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Alabama to get 1,800 jobs with rail car plant

(The Associated Press circulated the following on July 19.)

FLORENCE, Ala. — Alabama landed another huge industrial project on Wednesday when a Canadian rail car manufacturer announced plans to build a plant in Colbert County that is expected to employ 1,800 workers.

National Industries, the parent company of National Steel Car in Hamilton, Ontario, is opening the Alabama plant.

“This is the type of transformational economic development project that northwest Alabama has needed for some time. It means new jobs, more opportunities and a better life for our citizens," Riley said at a news conference with company Chairman Gregory Aziz.

The news conference continued a recent string of big industrial announcements. In March, Hyundai disclosed plans for a second engine plant in Montgomery, with an investment of $270 million and 520 jobs. In May, German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp announced it would build a $3.7 billion plant north of Mobile that is expected to employ 2,700 workers.

Riley said the new Alabama plant, known as National Alabama Corp., will have a $350 million investment. The plant is expected to open in early 2009 in the Barton Riverfront Industrial Park 12 miles west of Tuscumbia.

Aziz said the plant will cover 2 million square feet on a 650-acre site, and it will have the ability to produce 8,000 to 10,000 rail cars annually.

Kerry Gatlin, dean of the College of Business at the University of North Alabama in Florence, said the plant should contribute about $200 million annually to the area’s economy.

He said that in the last few years, northwest Alabama had turned the corner from tough economic times in the 1980s and '90s that saw closings or steep cutbacks at Ford Motor Co., Reynolds Aluminum and several textile plants.

“This rail car announcement is icing on the cake," he said.

Aziz said he looked at sites in 12 states stretching from Nebraska to West Virginia before selecting the Alabama location. He said one factor in the site’s favor was its proximity to Memphis, Tenn., which he described as the “crossroads of the nation’s rail system."

He praised Riley’s efforts to recruit the plant. “Governor Riley bleeds red. He bleeds for this state. The commitment is unbelievable," Aziz said.

Riley said executives at the Mercedes Benz auto plant in Vance also played a major role, including going to Canada to sell Aziz on Alabama’s manufacturing climate.

National Steel Car’s plant in Hamilton, Ontario, employs 2,500 people and can produce 15,000 rail cars annually. It is the largest single manufacturing site for freight railway cars in North America, Aziz said.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

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