Daikin expanding, could build new Decatur plant
$75 million projects to add 50 jobs; CEO says company also considering manufacturing air conditioners here
Daikin America officials unveiled five expansion projects Thursday at the Decatur plant that will add 50 employees and cost the company $75 million.
The chairman of the 45,000-employee corporation based in Osaka, Japan, also hinted that the company is considering Decatur for an air-conditioner plant. Daikin is the largest producer of air conditioners in the world, recently surpassing U.S.-based Carrier.
“Considering the very warm and strong support rendered to us from the city of Decatur over the last 18 years, I believe that it is worthwhile that we investigate the possibility of starting up an air-conditioning plant here in Decatur, although I cannot commit to you today,” said Noriyuki Inoue, speaking through a translator.
Inoue was responding to a comment by Decatur Mayor Don Stanford.
“Mr. Inoue, I want to thank you right now for bringing the air-conditioning plant to Decatur,” Stanford said, laughing. “Nobody may know about it but you and me.”
The major project Daikin announced at the event — attended by numerous elected officials, including Gov. Robert Bentley — was an expansion of the plant’s melts fluoropolymer facility. The $60 million project was first announced in 2008 but halted when the recession slowed sales. The product is used as insulation for electrical cabling and fuel hoses, especially in the aerospace, automotive and energy industries.
Daikin officials also announced the Decatur plant will be the company’s first to supply the U.S. market with electrolytes for use in ion lithium batteries, used in electric and hybrid automobiles.
The third project was a pharmaceutical-intermediates production facility, which will manufacturer a component of surgical anesthetics.
The company also is completing a production facility for OpTool coatings, used to protect smart phones, computer tablets and eyeglasses from smudging.
The fifth project is a photovoltaic installation. The solar panels, on Alabama 20 near Daikin’s annex (the former Prestolite), produce 200 kilowatts of power. Daikin sells some of the power to Tennessee Valley Authority. The panels were produced with Daikin products.
Plant Manager David Hendrixson had various elected officials, paired with Daikin officials, flip switches to symbolically begin each expansion.
After the expansion, the Decatur plant will have 400 employees. Since it broke ground in 1991, total investment in the plant will be $600 million when the expansions are complete.
In August 2008, the Decatur Industrial Development Board authorized a $1.7 million abatement in state and county non-educational property taxes and a $1 million abatement in state sales taxes for the melts fluoropolymer expansion.
On the eve of the annual Daikin festival, which attracted 20,000 to the fairgrounds last year, elected officials praised the company’s corporate citizenship. State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, introduced Bentley, who attended with his wife.
The governor said the Daikin expansion was a sign that better economic times are coming for the state.
“We’re trying so hard in this state to expand our economy, and we can see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Bentley said. “The reason for that is we have a core of industries in this state, like Daikin, that have vision.”
Inoue said the people of Decatur have been essential to the plant’s success.
“We want to continue making investments here for the expansion of the plant,” Inoue said. “We want to generate additional employment and contribute to the community.”