It's not quite official yet but, DaimlerChrysler is coming to the Coastal Empire. The impact of the new plant will be huge. WTOC wanted to see just how big, so we went to a plant in Alabama to find out. All this week, we'll be exploring several areas that have changed a town, county and region.
You've heard the expression "if you blink, you'll miss it." That's the case for Vance, Alabama. What you can't miss is the Mercedes-Benz plant, which is DaimlerChrysler owned. It covers nearly 1,000 acres and it produces more than 80,000 units every year. And it's changed the way of life for many residents.
"It's livelier," said Vance resident David Sikes. "It brought more jobs to people, you know, and made families happier and things like that."
Crews started preparing land for Tuscaloosa plant about ten years ago. It didn't look like a whole lot back then, but residents were primed. Similar to how residents in Chatham County feel about the land located just off I-16 and 1-95 in Pooler, where trucks haul 600 loads of dirt every day. And what now is just and heavy equipment and holes in the ground, in a few years will look something like the Vance plant.
The plant coming to Chatham County is expected to bring about 3,000 direct jobs. The one in Tuscaloosa County now employs about 2,000. One person who works there is Shay Purser. She says her life wouldn't be the same if it weren't for her job. She started work two years ago and says it has become a family affair. Her husband works there too.
"It's very positive," she told us. "He started to work for them six years ago and it's been fantastic. Well, it's helped everyone around here to get a better job because there wasn't jobs in this area that pays like Mercedes pays. He probably makes $12 more an hour than what he made before, so it's been huge."
As for her, Shay heads up a crew that checks over all the parts before they go into the cars. If something looks wrong, her crew has to make it right. It's long hours, sometimes 50 or 60 hours a week, but Shay says she and her husband don't mind because the tradeoff is well worth it.
"We've got a lot more now. It seems like the more money you make, the more you get. It's made a huge impact on our life," she said.
Although the plant in Chatham County isn't supposed to be complete for another two or three years, residents can get a pretty good idea from the folks in Alabama on what to expect. And in case you're wondering how many local folks work at the plant, at least 95 percent of the employees are from Tuscaloosa County and surrounding areas.