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ZF plant to add some 80 jobs
Company will make vehicle transmissions at site
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At least 80 new jobs will come to Gainesville in the next two years with a pending expansion of ZF Industries in Industrial Park West, Gainesville development officials said Thursday.

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, told council members at their regular work session that the German-based transmission manufacturer plans to purchase 23 acres of property in Industrial Park West for a little more than $1.18 million.

The industry already has one Gainesville location that employs 320 people, but has outgrown the site located on Palmour Drive, Evans said. The company’s existing relationship with the city helped when ZF began looking for a place to expand, Evans said.

"It was clear that we were not the most aggressive incentives community for their location, but I think the fact that they have had such a good experience here in Gainesville-Hall County... and we have a good reputation with their board really helped us," Evans said.

With the new site, ZF plans to use the property for the industry’s first automatic transmission plant in North America, where it will manufacture six-speed automatic transmissions for commercial vehicles.

One of ZF’s lead customers is Nissan in Canton, Miss. The company builds transmissions for Mississippi Nissan’s commercial full-size pickups and walk-in vans. The transmissions built here will be used in a new light commercial vehicle that will be built at Nissan’s assembly plant in Canton, Miss.

The company also manufactures transmissions for Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, John Deere, Tata, JLG, Bell and Harlo.

While the new plant will produce the first automatic transmission for the company in North America, ZF Industries produced more than 1 million automatic transmissions for passenger cars, light trucks and commercial vehicles in 2007.

ZF plans to purchase 23 city-owned acres located between the Continental Tire and the Atex industrial properties in Industrial Park West, and begin construction on the property in early 2009, and begin production with 150 full-time employees — including 70 existing employees — by October 2010.

Evans said the company’s initial investment, including construction and equipment purchases, will exceed $40 million.

ZF is a leading worldwide supplier of driveline and chassis technology. Headquartered in Friedrichshafen, Germany, ZF is among the 15 largest automotive suppliers in the world, employing approximately 58,000 people at 119 locations in 25 countries.

On Thursday, council members agreed to vote to transfer the property to the Gainesville-Hall County Development Authority to complete the sale at Tuesday’s council meeting.

With the transfer, the authority will pay the city $500,000 of state grant money, and the rest of the purchase proceeds will come to the city in installments. Council members called the pending lease-purchase agreement good news, and asked Evans to present the news of the sale, which usually would stay silent on the council’s consent agenda, at Tuesday’s meeting.

"(The sale) is big news," said Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner. "It’s good news for the economy."

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