A Detroit-based company that has designed auto plants and other factories is opening an office in Birmingham.

Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., and Birmingham's SRW & Associates, Inc., have set up a new company called Kahn South, which will be the firm's first U.S. office outside Detroit.

Besides design work for factories, Kahn South will handle planning responsibilities for health care and education projects. Both companies already work extensively in those fields.

Mercedes-Benz’s expanding Alabama operation was a major factor in Kahn South's creation, a Kahn official said.

Stephen Whitney, chief executive of Albert Kahn, said the company had worked with SRW's principals on the original Mercedes plant project and on later expansion projects in Vance, Ala.

Kahn, founded in 1895, has been closely tied to the automotive industry, beginning with design work for a Packard Motor Car plant. Founder Albert Kahn worked with Henry Ford to create the Rouge plant that gave birth to the assembly-line approach to manufacturing cars.

Kahn designed Nissan's Tennessee plant, BMW's South Carolina factory, and Mercedes' plant in Vance. The company also designed the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville, Ala.