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German automotive company announces $40M Pickens County facility

Ross Norton //June 24, 2024//

ElringKlinger Group is the second new tenant to announce plans for a new industrial park in Easley. (Rendering/RealtyLink)

ElringKlinger Group is the second new tenant to announce plans for a new industrial park in Easley. (Rendering/RealtyLink)

ElringKlinger Group is the second new tenant to announce plans for a new industrial park in Easley. (Rendering/RealtyLink)

ElringKlinger Group is the second new tenant to announce plans for a new industrial park in Easley. (Rendering/RealtyLink)

German automotive company announces $40M Pickens County facility

Ross Norton //June 24, 2024//

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A 140-year-old German company with its roots in gasket manufacturing is betting on the future of automotive drive trains with a $40.3 million investment in a Pickens County site to serve as its American hub for business and manufacturing.

ElringKlinger will manufacture electric battery cell contacting systems at a new 226,000-square-foot facility at 3800 Calhoun Memorial Highway in Easley — the second company in a week to announce plans for the site next to the historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the new Speedway Industrial & Technology Park.

The ElringKlinger facility could be ready as soon as mid-2025 and will create 115 new jobs, according to Jurgen Weingartner, senior vice president of electric drive and battery technology for ElringKlinger, at a Pickens County Council special meeting Monday morning. The council passed the third and final reading of an ordinance approving a fee-in-lieu of tax agreement to clear the way for the industrial employer, which was before the meeting known by the code name Project Hydro.

Headquartered in Germany, ElringKlinger focuses on two growth markets: the electrification of mobility and the advancement of the hydrogen economy. The site will produce cell contacting systems, which are crucial components of a battery system that connect the individual cells and make the energy available to the drive system.

Related: BMW opens $200M Spartanburg press shop, debuts newest X3

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Weingartner said the company branched out from gaskets decades ago.

Jurgen Weingartner of ElringKlinger, left, and Phil Wilson of RealtyLink applaud efforts of students representing the Pickens County Career & Technology Center during the announcement of the company’s plans. (Photo/Ross Norton)
Jurgen Weingartner of ElringKlinger, left, and Phil Wilson of RealtyLink applaud efforts of students representing the Pickens County Career & Technology Center during the announcement of the company’s plans. (Photo/Ross Norton)

“Over the past decades we have also built up a strong market position with unique technologies in other areas such as lightweight components,” he said. “For new drive technologies, however, we positioned ourselves in an early state. We are convinced that we will see different drive technologies in the future and electromobility will be a key one. We have been driving the development of fuel cell technology for more than 20 years and have been a serious supplier for battery components for over 10 years. In addition we have built up expertise in battery modules and complete battery systems.”

The new operation will become the company’s main U.S. hub for developing and manufacturing battery products. It also will serve as a research and development site.

North America and the U.S. in particular has great potential for us in the field of electromobility,”  Weingartner said, predicting that U.S. electric vehicle production will go from 1.2 million vehicles annually to more than 7.5 million by the end of the decade. “That’s why we’ve decided to take the next step and set up a new battery center for the American market.

The company operates 44 manufacturing sites worldwide, producing solutions for customers around the globe.

Geography and smooth operations between the company, the county government and Alliance Pickens were cited as key factors in securing the industrial employer for Pickens County. The location provides proximity to the market, especially through Atlanta and Charlotte, and it was also close to Clemson University and other important players in the education of the kind of workers needed at the site, said Ray Farley, executive director of Alliance Pickens.

“That staffing is going to come in the form of across-the demographic cross section of our community — Ph.D. level, graduate engineering level, technician level, manufacturing associate level,” Farley said. “We’re fortunate in our community to have one of the state’s top public school districts. We’ve got a really really good research university here in the community — Clemson, that happens to have a rock star ICAR campus close to the ElringKlinger campus. So the mission for this community in the next several months now as the facility gets built is to make sure we provide the intellectual property, the intellectual staff that Jurgen is going to need to run that facility. It’s a world-class facility; we’ve got world-class employees here. It’s a matter of getting them into that facility.”

John Lummus, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, said the state and Upstate’s résumé in the automotive industry and international business helped pave the way for ElringKlinger Group.

“It’s because of the high tech workforce that’s here in Pickens County and is being built in Pickens County,” he said. “You have to have industrial product in order to get great projects like this and Pickens County has done and is doing a great thing in getting more of that online. The Upstate and South Carolina is in a great market position particularly for the automotive sector and I think that we will see this company do very well because of our position in South Carolina and because of our very very strong manufacturing economy. The Upstate is the home to over 590 international companies and they’ve come here and been successful and I think that helps when (companies like ElringKlinger) are looking to make a decision as to where to go.”

The state Department of Commerce’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits related to the project. The council also awarded a $750,000 Set-Aside grant to Pickens County to assist with the costs of site preparation, building construction and road improvements.

“Project Hydro is a wonderful project that sits right in line with the kind of work we want in Pickens County, the kind of companies that we want in Pickens County, the kind of community that we want here in Pickens County,” Pickens County Council Chairman Chris Bowers said after the council approved the fee-in-lieu agreement.

ElringKlinger employs more than 9,000 people in 43 locations worldwide.

The site is being development by RealtyLink.