A French plastics firm disqualified Atlanta last year as a possible site for a manufacturing plant for auto parts because the city did not satisfy national air quality standards, said company president Jacques Jaubert.

The president of Plastic Omnium Industries, Inc., Mr. Jaubert said that Atlanta’s designation as “a non-attainment area” for air quality control forced his firm to consider Athens, Gainesville and Anderson S.C., where the plant was built and production is expected to begin this month.

The paint that Plastic Omnium uses contains compounds that would harm the atmosphere in a 13-county region around Atlanta that has been designated as a non-attainment area because of its high ozone levels, Mr. Jaubert explained.  A non-attainment area is a zone that fails to meet standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although Gainesville’s inaccessibility to rail lines disqualified it early on, Athens was considered “the best city we had been dealing with,” he said.  He added that the city offered 1,000 free nights in Athens hotels.

Anderson was selected, however, because of a concerted effort of then-governor of South Carolina, Carroll Campbell, who met in France with the founder of Plastic Omnium’s parent company, Pierre Burelle.

Company executives were particularly swayed by Mr. Campbell’s pledge to personally “take care of” any outstanding problems the firm had with Anderson’s bid, Mr. Jaubert said.

Mr. Jaubert spoke to Atlanta business leaders at a French American Chamber of Commerce reception held at 103 West July 11.