Hyundai’s announcement icing on the cake after years of work

Updated: Nov. 14, 2019 at 6:48 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The growth has been staggering, enough to toot your horn over. But announcements like the one heard from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol Wednesday don’t come along very often.

“Today, I am pleased to announce the all new Santa Cruz," said a Hyundai executive who was joined by local and state dignitaries in a new conference on the Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon.

There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to produce these types of major economic announcements.

“A marathon, not a sprint," said Montgomery Chamber president Anna Buckalew.

Buckalew says the latest Hyundai news was 18 months in the making, by far not something that happened overnight or just in the city of Montgomery. A delegation from Montgomery flew to South Korea a few months ago, a trip that’s more than 7,000 miles one way. Although Hyundai has called Montgomery its north American home since 2005, the plant is never a given for the next expansion.

“They were looking at many communities not only the country but across the globe for this project," said Buckalew.

Since 2005 Hyundai has poured in more than $2 billion in its Montgomery plant and that figure includes the $410 million company leaders will invest in to prepare for the Santa Cruz vehicle; the 200 new direct jobs at the plant pushes the total of full time employees to well over 3,000. The Santa Cruz deal marks the fourth major expansion in 14 years.

Even veteran Hyundai employee Robert Burns often pinches himself on how far Hyundai has grown, but he also reminds himself and others this is all market driven, not something Hyundai decides on a dime.

“So we’re getting that flexibility to move with the market and that’s what allowed us to be able not have any significant dips," said Burns who is Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s vice president of administration.

Groundbreaking on the Santa Cruz expansion will take place in about 30 days. Could Hyundai expand for the fifth time in the near future? That’s up in the air for now.

Burns says Hyundai will likely have those 200 on board by the end of 2020 or early 2021. The remaining 1,000 jobs will be spread out over Hyundai suppliers and logistic support.

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