Global automotive parts supplier may pour $100M into Williamson County

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Feb 19th, 2024

Project could create hundreds of jobs in region’s booming auto manufacturing sector

For the better part of a year, speculation has been rampant about an automotive parts supplier potentially bringing hundreds of jobs and at least $100 million of investment to a city north of Austin.

That company is Hanwha Advanced Materials LLC, a massive global automotive parts supplier that has worked with the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world. The company is planning to invest $100 million as it builds a 200,000-square-foot industrial building just outside the city limits of Georgetown — and that’s only the start.

Williamson County commissioners on March 19 will consider entering into a tax abatement incentives agreement with Hanwha Advanced Materials for the project.

The company, a division of South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group, on Feb. 9 purchased roughly 38 acres just north of where Interstate 35 and State Highway 130 meet, according to Williamson County property records. The purchase took place four days before the Williamson County Commissioners Court unanimously approved establishing a tax increment reinvestment zone on the same parcel on Feb. 13 “to attract major investment in the zone that will be of benefit to the property and contribute to the economic development of the County.”

Hanwha bills itself as a key cog in the global automotive supply chain, specializing in injection molding and building lightweight and environmentally conscious products for automotive structures and interiors. The company has worked with Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Toyota in the past and has manufacturing facilities around the world, including in Alabama and North Carolina and two in Michigan.

It’s unclear if Hanwha is coming to the Austin metro to serve Tesla Inc.’s massive electric vehicle factory in eastern Travis County. Though, two of Hanwha’s customers — Toyota and GM — operate in San Antonio and Arlington, respectively, along the I-35 corridor.

There are also ties between another Hanwha Group subsidiary and Tesla. According to Travis County real estate records, Hanwha Corp. has been operating at the Tesla site in Travis County since at least 2022. And in 2020, several news outlets cited a since-deleted report from The Korea Times that Tesla had signed a deal with Hanwha Corp. to purchase battery-making machines for its facilities.

Another subsidiary called Hanwha Convergence also appears to operate in Williamson County, according to LinkedIn.

A representative from Hanwha Advanced Materials’ Alabama location, which serves as the company’s U.S. headquarters, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Long-time coming

Speculation regarding the project — specifically that the company was scouring areas north of Austin for space — has swirled for nearly a year. Hints about it also trickled out in public documents and meetings.

The first sign that the project was nearing a finish line was last summer, when Williamson County commissioners approved a similar TIRZ for a property within the GTX Logistics Park in Georgetown. But the county, as well as the developer of the park, Dallas-based Green Point Property Co., didn’t reveal the identity of the company behind it, and Green Point didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from the Austin Business Journal.

At that point, however, the project wasn’t taken up again at a public meeting, with sources indicating to the ABJ that the company was looking for a new space because of issues with the first.

Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey confirmed as much during the recent meeting when she said that commissioners “had taken this action earlier but the location of the land where this opportunity is coming has changed and that’s why we’re redoing it today.”

Meanwhile, Dave Porter, executive director of the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership, disclosed late last year that an automotive parts supplier was gearing up to build a 400,000-square-foot factory and hire 800 people, saying an announcement was imminent.

The ABJ has learned through sources that Porter was referring to a potential total investment by Hanwha in a multi-phased project.

Both Porter and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell declined to comment on the project. The location of it is within the city of Georgetown’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, but it isn’t believed to involve the city aside from utility connections.

Regardless, Hanwha’s presence will add to Austin’s status as an emerging hub for the automotive industry.

It also adds to the roster of manufacturers in Georgetown, which for the last two years has been the fastest-growing city of its size in the country. The city north of Austin has millions of square feet of industrial space under construction. Companies such as CelLink Corp., another Tesla supplier, and ZT Systems are soaking up some of the space.

And just this month, vehicle parts manufacturer US Farathane Corp., which has a longtime presence in Austin and is a known supplier of Tesla, said it has leased more than 260,000 square feet in a new industrial park that’s set to become one of the largest in the region. That company is seeking financial incentives for the project.

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