In addition to winning high-profile projects, both Alabama and South Carolina are experiencing organic growth from existing companies.
“We’ve witnessed and worked with some existing companies that are experiencing growth and expansion needs when it comes to their real estate,” says Philip Yost, vice president at CBRE’s Birmingham office.
Honda continues to grow its operations in Talladega County with a multi-phase project that will improve flexibility, strengthen efficiency and prepare for future technologies. The latest phase announced by the automaker is a $54.8 million expansion that will add more than 50,000 square feet at Alabama’s Line 2 operations. The expansion is slated for completion in early 2021.
In August, Burton Property Group (BPG) broke ground on a $75 million facility for all Continental Motors Group product lines dedicated to advanced engine and parts manufacturing. The new facility will be located at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, an industrial complex and airport in Mobile.
The facility will consolidate the aircraft engine manufacturer’s operations from 11 buildings situated on 45 acres to two buildings on approximately 20 acres. The buildings will total 275,000 square feet, with the majority being dedicated to aircraft engine and parts manufacturing. The facility is expected to be operational by 2020.
“The Continental Motors project was a result of the company’s growth in that community,” says Byers of Cushman & Wakefield/EGS. “The firm decided to consolidate its functions under one roof as opposed to many roofs. That allowed the company to continue to grow without necessarily adding a whole lot of people.”
Airbus’ Alabama factory is in line for 600 new jobs, thanks to a planned second assembly line for the Bombardier C Series jetliner. Airbus launched production of A320 Family aircraft at the Mobile manufacturing facility in 2015. The $600 million complex now produces four aircrafts a month and employs more than 400 people. “Airbus is the most active aerospace user in Alabama,” says Yost. “As it continues to expand and increases the number of plants that it’s building, you’re going to see continued growth. Whether it be suppliers or indirect users, they will be taking a more serious look at Mobile.”
South Carolina-based companies are expanding their operations as well. In September, Mercedes-Benz Vans, a division of Daimler AG, opened a new $500 million facility in North Charleston for the production of its Sprinter vans. The automaker has been at the North Charleston site since 2006, but this is the first time the company will build vehicles from scratch.
Until now, all Sprinter vans sold in the U.S. have been built in Germany and then disassembled and sent to North Charleston for reassembly. But as Sprinter sales took off in North America, Mercedes-Benz Vans started looking for a complete manufacturing site, eventually settling on its North Charleston location in 2015. The expansion of the production facility tripled the automaker’s footprint, which now spans nearly 10 million square feet.
Magna International, a mobility technology company and one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, is expanding its seat manufacturing plant in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. The company’s $8 million expansion is expected to create 130 new jobs. The company’s seat manufacturing plant supplies seats to BMW Group.
“Growth is not exclusively about bringing new companies into the state; it’s also about the successful expansion of companies after they locate in South Carolina,” says VonNessen.
“In recent years, employment and revenue growth have been outpacing firm growth in the aerospace industry, implying that existing firms are expanding,” he explains. “Manufacturers are entering South Carolina and then thriving once they are here.”