Foreign automotive suppliers, including a number from South Korea, are doing a thriving business in Southeast Alabama.
The economy in Southeast Alabama is experiencing a joy ride these days, thanks in part to the automotive industry.
Many suppliers in the region provide parts to the state’s four major auto manufacturing plants: Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Montgomery, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Huntsville.
In addition, Hyundai is investing $1 billion to construct a new Kia Motors assembly plant in Georgia, 85 miles from the Montgomery plant, and many suppliers in Southeast Alabama that now serve the existing Montgomery facility will also transport parts to Kia in Georgia.
Highlighting the strong industry in Southeast Alabama are a large number of foreign-based firms with automotive operations. That includes French tire maker Michelin, as well as South Korea-owned auto suppliers like Hyundai Polytech America in Eufaula, Hwashin America in Greenville, Hyundai Hysco in Greenville and Maha USA in Pinckard.
Another South Korean company, HS Automotive Alabama, manufactures weather stripping, tubing and pressure hoses for Hyundai as well as Kia, Chrysler and General Motors. HSAA has a manufacturing plant in Enterprise and in 2014 completed a $12 million expansion of its existing facility, adding 100 jobs.
“Our pro-business focus and successful efforts to reduce red tape make it possible for a company not only to call Alabama home, but continue to expand its investment and create even more jobs,” Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, said at the HSAA expansion announcement.
HSAA, under the guidance of its president, Harry Kim, had $4 million in automotive sales when the company was first established in Enterprise in 2004. Today, annual sales are $150 million, and HSAA provides work for more than 350 local employees.
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Other South Korean suppliers enjoying success in Southeast Alabama include SMART Alabama, based in Luverne, the largest employer in Crenshaw County, with 700 employees. SMART Alabama is the principal body frame supplier to the Hyundai plant in Montgomery.
Also in Luverne is Dongwon Autopart Technology Alabama, which produces parts like door frames and roof moldings for Hyundai Montgomery. Dongwon has received several awards for its modern auto production systems and focus on quality testing.
Luverne also houses Chowel Weldparts, which manufactures impact beams for all vehicles produced at Hyundai Montgomery, and Andalusia is home to SaeHaeSung Alabama and its 100 employees, who manufacture and ship parts to a number of automotive companies.
In Southeast Alabama, suppliers have access to many advantages that make the region attractive to locate, including low tax rates, affordable real estate, a pro-business climate, a wealth of colleges and universities to supply the workforce, and a geographic location that puts the region within two hours of Interstates 10, 65 and 85. Commercial airports in Dothan and Montgomery are convenient, and seaport options are accessible in Mobile and Jacksonville, Fla.
The city of Elba – with a population of 3,900 – is also a big player in the Southeast Alabama automotive sector because of the presence of INZI Controls, a supplier of injection and molded automotive parts to Hyundai in Montgomery.
“During the past years, I have been very impressed with the support from the community, as well as the work skills and work ethic of the people,” says Koo-Ryong Jung, chairman of INZI Controls.
The South Korea company began its operations in Elba in 2009 with a workforce of 220 people and has since added 30 more Coffee County residents to the payroll following an expansion in 2014.
“If you’ve been to Elba recently, you’ve noticed they have a great mayor and city council making a difference,” says Jonathan Tullos, executive director of Wiregrass Economic Development Corp., which serves Coffee County. “They are working together to make Elba a better place.”