- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PINE HILL, Ala. (AP) - A Chinese copper tubing company celebrated its opening Wednesday in one of America’s poorest counties.

Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey joined officials from GD Copper USA for the ceremony at the $100 million plant near Pine Hill.

GD Copper USA is part of Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tubing Group of Xinxiang, China. Golden Dragon Chairman Li Changjie said the plant employs 150 people now and expects to have 300 when it reaches full production in 18 months. It is making copper tubing for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

State officials said the plant is the first major industry to locate in Wilcox County in 45 years. The southwest Alabama county traditionally leads the state in unemployment, with 15.5 percent in April, and its median family income of $29,000 makes it the only county in Alabama below $30,000.

“It’s not always going to be the poorest area. It’s going to change,” Bentley said.

Officials said jobs at the plant will pay in the high $30,000 and low $40,000 range.

The company is in line for a state and local incentives package worth about $200 million. Much of that is in tax credits and abatements spread out over 20 years. To get the entire incentive package, the company must meet various employment levels and maintain them.

The company had originally picked a site near Thomasville in neighboring Clarke County, but then decided it needed a larger location. On Bentley’s second day in office, he announced the project would remain in Alabama and would move just across the county line to Wilcox County.

Bentley features the plant in one of his re-election ads.

GD Copper USA is the third Chinese plant operating in Alabama. The others are Continental Motors in Mobile, which makes piston engines for aircraft, and Shandong Swan USA in Montgomery, which makes saws for cotton gins.

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