CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.With the assistance of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Lamar Alexandar and a bevy of state and local officials, Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. CEO Seung Hwa Suh and other Hankook executives broke ground ceremoniously Oct. 9 on the tire maker's $800 million car and light truck tire plant near Clarksville.
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 invited guests in a tent on the edge of the 470-acre plot that will support the Hankook plant, Gov. Haslam called the partnership of Hankook and Clarksville a wedding of an extraordinary company and an incredible community.
With hundreds of acres of land already cleared at the site, Hankook Tire expects to start construction on the 1.5 million-sq.-ft. plant as soon as possible in order to begin production by January 2016.
The plant is expected to employ 1,200 workers in the first phase, Hankook said, which represents annual output of 5.5 million car and light truck tires. The second phase, due on stream by 2018, will double capacity to 11 million units and create 600 more jobs.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Mr. Suh said, The new Tennessee plant will be a pivotal instrument to accommodate our growing business in the United States and also to propel a well-balanced global production portfolio.
Hankook said it also plans to build a tire proving ground on the site in the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park east of Clarksville, adjacent to Interstate 24. Hankook settled on this site last October after evaluating dozens of potential locations throughout the southern U.S., citing its location as central to key OE customers as well as to key east-west and north-south interstate connections.
Hankook's choice of Tennessee is supported by nearly $140 million in economic incentives from the state of Tennessee, Montgomery County and Clarksville, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, including a $16 million FastTrack Job Training Assistance grant from the State Funding Board that was approved Oct. 8.
The package of incentives includes the 469 acres of land donated by the city and county and $72 million from the state in incentive funds for training, construction of a training facility and a Korean cultural center in the Clarksville area.
Both Hankook and Tennessee officials pointed to the availability of skilled labor in the area as a key factor in the tire maker's decision for Clarksville. Bill Hagerty, head of Tennessee Economic Development, called nearby Fort Campbell the state's secret weapon in terms of personnel because of the number of soldiers stationed there and the greater number of family members and support staff.
Hankook President Jeong Rock Yoon, in charge of manufacturing, said Hankook will use a mix of equipment sourced from both U.S. and foreign machinery makers, but he and other executives declined to be more specific about what percentage might be U.S.-sourced.
Hankook used the ceremony to also honor Korean War veterans, a handful of whom were invited to attend the event. Mr. Suh singled out the veterans for their contribution to the freedom of his native country, at one point saying, Without you, I couldn't be here today.
Hankook Tire America Corp. recently donated $50,000 to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), an advocacy and assistance group that provides services to American service veterans. As a sponsor of the DAV's Mobile Service Office program, Hankook's contribution will help DAV provide free professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services.
Hankook hosted local Korean War veterans at a banquet the night before the groundbreaking, and at the ceremony Mr. Suh and other Hankook execs personally greeted the Korean War veterans in attendance.