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ARDMORE, OK-China’s oldest carmaker, Nanjing Automobile Group Corp., will break ground in early 2007 on a 117-acre tract in Ardmore Airpark to develop a 300,000-sf manufacturing and distribution facility as part of its international initiative to resurrect the MG brand. The state’s monumental win in the $2-billion program includes the headquarters of the newly formed MG Motors North America Inc. along with research and development.

Kim Custer, MG Motors spokesman, tells GlobeSt.com that headquarters, marketing and sales teams will office in Downtown Oklahoma City, but the address has yet to be selected. The R&D component goes to the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He says state’s performance-indexed incentives were the dealmakers. “They were a little unusual, but we are comfortable with them,” he says.

The carmaker’s $2-billion plan includes a new MG plant in China, restarting the roadster’s production line in Longbridge, UK and the Oklahoma assembly plant and parts distribution center. Additional news from the Nanjing Automobile’s camp about the MG revival will be aired Monday at a press conference at the London Car Show.

The state will kick in $15 million for infrastructure at the development site on the east side of the 2,955-acre airpark, situated six miles east of Interstate 35. Backing also has come from the Oklahoma Sovereign Development LLC and Davis Capital LLC as well as a litany of incentives from the state, Oklahoma City and Ardmore.

The plans include adding 1,800 feet to the 7,200-foot runway, bringing a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spur to the site and extending utility lines, says Brian Thorstenberg, vice president of the Ardmore Development Authority. He says infrastructure contracts most likely will be let by summer’s end.

The MG project will pick up extra perks from the state’s Quality Jobs Program, which is a cash-back, performance-based incentive for employers with a minimum $2.5 million payroll who meet the average wage of the county, which is Carter in Ardmore’s case, and provide health insurance. It also is entitled to the Training for Industry program. The Ardmore operation will employ 325 workers while OKC is getting 150 jobs and Norman picks up 35. The estimated payroll is $30 million. Custer says the plan is to start interviewing and hiring in the spring so there’s ample time for training.

Custer says the Ardmore plant, ticketed to produce the TF Coupe, is slated to come on line in mid-2008. Panels, engines and transmissions will be built elsewhere and shipped to Ardmore for assembly.

Custer says the site search began about a year ago after Nanjing Automobile bought MG Rover Group Ltd.’s assets out of bankruptcy. There were other locations in the running, but the states’ identities aren’t being disclosed since it’s a moot point.

Oklahoma fielded the Nanjing Automobile inquiry in late September 2005, according to Christine Berney with the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. A delegation subsequently went to England to tour the Longbridge plant and meet with Nanjing’s corporate chiefs, who now include the newly seated North America president and CEO Duke T. Hale, a 25-year veteran with executive experience at Volvo, Mazda, Isuzu and Lotus.

“We knew it was going very well,” Thorstenberg says about the win, “but you never really know until the end. It says a lot for the state of Oklahoma and the environment for business.”

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