Alabama auto suppliers rev up -- cautiously
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011, 9:30 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News
Alabama's auto suppliers are ramping up their operations as the global industry recovers from a deep slump, aiming to keep pace with rebounding vehicle output in the state and elsewhere.
At the same time, suppliers are finding new business opportunities in new products, both on the Alabama assembly lines of Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai, as well as at factories just outside the state.
Suppliers are upbeat but cautious about the additional opportunities, said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
"We're seeing growth, but deliberate growth," he said. "There is a lot of effort to be strategic in how they're growing their operations now, both to meet demand from current customers and also to diversify."
Most of the growth has been limited to hiring back employees and, in many cases, putting them on overtime, said Sewell, who also is on the board of the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association.
But suppliers remain wary when it comes to capital investment in their facilities, he said.
One local exception, however, is Birmingham auto parts stamper Kamtek, a unit of Canada's Magna International.
According to a recent building permit, Kamtek is doing a $2.2 million addition at its plant on Sterilite Drive.
James Tobin, chief marketing officer and president of Magna Korea and Japan, said additions at the Birmingham plant are tied to work the company is doing for Mercedes-Benz and its redesigned M-Class SUV, due out later this year.