UPDATED: Two German entrepreneurs plan to set up an injection molding operation in South Carolina near the state's growing automotive industry.
The partners chose Abbeville County to invest $2.7 million in a new facility that will be a full-service supplier of injection molded assemblies and components. Parts molding is scheduled to begin in 2018. In the interim, WG Plastics will be based in an existing incubator building in Lakelands Commerce Park.
Wolfgang Gutmann and Uli Wellhaeuser have teamed up for their first North American production facility. Gutmann said in a phone interview that he has more than 30 years of experience injection molding in Germany and that he will handle most of the responsibilities of setting up the new company in South Carolina. Wellhaeuser owns injection molding businesses in Germany.
“Our main focus initially will be German OEMs and their Tier 1 suppliers,” Gutmann said. WG Plastics will aim at interior and under-the-hood components. Gutmann said it is too early to discuss equipment plans, which will depend on the type of work the new firm captures.
Gutmann said one of the initial jobs will be to mold the shell of a torque wrench for BMW. WG Plastics hopes to supply parts to BMW's assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C. The company also hopes to mold components for a new Audi assembly plant being built near San Jose Chiapa, Mexico.
BMW's Spartanburg plant, about 70 miles from Abbeville County, is the company's largest-volume producer in BMW's global production network. The site is undergoing a $1 billion expansion, which should boost output above the 400,000 vehicle mark logged in 2015. The business exported $9.8 billion worth of vehicles last year.
Audi of America Inc. expects to open its $1.3 billion facility in Mexico — Audi's first in North America — in the second half of 2016. Prototype components are already being made at a logistics center in Mexico for testing in Germany. New hires in Mexico are being trained at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany.
WG Plastics will begin hiring in late 2016. State officials estimate in a news release that the new plant will create 50 jobs over five years. South Carolina's Coordinating Council for Economic Development said it has approved a $200,000 grant to Abbeville County to assist with the costs of real property improvements.
“WG Plastics manufactures premium parts for premium customers, and we are proud our operations will be calling Abbeville County home,” Gutmann said.
Gutmann's original business in North America is Lead Wolf Consulting LLC, established in 2009 in Lansing, Mich., to provide services to the plastics industry. Wellhaeuser runs three businesses in Germany, but WG Plastics will be a stand-alone operation, according to Gutmann.
Gutmann, president of WG Plastics, will handle the production side of the company while his partner lands contracts in Germany.