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German transmission maker plans $350M SC plant

Last updated July 22, 2010 8:39 a.m. PT
German transmission maker plans $350M SC plant

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Automotive supplier ZF Group will spend $350 million on a transmission plant in South Carolina that will create 900 jobs beginning in 2012.

Friedrichshafen, Germany,-based ZF said Thursday it would supply fuel-efficient transmissions for passenger cars and the light truck market from the plant being built in Laurens County, near Owings.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said it was the largest single jobs announcement ever for Laurens County, where an 11.5 percent jobless rate in June tied it for 26th among the state's 46 counties.

"This announcement represents not only enormously good news for our state's economy, but also is a telling dividend from our continued efforts to better the business climate in South Carolina," Sanford said in a news release after meeting with ZF leaders in Friedrichshafen. Sanford has been traveling in Europe on a trade mission this week with stops at the Farnborough Airshow near London and in Switzerland and France.

Gerhard Wagner, who runs ZF's Car Driveline Division, said emphasis on fuel economy is creating demand. "We believe this production facility could serve as a key driver of this growth," Wagner said.

The company announced three months ago that it was looking for a place to build the rear-wheel drive 8-speed automatic transmission for Chrysler Group LLC and South Carolina was chosen from more than a dozen states, ZF spokesman Bryan Johnson said.

The company will break ground for the plant in January, with production hiring beginning in 2012, Johnson said.

The company supplies several automakers that have plants in the U.S., including Chrysler, BMW, Hyundai and Volkswagen.

"We're not able to announce other customers at all at this point," Johnson said.

The company has a 150-worker plant in Duncan that makes suspension modules. It also has U.S. facilities in Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.
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