thyssenkrupp Bilstein showcases new research and development facility

HAMILTON —A decade ago, thyssenkrupp Bilstein was “a very one-dimensional plant,” said the company’s president and CEO.

But in that time, the vehicle shock-maker has grown into the city of Hamilton’s largest manufacturer and plans further growth.

The company’s first expansion was in 2014, said Bilstein President and CEO Fabian Schmahl. That first expansion saw a $26 million investment and the creation of 200 new jobs. And since then, “I do not remember a day when we didn’t have an excavator or something on the property.”

Bilstein showcased its new research and development facility ― which will completely receive clean generated energy by its completion ― on its ever-expanding campus. This latest plant expansion, a $20 million project, is set to be completed by September or October, but Schmahl said they’re already looking at their next expansion.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“We’ll continue to grow,” he said. “We have exceptional people, we have really, really good products and we’re continuing already developing the future and we’re developing products we’ll see in three, five, 10 years from now in vehicles.”

Bilstein CFO Drew Guthridge said the next expansion will happen “sooner than we think.”

Guthridge said that this research and development expansion is set to create 75 jobs over the next few years. Between 20 and 30 of those jobs are expected immediately, and the rest will be created in the next few years.

The expansion will generate $6 million in new annual payroll, adding to the company’s existing $36 million payroll. The project also received an eight-year Job Creation Tax Credit.

Guthridge said the company’s engineers are building and designing the new shocks produced by Bilstein, “taking them from concept to reality.”

He said the company said being in Hamilton gives them “a competitive advantage” as they are close to its customers.

“The automotive OEM (original equipment manufacturer) plants are predominately in the midwest, they’re predominantly on the I-75 corridor. While you see other automotive manufacturing companies looking for best-cost countries, we found that we found that we can bring the best value to our customers by being right here in Hamilton.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef said Bilstein’s expansion project is a collaborative project with, among others, Hamilton, Butler County, REDI Cincinnati, and JobsOhio.

“One of our primary strengths are partnerships and collaborations, and I believe that’s what’s on display here today,” he said. “To see what all of you are doing here is just incredible. It’s innovative, it’s creative, it’s precise, it’s diligent, it’s addressing a very large market need, and just to see this level of success, it’s Ohioans doing what Ohioans really do well. You roll up your sleeves, you get to work, find a way.”

Hamilton Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson said Bilstein has been “an incredible company” for the past decade for the city.

“They are exactly the type of company we look to recruit to the community and we want to partner with them, and we like to be a partner of their success,” he said.

REDI Cincinnati President and CEO Kimm Lauterbach said the region is “very robust and vibrant” in the advanced manufacturing sector, and Bilstein “is a large contributor to that vibrancy.”

Since REDI’s inception in 2014, Bilstein has invested $45 million and created 300 new jobs, and Bilstein’s $20 million expansion project that was on display Thursday was one of 14 finalists for REDI’s James A. Wuenker Growth Awards.

“To say that Bilstein has made an impact on this region would be a vast understatement,” Lauterbach said.

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