In officially announcing the Georgia’s largest Chinese investment to date, Gov. Nathan Deal also revealed that a factory heavy on automation will also create 1,000 jobs, many of them requiring highly skilled technicians.
Qingdao, China-based Sentury Tire will spend $530 million on a factory that will incorporate robotics and other technologies as it seeks to churn out 12 million tires per year.
The company’s first U.S. factory will complement plants in Qingdao and in Thailand, which have a combined production capacity of 27 million tires annually. Emerging in 2009, Sentury has become of the top 75 tire makers in the world and is among the top five in China. The Georgia location will also include sales, marketing and distribution functions.
About 100 of the 1,000 jobs set to be created by the plant will be within a planned research and development center. Perhaps even more so than in other sectors, tire makers have to constantly innovate to compete in a crowded and globally connected market.
Sentury’s investment was reported by Global Atlanta earlier this week, but Mr. Deal’s news release provided new details on the company’s plans and confirmed LaGrange, Ga., as the location for the factory.
One change from previous reporting: Finnish-born executive vice president leading the new expansion noted that the company does have ambitions to supply auto manufacturers, not just aftermarket dealers as Global Atlanta previously reported. The factory will be situated very close to the Kia Motors plant in Troup County.
“We are confident that Georgia has the infrastructure that can help us build a successful logistical operation to supply our growing aftermarket dealer sales and OEM sales to auto manufacturers in the North American market,” said Rami Helminen in a news release. We anticipate production to start in 2018 and will build up to our projected manufacturing capacity of 12 million passenger and light truck tires.”
China becomes the latest country with a presence in LaGrange, adding to the 10 already present in a community formerly strong in textiles that has carved a niche for itself in advanced manufacturing, said LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton.
Georgia has nearly 40 Chinese-owned facilities around the state. The announcement validates Georgia’s decision to put its Chinese investment office in Qingdao. While it’s the commercial center of a province of nearly 100 million people (Shandong), the city is better known for its most famous export (Tsingtao beer) than as a location for states looking to recruit Chinese investors. They generally opt for the better-known hubs of Beijing or Shanghai.