A NEW metal surface treatment plant will open within weeks in the East London Industrial Development Zone.
The e-coating facility will offer component suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) a state- of-the-art plant, which will be a first for the city.
Automotive Industry Development Centre manager Lance Schultz, who has been facilitating the establishment of the treatment plant, said the facility would be used by suppliers to Mercedes-Benz South Africa, and, possibly, other OEMs.
E-coating involves the treatment of car panels and parts for rust-proofing "before being painted in order to make the [metal] composition stable".
Construction on the R50-million plant started in November last year and about 60 permanent jobs would be created when it became operational, Schultz said.
The development zone will own the plant. Also, an operator is in the process of being appointed.
A R10-million Buffalo City incubator, which will train entrepreneurs, is another development centre project. The Buffalo City Metro is a partner in the job-creation initiative.
Also, the development centre was instrumental in acquiring grant funding from the Development Bank of South Africa's R9-billion Jobs Fund to place 135 graduating engineers into the Eastern Cape automotive industry in three years.
The engineers, who will be sponsored through the grants, will be placed in 17 companies in Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay, where they will provide scarce skills support to manufacturers. The programme is expected to create annual savings of R100-million for the industry.
Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas said the grants added momentum to the provincial government's efforts to boost the socio-economic outlook of the region.
"This programme is key to facilitating the growth of manufacturing output, and the potential of exports, by increasing our automotive supply chain's level of competitiveness.
"Increased productivity, particularly in manufacturing, creates much- needed jobs," Jonas said.
The province was "picking the fruits of the government's investment in the [development centre]", he said.
The centre is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.