Auto industry improves economy

Published 7:51 am Thursday, September 19, 2013

The automobile industry has improved Crenshaw County’s economy in a variety of ways, local officials said this week.

The county is home to two automobile suppliers, all located on or near U.S. 331.

Robin Snellgrove, president of the Crenshaw County Economic and Industrial Development Authority said this week that prior to the automobile industry locating to the county, Crenshaw County’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent.

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Figures for July were recently released and the county sits at 6.6 percent, while the state is at 6.3 percent.

Snellgrove said the unemployment rate in the county his 2.9 percent in 2005.

“Over 1,200 direct jobs have been created by the four automobile facilities in Crenshaw County,” she said. “Not only does the employment numbers continue to increase with each expansion, but the sales tax revenues increase as well.”




The automobile industry came to the county in 2002, when SMART Alabama LLC located in Luverne. Doors opened in March 2005.

“SMART would employ 200 with an annual payroll of $10 million and a capital investment of $100 million,” Snellgrove said.

Snellgrove said by yearend in 2006, SMART had completed its first expansion, which created 20 new jobs and added $374,000 to the annual payroll, and a capital investment of $4.25 million.

Continuing to grow, the company added a third line and equipment in June 2008 – the Hyundai Elantra.

“No new jobs were created but 150 jobs were saved,” Snellgrove said. “By implementing the third line the 150 people would not be laid off. The employees would move from the Santa Fe line to the new Elantra line with no down time.”

This was a more than $25 million capital investment, she said. By the middle of July 2010, the initial investment for the Elantra line came to more than $32 million, more than $7 million more than anticipated.

Snellgrove said in April 2012, SMART once again expanded, adding a 1,500 ton press.

“This expansion was completed in May 2013,” she said. “Twenty-five new jobs were created with an increase in annual payroll of $400,000. Capital investment for this expansion was $15,750,000.”

An addition expansion is currently in the process, which involves a major addition to the facility for the production and assembly of the 2015 Sonata, Snellgrove said.

“Construction has begun and will be completed by December 2014,” she said.

Snellgrove said the total capital investment by SMART is currently more than $225 million, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s total capital investment in SMART is more than $68 million.

The company currently employs 694 people.



Following closely behind SMART, Dongwon located to the county in the later part of 2003, Snellgrove said.

Its initial capital investment was more than $13.4 million, with $2.4 million in building and $11 million in equipment.

Dongwon created 103 new jobs with an annual payroll of $2.67 million.

Snellgrove sad in February of 2005, the company began its first expansion.

“This expansion was the construction of a second building and additional equipment,” she said. “Total capital investment for this expansion was $5.55 million. There were 67 new jobs created and an increase in annual payroll of $1.07 million.”

The company invested more some $2.2 million for equipment in 2010, and in 2013, the company is expanding its facility and equipment once again.

Snellgrove said Dongwon’s total capital investment to date is $30,850,000 and HMMA has a total capital investment in Dongwon of $23,551,320.

Dongwon currently employs 308 people.



Snellgrove said Silla Engineering America LLC located to the county in August 2004.

Silla is located in Brantley and manufactures metal pallets.

The company’s initial capital investment was $500,000, and it currently employs 15 employees.



Chowel Weldparts Inc located to the county in 2006, and has expanded multiple times.

Chowel’s initial capital investment was $435,000, and created 85 jobs with an annual payroll of $331,752.

The company is currently expanding again and will create 75 new jobs, Snellgrove said.

There are 94 people currently employed at the company.


Local automobile suppliers have paid $2,115,476.84 in total educational taxes in the county, Snellgrove said.