A German firm is opening its new North American headquarters in west Alabama.
The Tuscaloosa News reports SWJ Technology will build its new 5,000-square-foot facility in the Alberta neighborhood of Tuscaloosa, a part of town that was devastated by a tornado in April 2011.
The company has more than 85 employees in the southeastern United States. It started in 2003 in Frankfurt, Germany. It provides services to companies like Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and the suppliers that service it.
The company plans to relocate aspects of its Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Greenville, South Carolina operations to Tuscaloosa, according to officials.
The firm was recently awarded a $200,000 federal grant through the city's Innovate Tuscaloosa program. That was a major factor in selecting Tuscaloosa over Chattanooga and Greenville as the central hub of its U.S. and Mexican operations.
The grant program is funded with proceeds from disaster recovery dollars administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was created last year as a way to fuel business development and create jobs by bringing services to areas that have yet to recover from the tornado.
SWJ Technology expects to invest about $1.5 million into the new, 5,000-square-foot facility.
The company's decision to build its headquarters in the Alberta neighborhood is a "game changer" on par with Mercedes-Benz choosing Tuscaloosa County for its first North American manufacturing facility in the 1990s according to Tuscaloosa Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents the area.
"How many times have you heard about high-tech jobs, retaining the best and the brightest? That's exactly what this company is going to be able to do," Tyner said.
"But for Alberta itself, it's on an area that had close to 7 percent of the entire city's crime just eight years ago, and now you're talking about a corporate headquarters of an international company."