German automotive supplier Gerhardi Kunststofftechnik GmbH announced today it will build its first North American manufacturing plant in Montgomery, investing $37.9 million and creating 235 jobs.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange speaks at the Gerhardi announcement this morning. (contributed)

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange speaks at the Gerhardi announcement this morning. (contributed)

“Alabama’s leading advance industry is the automotive industry, and it’s closely followed by the aerospace industry, which has grown tremendously thanks to Alabama’s involvement in the Farnborough Airshow this week and others in previous years,” Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement from London. “This week, while I’m continuing Alabama’s aerospace mission in London, I’m honored to welcome Gerhardi’s first U.S. automotive supplier plant to Montgomery. We look forward to forging a strong and lasting partnership with the company.”

The company chose a 50-acre site in the Montgomery Industrial Park off Interstate 85 between Montgomery and Auburn.

“This is a great opportunity for Gerhardi and we are very excited,” said Gerhardi Managing Director Reinhard Hoffman. “Montgomery Industrial Park offers a great infrastructure, attractive support and is located close to many OEMs. These benefits convinced us that this is the best place for our new facility.”

OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers, are the auto plants that produce the cars, trucks and SUVs like Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai in Alabama.

Gerhardi produces parts through injection molding, advanced electroplating and hot stamping. The company makes radiator grilles, handles and chrome trims for automakers around the world.

Montgomery is home to the Hyundai plant and several Hyundai and Kia suppliers. Greg Canfield, Alabama secretary of Commerce, said Gerhardi makes for a nice addition to the capital city.

“Montgomery has assembled a robust network of Asian auto suppliers to service the Hyundai assembly operation,” Canfield said. “As a German company, Gerhardi adds another dimension to Montgomery’s auto supply chain, along with 235 new jobs.”

Gerhardi will build its new plant on the 50-acre site in the northwest corner of the Montgomery Industrial Park. (EDPA)

Gerhardi will build its new plant on the 50-acre site in the northwest corner of the Montgomery Industrial Park. (EDPA)

Company officials were joined by those from the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce along with state and local leaders in making the announcement at the site this morning.

“This is a tremendous win for Montgomery,” Mayor Todd Strange said. “Gerhardi could have chosen any place in North America to locate this facility and they chose the ‘Capital of Dreams.’ This shows that we are not only excelling nationally, we are also continuing to boost our global presence.”

Construction on the new Gerhardi plant will begin in 2017 and production is expected to start in 2019.

“It goes without saying that in terms of economic development this is a victory for Montgomery, but equally significant is why we were chosen,” said Montgomery Chamber Chairman Bruce Crawford. “In Montgomery, they saw a place that could uphold their high standards of excellence. It is certainly exciting to know that we are part of an organization so firmly rooted in the future.”

Blair King, economic development project manager with Alabama Power who worked on the Gerhardi recruitment, said the company represents an important component to the auto industry’s momentum.

“The growth in Alabama’s automotive sector has been so impressive not only because of the continued expansion of our OEMs, but also with the expansion and addition of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers,” King said. “The addition of great companies like Gerhardi speaks to the real health and momentum of the auto industry in this state with another German company putting their first facility outside Germany, in Alabama.”

Gerhardi, founded in 1796 and headquartered in Lüdenscheid, started out making brass and copper buckles before expanding into tea and coffee sets. By 1952, it turned its focus to making parts for the auto industry. It now makes interior and exterior components at four plants throughout Germany, employing 1,400 workers.

“This is a company that has both a rich history and a solid reputation for being on the cutting edge of the future. Their investment in the River Region speaks volumes about what we have to offer,” said Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean.  “We are able to land projects of this magnitude because we work together as a community. Now Gerhardi is part of that community and we will do everything we can to support our new friend and partner.”