International Announcement Covered by Worldwide Press

Opinion by Mike Hobson

On last Wednesday, March 16, the world’s largest battery production plant for an international supplier of future electric vehicles that will be shipped worldwide held a major press event in north Bibb County. In the past few days articles have already appeared highlighting the opening of this futuristic manufacturing plant in Bibb County, Alabama in such publications as the New York Times, MotorTrend, WardsAuto, Dow Jones Newswires Market Watch, Washington Post, and many others.


Michael Goebel President North America Operations, Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management, Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Management, responsible for Production and Supply Chain Management and other MBUSI dignitaries were on hand for the announcement. Governor Kay Ivey and members of her cabinet attended. Members of the International Press were present in person to cover the event.


The Washington Post described the plant as being located in Alabama near Tuscaloosa. MBUSI press releases have been clear that the new plant is located in Bibb County and highlighted Bibb County in their future plans. Soon, everyone interested in electric vehicle and battery technology around the globe will have their attention drawn to Bibb County, Alabama.


The New York times writer tagged their article from Woodstock but never mentioned Bibb County in the text. The writer said “the German carmaker has a large factory complex near Tuscaloosa where it has built conventional S.U.V.s since the 1990’s” and never clarified that the new battery plant is in nearby Bibb County.


An ABC news article from an Associated Press report tagged their article Tuscaloosa and said “Mercedes-Benz has opened a new electric vehicle battery factory near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that will create up to 600 new jobs.”


Word around town was that the MBUSI Washington DC public relations office was handling the invitation list and maybe they had not updated their Outlook Contact list for Bibb County officials lately. Even the biggest corporation in the world doesn’t know everybody. So no one, including the Centreville Press was offended when no invitation to this high profile event arrived in the mailbox.


Kudos for County Commissioners Jeremy Lightsey, Charles Caddell and James Kelly who made phone calls to the MBUSI Washington DC office and made sure they were invited after they heard on short notice that the event was going to happen. Woodstock Councilman Ty Corbell, Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley, and State Senator April Weaver attended. Representative Russell Bedsole said he was invited but could not attend.


Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley said he did not receive an invitation but went anyway when he learned about the event. Chamber of Commerce Director Valerie Cook said the Chamber did not receive an invitation. Not a member of the Bibb County Industrial Development Board or the County Industrial Development Coordinator was present for the event.


Mayor Walt Maddox and Senator Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa were in attendance for the event, along with Political Candidate and Former Probate Judge Wes Allen. From the looks of the automobile pictured above T-Town and MBUSI are promoting Tuscaloosa as the home of the new Mercedes battery powered product.


In this week’s edition of the Centreville Press we report that Mercedes and the Tuscaloosa Fire Department plan to build a new fire station near the existing production plant in Vance that will also serve the Bibb County MB battery plant. Dollars will come from MBUSI for salaries and the State of Alabama kicked in $10M [of your tax dollars] to build the facility and buy fire fighting equipment.


We know from talking to Fire Chief McAdory at Vance there were negotiations with Vance and Greenpond about providing fire protection for the new battery plant. That did not materialize and presently there are no mutual aid agreements in place even though Tuscaloosa will be crossing county lines to serve Mercedes.


Didn’t the Town of Woodstock de-annex land years ago so the MB plant could be built without being in the city limits ? Mayor Dodson needs a fire department but there has been no offer from the State of Alabama to help Woodstock finance or equip one. Is the Tuscaloosa Fire Department now going to serve a single industry in Bibb County with tax payer money from Montgomery ? Hmmm, how does that work when volunteer fire departments in Bibb County always seem to be underfunded and in need of equipment ?


Bibb County seems to have some work to do in the marketing and public relations arena if we ever are to gain a substantial foothold in the stream of commerce happening around us and accelerate the growth of new businesses and opportunities for Bibb County. Something sure seems amiss when the Governor and the Board of Directors of one of the world’s largest corporations and foreign press travel to Bibb County for a major plant opening and every local official with economic development responsibility in the county doesn’t receive a personalized invitation to the event and end up seated on the front row and standing for every photo op.

Maybe we should talk to the people in Tuscaloosa and attend an economic development class taught by Walt Maddox. They have now succeeded in sending a message to the world that they are building futuristic automobiles in Tuscaloosa. The world press is adopting that message.

Meanwhile here in Bibb County we are still inching along. Why are we not more engaged ?

Be sure to pick up your copy of the Centreville Press this week. If you are not a subscriber you should be. In the future you will need to be a subscriber to the Centreville Press to get full access to our digital site. We are not there yet but will be soon when we launch our digital edition of the Centreville Press.

And I still have a lot of unanswered questions for some people in politics, and I bet those of you who are being asked to pay annual fire “contributions” to support your volunteer fire departments in your communities in Bibb County do too.

Professor Henry D. Davidson[1] did not know how meaningful his book would still be here in the 21st century.




Inching Along; or, the Life and Works of an Alabama Farm Boy, an Autobiography. Nashville; National Publication Company, 1944.

[1] https://www.lib.ua.edu/Alabama_Authors/?p=1062