturing requires a wide range of educational levels. Line workers, industrial maintenance technicians, robotics engineers, human resource specialists, accountants, welders, managers, quality control, plant operator, industrial engineers, and diesel mechanics are a small sampling of what types of career can be held within our manufacturing industries. In order for that industry to operate successfully, they need employees with a high school diploma, career technical skills, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and/or a master’s degree. In no way should anyone feel that it must be one or the other. It can be both!
This year a new portion was added to Worlds of Work- WOW Connected. Taking place on the afternoon of March 13 between 2 and 5pm, WOW Connected created an opportunity for everyone to ‘connect’ our future workforce to existing opportunities. Parents, students, and educators, as well as the general public, had an opportunity to explore each career world spread across the Civic Center’s campus while visiting with employers, recruiters and career coaches, ‘connecting’ success for everyone. Throughout the first two days of WOW, committee co-chairs for WOW Connected Lorie Denton with the Calhoun County EDC and Jacki Lowry with Alabama Power, used the power of social media to take the public on live tours of the career worlds to draw the community in for the event. Those who took advantage of the opportunity were able to learn more about the endless opportunities for high paying, local jobs, and how to make sure they were on the correct pathway to open those doors. The feedback from those industries participating said they were very pleased with the turnout and felt like they had genuine conversations with those interested in pursuing a career with their companies. Many came with resumes in hand, leaving with an interview on their calendar.
Also part of this event is the annual VIP breakfast held on the Civic Center grounds. This year attendees heard from guest speakers Tommy Glasscock, assistant state Superintendent of Education in the Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development Division and Oxford’s Mayor Alton Craft. Each spoke to the business leaders, superintendents, and elected officials in attendance about the importance of spreading the word about skilled trade and career technical careers. Mayor Craft echoed his former boss and Oxford Mayor Leon Smith, calling the people of Oxford ‘remarkable’ for seeing this event as a need to continue Oxford’s industrial growth.
We are proud of the success we continue to see through the Economic Development Council’s creation of industry tours for Calhoun County educators, helping to bridge the gap for our manufacturing workforce pipeline. Since July of 2017, along with the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, we have taken over 300 educators into more than 15 local industries. On Monday, we completed our 9th tour, taking guidance counselors from the Calhoun County School System into Associated Metalcast, M&H Valve, Carmin Industries, and Parker Hannifin.
We believe this a tangible way to communicate the abundance of career opportunities to our future workforce through their schools. Most educators spend the majority of their lives in a classroom, making it extremely difficult to communicate to their students what opportunities await them inside local industries. At age 5, teachers begin as students in an elementary classroom, continuing all the way through college in a classroom. Upon graduation, they return to begin their career in a classroom. That is why each educator is so excited about these opportunities. It is allowing many of them to see things that they just couldn’t be aware of. The better first-hand knowledge we can provide our educators, communicates direct success to their students–Calhoun County’s future workforce.
The EDC believes there is a true value to quality over quantity. By intentionally organizing these tours to focus on smaller groups, allows for educators and industrial managers to begin forming relationships between one another that are crucial for economic growth in Calhoun County. These efforts have shown us that this was an unmet need, and we are seeing many partnerships already formed between local schools and manufacturing industries.
None of this could be possible without the excellent partnerships with our industries who have graciously opened their doors. Thank you to the following industries who continue to host educators:
Southern Custom Exhibits
Together we are making Calhoun County better, one job at a time.