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Surrounded by spotlights and upbeat music, a sleek new BMW X3 model rolled on stage in front of a cheerful crowd during the company’s 25th anniversary event at the Spartanburg County plant Monday morning.
But the bigger applause came when a group of employees joined the stage to signify the faces behind the cars that are manufactured here.
BMW’s success in South Carolina wouldn’t have happened were it not for the dedication and talent from the men and women working in the plant, company leaders said.
“You’re at the heart of BMW,” BMW Manufacturing President and CEO Knudt Flor told the workers. “The associates are the heart of the plant.”
Company officials used Monday’s celebration to unveil the latest generation X3 model, and they announced a new $600 million investment and their intent to add 1,000 more jobs to the plant.
About 28,000 vehicles were manufactured in the plant’s first year of operation. The number of cars is now produced roughly every 20 days, making the Spartanburg County plant BMW’s largest in the world by volume.
“Without the associates, that success would have never been possible,” said BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger, who oversees global operations.
Charles Jeffery, 44, has been with the plant fore more than 22 years and remembers working on a production line in one of the original assembly halls. He now is a manager for Assembly Hall North, which produces the X3 and X4 models.
BMW employees stand next to the latest generation X3 vehicle, unveiled Monday, at the Spartanburg plant. [ALEX HICKS JR./SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL]
“I was working with a company in the local area and was looking to get into manufacturing and saw that they were hiring, so I put in and the rest is history,” Jeffery said. “It’s been outstanding.”
Jeffery said working at BMW has led to a lasting career and a better life for his wife and two children, who are preparing to graduate from college.
“I think it’s provided us a lot more opportunities to enjoy life and also provided me a great, excellent career,” he said. “I learn something new every day.”
Maria Puckett, 25, is a recent graduate of the technical scholars program (at Spartanburg Community College), which allows people the opportunity to work at BMW part-time and take college classes for two years to earn a degree and continue on in a career at BMW.
“In working with associates who have been here for years, they really take us under their wing and really show us what’s going on, and they’ve been really supportive,” Puckett said. “You get a lot of people who care about what they do here, and they’ve been loyal to the company for years. … These people have seen this place grow and transform from the ground up, and that’s amazing.”
Clufundria Dawkins, 32, of Spartanburg, graduated in May as a BMW tech scholar and began her first full day of work Monday as an equipment service associate.
Married with two children, Dawkins said she was studying to be a nurse when a friend encouraged her to join the tech scholar program by taking classes at Spartanburg Community College.
The chance for a good-paying career with BMW was too good to pass up, she said.
“They are a highly respected company, and I heard nothing but good things,” Dawkins said. “They base everything on quality. Everyone’s been here 10 to 15 years or more. That says a lot for a company.”