Last week’s Courier Herald column:
This week at the New York Auto Show, Kia officially announced that their newest EV, the Telluride sized EV9, will be built at the company’s plant in West Point Georgia. This is in addition to the 300,000 electric vehicles Kia’s corporate partner Hyundai plans to build at their Bryan County facility.
What makes Kia’s announcement significant is that it ratifies the statements and actions of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. At a legislative study committee meeting last August, Commissioner Pat Wilson testified that Georgia’s strategic decision to court manufacturers of EVs and their suppliers wasn’t just about new jobs, but was also about keeping the auto manufacturing jobs we currently have as the industry transitions to new technologies.
Wilson noted that Georgia had 55,000 auto and supplier jobs in Georgia that were all tied to traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). With the world’s largest auto makers announcing a shift in their R&D efforts toward EV’s and away from ICE, the opportunity was not just to capture the investment in plant and equipment for workers that would build the next generation of autos, but to retain the jobs we currently have.
The transition isn’t just at Kia’s West Point plant. A short drive across the state line at their Montgomery Alabama plant, Hyundai Motor group has begun production of their electric GV70 model for their luxury brand, Genesis alongside other ICE vehicles carrying the Hyundai brand.
With the selection of Bryan County for Hyundai’s first dedicated EV plant and third Southeastern factory, the company formed a critical mass capable of producing over one million vehicles per year. According to Commissioner Wilson during the same August committee testimony, Hyundai expects to help co-locate more than 3 dozen new suppliers to support the company’s continued manufacturing efforts.
Hyundai’s official target from the Bryan County selection announcement was that there would be $1 billion in additional capital investment from their suppliers. As of last month, the projects announced totaled $1.8 billion, with more supplier location decisions still on the table.
It’s not just about manufacturing the cars. Much of the costs and the value added part of the manufacturing process for EV’s will come from the production of the vehicles’ battery units. While the Bryan County factory will also include an on-site battery production facility, SK innovation has been producing batteries for EV’s in Northeast Georgia for several years, currently employing 2,000 Georgians near Commerce with the goal to reach 3,000 by year end.
A subsidiary has announced an additional battery manufacturing facility northwest of Atlanta in Bartow County, representing $4.5 billion in new investment with the goal of employing 3,500 Georgians. The company is also establishing an IT office in Roswell to create 200 high tech jobs.
There’s strategy and strategic importance to these jobs beyond the industry’s shift to Electric Vehicles. With American companies working diligently to diversify their supply chains away from China and their association with the whims of the Chinese Communist Party, Korea – a long standing US ally with aligned national security interests – increases in importance as an Asian trading partner.
Georgia Ports remain a major economic driver for the state, with a balanced mix of two-way trade. They remain among the ports with the highest amount of exports compared to imports.
As companies and governments take a fresh look at their supply chains with respect to economic and national security in the wake of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the growing tension over Taiwan, Georgia is demonstrating the value of relationships and trade with a trusted ally.
Given the track record of success, it was no surprise that the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s point person on Korean investment, Yoonie Kim, received a name-check by Governor Brian Kemp during his State of the State address this year followed by a standing ovation by legislators. Her team has landed billions in investment to create thousands of jobs for the next generation of Georgians, while helping to maintain the employment base we currently have.
After losing a Ford plant in Hapeville and GM plants at Lakewood and Doraville, Kia put Georgia back on the automotive manufacturing map by building an SUV here beginning in 2009. Their decision to build a dedicated EV model at the same plant a decade and a half later is a small step on ensuring Georgia’s automotive present builds into what is our ever growing manufacturing and trading future.