New Alberta tech facility provides employment, opportunities for students


CW / Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson | @ZachJohnsonCW, Contributing Writer

On Friday, German engineering and consulting firm SWJ Gruppe broke ground on its new Alberta Technology Center in front of the Alberta School of Performing Arts on University Boulevard.

This comes just days after Tuscaloosa’s city council voted to provide $250,000 in financial assistance to the construction of SWJ Technologies’ new national headquarters and research facility. 

“What we intend to do … is to actually increase the services that we do already provide to our customers, but we’d like to expand,” Wolfgang Kneer, chairman, CEO and president of SWJ Technologies, said at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. “There will be new services such as measurement technologies, 3D rapid prototyping, advanced tool, die and fixture assembly, and a lot of engineering work that comes about.” 

Kneer said the company has worked closely with the University, hiring several UA students as engineering interns. 

“So far, the support and opportunities we see here are tremendous,” Kneer said. 

SWJ Technologies is a subsidiary of the German company SWJ Gruppe, a collection of engineering, consulting and planning firms primarily specializing in the industrial sector. Currently, SWJ Technologies operates offices in Chattanooga, TN and Greenville, SC. 

According to their website, SWJ Technologies’ clientele includes mostly automotive companies, including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz Daimler, Hyundai, BMW and AMG, though it has a hand in the manufacturing process of other major companies too, like Siemens and LaZBoy. 

The groundbreaking was attended by Mayor Maddox and many councilmembers, along with multiple high ranking members of SWJ, including founding member Markus Jurditsch.

“This well-established manufacturing infrastructure, as well as a growing engineering sector, has identified Tuscaloosa as an ideal location for us to set up our first facility in America,” Jurditsch said. “It clearly demands our commitment to supporting a robust industry here in Tuscaloosa.” 

SWJ’s new Alberta Technology Center is not critical to just Tuscaloosa’s manufacturing and engineering sector, but also to Alberta (District 5). After the tornadoes in April 2011, much of Alberta was devastated. Mayor Maddox credited Alberta’s city councilman Kip Tyner with making the project happen.

“Never in my life have I worked so hard on anything in my life,” Tyner stated in a Facebook post. “I’m so emotional as this WILL change the landscape of Alberta.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Tyner spoke at length to thank those he had worked with in bringing SWJ’s newest facility to Tuscaloosa. 

“This is probably the biggest news in the history of this area,” Tyner said. “This is a very tradition-rich part of Tuscaloosa. Once, in its heyday, it’s where everyone wanted to work and wanted to live. [We] went through some rough times and have been waiting for a day like this. To think we’re home to an international German corporation that’ll bring hundreds of new jobs … It’s just thrilling.”

During the groundbreaking ceremony, many officials readily connected the new facility to the connections SWJ already has to students and the new opportunities it will provide. 

“We’ve actually hired over 10 students in engineering positions,” Kneer said. “We have internship programs with students from the University, and our goal is to add apprentice programs for the new facility and to continue to employ top-notch students from the engineering college, from the IT side, from the business college. It’s been working out for us really well, and we’ll continue down that path.”

As the ceremony concluded, Maddox, Tyner, Kneer and SWJ executives Jurditsch and Stefan Hartmann each broke ground on the new facility together.