(Story via GoUpstate.com) Germany-based automaker BMW began laying the groundwork on Wednesday, Aug.3, for its plan to increase production at its Spartanburg plant to 300,000 vehicles in 2012.
Company officials joined with state and local leaders to announce the creation of 100 professional jobs at the plant and to unveil two programs aimed at securing the future health and development of its workforce.
The programs include a new manufacturing recruitment program called BMW Scholars and the construction of its anticipated $5 million Associate Family Health Center.
"BMW was and BMW is a product-driven company," said Josef Kerscher, president of BMW Manufacturing Co. "It's our passion to manufacture the ultimate driving machine. Our future success depends on our associates-their skills, motivation, relationship with the company and good relationship with management."
Kerscher said Wednesday's announcement is part of the additional $100 million investment he revealed at the Spartanburg Chamber's annual meeting in February for infrastructure improvements, sustainable manufacturing processes and the company's new X3 Semi-Knocked Down program.
The plant is moving from its five-day weekly production schedule to a six-day schedule and changing the configuration of some existing shifts. The new jobs are part of the $100 million dollar investment and indirectly related to shift-structure change, according to BMW spokesman Max Metcalf. BMW will be hiring for positions that include engineers, IT professionals and production management associates.
Under the BMW Scholars program, the automaker has partnered with Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Technical College and Tri-County Technical College to provide work experience for students who want to pursue a career in skilled manufacturing.
The two-year program will provide tuition and book assistance, allowing students to attend classes full-time and work up to 20 hours per week at the factory. It will enroll 35 students per year.
Construction on the 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot Associate Family Health Center will begin soon off of Brockman-McClimon Road. The facility will be available to the plant's more than 7,000 associates, eligible retirees and their covered dependants by mid-2012.
The center will be operated by an independent health care provider that will be announced this fall. The plant's existing pharmacy will be relocated to the new facility along with medical and primary health care services, as well as vision, dental, physical therapy and occupational health.
"Our associates are our most important asset," said Harald Krueger, BMW Group board member responsible for human resources. "We at BMW have a passion for products, processes and people. This makes us unique."
"This is another great day in South Carolina," said Gov. Nikki Haley. "While (BMW) associates have pride in their company, the people of South Carolina have even greater pride in BMW. It's a company that continues to show us that they understand what it means to take care of and invest in their employees."
The automaker recently broke ground on a project to overhaul a 19.8-acre site surrounding its existing parts distribution warehouse.
Expansion work encompasses the addition of 160,000 square feet attached to the existing warehouse. It also includes two new bays to be added to the existing warehouse, new space in a nearby container yard and four other small building additions.
BMW has also established a new emergency response center, launched a study to determine the feasibility of harvesting hydrogen from its landfill gas-to-energy program and has plans to expand its employee cafeteria at the plant.
"Every year we invest in our site," said BMW spokesman Max Metcalf. "We have a lot of things going on throughout the year."
On Tuesday, BMW AG Chairman Norbert Reithofer said the company plans to boost production at the plant from 270,000 vehicles this year to 300,000 vehicles in 2012. The facility already builds about 1,000 cars each day.
Reithofer also said BMW will spend the next year mulling over a possible expansion at its one and only U.S. manufacturing facility.
The 4 million-square-foot plant, which represents a $5 billion investment, is the sole producer of the company's X5, X6 and next generation X3 Sports Activity Vehicles.
Reithofer said earlier this year that the company was lining up a "volume model," possibly the 3 Series, 5 Series, or both, for its Spartanburg production lines.
Analysts have speculated the automaker could be looking to build an engine plant on its 1,150-acre campus off Highway 101. Engines for the seven X model variants produced at the Spartanburg plant are made in Germany and shipped to the U.S.
Lindsay Chappell with Automotive News said in June the Spartanburg plant is an excellent hedge against the automaker's foreign currency problems. He said it might be a good option for BMW to add an engine plant at the Spartanburg facility, but that announcement likely will come only if the automaker felt it had the "critical mass" to make engine production a cost-effective venture.
BMW's last expansion of the facility was in 2008, when spent $1 billion to build the new 1.2 million-square-foot Assembly North building for X3 production and to add 300,000-square-feet to its paint shop area.
For information about the new jobs, visitwww.bmwusfactory.com.