On a cold and blustery November morning, ground was ceremoniously broken on a new beginning for Alberta.
State and local dignitaries were joined by dozens of residents and well-wishers Friday for the groundbreaking ceremony of SWJ Technology’s new North American headquarters.
SWJ Technology is a Germany-based company that provides engineering and consulting services to companies like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen.
It also contracts with several first- and second-tier suppliers of these businesses to assist with assembly, logistics, production lines and a wide range of solutions to address customer needs and reduce costs of production.
Planned for a nearly 3-acre site off University Boulevard in Alberta near the Alberta School of Performing Arts and the Gateway digital library, this nearly $2 million facility is expected to usher in more than 100 jobs to the area.
And in addition to the engineering and consulting components, SWJ Technology also plans to bring a sub-company to the almost 5,000-square-foot facility.
“It is not only that Tuscaloosa is right in the heartbeat of the automotive industry in the southeast of the U.S., but it’s also a very welcoming community. Very supportive,” said Wolfgang Kneer, chairman, CEO and president of SWJ Technology. “I think and I hope that it will be such a tremendous big deal for Tuscaloosa that we can offer many jobs in the future that will (help) build the community.
“I hope this investment will help rebuild Alberta and the community here.”
SWJ Technology is a branch of SWJ Group, a global engineering and consulting company with operations in China, France, Austria and Poland, among other locations. The company began in 2003 and, six years later, launched its U.S. operations with three employees. It now has more 110 in North America and more than 450 worldwide.
In 2016, SWJ Technology — then known as SWJ Breilmann — was conducting its Tuscaloosa operations out of a small business incubator on Eighth Street.
It’s now making Tuscaloosa the headquarters for all of its North America-based business after choosing the Druid City over Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Greenville, South Carolina.
“Immediately, I knew — I knew immediately — they were coming here,” said District 5 Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents Alberta, after meeting Kneer the first time almost one year ago. “I told him ‘I’m ordering the shovels today, because you’re not going anywhere.’ ”
Tyner and his fellow council members made Tuscaloosa as attractive as possible to SWJ’s leaders.
Earlier this week, the council approved $250,000 in economic incentives in the form of fee waivers and tax rebates, which expire after 10 years or the monetary total is reached — whichever comes first.
The council also agreed to a $250,000 land purchase to facilitate the deal, as a portion of land in Alberta off University Boulevard at 28th Avenue East was purchased by City Hall last month.
This lot is being paired with four additional tracts already owned by City Hall and conveyed to the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, which will finalize a lease agreement with SWJ Technology.
And in February, SWJ Technology was awarded a $200,000 federal grant through the city’s Innovate Tuscaloosa program, which company officials said was a major factor in the company choosing Tuscaloosa for its new North American headquarters.
Still, Tyner said the selection process was filled with emotional highs and lows, and it ended with him receiving an email notifying him that SWJ Technology had selected Tuscaloosa.
“I literally hit the floor in my room and started crying because the emotion — the weight that was lifted off,” Tyner said. “I said: ‘We cannot lose this. This was meant to be.’ ”
Company officials said they already have hired at least 10 graduates from the University of Alabama and intend to expand its internship program while adding apprenticeship programs once the new facility is complete.
Alongside the engineering, planning and project management services, it also offers interim management, high-level training for workforce development and courses on logistics and production training.
“We have all committed to this profession because we are all striving to be a part of something that makes a real, meaningful difference,” said Markus Jurditsch, the “J” in SWJ and company treasurer, who traveled from Germany to be a part of the groundbreaking ceremony. “The construction of this new facility in Tuscaloosa demonstrates our commitment to great, tailored solutions that makes the greatest difference.”
Reach Jason Morton at email@example.com or 205-722-0200.