Germany, Japan top foreign investment in Birmingham

Some 80 companies from 21 countries contribute to the Birmingham-area base of foreign direct investment.

The strong central Alabama automotive industry continues to be a magnet to foreign direct investment, attracting two of the 2020 headline projects.

Japanese stamping technology firm Unipres announced a $6.3 million project in Steele last August, while German-based Heiche US Surface Technologies announced an advanced metals coating plant in Walker County in December, anticipating 73 jobs.

Germany continues to be the leader in Birmingham-area foreign direct investment with 28 companies, according to the Birmingham Business Alliance. Japan is a close second with 22 firms in BBA’s seven-county region.

Companies based abroad help the Birmingham region grow and diversify its economic, create jobs and increase the tax base, said Jeff Traywick, BBA’s vice president of economic development.

Four of the 28 German firms — Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Eissmann Automotive, Evonik Industries and WKW Erbsloeh — account for more than 2,000 jobs and $613 million, just in the BBA region. The new MBUSI battery plant is in BBA’s region, while the main 4,000-employee MBUSI plant falls within Tuscaloosa’s region, Traywick noted

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In the last few years, other German firms have announced or expanded — particularly ThyssenKrupp Materials and MollerTech, as well as life science firms Evonik and DURECT.

Japanese investment has also grown steadily, Traywick said. In addition to Unipres Alabama, the region has seen growth from Yurozu Automotive Alabama and HTNA.

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