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Irish company to create 450 jobs in Kingsport

Sharon Hayes • Aug 22, 2011 at 6:01 AM

KINGSPORT — It’s taken 18 months, but the luck of the Irish has finally arrived in Kingsport.

C&F Group of Galway, Ireland, officially inked a deal on Monday to locate in Kingsport as part of a $12.5 million investment that will create 450 new jobs over a four-year period. The new Kingsport plant will be the company’s first location in the U.S.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic & Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced the deal Monday evening.

“This is great news for Tennessee, and I appreciate C&F Group’s confidence in our state by choosing Tennessee for the company’s first U.S. location,” Haslam said.

C&F Group will locate in the former Magneti-Marelli building at 10388 Airport Parkway, in the Northeast Tennessee Business Park. The company manufactures decorative and functional trim for the automotive industry, racking for the data management industry, and small wind turbines. The C&F Group operates locations in Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic, Philippines, China and now soon, the U.S.

“After comprehensive review of more than 20 locations in the Southeast U.S. and across several states, Tennessee was the obvious choice for our new location,” said Tom Hyland, president of C&F Manufacturing USA Inc. “We would like to thank the state of Tennessee and the city of Kingsport, as well as Sullivan County for their support during our North American location analysis process.”

The project stems back to early 2010, when local economic development officials were contacted by the state about a European company looking to expand its operations into the United States. The C&F Group was code-named “Project Columbus” by local economic developers as they worked to reach an agreement during the past 18 months.

Officials from C&F Group visited the Magneti-Marelli site last summer and liked what they saw. The building had been used to manufacture parts for the automotive industry, but had been vacant since Magneti-Marelli closed up shop in 2007.

C&F Group expressed an interest in buying the building, but it wanted to deal directly with local city and county governments, as opposed to the owner — Fiat.

As a result, the Kingsport Economic Development Board agreed to purchase the building from Fiat, and subsequently lease it to C&F Group.

Meanwhile, the city of Kingsport and Sullivan County agreed to provide $500,000 — or $250,000 each — in start-up money to the company. That money will be used to pay C&F’s lease payments for the first 20 months of operation.

“Today’s announcement is the result of 18 months of hard work with the help of NETWORKS, the Kingsport Economic Development Board, the city of Kingsport, and the state of Tennessee,” said Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips. “We look forward to doing all we can to ensure C&F Manufacturing USA Inc. is a major success.”

Richard Venable, chief executive officer of NETWORKS, said that seeing the 18-month-long process come to a positive conclusion “has been a bit surreal. We hold high hopes for new job creation by C&F Manufacturing for years to come, and definitely are proud to be the first U.S. location for a successful Irish manufacturer with key international customers such as IBM, BMW and Volkswagen,” Venable said.

Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey said he’s thrilled C&F Group selected Sullivan County for its new location. “We appreciate the hard work of state and local officials to make this happen and look forward to having C&F Group as a part of our community,” Godsey said.

Back in Nashville, Gov. Haslam said his administration recently reprioritized its economic development efforts, “and announcements such as this confirm we have the right strategies in place to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.”

ECD Commissioner Hagerty said C&F Group is a “prime example” of the growth state officials see in Tennessee’s automotive industry. “Under Gov. Haslam’s leadership, my department is working to foster a business friendly climate that gives companies the confidence to invest and create jobs,” Hagerty said. “I welcome C&F Group to Tennessee and thank them for the high-quality jobs they will create in our state.”

C&F Group is a closely held company. Its new C&F Manufacturing USA Inc. will be a stand-alone operation, incorporated in the U.S.

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