Alabama County looks to GD Copper for more jobs
Updated: 2014-06-03 07:04
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)
Wilcox County is one of Alabama's poorest communities, but now officials hope that a $100 million copper tubing plant built by a Chinese company will create new jobs in the area.
And GD Copper USA is looking to its plant to become the leading supplier of copper tubing products in North America.
"GD copper is proud to be part of the Alabama/Wilcox County community and looks forward to continued growth in the state," said Li Changjie, chairman of Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group Inc. "We agree together that we have a great investment environment here, but what we see today is our project Phase No 1."
Li made his comments at a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 28 for the new GD plant in Pine Hill, which Li said would enable its subsidiary, GD Copper USA, to produce close to 100 million pounds of copper tubing each year.
GD, which employs about 150 people at the plant in Alabama, plans to increase that to 300 within 18 months. That's when full-scale production at the 500,000-square-foot facility will start, according to GD officials.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, US Representative Terri Sewell and other state officials and invited guests joined GD Copper USA officials at the opening of the plant.
The decision to locate the plant in Wilcox County is the first major industry development in the county in the last 35 years, according to George Alford, manager of the Wilcox Country Industrial Development Authority.
Bentley said GD Copper USA was "the first company" he recruited to Alabama as governor.
"We've waited on this day for a long time, and we are finally here to celebrate," Bentley said at the ribbon cutting. "GD Copper USA provides a significant opportunity for the people of Wilcox County. Today is an exciting day as [GD Copper USA] celebrates production in Pine Hill."
Greg Canfield, Alabama's Secretary of Commerce, said the GD Copper project is a "great example" of Gov Bentley's "commitment to recruiting new industries and jobs to Alabama."
"[Gov Bentley's] relationship with GD Copper began on his second day on the job … and GD Copper is already hinting at future expansion," Canfield wrote to China Daily in an email on Monday.
Alabama beat out more than 60 other locations, including Dallas and Little Rock, Arkansas.
Original plans for the GD plant called it to be on a 52-acre site in neighboring Thomasville, Alabama, but when the size of the project changed local officials found space in Wilcox County.
Founded in 1987, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group Inc (GD) is a Xinxiang, Henan province-based manufacturer and vendor of precise copper tubes.
With its subsidiaries, the company makes and sells copper products worldwide for use in a variety of everyday applications: including, air conditioning and refrigeration, medical facilities, mobile communication, solar energy utilization and water supply for buildings.
The firm has said it is the world's largest maker of specialized copper tube, with close to $4 billion in sales per year.
GD officials said jobs at the plant will pay in the high $30,000 to low $40,000 range, according to a report from The Associated Press. That figure is well above Wilcox County's median family income, per US Census data.
Joe McGovern, a senior project manager for Hoar Construction LLC who worked on the GD Copper project, said "there are no other similarly-sized development projects in the area".
"Wilcox County is a fairly poor county, and when I think about the area, the only other major industrial manufacturer is a paper mill that's about 30 miles away," McGovern said Monday in an interview with China Daily.
GD Copper USA is the third Chinese plant operating in Alabama; the two others are Continental Motors in Mobile and Shandong Swan USA in Montgomery. Continental Motors makes piston engines for aircraft, and Shandong Swan makes saws for cotton gins.
Though GD is one of a few Chinese-owned companies in Alabama, the trade relationship between Alabama and China has been on the rise in recent years.
Exports from Alabama to China totaled close to $2.5 billion in 2013, an increase from $355 million in 2003, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce (DOC).
And in November the city of Dothan, Alabama, hosted the US-China Manufacturing Symposium, an event that brings together academics, business leaders and government officials from the world's two largest economies.
Canfield, the director of the Alabama DOC, said the investment by Golden Dragon "will make a real difference" in the Wilcox County region.
Bentley, Alabama's governor, said, "I am excited about what lies ahead for GD Copper, and I hope they won't be the last Chinese company to come to Alabama."