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Sales of Hayes plant will keep wheel factory in business

Site had been scheduled to close by end of year

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

BBS International, a maker of lightweight wheels for higher-end sports and passenger cars, has acquired the Hoboken, Belgium, operation of Hayes Lemmerz International and has signed a deal to buy the real estate and some equipment of the Hayes Lemmerz subsidiary located in Gainesville.

Last month, Hayes Lemmerz announced that it would close its factory in Gainesville by the end of December. The plant is less than 15 miles from an existing BBS office and distribution facility in Braselton. BBS will use the factory as its production plant to support activities in the U.S., according to an announcement made Monday in Schiltach, Germany.

The closing of the transaction is not expected until after Hayes ceases operations in Gainesville.

Kit Dunlap, president and chief executive of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said she had not heard from either company, but was encouraged by the news.

"It’s certainly a move in the right direction," Dunlap said.

There was no word about BBS’ plans for the Hayes plant or how many workers it would employ.

BBS, a subsidiary of Punch International, a diversified industrial holding company based in Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium, has approximately 14 employees at the Braselton location, which is adjacent to Road Atlanta.

"With the dollar being weak, our customers operating in the U.S. obviously want to source their wheels from local suppliers," said Guido Dumarey, chief executive officer at Punch. "For us, this is an economical and efficient way to serve our customers not only in Germany, but also in the U.S. BBS’ long-term focus is on the premium segment, which is dominated by lightweight technologies such as flow-forming and forging,"

In May, Hayes said the Gainesville plant would close, leaving 290 workers jobless.

A combination of overcapacity and competition from cheaper imports led the company to decide to close the plant.

Some of the production at the Gainesville facility will be moved to the Hayes Lemmerz aluminum wheel facility in Mexico.



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