By ELIZABETH BEILMAN
Another major company is joining the ranks of the ever-expanding River Ridge Commerce Center.
Automotive supplier Autoneum announced plans Wednesday to locate at River Ridge, bringing with it plans for 220 new jobs by 2018. The Switzerland-based manufacturing company — which specializes in vehicle acoustic and thermal management systems — will move into a 300,000-square-foot facility just north of the Catamaran Corp. building along Ind. 62.
“We are excited to announce this new facility and to become a part of the Jeffersonville and Southern Indiana communities,” Martin Hirzel, CEO of Autoneum, said in a press release.
The company has begun hiring for engineering and managerial positions and will hire manufacturing employees at the end of the year for an expected January 2015 opening. The average employee wage will be about $19 an hour, according to multiple sources.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said the announcement shows that River Ridge is an important part of the city’s economy.
“This is great news because not only is it creating new jobs in Jeff, but we’re not out there chasing minimum wage jobs,” he said. “This is a huge company.”
Paul Wheatley, director of marketing and finance at River Ridge, said the site choice “makes a lot of sense.”
“We’re right on the I-65 automotive alley,” Wheatley said. “Indiana’s tax structure and River Ridge’s land and connectivity makes us a very attractive location.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Autoneum North America up to $2 million in conditional tax credits, meaning that the company won’t receive these benefits until they hire employees. The River Ridge Development Authority also granted a property tax abatement as an additional incentive to locate in Southern Indiana.
Autoneum is River Ridge’s first Tier 1 automotive supplier, meaning the parts it manufactures are sent directly to automakers. Indiana and Kentucky are home to several auto manufacturing plants, including Ford in Louisville, Toyota in Princeton and Georgetown, Ky., and Honda in Greensburg.
“This project is a major triumph for Southern Indiana and a good example of the resurgence of the automotive industry,” said Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, in the press release. “Autoneum is precisely the type of long-term, job-creating employer we want to attract to our area.”
Crossdock Development Inc. purchased the property in River Ridge and is about three weeks into constructing the building that will host the manufacturing facilities and offices, Crossdock President Lee Wilburn said.
He said his company has already been granted cleaning and grading permits and is waiting on the shell of the building to be delivered in July so that Autoneum can begin installing their specialized equipment.
“This is a major factory,” Wilburn said. “And this is a completely different animal than what exists over there right now.”
Autoneum has a presence in more than 20 countries and has about 9,500 global employees. The River Ridge plant will be the company’s 13th in North America, including joint ventures, and allow it to support continued growth with multiple North American auto customers. Its 2012 revenue was about $2 billion.
Wheatley said the establishment of an Autoneum plant in River Ridge is a testament to its growth.
“I think it’s further validation of River Ridge’s mantra of putting in the infrastructure and readying sites for economic development,” he said.
Moore also said it shows that Jeffersonville is a “major player” on the economic map.
“It’s always nice to see local investors, but when you get global companies recognizing what Jeffersonville has to offer ... It’s not a regional thing that we’re competing with,” he said. “We are beating out major cities across the states.”