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Engine plant eyeing Atmore?

By By Paul Keane
Publisher
A large engine manufacturer is looking at three Alabama sites for possible relocation, with one of the sites being Atmore.
According to reports Friday from the Birmingham News, Global Engine Alliance could pick a site in Alabama early this year. In November, the day after the general election, Governor Don Siegelman said that a major automotive supplier was considering Atmore, Gadsden and the Mobile area for a possible site to locate the plant.
Global Engine Alliance is a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai and Mitsubishi. The company plans to build a plant in the United States to produce 600,000 four-cylinder engines a year.
DaimlerChrysler recently announced an expansion of its plant near Tuscaloosa, and Hyundai has broken ground on a manufacturing facility near Greenville. Two of the partners in the joint venture already have plants here. The Hyundai plant is scheduled to begin full production in 2005. According to reports, many of the engines would not be used in vehicles made by Mercedes or Hyundai because those vehicles required a larger engine.
The North American plant would be co-managed by executives from all three partners, with the Chrylser Group taking the lead in the project. Similar plants are scheduled to be built in South Korea and Japan, with the other two partners running each of those.
Analysts speculate that the three companies could invest as much as $1 billion in the project.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said the interest from companies such as Global Alliance is an indication that the city has an opportunity to benefit from the automotive industry explosion in the Southeast and Alabama. He added that the 400-plus acres the city now owns along I-65 has helped spur that interest.
"We're pleased that companies are looking at us," Shell said. "We're also pleased that having that property along the interstate has created such an interest. We would not have these type of prospects looking at us if we had not bought the property out there."
Shell did say his office has received a number of inquiries from companies requesting information on the city and the area. Most of those companies have remained anonymous, though, working through state departments and agencies in order to protect their identity.
Shell said many of the requests have been initial inquiries, but that some groups have requested additional information over the past few months.
Governor Siegelman's office has had a long-standing policy of not commenting on any potential businesses or industries coming to the state.
The mayor also said patient will be the key to landing any type of industry to Atmore.
"We are attracting some quality prospects right now," he said. "We just have to be patient, though, because these things do take time. All we can be at this point is very patient."