TRENTON, Ga. -- A supplier of automotive and other parts that officials said Thursday was struggling to keep the doors open just a few years ago is expanding to boost the plant's size by about a quarter.
Trenton Pressing, which makes parts for automaker BMW and golf cart producer Club Car, is investing $10 million to build a 105,000-square-foot facility on 12 acres next to its existing factory, said Mike Pfunder, the company's president and chief executive.
"Basically, I heard through the grapevine the company was going to close down," he said in an interview. "When I hear it's hopeless, that's always a good challenge."
About 2 1/2 years ago, Pfunder's group from Germany acquired the existing factory, which carries out metal stamping, welding and assembly along with warehousing and shipping, and it began executing a turnaround.
"Everyone tried to hold me back," he said, noting that he specializes in difficult business projects. "That sort of always puts fuel into my tank."
The expansion, putting the company at more than 500,000-square-feet of space, will enable Trenton Pressing to add about 20 more employees to its workforce of 220, Pfunder said. He said the new space that's slated to be ready near the end of the year will allow the company to grow and seek more business.
Already, Trenton Pressing is one of the top five employers in Dade County, officials said.
State Rep. Mike Cameron, R-Rossville, said the company's expansion is "a door opener."
"Other companies will look at Dade County," he said in an interview.
Jeff Mullis, president and CEO of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Agency and a retired state senator, said the plant had been struggling but found new leadership and vision.
He said in an interview that the factory's success and growth bolsters not just Northwest Georgia, but also the Chattanooga area as well.
Pfunder, a retired BMW executive who spent 38 years in Europe, the United States, South Africa and Japan, said he had to grapple with travel and other restrictions due to the coronavirus when the company was acquired.
The company CEO recalled he couldn't set up a bank account in the U.S. because there weren't flights from Germany.
"You had to be physically here, which was absolutely impossible," Pfunder said.
When the first international flights restarted, he remembered going for an interview for a travel exception in Frankfurt, Germany, where he waited for hours. He said he was the only one of 11 people that day to receive permission.
Pfunder said his first plane to the U.S. was nearly empty except for himself and his son, Hans, who is the company's chief operating officer. A Washington, D.C., airport where the plane landed was empty as well, he said.
When he arrived at the Northwest Georgia plant, he saw rundown machinery, tools and a business on the ropes.
"We had to do a million things," Pfunder said. "Little by little, it improved. Of course, we didn't take any money out. We re-invested everything."
He said the new team had to establish relationships with banks, which was difficult because of the company's prior financial problems.
"In the beginning, very, very tough," Pfunder said. "But not unexpected. When you take on such a misery, nothing but challenges."
The CEO compared rebuilding the company to sending a rocket into space.
"You have several stages," he said. "Once you're stable, and we're there now, you need the next step."
Pfunder said the company has put an emphasis on reliability, adding there are still supply chain challenges.
"When we say we deliver, we deliver," he said. "We've never missed a shipment, ever. This is extremely important to us. How does our customer see us?"
Pfunder didn't give an revenue estimate, and he declined to project how much the company expects to grow.
For the expansion, he said the company looked at other sites outside Trenton, but "they gave the better overall package." That included a property tax break, officials said.
Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said in an interview that Trenton Pressing has been aggressively soliciting employees for its workforce.
"They have not only provided great jobs, but they have also supported our schools and the environment," he said.
Trenton Mayor Joseph A. Case said in an interview that he's excited about the new jobs.
"We are grateful that they are providing us with much needed jobs and also for their overall commitment to help improve the quality of life for our citizens," he said.