TI Automotive has opened its $US30 million manufacturing facility in Hartwell, Georgia, to produce automotive fuel tank systems.

The plant, in the northeast of the state, initially will manufacture blow-moulded plastic fuel tanks and filler pipes for vehicles built in nearby southern states by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Hyundai.

The 145,000-square-foot plant makes TI Automotive the first manufacturer to build in the Gateway High Tech Industrial Park, developed through the Joint Development Authority of Hart, Franklin and Stephens counties in part through a State of Georgia Edge Grant funded through the OneGeorgia agency.

The plant initially will employ 100 people and has booked business to produce more than 480,000 automotive fuel tank systems annually. The facility will begin pilot production in September.

A majority of the jobs will be filled later this year and early in 2006. Training for many of the facility’s high-tech operators is being provided by the state’s Quick Start program through NORTH GEORGIA TECHNICAL COLLEGE.

The company expects to reach full production of fuel system components for the three automakers in 2006.

TI Automotive will lease the Gateway Park site from the tri-county Joint Development Authority. Incentives provided through the State of Georgia include an Edge Grant of $US650,000 funded through the OneGeorgia agency, along with state job tax credits totalling $3,000 per employee per year during the facility’s first five years of operation. TI Automotive can effectively spread out the state income tax credits over a 10-year period.

The facility will use an innovative blow-moulded filler-pipe process, a first for a North American automotive supplier and will have two blow-moulding press lines with an annual capacity to produce a million fuel tanks.

The Hartwell plant also will be the first TI Automotive facility to incorporate the assembly of fuel tank components, filler pipes and tanks under one roof.