That’s when it decided to build a plant just south of Montgomery, right on the northern edge of Alabama’s Black Belt.
The site selection was a puzzle. Montgomery, known more for being the first capital of the Confederacy and the staging ground for early civil rights protests, had a Korean population of approximately 100 and little to indicate its residents would welcome the arrival of many more.
But someone at Hyundai had done their homework, because Montgomery has proven a perfect place for the company, and the company has given the city and its people a much-needed economic boost.
In a recent edition of The New York Times — the same newspaper that used Alabama as a case study of the lack of broadband connections in rural America — our state’s growing auto industry was highlighted, with the plant at Hyundai singled out for special treatment.
In the five years since the plant opened, Hyundai and its sister company, Kia, which opened a plant last year just across the Georgia line, have together become the fourth-largest automaker in the world.
Always known for inexpensive cars, Hyundai is now being recognized for quality and economy. As a result, when recent sales of competitors declined or went flat, Hyundai and Kia surged. Last year, the Montgomery plant built more than 300,000 cars and sold most of them in the United States.
The Montgomery plant, running almost around the clock, employs 2,650 workers who, with overtime opportunities, enjoy salaries and benefits comparable to union workers in the North.
Meanwhile, Montgomery has not only welcomed Korean company jobs, the city has welcomed Koreans. Today, Montgomery’s Korean population is more than 3,000 and growing. With the influx has come Korean restaurants, Korean churches and a few Korean groceries.
Additionally, Alabama lists 138 suppliers that support the Hyundai plant and also do business with Mercedes near Tuscaloosa, Toyota in Huntsville and Honda in Lincoln. A Hyundai subsidiary is building a plant south of Montgomery to make electrical transformers. When it is up and running, 1,000 new jobs will be created.
It’s all proof that the global economy has come to Alabama, and Alabamians who have found jobs because the state has gone global are the beneficiaries. For those who still want to circle the wagons, keep out international influences and go at it on our own, take a look at Hyundai in Montgomery and see why that idea is a bad idea.