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German crankshaft maker to open Miss. plant

TUNICA, Miss. (AP) -- A German powertrain maker will build its first American factory in Mississippi, with plans to invest $140 million and hire 300 people over five years.

Feuer Powertrain Gmbh & Co. KG says it hopes to start production by early 2015 at the 156,600 square-foot plant it will build. Feuer will make forged crankshafts for cars, trucks and heavy equipment.

"After an intensive site selection process, we are convinced that our decision to locate our first overseas manufacturing facility in Tunica, Mississippi, is the right move," CEO Bernd Gulden said in a statement.

Feuer was founded in 2002 by Dieter Feuer, who is the majority owner of the firm. The company says that its customers include General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group, Ferrari, Jaguar, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Cummins Inc. Its crankshafts are used in cars with diesel engines as well as trucks, agricultural equipment and generators.

"Feuer's decision to invest in Mississippi strengthens our state's growing automotive industry," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement.

The company runs five factories at its headquarters in Nordhausen, Germany. Feuer produces about one million crankshafts a year, and has been in an expansion mode lately. It announced in late 2012 that it had bought the assets of a competitor and that its yearly revenues were on track to exceed 100 million euros, or $135 million. The company has been praised for its speed and flexibility in fulfilling customer orders, with more than 70 percent of production exported. It has been selling its crankshafts in North America for years.

Feuer also considered locating in central Virginia, near the town of Louisa. Officials there told a local newspaper in June they were unable to offer as large an incentive package as Mississippi. Officials said Virginia offered $16.7 million in incentives. Mississippi has provided assistance worth at least $26.5 million, not counting the value of tax breaks.

The Mississippi Development Authority and Tunica County provided unspecified incentives. The state's money for site preparation, infrastructure and workforce training came from the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund, a $468 million line of credit that the Legislature gave MDA in 2009.

Tunica officials welcome the factory, which they say will help to broaden their county's economy. Tunica's casino business, though still large, has been in steady decline in recent years.

"Their choice of Tunica as their North American manufacturing location exemplifies our efforts to diversify our economy," said Tunica County Board of Supervisors President James Dunn. "We are grateful for their commitment to the community and creating jobs."

The company will be the second German manufacturer to set up shop in Tunica County. It will be located a stone's throw away from Schulz Xtruded Products, which makes large seamless pipes. Schulz has pledged to hire 500 people, and had hired 128 as of late last year.