December 5, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Mercedes Plant Expansion Under Way

By Patrick Rupinski - The Tuscaloosa News
December 4, 2011
Dusty Compton
The Tuscaloosa News
Production at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International plant in Vance runs on Oct. 20. The plant is undergoing another expansion in preparation for C-Class sedan production beginning in 2014.

TUSCALOOSA - Additional construction gets under way this month at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance in preparation for the start of C-Class sedan production in 2014 and possible other new models.

As the work starts, a Tuscaloosa construction company, Amason & Associates, will play a major role.

Amason formed a joint venture last year with Walbridge, a large, privately owned construction company based in Detroit that is one of the country’s leading construction contractors for the auto industry.

The joint venture’s purpose was to bid on the Mercedes project, said Robert Amason, president of the local company.

Walbridge brought its reputation and experience as one of the foremost construction companies serving the auto industry to the table, while Amason & Associates brought its experience in doing other construction projects at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance.

“We have done similar projects with Mercedes,” Amason said.

Those projects included construction of the second plant expansion, which doubled the size of the plant to about 3 million square feet in 2005, and the 225,000-square-foot expansion of the paint shop in 2009.

For the latest expansion, a $289 million project, the joint venture submitted its proposal, and Mercedes awarded it the construction management contract earlier this year.

The expansion is part of Mercedes’ latest $2 billion investment for its U.S. auto production.

Other recent West Alabama projects by Amason, a construction general contractor, have included Holy Spirit Catholic Church, the First Federal Bank Building, Tuscaloosa Surgery Center, Sumter County High School and a dormitory for 430 students at the University of West Alabama in Livingston.

But as the construction manager, the joint venture will be responsible for much more than general contracting.

Amason said the construction manager has to work with Mercedes officials, its architects and engineers and construction project suppliers to get the job done. It has to coordinate building activities to specifications in an orderly process.

Unlike the construction of a new plant, the expansion work has to be done without disrupting the ongoing automotive production, the receiving of automotive parts and the shipment of finished vehicles at the Vance plant, which will continue making its M-Class and GL-Class SUVs and R-Class crossover vehicle throughout the multi-year building project.

The construction management also will involve such things as positioning of construction cranes, designating parking areas for the 2,800 Mercedes employees at the plant and coordinating the arrival and installation of new production machinery, Amason said.

In manufacturing plants, large machinery often has to be installed before the final walls are erected or, if machinery is being installed by cranes, before the roof is in place. Amason said that will occur with the expansion.

Amason declined to say how many people will be working on the joint venture.

Amason & Associates was founded in Tuscaloosa in 1988. The company does general contracting, design-build and construction management for industrial, commercial, institutional, health care and retail customers.

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