A Malaysian company spending about $18 million to retrofit a factory in Waynesboro should be manufacturing copper products there by November, Rakesh Rathi, the company’s plant manager, told GlobalAtlanta.
ASTA Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Klang, Malaysia-based Metrod Group, will make a specialized type of copper wire for electric transformers at ASTA’s first U.S. plant. The 200,000-square-foot facility sits on a 50-acre site formerly occupied by Cummins Filtration and built originally for Kwikset, a door hardware manufacturer.

Mr. Rathi said that the renovations are going smoothly, and that the company is looking to hire about 100 employees when it starts operations.

Jerry Long, economic development director for Burke County, said company representatives have indicated that the number of jobs created could eventually rise to 300. With the substantial investment in the plant remodel, Mr. Rathi hopes that will be the case, but final employment levels will be determined based on the success of the facility.

Mr. Rathi said cutbacks in other parts of Georgia have made ASTA officials confident that they won’t have a problem attracting a quality labor force.

“We feel really good and that’s why we’re here. One thing is that we should be able to get very good people working here because many industries have laid off employees,” Mr. Rathi said.

He said machinery for the plant will be trickling in from Europe between June and September. ASTA is based in Austria and has a manufacturing facility there. Including ASTA, Metrod has factories in Austria, China and Malaysia and is soon to open one in India.

On March 19, Mr. Long and the city of Waynesboro hosted five Metrod officials including Pratik Basu, CEO and managing director of Metrod, and Dhirup Choudhary, ASTA’s executive director, for a function introducing the company to the community.

ASTA announced in December of last year that it had chosen Georgia as a place to reach out to existing U.S. customers, which include ABB Inc., a transformer manufacturer with revenues of $3.8 billion in 2005, and Siemens, among others.

“We hope to add significant value to our (North American) customers in terms of supply chain lead time, costs and also help them to meet the demands of their strong order book,” Lord Bagri, Metrod’s chairman, said at the time.

In November, Portuguese company EFACEC Group, which builds power substations, decided to invest $100 million to build a transformer manufacturing facility near Rincon, about 80 miles southeast of Waynesboro in Effingham County.

Mr. Rathi said the EFACEC plant didn’t play a role in ASTA’s decision to set up shop in Georgia. He cited the state’s competitive incentive package, workforce and highway infrastructure as the main attracting factors.

“We have already been supplying North American customers from our Austrian plants, and we want to continue those commitments,” he said.

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...