The Behr Group, Europe's leading supplier of automotive air conditioning and engine cooling systems, has acquired land near I-75 and Rochester Road in Troy, MI, for the development of a new $30-million corporate headquarters and technical center, according to Hans Lange, president of Behr America.

Work on Behr America's new 80,000-square-foot headquarters complex is scheduled to begin this summer with completion in the late spring of 2001, Lange said. The 8.5-acre site is located east of I-75 between Rochester and Big Beaver roads.

Lange said the new facility will enable Behr to keep pace with a growing demand for its products in North America, take advantage of Behr Group synergies and provide additional technical support for major auto manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

"The new facility is part of a $120-million investment being made by the Behr Group in North America to increase the company's presence in this important market," Lange said. "Our plan is to more than double our North American sales from above $220-million last year to approximately $500- million by 2005."

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Behr's decision to locate its North America headquarters and research facilities in Troy was yet another example of the county's attraction for high-tech businesses.

"Oakland County's Automation Alley concept has become an increasingly powerful magnet for drawing high-tech enterprises to the area," Patterson said. "We are especially pleased that Behr chose not only to make its headquarters here, but also decided to develop a major technical center in Oakland County as well."

Mayor Jeanne M. Stine of Troy added, "On behalf of the Troy City Council and the citizens of Troy, we applaud Behr's decision to relocate their new corporate headquarters and technical center within our community."

Behr recently received a $6.5-million Michigan tax credit over 18 years from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) for the project, which is expected to directly or indirectly create more than 200 new jobs, including more than 100 at Behr America.

In announcing the MEGA grant, Michigan Governor John Engler noted that Behr also was about to open a new, multi-million-dollar manufacturing facility near Lansing, MI.

"This is the second time within the past two years that Behr America has selected Michigan for a major expansion of its North American operations," Engler said. "The current project will create a number of high-paying jobs and represents an important investment in the growing high-tech sector of Michigan's economy."

The expansion project is expected to generate more than $24.8 million in revenue to the state over the life of the agreement and produce $310 million in personal income, according to an economic analysis done by the University of Michigan.

Lange, who also is a member of the Behr Group's board of management, said the new Michigan plant near Lansing in Webberville, MI, will employ an additional 125 people. Production will include the first electronically actuated engine-cooling clutches built in North America for Detroit-based customers.

The 60,000-square-foot Webberville plant not only will house assembly operations, but also a product center with development, design, engineering and testing capabilities for fans, clutches and other engine cooling components. Grand opening ceremonies are scheduled on June 7. The product center is scheduled to be fully operational by December.

Behr America is part of the Behr Group, a leading global supplier of climate control and engine cooling systems for automotive, commercial and off-highway vehicle markets. Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, Behr has more than 12,500 employees with facilities in eight countries.

Behr America has approximately 1,100 employees at facilities in Charleston, SC; Canton, SD; Walled Lake, MI, and Fort Worth, TX. Its corporate headquarters currently are in Charleston, S.C. More information about the Behr Group is available on the Internet at www.behrgroup.com