Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2002
ground on new facility
By KERRY WHIPPLE
HOPE HULL ­ In an aptly named town just south of Montgomery, Alabama welcomed Hyundai Tuesday, at a ground-breaking that emphasized the hope the carmaker has brought to the region.
With greetings in both Korean and English ­ both with a Southern accent ­ Alabama and Hyundai also unveiled plans for the facility, expected to produce its first vehicle by 2005.
"Hyundai brings a $1 billion investment to Alabama, the largest in our history," said Gov. Don Siegelman. "Hyundai brings 2,000 new, high-paying jobs. Hyundai brings opportunity. And it will bring thousands upon thousands of jobs to Alabama, from Alex City to Phenix City, to Brewton, to Clanton, to Selma, and across Alabama. To the people in all of these places and more, Hyundai brings hope. And you can’t put a price on that."
Hyundai chairman Mong Koo Chung said Alabama was chosen for its "ideal conditions for the growth of the automotive industry."
"Here in Alabama, I have witnessed for myself its immense potential for growth and reconfirmed that Alabama is indeed the excellent choice for our U.S. plant," he said.
The new facility will make the Santa Fe, an SUV, and the next generation of Sonata sedan. The Hyundai plant is expected to employ up to 2,000 people – but will likely have ripple effects in surrounding communities, which could be home to various suppliers.
Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., representing the several surrounding communities which pledged money to the state’s incentive package to attract Hyundai, said those smaller companies would experience the same "commitment of cooperation, collaboration and team-building" from potential employees that Hyundai will.
Selma and Dallas County, combined, contributed $1 million to the Hyundai facility, expected to be a boon to the Black Belt area.
In fact, the entire ceremony was reflective of the blending of cultures between the U.S. and Korea.
Participants who shoveled the ceremonial dirt wore white gloves, a Korean custom. And Siegelman and Chung exchanged plaques, also a Korean custom, said Carrier Kurlander, Siegelman’s press secretary.
Jeffery Jones, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Korea, said the new plant is the most important investment Korea has made in the United States, noting that the facility is important not only for Alabama but also for all relations between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea.
"It was only some 50 years ago that some 50,000 Americans gave their lives in Korea for freedom and democracy," Jones said. "This could be an example of Korea’s repaying the U.S. by bringing hope and jobs to Alabama."
Jones congratulated Siegelman and the state and local officials responsible for the Hyundai deal.
"I know from my own experience Hyundai is not an easy negotiation," he said.
"There’s only one way that this project can be successful. No. 1, the people of Alabama have to make great automobiles, which will send a message to Detroit to watch out. No. 2, you all have to buy Hyundai automobiles."
While the merging of cultures was an important part of the ceremony – and the reception, which featured Korean fare and fried chicken – Alabama officials made sure Hyundai officials knew they were welcome in their new home.
"It is with joy and pleasure that I welcome the Hyundai family to Alabama," U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Ala., said. "Montgomery will be better off because of Hyundai, but Hyundai will be a better corporation because it has come to Alabama. I say to the Hyundai family, I love Alabama; it is very special to me. It is home. So with joy I say to Hyundai: Welcome home."