GF Linamar cuts ribbon for new Mills River facility –

Hundreds gathered Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of the cavernous new GF Linamar facility at Ferncliff Industrial Park.
The joint venture of Swiss company Georg Fischer Automotive and Canadian company Linamar Corporation plans to hire hundreds to produce light, high-quality die-cast automotive parts. 
Leaders from both GF Automotive and Linamar, as well as Carlos Vasto, GF Linamar general manager, addressed the crowd, thanking those who made it possible. Vasto said they hope to make the new facility state-of-the-art, one that features a new kind of manufacturing ready for the next century.
“We create not only jobs; we create value. That is very important for us,” he said. “We create parts, we create products. We generate jobs. We generate everything for family, people, community and some.”
He thanked the community for welcoming the company and making it its home, naming specifically Andrew Tate, president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, a group without which Vasto said the company would likely have not even located in North Carolina.
Henderson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Edney welcomed GF Linamar to Ferncliff Industrial Park, which he called the “most beautiful industrial park in America.”
In looking at locations for new industries, the county weighs wages, investment, jobs and more, Edney said. The company weighs the county’s taxes, workforce and infrastructure, “but it should not be overlooked that we spend time looking at the values and principles that drive us.”
Those shared values, he said, are innovation, speed and productivity, approaching work with entrepreneurial resiliency, fiscal conservatism with willingness to make long-term investments and an understanding of the value in the quality of life that that brings. 
N.C. Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland also called Ferncliff America’s most beautiful industrial park. He said it’s Manufacturing Week in North Carolina, and ventures like GF Linamar are the ones that are going to make and create the state’s future.
Economic development doesn’t happen by accident, he added; it takes talent and the vision and institutions like community colleges and high schools to create that workforce, as well as infrastructure and incentives.
“On behalf of the governor, I want to thank you for your confidence in investing in North Carolina,” Copeland said.
Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz said that after years of work, it’s a thrill to see the reality. She couldn’t help but reflect Thursday on the genesis of the joint venture between Georg Fischer and Linamar.
“I’m just so thrilled to see it all come together today,” she said. “We spent a lot of time, as you might imagine, thinking about where are we going to locate this new foundry. We had a lot of options and it was a tough choice, but I have to say the strong support of our local governments, our state government here in North Carolina was absolutely instrumental in us making this decision.”
Linamar has had a great experience in the state, where it already has three other locations, she said. They have seen strong work ethic and skill in its employees, and “the answer was clear that this should be where we come together.”
Together, the two companies are working in the Mills River facility to develop products that will take significant weight out of the vehicles it’s producing for, Hasenfratz said. Whether it’s in an internal combustion engine, hybrid or electric vehicle, lighter components are the key to making vehicles lighter, driving lower emissions and better fuel economy.
Josef Edbauer, president of GF Automotive, agreed with Hasenfratz. “Today sets an important milestone and a new chapter for both our companies,” he said. “This state-of-the-art facility will serve our global customers with lightweight parts in aluminum and magnesium. The market for lightweight solutions in North America is growing very promising.”
The automotive industry worldwide is changing, he said, with carbon dioxide reduction as the biggest challenge.
“Combining the casting know-how of GF Automotive with the machining know-how of Linamar brings a great advantage for all our customers,” Edbauer said, noting that many were present Thursday.
In July 2015, the two companies announced the 50-50 joint venture and its plans to locate a new high pressure die-casting facility in the U.S. It was announced in February 2016 that the facility would be in Mills River. Site preparation began in March 2016, construction in August 2016, and production is planned to start in June 2018. 
The building, measuring more than 355,200 square feet, is located on Ferncliff Park Drive near Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Flanked by a line of vehicles from BMWs to a Volvo, Corvette and pickup trucks that will use the company’s products, visitors toured the enormous facility, seeing stations showing the different work that the building will house, from a tool shop and high-pressure casting to heat treatment and machining.
The announcement of 350 jobs and an investment of $217 million is one of the largest in recent county history. With several large orders already on hand, the business has announced that the new facility will reach its full capacity utilization in just the next few years.
One of those orders, announced by GF Linamar last month, is for lightweight magnesium components to be produced starting in 2020 at the Mills River facility, worth about $300 million over five years.
The facility that was opened Thursday is just phase one of the company’s full plan. Phase two, a similar building, is expected to get underway in 2021, according to Tina Koehler, head of marketing and communication for GF Automotive.
GF Linamar also supported the development of the Southeastern Advanced Molding Technology Education Center (SAMTEC) at Blue Ridge Community College. GF Linamar, along with its equipment suppliers and state help from the GoldenLEAF Foundation, donated the majority of equipment for die-casting training to provide workforce education, with long-term plans for a full associate degree in molding technology.
During his opening remarks, Vasto recognized BRCC Director of Corporate and Customized Training Shanda Bedoian and said SAMTEC is “a unique training facility in the U.S.,” the only one with high-pressure die-casting.
Both Mills River and Henderson County approved economic incentives for the facility, totaling a maximum of more than $7 million over 14 years, $302,926 from Mills River and $6.95 million from Henderson County.
GF Automotive, headquartered in Schafhausen, Switzerland, develops and produces high-performance cast components in iron, aluminum and magnesium for the automotive industry and more, with 5,000 employees worldwide.
Linamar, which has six manufacturing facilities in the U.S., 23 in Canada and more spread across Europe and Asia conducting light metal casting, metal forming, forging, and precision machining and assembly.


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