A newly formed automotive organization in Kentucky wants to help the industry speak with a unified voice.
Dave Tatman is now head of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association, following 34 years with General Motors. The former plant manager of the Bowling Green G.M. plant believes too many people are unaware of the importance the industry has on the state’s economy.
"So we've got to create that kind of brand identity for Kentucky as the place to do business for automotive businesses, not only for the ones that are here, but the ones that are considering coming here,” Tatman said. “I think North America is searching for the next automotive cluster outside of Detroit and I think we could be that."
Given the already sizeable presence in the state held by G.M., Ford, and Toyota, Tatman doubts the commonwealth will land another major automaker.
"But, I think our best opportunities exist in really, two fold, in growth of existing businesses because the automotive market continues to expand and do well throughout the globe, so growth of our existing businesses and then attracting new supplier businesses to the Commonwealth."
Kentucky ranks third nationally in light vehicle production, with the state’s automotive exports reaching a record $5.5 billion last year.
Ground was broken Wednesday for the Warren County-based Kentucky Transpark's fifth speculative building in the past seven years.
All four previous buildings have been sold to manufacturers after being on the market for less than a year. The first spec building was bought in 2007 by American Howa Kentucky before ground was broken.
Most recently, Austrian-based plastic packaging company Alpla, Inc. purchased the fourth Speculative Building , bringing $22.3 million in capital investment and 72 new full-time jobs to the region. The Transpark employs more than 1,100 total.
An automotive supplier is opening a plant in south central Kentucky that will create more than 100 jobs. Germany-based Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems will build a new manufacturing facility in Russell Springs, creating 155 full-time jobs and investing $29 million dollars in the commonwealth.
Dr. Schneider produces parts for companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, and Volkswagen.
Russell Springs was chosen over 69 other potential sites adding to Kentucky’s growing list of foreign investors.
“At the end of an intensive selection process, we decided to choose Russell Springs,” said Wilhelm Wirth, member of the Dr. Schneider board of directors. “The decisive factors included the quality and expandability of the facility and the competitive location costs.
The announcement marks the third German-owned company to locate in the commonwealth this year, all three of which serve the auto industry.
So far this year, Kentucky ranks third nationally for light vehicle production and first on a per capita basis.
General Motors says it is investing $350 million and will create and retain at least 1,800 jobs at its plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
While the automaker isn’t saying what new vehicles will be made at the plant, GM announced Tuesday that it will add two midsize vehicle programs to the facility, making good on a promise to the United Auto Workers union during negotiations in 2011.
The Tennessean reports that some analysts have suggested the vehicles might be the Cadillac SRX, which is currently made in Mexico, and the Buick Anthem, which GM has in development. The Spring Hill plant served as the headquarters and main assembly facility for GM’s now-defunct Saturn brand before production was halted in 2009.
The UAW says the jobs generated by the new auto production will be filled mainly by local hires, as opposed to the union’s normal practice of transferring displaced workers from other areas.
The news comes on the heels of a recent report showing Tennessee is, for a fourth consecutive year, ranked No. 1 in automotive manufacturing strength in the nation.