MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Twenty years ago, on Sept. 30, 1993, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to build its first U.S. factory in Vance, Ala. In just two decades, Alabama has transformed from a state with virtually no experience in auto production into the country’s fourth largest auto producer, churning out nearly 900,000 vehicles a year.
Mercedes has done more than carve a path for the reinvention our state economy; it has truly transformed lives. Take, for example, Tanya Cabiness. When Tanya first stepped foot into the Mercedes plant in 1997, she was only 22. She left her job on the production line in a mobile home manufacturing plant to take a post with Mercedes. She spent time as a line worker, then moved up to become a team leader, and eventually a supervisor.
Today, Tanya is Assembly 1 manager for the C-Class project, giving her a key role in the launch of production of the sedan at the Alabama plant next year. Before working at Mercedes, she had never traveled outside the American South and had never been on an airplane. Since joining the company she has traveled extensively around the globe.
It is on behalf of Tanya and the thousands of other Alabamians whose lives have been changed by the now immense Alabama automotive sector that I am writing today to say Thank You. Thank you to Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota for operating production facilities in our state. Thank you to the dozens of supplier companies who believed in our ability to deliver the right environment for success, and who have opened operations here in Alabama as well. Thank you to business and elected leaders both then and now who have fought to create a business-friendly environment. And thank you to the thousands of hard-working Alabamians who continue to be our state’s greatest asset for recruiting new development.
We owe it to those people and to all of Alabama not only to continue to encourage companies like Mercedes to expand their Alabama operations, but also to work hard every day to recruit more suppliers and more automotive research and development to Alabama.
CREATING NEW OPPORTUNITIES
A few days ago, it was my pleasure to be on hand for an announcement that auto supplier Bolta Werke will locate a $40 million facility in Tuscaloosa with more than 350 new jobs. This project – like others being announced on a regular basis – serve to underscore the attractiveness of Alabama’s positive business climate and the state’s unmatched workforce. These were among the chief reasons that Mercedes selected Alabama over nearly 30 rival states two decades ago for its $300 million crown-jewel project.
Over two decades, Alabama and Mercedes have developed a strong, mutually beneficial partnership. Alabama has assisted Mercedes in round after round of expansion, and the automaker has made substantial new investments in its Tuscaloosa County production facility, creating new jobs and opportunities for our residents. That original $300 million investment has turned into more than $2 billion today. Mercedes’ workforce, targeted initially at 1,500, will soon top 4,000. It’s no wonder that other states look at this relationship with envy. (Read a story about Mercedes’ impact.)
Sept. 30, 1993 marked the official beginning of this partnership, and the announcement that Mercedes made that day will long be viewed as key in Alabama’s history. It signifies the moment when Alabama announced its presence as a player on the international business stage, the instant that our state became a contender for just about every major economic development project that came along.
In subsequent years, many big names followed Mercedes to Alabama – Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, ThyssenKrupp, Airbus – along with many others in a wide range of industries. They didn’t come to Alabama because Mercedes came here; these companies came because they wanted the same kind of success that Mercedes has enjoyed in Alabama. It’s as simple as that.
That fact makes me feel deeply confident that even better days are ahead for Alabama and its residents as we continue to build an economic foundation that spreads prosperity to all corners of the state. Mercedes may represent a start, but we are far from finished with this effort.