THE East London industrial development zone (IDZ) welcomed a R380-million investment by global automotive supplier Johnson Controls Incorporated (JCI) at a ceremony in the city yesterday.
The JCI plant expansion will bring with it 200 high-level jobs. The company already employs 170000 people worldwide
JCI, which already supplies the Mercedes-Benz plant with interior seating components, will now be supplying the new generation C-Class W205 with instrument and door panels, cockpits and overhead systems at a massive new plant at the IDZ.
The components will be manufactured at the plant using imported raw materials.
Speaking at the ceremony, which was attended by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, provincial Economic Development MEC Mcebisi Jonas and Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, JCI SA vice-president Marco vom Wege said the investment was technologically significant because it represented the manufacture of new parts and not merely their assembly.
Davies said JCI's multimillion-randinvestment would move the region "to a higher plane of manufacturing and the introduction of new technology".
He said manufacturers had realised Africa was the next growth frontier in the world economy and that South Africa should be in a pivotal strategic position in this regard.
"I think this country is beginning to make progress and that can be seen in the attitude of foreign investors," Davies said.
Saluting the success of the EL IDZ, Davies said the value of its investments, which in 2009 had been R600-million, had expanded to R4-billion.
Jonas said the new plant would bolster the Eastern Cape as the centre of automotive production.
He said the investment should be celebrated because it was being made against a backdrop of global economic gloom.
Jonas emphasised it was critical for the IDZ to bring new investors to East London by using current businesses like Mercedes-Benz to attract new investment like the one made by JCI.
EL IDZ chief executive Simphiwe Kondlo said JCI's new plant was exciting because it would create "top quality jobs" which would be vital for skills transfer in the automotive sector.
"This is exciting, not just because of the manufacture of new products, but because we will be the first after Germany to have this technology and it grows our capacity as a region."