ZF Group: New Manufacturing Operations in South Carolina

During a recent meeting of the Laurens South Carolina Rotary Club, Dr. Ludger Reckmann, President/CEO of ZF Transmissions, presented the company’s plans for their new 8 speed transmission plant in Owing Industrial Park. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who introduced Dr. Reckmann, was also in attendance.

Earlier this year Gov. Mark Sanford and officials from the South Carolina Department of Commerce travelled to ZF Group’s corporate headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany, to meet with members of ZF’s Board of Management and to announce ZF’s plans to invest nearly $350 million in a new manufacturing facility in Laurens County to produce fuel-efficient automatic transmissions for the passenger car and light truck market. The facility will occupy all of Phase One of the Owings Industrial Park, located just off of I-385.

This will be an expansion for the ZF Group which already operates facilities in Lancaster and Duncan, South Carolina. The proximity to major transportation hubs, competitive business environment and skilled workforce are the driving forces for ZF’s growth in the state.

“ZF’s decision to make a jobs and capital investment of this magnitude, indeed the largest single infusion of jobs in the history of Laurens County, is an incredible compliment to our state. This announcement represents not only enormously good news for our state’s economy, but also is a telling dividend from our continued efforts to better the business climate in South Carolina. Our meeting with ZF today was productive and offered a real glimpse of what is headed to our state with ZF’s new operations, and I’d join with South Carolinians in thanking ZF for their investment. We are proud to count ZF among a growing and distinguished list of companies that have chosen to call South Carolina home,” said Gov. Mark Sanford.

“We are eager to build our fuel-efficient automatic transmissions in North America. We believe the increasing emphasis on fuel economy and our reputation for producing high-quality, fuel-efficient transmissions provide an unprecedented opportunity to grow our business. We believe this production facility could serve as a key driver of this growth,” says Dr. Gerhard Wagner, Group Executive of ZF’s Car Driveline Division.

Construction on the new Laurens County transmission plant is expected to begin in January 2011. Hiring is anticipated to begin in early 2012 for skilled positions that include CNC operators, assemblers, production and logistics. The state’s worker training program, readySC*, will assist in the hiring process. Information will be posted at www.sctechjobs.com as jobs become available. Marvin Moss, LCDC Exec. Director, stated that the majority of the jobs will start in the $15 per hour range.

The ZF Group first met with Marvin Moss, LCDC Executive Director, and County leaders back in July 2008. The project stalled when the economy started to dim. Moss stated that the ZF Group made contact again in May of this year and the project was resuscitated. Negotiations restarted which finally led to the recent announcement. Moss stated that ZF decided on Laurens County mainly for three reasons; the pro-business attitude of the Laurens County Council, the recent construction of a new million-gallon elevated water tank at the park by Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission and the fact that the property was a certified ready site.

With ZF Group moving into Owings Industrial Park, LCDC hopes that suppliers for the Company will be looking to relocate into the County. “The potential for this project is huge for the County,” said Moss. “It’s going to be a huge opportunity to bring in other supporting companies.” Chairman Coleman said County officials are already talking about and asking for the funds to establish Phase Two in Owings Industrial Park to create room for those supporting companies to be near the new ZF Group facility. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

ZF is the single, largest announcement ever of new jobs in Laurens County. ZF’s announcement hopefully will help to fade the loss of Fitesa, which announced a $120 million investment and 80 new jobs in October 2008, that never came to fruition. Fitesa’s demise may have been a blessing since ZF plans to occupy the entire Phase One property of Owings Industrial Park, which would not have been possible had Fitesa been able to fulfill their agreement. “Sometimes we want things to happen faster, but we have to be patient and good things will happen,” said Laurens County Council Chairman Jim Coleman. “Things have a way of working out.” “This is a big day for Laurens County,” said Coleman. “This is something we have worked hard on. It shows that we’re doing the right things and when we invest in ourselves, other people will come in to the County and invest with us.”

ZF is a leading worldwide automotive supplier for Driveline and Chassis Technology, with 123 production locations in 27 countries. In 2009, the ZF Group achieved sales of approximately 9.4 billion € with 60,000 employees. On the ranking list of automotive suppliers, ZF is ranked among the 10 largest automotive suppliers worldwide. For more information, visit www.zf.com.

The company is using HTI for employee recruitment. Interested parties can go to htijobs.com to apply.

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