Dignitaries from around the world assembled in Montgomery for the opening ceremony of Hyundai's first automobile plant in the United States and they were treated to quite a show.
From the Auburn University Brass Ensemble to the Montgomery Vibe and Korea's own entertainment, trio the Elec Cookie, Friday's assembled audience of dignitaries, guests and workers helped celebrate the opening of one of the most automated automotive facilities in the world.
Chairman and CEO of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group Moong-Koo Chung told an audience of at least 4,000 "we are proud to have chosen Montgomery as our first home."
Governor Bob Riley said that Hyundai and the State of Alabama "have now come together to make history." Riley told Hyundai's chairman, "You will never regret that choice."
With the opening in Alabama, Riley says Alabama now will be the nation's "third largest producer" of automobiles.
"Let there be no mistake. Now that Hyundai and the people of Alabama are partnered together in this endeavor, the best cars will be made in the best state."
For his part Chairman Chung said quality is paramount. "This plant will become the new benchmark for technology and production in the industry...Our goal is to produce quality products and improve Hyundai's brand image with the American consumer.
Former President George H.W. Bush was one of the dignitaries who spoke at Friday's ceremony. Bush said the Hyundai opening was a "powerful message of opportunity." He said the city of Montgomery "can be justifiably proud that their city was chosen from among 50 other sites throughout the country."
Mayor Bobby Bright, who will be the owner of one of the first cars off the assembly line, told the crowd, "Historians will take note the May 20th 2005 was a the day industrial prosperity got a Montgomery address."
The Montgomery mayor talked of automobiles as ambassadors saying, "The plant will provide the finest vehicles in the world, and each Sonata...will serve as an ambassador to the world from central Alabama, and specifically Montgomery, Alabama." He called Montgomery the new "symbol of automotive excellence" and said people all over the world would come to "witness southern productivity."
The city was announced as the location of the plant in April 2002. The $1.1 billion plant is expected to reach full capacity in 2007, producing 300,000 vehicles per year and employing 2,000.