TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A German firm is opening its new North American headquarters in Alabama.
SWJ Technology will build the new 5,000-square-foot facility in a part of Tuscaloosa that was devastated by a tornado in April 2011, The Tuscaloosa News reported .
The company has more than 85 employees in the Southeast United States. It started in 2003 in Frankfurt, German, and was known as SWJ-Breilmann until a name change earlier this year. It provides services to companies such as Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and the suppliers that service it.
The company plans to relocate aspects of its Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Greenville, South Carolina operations to Tuscaloosa, officials said.
The firm was recently awarded a $200,000 federal grant through the city’s Innovate Tuscaloosa program. That was a major factor in selecting Tuscaloosa over Chattanooga and Greenville as the central hub of its U.S. and Mexican operations, SWJ President Wolfgang Kneer said.
SWJ Technology expects to invest about $1.5 million into the new, 5,000-square-foot (1,500-square-meter) facility, Kneer said.
The grant program is funded with proceeds from disaster recovery dollars administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was created last year as a way to fuel business development and create jobs by bringing services to areas that have yet to recover from the tornado.
The company’s decision to build its headquarters in the Alberta neighborhood is a “game changer” on par with Mercedes-Benz choosing Tuscaloosa County for its first North American manufacturing facility in the 1990s, said Tuscaloosa Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents the area.
“How many times have you heard about high-tech jobs, retaining the best and the brightest? That’s exactly what this company is going to be able to do,” Tyner said. “But for Alberta itself, it’s on an area that had close to 7 percent of the entire city’s crime just eight years ago, and now you’re talking about a corporate headquarters of an international company.”