Another Hyundai hurray

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Messenger Publisher

Just hours before Hyundai Motor Co. formally announced plans to build a $1 billion plant in Hope Hull, officials with a Korean auto manufacturing supplier were touring industrial sites in Troy.

Amid hints that "they knew something before us," Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the company’s site visit on Monday ­ although a preliminary one – is indicative of what lies ahead for Pike County.

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"This is something that will be great for Southeast Alabama," Lunsford said of the selection of Hope Hull as the site of Hyundai’s first American manufacturing facility. "Maybe not all the way to Dothan, but certainly within a 50-mile area."

That magic radius is oft-quoted by economic development experts, who say that spin-off industries from the Hyundai plant will be a huge economic boon to central Alabama. Companies that make everything from the engines to the seatbelt latches for the Hyundai cars are likely to seek opportunities to move closer to the assembly plant.

State officials have not released any official estimates of the number of spin-offs, "but everybody I’ve casually talked to about it says it could be much more than dozens" of new businesses in the area, said state Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne.

Mitchell’s district borders the more than 1,600-acre site in Hope Hull where the plant will be built. And he said communities within that district have been preparing for months for the possibility of cashing in on the Hyundai plant.

Greenville, for instance, expanded its airport; built spec buildings in its industrial park; and has aggressively sought advice from the Alabama Development Office.

Troy and Pike County, Mitchell said, have the opportunity to capitalize on what leaders here already do well. "I have always been impressed with the efforts of Pike County," he said, adding that the new Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Brundidge and expansions at Lockheed Martin’s Pike County facility bode well for economic growth in the county.

In this case, Lunsford said, Troy can capitalize on more than its experience in economic development. The mayor and other leaders cite several factors which are likely to make the community an appealing one for prospective industries.

"We have lots and lots of of advantages," said Marsha Gaylard, CEO of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

Those advantages include:


Location. "We definitely feel like were in a good enough radius," said Marsha Gaylard, CEO of the Pike County Chamber. Gaylard, whose primary focus is economic development, said "they tell us the suppliers have to be within so many miles of the facility." The drive from Troy to the Hope Hull site is less than 45 minutes, Lunsford said, making the commute for suppliers or workers extremely manageable.

· Inexpensive utilities. "We know that the City of Troy, when we compete even in Alabama, is more than competitive on utility rates," Lunsford said. Because the city provides its own electricity, and because it has secured a fixed rate from its supplier for several years, the city can provide much-needed electricity at a much-lower rate than many communities, Lunsford said. "Our costs are considerably under" other communities’, he said. And, as part of the Southeast Alabama Gas District, the city would provide comparable rates on natural gas with other area communities.

· Transportation. Four-lane roads ­ including U.S. 231 ­ are appealing to suppliers, as is readily available transportation methods. "On the way to visit (a possible industry site) we passéd three different trucking operations on Monday," Lunsford said. "That was impressive.

· Trainable and eager workforce. Even though Pike County’s unemployment rate hovers between 5 and 6 percent, the county is likely to loose about 200 jobs to the closing of Ansell and Hudson Corporation. Those workers would be primed for employment at Hyundai or a spin-off industry, Lunsford said.

· Access to raw materials, such as the plastics manufactured at KW Plastics in Troy. "Ford uses KW Plastics almost exclusively," Lunsford said. "And sometime back the company was awarded a Q1 (quality award) from Ford

The fact that a major car manufacturer already is using the product would certainly appeal to other parts suppliers."

· Quality of life. From recreation to health care to education, Troy has much to offer in this area, Gaylard said.

"We have lots and lots of advantages," she said. "And the university (Troy State) certainly brings us a lot of amenities."

· Business incentives. Lunsford said Troy officials, at the request of state leaders, have agreed to provide the same types of tax incentives to spinoff industries. These include breaks on ad valorem and sales and use taxes for companies which invest a minimum of $2 million in a facility. No breaks are given on school taxes. "But, the company that was in here on Monday is looking to hire over 300 people and invest $30 million in the facility," Lunsford said. "At that point, we would certainly seek state incentives over and above what we would offer locally."