County pledges $900K to car-parts maker

Oct. 28, 2013 @ 09:27 PM

County Commissioners voted 5-0 on Monday to offer $900,000 in business incentives to a Treyburn-based company that manufactures automatic transmissions and other parts for Toyota.

They and Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce officials hope the offer to AW North Carolina Inc. helps persuade the company’s leaders to invest $112 million to add to its factory here.

The project would translate into 56 more jobs at a plant that already employs about 2,000 people.

Commissioners regard the factory as an incentives success story, having put about $2 million into it the early 2000s.

“Every time I go there, I am struck by the focus on excellence,” Commission Ellen Reckhow said, recounting three visits to the facility. “AW has been a great fit for Durham, and based on your success, Durham has been a great home for AW.”

Chamber leaders were eager for the county to offer the $900,000 because the company also has alternatives in George, Tennessee, Mexico and two other North Carolina communities.

But “we go back a long way with this company, we’re proud to say,” chamber Vice President Ted Conner said.

AW North Carolina in fact began operations in 1998 and opened the Treyburn Corporate Park factory two years later.

It expanded the facility in 2003 and again in 2005. All told, it now has about 820,000 square feet of floor space.

Post-recession expansions in 2010 and 2012 boosted the workforce to its current headcount and were accomplished without incentives.

The firm is a subsidiary of a Japanese company, Aisin AW Co. Ltd., that in turn is a branch of the Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., that’s about 31 percent owned by Toyota.

Commissioners said they’re pleased the company has worked with the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and with Durham Tech to secure trained job applicants.

AW North Carolina’s post-recession performance is largely a function of Toyota’s satisfaction with the zero-defects mentality of the Durham plant, said Jerry O’Keeffe, a former member of the chamber board.

In fact, the automaker has given it a string of contracts that are “much larger in size” than those that were in place before the recession, O’Keeffe said.

The plant makes transmissions for cars, SUVs and trucks. Officials say they’re used in the Camry, Toyota’s top-selling car in the U.S., plus the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and the Sequoia SUV.