Hall County, 60-plus miles northeast of Atlanta, has long been a magnet for international companies with 15 from Germany topping a list of 50 foreign firms operating there.
Already dominant, two German-owned companies – Bitzer U.S. Inc. and ZF Industries Inc. – celebrated expansions earlier this month with a third – Atlanta Biologicals Inc. — to begin operations by the end of the year.
In 2005, Bitzer U.S., a manufacturer of compressors for commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems, opened a plant that has seen the demand for its products grow at a 35-percent compounded annual rate, according to its president, Peter Narreau.
The original 45,000 square-foot facility has been joined by a new $10 million, 95,000-square-foot facility within walking distance in Oakwood, a small city that is part of the Gainesville metropolitan statistical area. Fifty new employees are to join the 120 already there.
Explaining the reasons for Bitzer’s success during the new facility’s opening on June 4, Dick Mecum, chair of the Hall County Commission, reportedly quipped to the approval of the attendees, “We in the South love our air conditioning.”
The Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce showed its appreciation earlier by naming Bitzer the 2013 Industry of the Year.
The opening ceremonies brought the company’s chairman and CEO from Sindelfingen, Germany, and his board of directors, who met with the local officials.
The next day, June 5, ZF Industries, which first arrived in 1986, celebrated the opening of its third facility in the county.
Its first facility in Gainesville, the county seat, was the company’s first in North America and built manual transmissions for Ford pickup trucks.
ZF Industries then increased its products to include gearboxes for off-highway equipment such as front-end and backhoe loaders. It also began to make axle drives for the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and General Motors.
The new products required a second facility, which is now complemented by a third, which is dedicated to the manufacture of gearboxes for windpower stations, marking the company’s branching out into the renewable energy sector.
During the opening ceremony, Franz-Josef Ambruster, head of the commercial vehicle, power-train modules unit of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, located in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, called the new facility the “cornerstone” of the business unit’s future growth.
ZF Industries currently has 550 employees in the county. The new plant brings the number of North American sites to 22 manufacturing locations with 16 in the U.S. and six in Mexico.
In addition to the boost Hall County’s economy gets from these German companies, it will benefit further from the opening of a 36,000-square-foot facility in the fall by Atlanta Biologicals Inc.
Atlanta Biologicals researches and manufacturers cell culture products for the biomedical and pharmaceutical industry.
The private German group will invest at least $7 million to provide 30 new jobs at what is to be its North American headquarters for research, development and production.
To learn more about foreign firms in Hall County, call Tim Evans, vice president economic development, Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, at 770-532-6206 or send an email to [email protected].