Alabama officials are optimistic that the Port of Mobile will soon be another arrow in the state’s quiver of economic benefits to attract automotive companies.
Alabama has become a manufacturing hotbed, with three automakers — Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz — producing vehicles there with support from hundreds of suppliers that have opened around the assembly plants since the late 1990s. Last year, those international brands cranked out more than 1 million vehicles, and a joint Toyota-Mazda plant is scheduled to open in 2021 in Huntsville.
That timing coincides with the Alabama State Port Authority’s completion of an auto terminal in Mobile that economic development officials say will offer more convenient logistics for automakers.
Mobile is at the southern edge of the state. But the port would be a shorter overland haul for local plants than Brunswick, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla., or other ports. That translates to reduced shipping costs and speedier transit times to markets in Central America, South America and Asia.
Alabama is the third-largest exporter of finished vehicles among U.S. states, with shipments to 88 countries in 2017, Canfield said. About 50 percent of the state’s $ 21.7 billion trade volume in 2017 was associated with automobiles and parts supplies, according the state figures.
Canfield said his department is working to attract more automotive business to Alabama. It is closely coordinating with Toyota and Mazda to identify Tier 1 and 2 suppliers that could locate operations in the state.
Beyond that, “Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers are going to be targets for us over the next 10 years,” Canfield said, “because we believe there is some additional area for growth as we build volume and the automotive footprint across the state.” a
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