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Tate County excited about German neighbors

SENATOBIA — Folks in Tate County are hoping more car shoppers choose “Beemers.”

Last month, Bavarian Motor Works, also doing business as BMW of North America Inc., broke ground on a $12-million, 200,000-square-feet warehouse and distribution center located on 20 acres in the Senatobia Industrial Park.

“We look at the BMW project as the start of a whole lot of good things to happen to this area,” said Janie Mortimer, executive director of the Tate County Economic Foundation.

Completion of the center for the international conglomerate that was established in 1918 as a German aircraft company, is projected for next year. The plant will initially stock more than 50,000 component parts valued at approximately $35 million and will employ 75 hourly workers at a rate between $10 and $12 per hour.

The economic impact to the area has not yet been determined, said Mortimer.

“The BMW plant has definitely brought us more attention, she said. “We are very active right now in industrial development with people looking at us.”

Mortimer said she anticipates ancillary services will pop up as a result.

“Right now, it’s a little preliminary to say,” Mortimer said. “Once the distribution center comes on line, we’ll definitely see more activity.”

Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, said BMW chose Mississippi for many reasons.

“Our state is ideally situated in the center of the region projected to grow the fastest over the first quarter of the next century, and BMW wanted to locate where it could provide next-day parts delivery to its retailers,” Heidel said. “Senatobia offers that.”

Terms of the agreement with BMW include a lease-purchase agreement with a 15-year commitment with another 15-year option.

BMW’s decision to build a parts distribution center was prompted by increased sales in the top selling U.S. luxury automobile and the international company’s need for a facility in the Mid-South. Demand for parts from BMW’s 350 automobile and 170 motorcycle dealers is nearing capacity in existing distribution facilities in California and New Jersey. Construction recently began on an $600 million expansion to the Spartanburg, S.C. plant that should be completed next year.

More than 120 million cars travel U.S. roads and more than a million BMWs are presently on the road, according to the BMW Web site.

In 1996, about 100,000 BMW vehicles were sold in the U.S. More than 125,000 were sold in 1997. More than 150,000 BMWs are estimated to be sold this year, and future annual sales growth is projected around 10%, particularly after the introduction of BMW’s sports utility vehicle, which will begin in the South Carolina plant in October.

In 1994, BMW paid British Aerospace $1.2 billion in cash for an 80% share in Rover Group, Britain’s largest automaker, in a deal that doubled the German-based company’s market share in Europe. Eventually, parts for the Rover Group, which produces the Rover, Range Rovers, Land Rovers and Discovery automobiles, will be handled through the fully automated and computerized distribution center in Senatobia.

Immediate access to I-55 and to nearby delivery centers, including nearby Federal Express and United Parcel Service, were critical factors in the decision.

“With its proximity to Memphis International Airport, Tate County was especially attractive to BMW of North America, which needs to get its products delivered overnight,” Heidel said.

MDECD put together an incentive package of more than half a million dollars for BMW’s location in Tate County, including state, local and private concessions.

“We have worked hard to create a business-friendly environment in Mississippi and our hard work is paying off in capital investment and jobs for our citizens,” Heidel said. “BMW required close proximity to major transportation corridors and air transport hubs served by Memphis International Airport, a qualified labor pool, a high quality of life, and cooperation from private and government leaders.”

Kevin Glidewell, owner of Pioneer Realty in Senatobia, said the residential and commercial real estate markets haven’t been affected — yet — by the recent groundbreaking for the new BMW plant.

“We anticipate a major following from this,” he said. “We don’t expect as much from BMW as we do from other companies coming in and following behind them.”

Heidel said BMW’s decision to locate in Mississippi speaks volumes about the economic climate of the state.

“We’re delighted that BMW has joined the other outstanding companies which find Mississippi’s pro-business attitude very appealing,” Heidel said. “BMW’s decision to locate here speaks volumes about the economic climate of our state, and the incredible progress which has been made over the last eight years — progress which has attracted private capital investment of more than $17.7 billion and resulted in the announcement of more than 185,900 new jobs. By any standard, these are remarkable achievements.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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