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SMART opens new addition

Many local officials and Hyundai executives gathered at the SMART plant north of Luverne recently for a formal ribbon cutting on the plant’s new expansion.

The new area is for the production of parts for the new Hyundai Sonata, and the 100,000-square-foot addition brings the plant’s total floor space to 675,000 square feet.

Before the ribbon cutting, guests heard from general managers Gary Sport and Dee Sands and Doni Ingram, who is the director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

SMART began mass production in May 2005, and currently employs 620 employees.

Despite many auto makers suffering recently, SMART and Hyundai have been able to work through the difficult times.

“We haven’t had any layoffs during the recent economic downturn,” Sport said. “We’ve had to cut back on hours, but we haven’t had any layoffs.”

Guests also heard comments from Eom Seh Woo, one of SMART’s directors.

“We guarantee that we’ll produce the best quality of Sonata,” he said. “Quality is the number one priority for our company.”

Senator Wendell Mitchell also said a few words.

“I have observed this plant grow from ground zero to the present day, and one thing I’m proud of is that when I’m off somewhere and I tell people I’m from Luverne, they say, ‘Oh, that’s where the SMART plant is,’” he said.

Guests then took a guided tour of the new area of the facility and got the chance to see a new Sonata in person.

The plant, which also makes parts for the Santa Fe, is phasing out parts for the old Sonata and will soon be starting production on a new Hyundai model.