Global Atlanta http://www.globalatlanta.com/article/26798/korea-seus-chamber-upbeat-at-kia-dinner/
A rejuvenated Korea Southeast U.S. Chamber of Commerce met at the Kia Georgia Training Center in West Point the evening of Feb. 27 with a new slate of officers and an ambitious schedule of events for the remainder of the year.
Chamber president Andy Kim especially welcomed Korean War veterans among the 150 attendees from Alabama and Georgia and outlined the proposed activities including a golf outing in May, an economic forum in July, a trade mission in October and a second annual dinner in November.
Besides saluting outgoing president, June Towery, a partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scaborough LLP, Mr. Kim, chairman and CEO of the marketing firm Corman Global Co., announced the following officers:
Vice presidents Arndt Siepman, director of industrial recruitment for the city of Auburn,Ala.; Andy Hardin, market president of the BBVA Compass Bank in Auburn and Chaney Park, general manager of Korean Air;
Angie Levin, events planner associate of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, secretary and Jim B. Kim, CPA, KS Tax and Accounting Services LLC, treasurer.
Bok-ryeol Rhyou, deputy counsull general at the Korean consulate general in Atlanta, pointed to “a new era of trade and friendship” between the U.S. and Korea following the passage of the free trade agreement in 2012.
She also praised the Georgia Assembly for recognizing “Korean American Day” at the state capitol, and encouraged support in the U.S. Congress for increasing the number of visas to allow skilled professionals, especially those form Korea, to work here.
During his keynote address, Randy Jackson, senior vice president of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, dramatically underscored the strengthening of ties between the state and Korea.
Mr. Jackson recounted the transformation of 2,200 acres of hay field off of Interstate 85 into the facility’s 2.2 million-square-foot site.
The development of the $1.2 billion project began in 2006. Installation of sewerage and water systems and underground cables had to be completed before the construction of the plant could even begin.
By November 2009, in less than four years, the plant was able to produce its first car, an accomplishment, according to Mr. Jackson, that was “unheard of in the industry.”
The plant today has the capacity to produce 360,000 vehicles annually under a three-shift schedule that he added was another milestone in the industry.
“I can remember the days when I was at Toyota and at Mercedes hearing people say it would be impossible,” he said. “But we wanted to be a leader.”
On July 11, 2013, the plant produced its 1 millionth vehicle.
Mr. Jackson pointed with pride at the growth of the Kia brand saying that its success has enabled the company to support a wide array of athletic and community service projects from the National Basketball Association to the College Football Hall of Fame.
But although the Kia brand can be seen “almost every time you turn around,” he nevertheless remains concerned about the level of unemployment, which currently is at 9 percent having declined in the area from 15 percent when the plant first opened.
Before the first car was able to roll off the assembly line, 1,700 employees were trained in Korea. Since then, according to Mr. Jackson, Kia has generated some 14,000 “direct and indirect” jobs locally without counting the multiplier effect of additional jobs spawned by the company’s presence in the area.
He also referred to the suppliers moving to the area and new dealerships on both sides of the state line separating Alabama and Georgia as well as the positive impact of Kia parts being imported at the Savannah port on the economy there.
Workforce preparation is another prominent concern of his, he said, resulting in the company’s supporting the development of vocational school programs in the area.
“My workforce in 10 years is going to be from the students in the sixth grade,” he said. “What are we doing today to get those sixth graders ready?"
He answered his rhetorical question by describing the goals of the $900,000 grant the company has spent locally to support programs to encourage elementary school children to follow science, technology, engineering and math courses.
He also said that the company was involved in state programs to increase the vocational training of Georgians, who will have to fill 70 percent of the future jobs to be created in the future.
“We want to keep these students in the state,” he added.
With a new $1.6 billion bond approved for future projects and new models being developed, however, he said he remains optimistic and looks forward to reviewing the progress that the company makes at a similar event next year.
To see, the chamber’s new website, click here.