PINE HILL, AL (WSFA) - For the first time, Governor Robert Bentley toured the Golden Dragon Copper Tubing Plant in rural Wilcox County.
The plant is located in a small section of Pine Hill, known as the Sunny South Community.
"It's a great day to be in Wilcox County," Gov. Bentley said upon arriving.
Golden Dragon, or GD Copper, as executives refer to the American facility, announced in 2012 that it would open its first American plant in Alabama. The original plan was for it to be located in Thomasville, a short drive from Pine Hill. Following a site survey, the state and the company agreed on the patch of land in West Wilcox County.
"We just thought this was the best place," said GD Copper Executive Vice President Keith Weil.
GD Copper is a China-based copper tubing manufacturing company. The copper tubing it produces is mainly used in air conditioning systems and refrigerators. Worldwide, the company employs 4,600 people at 12 plants. Golden Dragon has 11 plants in China and one in Mexico.
The Pine Hill plant will employ 300 people at the beginning of 2014, eventually expanding to employ 500 people during the first phase of GD Copper locating in the United States. The facility itself is huge. It is the equivalent of four football fields in length and one football field in width. The company's initial investment was said to be $100 million.
Wilcox County has earned a reputation in recent years not for economic development, but for precisely the opposite. For the past few years it has had the highest unemployment rate among all counties in Alabama and one of the highest rates in the country.
"This will change this county," Gov. Bentley told a group of about 40 people that included construction workers and local government officials. "We need more great companies like this coming to rural areas of Alabama and that will significantly change this state" Gov. Bentley added.
The site is 100 acres but the current facility, when complete, will only take up approximate 35 acres. GD Copper already has plans to expand its use of the site and eventually increase its workforce.