by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – ABB, a multinational power and automation technology company, will open its Huntersville high-voltage cable plant Sept. 19 with more than just a 430-foot tower in the sky to show for its efforts.

ABB invested $90 million into its newest plant and exceeded its objective of creating 100 jobs in the area, ABB Production Manager Tony Velotta said.

“We’ll have added 135 jobs once we’re fully staffed,” he said, noting that will happen by the end of the year.

“There’s a significant impact of ABB coming (to the area),” Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jerry Broadway said. “I’ve always been told  and it’s always worked out, that for every 100 manufacturing jobs you create in an area you create 170 non-manufacturing jobs. So this is big for our economy.”

ABB’s plant is located in a 240,000-square foot facility at the Commerce Station Business Park off N.C. 115. Its tall concrete tower conducts the vertical extrusion process, which creates the cables’ perfect concentricity.

Town of Huntersville Principal Planner David Peete said the town has been prepared for the infrastructure necessary for a plant like ABB for as far back as 10 years.

“Huntersville made the leap in the mid-90s and got a strong foundation for the development that’s in the works,” Peete said. “We put our best foot forward. We’ve been very fortunate.”

The Zurich, Switzerland-based organization has its North American main office in Cary – which represents the Raleigh market – but it wanted an office in Huntersville to draw from the Charlotte market.

“Charlotte’s area has a growing energy sector,” Broadway said.

Velotta agreed.

“The workforce was one of the primary reasons we came to this area,” he said.

Huntersville’s facility supplies high-voltage and extra high-voltage transmission cables for AC and DC applications. That’s part of an effort to maximize underground electric power for the U.S. Department of Energy’s “smart grid,” a series of wires, sub-stations, transformers and switches that carry electricity from manufacturing plants to consumers.

But the town benefits from more than job creation. There’s also the possibility of what Peete called a “reciprocal effect” that could enable suppliers to join forces with ABB and create a building in the town to supply the new plant with its necessary materials.

In that way ABB’s arrival in Huntersville could add even more jobs long-term, which follows the town’s newly adopted 2030 Community Plan.

“The plan calls for diversification of Huntersville,” Peete said. “We want the 50,000 people of the area to not have to go to Charlotte as much to work. The town has taken steps to (encourage) that level of recruitment. Having businesses like ABB here helps with that.”

ABB’s new plant diversifies the town’s tax base and allows more stability, Peete said.

Broadway said the last time a plant in Huntersville opened up so many jobs in the area was Saertex USA, which makes fabrics used to manufacture wind turbine blades. It expanded in 2010 and created 178 jobs.

ABB operates in nearly 100 countries and employs roughly 145,000 people worldwide.

“There’s a great resource pool here around Charlotte,” Velotta said. “We’re excited to be here.”