August 29, 2011
By Steve Sewell, EDPA; AAMA Board Member
Ten years ago, at the same time Alabama was aggressively working to build an automotive industry by recruiting leading companies, it was just beginning to come to terms with what it means to be an automotive state.
At that time, Mercedes-Benz was less than five years into production at its facility in Tuscaloosa and Honda was about to begin operations at its new plant in Lincoln. Navistar had recently located an engine plant in Huntsville, and major investments from Hyundai and Toyota were on the horizon. Dozens of component suppliers were locating facilities in the state and many more would follow.
Amid the efforts to attract automotive companies, there was a realization that the state needed to focus on meeting the needs of a growing and important industry.
One effort was born out of a simple vision to establish an organization that would support the “growth and continuous improvement” of the auto industry. The Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association was created and went to work in the areas where it could make the greatest contribution.
In AAMA’s first decade, its best work has included continuous improvement programs, other professional development and training opportunities, and a scholarship program to two-year institutions that has prepared students for careers in the auto industry. At the same time, AAMA has become the place – through its website, communications and quarterly meetings – where companies can connect and get information about the state’s auto industry.
Key to the association’s success is participation of the automotive companies themselves. Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Navistar, Toyota, ZF Industries and others have given their time and expertise to make sure that AAMA is as effective as possible in its efforts.
AAMA has also had the benefit of an executive director who himself was a driving force behind the creation of the association and who saw that programs were executed successfully. Dr. Bernard Schroer is retiring this year after leaving his mark on an organization that continues to play a critical role in supporting one of Alabama’s most important industries. At the 10th Anniversary Celebration this month, he was honored with the re-naming of the scholarship program in his honor.
And, while AAMA has spent ten years focusing entirely on supporting auto companies in Alabama, its very existence has also served to make the state more attractive to companies looking to locate in the state.