At the grand opening ceremony for the factory, operated by subsidiary GD Copper USA, Golden Dragon Chairman Li Changjie hinted that expansion is in the cards for the 500,000-square-foot facility.
“What we see today is our projected Phase No. 1,” Chairman Li told the crowd at the event. “We will have a Phase No. 2 and a Phase No. 3.”
GD Copper’s decision to locate its U.S. manufacturing facility in Wilcox County is seen as a catalyst that will lift the fortunes of what is sometimes called Alabama’s poorest county. Wilcox has not seen a major industrial announcement in nearly four decades, local officials say.
“This investment by Golden Dragon in Wilcox County will make a real difference in this rural region of Alabama,” Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said. “These jobs bring real opportunity for the people of Wilcox County and the surrounding counties.”
GD Copper USA now employs about 150 Alabamians at the factory and plans to employ 300 people there within about 18 months. Alabama officials expect that number to eventually climb to 500 or so.
Company executives expect workers in the facility in the Sunny South community, just west of Pine Hill, to make about 100 million pounds of copper tubing annually. The plant will serve the company’s customers in the U.S. and Canada.
Today’s grand opening came more than three years after Governor Bentley on his second day in office talked with company leaders about investing in Alabama.
“We’ve waited on this day for a long time, and we are finally here to celebrate,’’ Governor Bentley said. “I’m excited about what lies ahead for GD Copper, and I’m committed to do everything I can to help the company, and the entire Wilcox County area, succeed.”
“This is a great day for Wilcox and Clarke counties and the State of Alabama,” said George Alford, manager of the Wilcox County Industrial Development Authority, who worked closely on the recruitment of Golden Dragon with Sheldon Day, the mayor of Thomasville in Clarke County.
MOST MODERN PLANT
Golden Dragon, based in Xinxiang, China, reported global sales of about $5 billion last year, and company executives say it is the world’s largest supplier of precision copper products.
“Our new facility in Pine Hill, Alabama, will allow GD Copper USA to become the leading quality supplier of copper tubing products to the HVAC, appliance, plumbing and refrigeration markets in North America,’’ Chairman Li said. “GD Copper is proud to be part of the Alabama/Wilcox County community and looks forward to continued growth in the state.”
Golden Dragon officials said the Alabama facility is the most modern copper tubing plant in the world, using technologies protected by 100 patents. “The building looks very beautiful from the outside,” Chairman Li told attendees at the grand opening. “Inside, the technology is even better.”
Governor Bentley said GD Copper USA is the third Chinese company operating in Alabama. The others are Continental Motors in Mobile, which makes piston engines for aircraft, and Shandong Swan USA Inc. in Montgomery, which makes saws for cotton gins.
“I hope GD Copper won’t be the last Chinese company to come to Alabama,’’ Governor Bentley said.