Mercedes moving headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta

Author: Associated Press

German luxury automobile maker Mercedes-Benz said Tuesday that it’s moving its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta, in part to be closer to its manufacturing facility in Alabama.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the company accepted an incentive package from the state but said he couldn’t discuss the details yet. The Fulton County Development Authority met briefly Tuesday to discuss its own incentive package for Mercedes’ estimated $93 million facility but provided no details.

The decision comes after weeks of lobbying – some of it public – by New Jersey officials who sought to keep the company in Montvale, at a campus that’s about a five-minute drive from BMW’s North American headquarters.

About 1,000 jobs are to be moved starting in July. The company said it will move first to a temporary facility in Atlanta before moving into a new space in about two years. Deal and Georgia economic development officials would not discuss the location Mercedes is pursuing in metro Atlanta. Mercedes said it would announce more details later this month

Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Stephen Cannon said in a statement that the company will benefit by being closer to its growing base of customers in the Southeast as well as its port in Brunswick, Georgia, and its manufacturing facility in Alabama.

Cannon praised New Jersey and the company said some operational areas will remain in Montvale and Robbinsville

“The state has worked tirelessly with us as we evaluated our options,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, though, it became apparent that to achieve the sustained, profitable growth and efficiencies we require for the decades ahead, our headquarters would have to be located elsewhere.”

He also said the quality of life, schools and cultural options in Atlanta were reasons to move there.

Other recent Georgia projects in the automotive industry include the construction of a new U.S. headquarters for Porsche near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Kia’s first U.S. manufacturing facility about 75 miles southwest of Atlanta. Executives have cited access to the world’s busiest airport for employee travel and to the state’s ports for shipping.

Deal credited the state’s access to that infrastructure and an insistence on cooperation between economic development, utility and education officials for the results.

Deal said the most memorable portion of the state’s pursuit was being told that the automaker was seriously considering Georgia for its U.S. headquarters. Deal said Mercedes-Benz approached Georgia officials several months ago.

“The prestige associated with that name is exciting to me,” Deal said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a series of meetings and calls with Cannon to try to keep the company in New Jersey, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor.

“In each conversation Mercedes USA made one thing very clear about its decision to leave: The cost of doing business and the tax environment is just too high here to be competitive with a state like Georgia,” he said.

That reinforces Christie’s “repeated calls to lower taxes and change the business climate,” Drewniak said.

New Jersey promised more than $2 billion in future tax breaks to companies moving to or remaining in the state, more than it promised from 1996 through 2009 combined, and could have offered Mercedes-Benz up to $15 million to stay just from one incentive aimed at car companies’ U.S. headquarters.

Under New Jersey’s incentives last year, Subaru of America agreed to stay in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia 76ers announced plans to move their offices and practice facility to Camden, New Jersey, while continuing to play in Philadelphia, a short drive away.

But the state has lost some major businesses to the South: Car rental giant The Hertz Corp. is moving to Estero, Florida, with the help of $85 million in tax breaks, and Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air Corp. is moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, with the aid of $35 million in breaks.

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