Korean automaker Kia is opening a new manufacturing plant in North America, in the small town of West Point, Georgia
The plant, which will make Kia’s Sorento sport utility vehicle, has hired 500 workers. By the time the factory opens, Kia hopes to hire 2,000 more. A smattering of Kia supply companies will eventually employ 7,500 additional workers. ” A lot of people feel that we are the savior for this area, which I hope we will be,” said Randy Jackson, director of human resources for the manufacturing plant. “We got 43,013 applications; 75 percent of those applications came from Georgia, and about 20 percent came from our neighboring state of Alabama.” Some of those applications are coming from auto workers around the country, including Detroit, Michigan, Jackson said. Overall, West Point stands to gain 20,000 jobs as a result of the factory during the next five years, Ferguson said [emph added].
Amazing that Kia opted to locate in Georgia, rather than the American auto manufacturing mecca of Detroit, isn’t it? After all, Michigan’s unemployment rate is 13.9 percent, one of the highest in the nation. No doubt there are many autoworkers and skilled machinists among those seeking work in the greater Detroit area. And the average price for a house in Detroit is a bargain at only $7500.00, so housing a rapidly expanding
workforce could have been done easily as well. And what about land for manufacturing? Well, there is, uh, excess manufacturing capacity sitting idle in Detroit, that’s for certain. And if Kia had wanted to start anew with a modern facility and still take advantage of Michigan’s manufacturing acumen, they could have broken ground in nearby Flint; after all, leaders there have considered abandoning parts of the city altogether and letting the wilderness reclaim it.
Nonetheless, Kia has opted to build its new plant in hot, humid Georgia, and their decision on location was likely based more philosophical than economically based. It appears Kia is betting American autoworkers might be better off building cars somewhere else, anywhere else, besides Detroit. And along with that line of thought, they are wagering American consumers would rather buy a car made anywhere else but Detroit, too.
So West Point, Georgia it is. My guess is the boat launch at West Point lake is going to be jammed with new, decked out bass boats in the coming years, one of the unintended side effects of success, but so be it.