MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday joined Hyundai executives and local leaders on the steps of the State Capitol to announce that the automaker plans to add a new vehicle to its Alabama production lineup as part of a $410 million expansion that will create 200 more jobs at the state-of-the-art Montgomery facility, along with approximately 1,000 supplier jobs in the area.
During the press conference, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama (HMMA) president and CEO Byungjin Jin said workers will assemble the brand-new Santa Cruz compact utility vehicle at the facility, with production slated to begin in 2021.
Hyundai intends to begin filling the new positions being created by the latest expansion project during the second half of 2020.
HMMA currently produces the Santa Fe SUV and the Sonata and Elantra sedans in Montgomery. The addition of the Santa Cruz will provide the company with greater flexibility to adjust its product mix based on market demands.
Jin expressed that this announcement demonstrates continued commitment to and confidence in HMMA’s Montgomery operations and Alabama workforce.
“Bringing the Santa Cruz to HMMA demonstrates that Hyundai Motor Company is confident our more than 3,000 team members are ready to build a quality crossover for the U.S. market,” Jin said.
The Santa Cruz was first introduced as a concept crossover at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Hyundai said it’s designed for younger buyers who want the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed.
Business climate, partnerships made announcement possible
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield acted as the master of ceremonies for the Wednesday press conference. Introducing Governor Kay Ivey to the podium, Canfield advised that her leadership in nurturing Alabama’s world-class pro-growth business climate makes this type of job creation announcement possible.
“[T]o have the right type of (business) climate takes the right kind of leader at the top,” Canfield said. “The type of leader that governs the state with a business saviness and a knowledge and an awareness of what needs to be done to nurture business and also provide great opportunities for the people here across the state of Alabama.”
Ivey then addressed the crowd, which included workers at HMMA’s Montgomery facility.
Calling it an “exciting occasion,” Ivey reiterated that her “top priority” since taking office in the spring of 2017 has been economic development.
The state continues to shatter economic record after record under her administration, and major job announcements and new private sector investments have become commonplace.
She advised that HMMA and the State of Alabama have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship since the company came to Montgomery in 2005.
This announcement is the latest in a series of recent major investments by HMMA.
“We are so honored that in just 18 months HMMA has invested over $1.1 billion in the Montgomery area,” Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham stated. “Partnership and teamwork are key to this kind of economic growth, and we are grateful for the impact this kind of investment will have on the entire region.”
Earlier this year, Ivey and local elected officials joined the company for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of HMMA’s cylinder head machining plant in Montgomery. That plant represents a $388 million total investment to manufacture engine cylinder heads and enhance existing operations to support the production of new Sonata and Elantra sedan models.
Even more recently, HMMA announced an additional $292 million investment in new machinery and equipment to facilitate the production of the redesigned Elantra and Santa Fe vehicles and a new, more fuel-efficient Theta engine at their North American plant in Montgomery.
This does not even account for HMMA’s philanthropic work, such as donating $250,000 to Montgomery Public Schools for STEM education.
Hyundai is already the River Region’s largest private manufacturer with 2,900 full-time and 500 part-time employees. Since it opened, the Alabama facility has produced 4.5 million vehicles for the North American market, along with more than 6 million engines.
Wednesday’s announcement underscored that the working relationship between HMMA, the state and local government entities continues to get better and better.
“Alabama and Hyundai have developed a great partnership over the years, and it’s a testament to our special relationship that this world-class automaker is expanding once again in Montgomery,” Ivey said.
Hyundai noted the $410 million investment will create 230,000 square feet of additional space in the stamping, welding and parts processing areas of the manufacturing complex. While direct employment at HMMA will reportedly increase by 200 jobs, Hyundai projects that its local suppliers and logistics companies will employ an additional 1,000 people in the River Region.
“Hyundai’s new investment is giving more Alabama families an opportunity to earn a good living while also strengthening the state’s growing auto industry,” the governor remarked.
Local leaders were also on hand to celebrate the announcement — and these individuals play a big part in the productive partnership with HMMA.
Canfield noted that Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed has only been on the job one day officially now but that Reed’s leadership has already been important with Hyundai, as he traveled to South Korea recently with then-Mayor Todd Strange to meet with company executives.
Reed spoke during Wednesday’s press conference and stressed his commitment to the relationship and appreciation for Hyundai.
“I recently had the honor of experiencing first-hand the long-standing partnership between Hyundai and Montgomery on a visit to Seoul as part of an economic development delegation including former Mayor Todd Strange,” Reed said.
“With the addition of the Santa Cruz, Hyundai is again choosing to launch a new vision. I look forward to continuing to strengthen this vital relationship in the coming years and working with our partners to support this tremendous investment,” he concluded.
Among U.S. states, Alabama ranks as the fifth largest producer of cars and light trucks. It is home to more than 150 major auto suppliers and over 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs.
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said that companies become family when they locate in Alabama and that the state’s leaders, along with local officials, take it upon themselves to go above and beyond in making sure companies are successful in the Yellowhammer State.
“Our commitment to our partnership with Hyundai continues to deepen, and we are so honored by this significant investment,” he added. “Together, we are charting the course for success and opportunity in the River Region.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn