Alabama one of two candidates for Hyundai plant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The announcement that Alabama is one of two finalists for a $1 billion car manufacturing plant could mean thousands of jobs in the state's Black Belt.

Officials from Hyundai Motor Co. announced earlier this week that they've narrowed down their new plant location to either Montgomery or Glendale, Ky. If the Alabama site is chosen, the plant likely would be built on 1,600 acres in Hope Hull.

"Of all the places, I think Butler County would absolutely boom," said John Clyde Riggs, executive director of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission. "Lowndes County, Dallas County and Conecuh County would all benefit from this."

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Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has held true to a policy that he will not comment on the recruitment of Hyundai, as has the Alabama Development Office. Judging from the past decade, though, Alabama has always found a way to lure automotive manufacturers.

"A lot of that has to do with the incentives we offer," Riggs said. "A lot of people had a problem with the way we handled Mercedes in 1993, but in retrospect, the incentives were probably a good thing."

The successful recruitment of Mercedes has led to a new Honda plant in Lincoln and possibly a Hyundai plant near Montgomery.

"Another reason they come here is because we have a high quality work-force," Riggs said. "Any employer will tell you that about this area of Alabama."

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said the plant would bring a huge amount of economic development to Greenville and Butler County. He said that, with the number of jobs that would be offered, Butler County would rapidly grow.

"I think this is great," McLendon said of the possibility of the plant coming to Alabama. "It would be great for Butler County and Greenville and would bring a lot of jobs and cause huge economic development for us."

Initially, the Hyundai plant would employ nearly 2,000 people, according to the company. But that number only includes people working at the plant.

"The possibility for spin-offs is tremendous," said Jamie Wallace, interim director for the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority. "With the four-lanes between east Dallas County, there's such easy access, both for commuters and for spin-off companies."

Monday, Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft both announced their states were no longer being considered for the South Korean car company.

Within five months, Hyundai is expected to announce its pick between either Kentucky or Alabama. Riggs said the announcement probably has something to do with politics.

"Don't ever discount the politics of announcements like this," Riggs said. "They'll definitely make their announcement before the November elections. And if they choose Alabama, it's going to be a big boost for Gov. Siegelman."

McLendon said he hopes the company will choose the Alabama location due to the large impact it would have on the state's economy as well as the Butler County and Greenville economy.

"I just pray every night that they would come to Alabama because it will have such a big impact on our city and area," he said. "But right now, it is just a wait and see kind of thing."