MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Exactly 10 years ago today, former President George H.W. Bush took the stage at Hyundai’s new Alabama plant for a splashy grand opening ceremony. Chairman M.K. Chung was on hand for the celebration, along with top state officials. At one point, Korean pop sensation Elec Cookie delivered a rendition of Oh Susanna, the old-time standard that begins: “I came from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.”
Montgomery officials say Hyundai’s 2002 decision to open its first U.S. plant in Alabama’s capital city represented a game-changing moment. Today, the facility employs more than 3,000 workers, with an estimated 4,000 more at the 30 suppliers that have located in Montgomery County alone.
In addition, Hyundai has been active in community causes, and many Korean-owned businesses have popped up across the city. Earlier this month, David L. Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, gave the keynote address at Alabama State University’s commencement.
“There is no way to measure the many ways HMMA has contributed to the Montgomery area over the last 10 years,” said Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman W. Russell Tyner. “Obviously in terms of economic growth HMMA has left a lasting mark on the River Region, but even more important is the partnership we have enjoyed.
“HMMA has been actively involved in helping the River Region prosper in ways that extend beyond the plant’s success. Our community has been forever enriched by HMMA, and we look forward to what we will continue to accomplish together in the future,” Tyner added.
Hyundai has been in a celebratory mood this week, treating team members to a free Sunday night concert by pop singer Robin Thicke at Garrett Coliseum to mark the 10th anniversary of the grand opening ceremony.
Tonight, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, city and county officials are holding an invitation-only reception and dinner to mark the occasion. Governor Robert Bentley is scheduled to speak, and Commerce Secretary Canfield will deliver a special toast at the event.
“Over the last 10 years, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama has made a significant impact in our state,” Governor Bentley said. “Hyundai produces nearly 400,000 vehicles annually by more than 3,000 skilled team members at the facility in Montgomery. Each vehicle is proudly Made in Alabama. I congratulate President (Jun Ha) Kim and Chairman Chung on 10 successful years in Alabama. I look forward to continued partnership with the company.”
MOST ADVANCED PLANT
When it launched production in 2005, Hyundai’s $1.1 billion Alabama facility was designed to be the automaker’s most advanced manufacturing plant, outfitted with stamping presses capable of delivering 5,400 tons of pressure and more than 250 robots in a completely automated weld shop. The facility, which today sprawls for more than 3 million square feet, stands on 1,744 acres of land and includes a stamping facility, paint shop, vehicle assembly shop, a two-mile test track and an engine shop.
In the past decade, Hyundai’s investment in the facility has grown to $1.8 billion, with the automaker investing $40 million in the plant last year, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data. In 2014, the facility produced 398,851 Sonata and Elantra sedans, the automaker’s best-selling U.S. models, along with 706,378 engines.
“This organization has come a long way — from never having built an automobile just ten years ago — to now building more than 390,000 vehicles per year for the North American market,” HMMA President and CEO Jun Ha Kim said in a statement on the 10th anniversary milestone.
The plant continues to spread an economic spillover effect across the state. For example, two Hyundai suppliers in Luverne, some 30 miles from Montgomery, began expansions valued at a combined $145 million in 2014, creating more than 100 new jobs. And in Chambers County, Hantal, which services Hyundai, Kia and other suppliers, announced plans for a $20 million plant with 200 workers.
It’s hard to get an accurate gauge on the Hyundai plant’s current economic impact on Alabama. The most recent analysis was done in 2010 by Auburn University at Montgomery economist Keivan Deravi, who calculated the impact at $3.8 billion that year – a figure that has almost certainly spiraled higher.
In his analysis, Deravi estimated that the Hyundai plant and its suppliers were responsible for more than 34,000 full-time jobs in 2010. Combined payroll at the plant and its suppliers topped $1 billion that year.
Since that calculation was made, Hyundai has added a third shift with 877 workers and boosted production at the facility. Plus, many existing suppliers have expanded their Alabama operations, and new ones have announced projects in the state.
Deravi noted in 2010 that Hyundai’s operation had “dramatically improved the manufacturing sector of central Alabama’s economy.” Five years later, the Montgomery plant continues to generate new investment and create jobs throughout the region.