KILGORE — Wagner Tuning was at a crossroads — with rising costs of production in California, CEO Carsten Wagner and his team had to plan for the future of their high-end auto parts operation.

In the end, for the German manufacturer, there was no question.

“We had to make a decision,” Wagner said, “and the decision was Kilgore.”

It wasn’t just the community’s strong industrial base. It wasn’t just its ideal location. It wasn’t just the healthy energy costs.

“We decided to do this here because it’s business-friendly. Here, everybody cares about jobs.”

Alongside his wife, Manuela, Wagner stood with Kilgore Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Amanda Nobles, Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and KEDC Board President Bryan Johnston to grab a shovel and break ground Friday on Wagner Tuning’s new home in Synergy Park.

“This is a great day for Kilgore and Wagner Tuning and the Wagner family,” Johnston said. “It’s an exciting day. This has been a two-year journey for KEDC, recruiting folks to come to Kilgore, to come to Synergy Park.”

The team from Kilgore first met Wagner at an industry event in California, he added.

“That obviously developed into a great relationship. This opportunity is a terrific opportunity for the City of Kilgore so Wagner Tuning can become a part of our business community, for the 30-or-so jobs and the multimillion-dollar investment.”

As construction commences, Wagner says his timeline is still set for January 2020. He’s eager to relocate his American inventory, and some German stock as well, to East Texas — where he and his family are making their home.

“Kilgore sits right in the middle. Within a day, within two days — everybody in America has our product,” he said.

Transporting parts worldwide will be more efficient as well, including back home: “We want to get the production up-and-running here so we can produce the parts for Germany and Europe.”

Numerous economic incentives helped draw the company to Kilgore, with a planned $6.25 million total investment including $4.37 million in real property improvements and $1.7 million in personal properties.

Wagner Tuning will be headquartered in a 60,000 square-foot building pre-designed by KEDC and customized for the company.

“I never felt so welcome anywhere in the world,” Wagner praised. “It’s absolutely insane what the people did for me here.”

Johnston also credited Kilgore City Hall, Kilgore ISD, Kilgore College and Gregg County leadership for their role in aiding the economic development corporation’s efforts.

“Obviously, what we do here at KEDC could not be done without the cooperation of our major partners,” he said. “It takes all these people to come together as a team and represent Kilgore to recruit companies to Kilgore.”

Numerous local officials — from the city, college, county, chamber and others — attended Friday morning’s groundbreaking along with personnel from various Kilgore businesses. State and national elected officials sent representatives as well.

“Obviously, we are extremely proud,” Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said, “proud of Wagner Tuning and KEDC’s partnership. This is another feather in KEDC’s cap and another incredible, family-owned business that will call Kilgore home.”

Meeting the Wagner family, “We love it when people love Kilgore as much as they do.”