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utomotive companies continue to spark Alabama's economic engine. Fresh figures from the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association (AAMA) show the industry had nearly 45,000 direct automotive jobs at 263 plants in 2005, up from about 31,200 in 2003, a 44 percent increase. AAMA's survey includes 263 plants. That's some rapid growth since the first survey in 2001, which found about 27,000 jobs at 116 plants.
Growth in the sector will continue in 2006, according to the University of Alabama's Center for Business & Economic Research, which predicts the state's manufacturing sector will grow by 5.1 percent in 2006, largely due to a nearly 27-percent increase expected in motor vehicle production.
One of the latest automotive projects is developing in Muscle Shoals, where North American Lighting, a division of Japan-based Koito Manufacturing Co., is building a US$21-million factory to produce tail lamps for automobiles. Toyota owns 20 percent of Koito, which also operates three factories in Illinois. The 200,000-sq-ft. (18,600-sq.-m.) plant will begin operations in June 2007 and plans call for the production of 1.8 million tail lamps by 2010.
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