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Agility Fuel Systems opens up shop in Rowan County

Agility arrives

County Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene looks at a natural-gas-powered garbage truck on Wednesday during the grand opening ceremony of Agility Fuel Systems' East Coast headquarters in Salisbury.  Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post

County Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene looks at a natural-gas-powered garbage truck on Wednesday during the grand opening ceremony of Agility Fuel Systems’ East Coast headquarters in Salisbury. Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post

Shawn Adelsberger and Agility Fuel Systems went shopping more than a year ago and found Rowan County.

Adelsberger, the general manager of Agility’s East Coast headquarters in Salisbury, recalls one particular stop on the shopping trip quite vividly. After all, it’s the spot Agility stopped at to make a $20 million purchase.

Adelsberger and Agility were actively browsing available buildings in multiple counties for an East Coast facility. He stopped on Corporate Center Drive — near Julian Road — in front of group of men in suits.

“They looked like they were ready for a fight,” Adelsberger said. “And, they were.”

Then men didn’t have an available building for Agility to use, but they did have a piece of paper with plans for a custom-built facility. A forested area sat in the intended location for Agility’s building.

A custom-built facility was questionable at first, Adelsberger said. Agility needed to be producing its natural gas fuel systems in 13 months.

That was 13 months ago.

Agility Fuel Systems held a private grand opening ceremony Wednesday at its 204,000-square-foot East Coast headquarters, which currently has 77 employees. Production is scheduled to start in about a week. The company plans to hire about 150 for its first shift, according to Adelsberger. The addition of a second shift is possible and would double the number of employees, he said.

During a speech on Wednesday, Agility Chief Operating Officer William Nowicke said the company invested a total of $20 million in its Salisbury facility. It’s the first vertically integrated natural gas fuel system production facility in North America, Nowicke said.

“What’s inside this beautifully constructed, 204,000-square-foot building is a game-changer for our industry,” he said. “Agility now has complete control in one location over the quality, cost and delivery of our natural gas fuel systems.”

He also stressed the importance of the clean-burning fuel systems Agility creates.

However, the long road to Wednesday’s announcement began in a garage, where Agility’s founders built their first natural gas fuel system. The company secured its first bus contract before it even owned a facility to produce a product. Agility now owns the largest market share of its industry.

RowanWorks Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons touted the rapid build time of Agility’s facility as an example that “Rowan County is open for business.”

Other officials proudly welcomed Agility to Rowan County. County commissioners Chairman Greg Edds thanked Agility Fuel Systems for selecting Rowan and described the significance of the company’s new facility.

“Thank you for picking us,” Edds said. “Thank you for taking a chance on us. Thank you for investing in us, and we pledge to you that you will not regret it.”

Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson looked to a moment from the Andy Griffith Show for his speech.

“It’s like my favorite characters on TV, as Barney Fife told Andy,” Woodson said during his speech. “Barney said ‘Andy, this is big. This is real big.’ ”

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, who wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s event, sent along a welcome to Agility Fuel Systems. Hudson visited the facility in August.

“With this grand opening, Agility Fuel Systems is bringing hundreds of good jobs to our community, boosting our economy and powering America’s domestic energy revolution,” Hudson said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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