Turkish company Elastron was the latest foreign investor in Gainesville-Hall County before the VDL Groep announcement. Tim Evans, far left and standing, says the county is well-suited for manufacturers and their headquarters.

A Dutch industrial giant with capabilities in contract manufacturing and car and bus assembly is putting a $17 million factory in Hall County that will employ 110 people. 

VDL Groep, which operates 98 subsidiaries in 20 countries around the world and boasts more than 17,000 global employees, assembles cars on behalf of BMW in the Netherlands and is one of the largest bus makers in Europe. The company brought in about 3.2 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in sales last year.  

The factory in the Oakwood South industrial park will make precision metal components and machinery for supply chains of customers in food processing and other sectors. 

The company was originally scouting a location in the area to help serve one of its customers, Iceland-based Marel, a manufacturer of food processing equipment, says Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Evans added that VDL was initially looking to enter the U.S. market through an acquisition, but the “dialogue and relationship” that began there blossomed into a search for its own factory and North American headquarters location.

In years past, economic developers frowned on helping outside companies purchase their local firms, but Mr. Evans said the Hall chamber has been involved in such deals “to the extent they support existing industry.” 

In Hall County, 30 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing, about three times the national average. The community also has a strong history of metals manufacturing that has helped woo VDL and more than 50 other foreign subsidiaries in the automotive arena, life sciences and plastics. Gainesville is a major center for poultry processing, and its history in that industry has translated well into others. 

“The sweet spot for us is the company that wants both the North American headquarters and both engineering and manufacturing all in one location. That is definitely an area where we have a lot of strength,” Mr. Evans told Global Atlanta. 

Hall County officials have embraced their magnetism for foreign companies, the latest being Turkey with the arrival last year of Elastron, which makes thermoelastic polymer compounds that go into flexible, rubber-like plastic components. 

A group from the county visited Japan in 2016 with state officials in large part to thank tractor giant Kubota for its massive local investment. The chamber plans to lead a business mission to Europe this year, focusing heavily on Germany

“The reason we do that is to call on the headquarters of our existing companies and meet with the owners. In many cases these are family-owned industries. We thank them and listen to their future needs for North American expansion,” Mr. Evans said. 

VDL’s factory should be online by August. The company joins Dutch firms operating more than 100 facilities in Georgia employing more than 7,500 people, according to a statement from Gov. Nathan Deal. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...