ThyssenKrupp Bilstein considering new expansion in Hamilton

Auto supplier ThyssenKrupp Bilstein, the city’s largest manufacturer, has plans for another expansion to invest in equipment and facility upgrades that has the potential to create 100 new jobs.

ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America Inc., 8685 Berk Blvd., Hamilton, is a growing producer of shock absorbers for automobiles. It is a subsidiary of German multinational conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG.

If plans move forward, Hamilton city officials indicated this new project could be in the neighborhood of $15 million in capital investment, primarily for new equipment. The proposed project calls for the company to create 100 new jobs within three years.

That would be more than double the investment of the company’s last expansion. ThyssenKrupp Bilstein completed in 2012 an approximately $6 million project to invest in new technologies and equipment, including real-time damping technology transferred from its German parent company.

Total employment at ThyssenKrupp Bilstein’s four U.S. facilities is up to 375 jobs as of June, of which 295 jobs are at its Hamilton headquarters.

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The company’s latest project plans were approved Monday for income tax credits by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. ThyssenKrupp was one of 10 companies approved Monday for Job Creation Tax Credits.

ThyssenKrupp Bilstein will receive a 45 percent, six-year tax credit for its planned growth project in Hamilton, according to state officials. The agreement requires the company to create at least 100 new full-time jobs within three years of January 2013, generating $2.9 million in additional annual payroll and retaining $12.3 million in existing payroll as a result of the expansion plans.

As part of the tax credit agreement, the company is required to maintain operations in Hamilton for at least nine years, according to state officials.

The state incentives are meant to encourage the manufacturer to expand in Hamilton — Butler County is competing for the company’s investment with another site in China, said Hamilton Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson. Although the state approved incentives for the project, it is not yet a done deal.

City officials are also working through the terms to offer local incentives, Gunderson said. A proposal for local income tax credits for ThyssenKrupp will likely go before council at their next meeting Aug. 14, Gunderson said.

“I think it’s important for the city in a number of ways, one of which is this is a strong company that continues to grow in Hamilton,” he said. “They seem to be successful as a company in Hamilton and I hope to keep it that way.”

“We hope that it’s one of many expansions,” he said.

Fabian Schmahl, ThyssenKrupp Bilstein president and chief executive officer, declined comment for the time being.

At a job fair held at the company’s Hamilton plant in June, Schmahl told this newspaper that ThyssenKrupp Bilstein’s investments in new technologies and products was helping it win more new business.

Production was set to start this summer on shock absorbers for the new Chevrolet Corvette, and in the fall for Ram Power Wagon. New equipment was installed on the plant floor to start production in 2014 of parts for the Mercedes C-Class, which Schmahl said will be manufactured in the U.S. for the first time.

The plant in June was running three shifts, five days a week, with some Saturday overtime.

Schmahl said last month he was hoping to announce another major investment in Hamilton.

The investment depends on several moving factors such as incentives, support from the German parent company and customer contracts, Schmahl said in June.

ThyssenKrupp is now Hamilton’s eighth largest employer overall, behind other major employers including Butler County and city government, Hamilton City School District and Fort Hamilton Hospital.

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