Kumho Tire is ready to roll in Bibb County, bringing more than 300 jobs and a $225 million investment to a big tire plant.
Pat Topping, senior vice president of Macon Economic Development Commission, said in an exclusive Telegraph interview that the venture officially will be announced Thursday. The Kumho manufacturing plant had been on hold for five years because the economy soured, officials have said.
The plant is expected to be about 1 million square feet, which will take time to build. When first announced in January 2008, company officials estimated it would take about 18 months to begin production from the time construction started.
People will be hired from 2016 to 17, Topping said. Its a major plant.
Robbie Fountain, vice chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, said he always thought Kumho would honor its commitment to locate a tire plant here.
We worked on this project since 08, and its been a long time coming, said Fountain, who was chairman of the authority in 2008 when South Korea-based Kumho announced it was bringing its first U.S. manufacturing company to Bibb County.
This is a manufacturing company -- these are head-of-household jobs, he said. When Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. went away (the Macon plant closed in 2006), it was hard to replace those good-paying jobs. Im excited for Macon and Bibb County.
Efforts to reach current Industrial Authority Chairman Cliffard Whitby and Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart were unsuccessful.
Mayor Robert Reichert said Wednesday evening he wouldnt comment until Thursdays official announcement.
Kim Chang-kyu, president and CEO of Kumho Tire, told automotive news site aftermarketNews.com that Kumho is clearly committed to entering the U.S. He made the comment during the official opening ceremony of the Kumhos new research and development center in Yongin, Korea.
If completed, a U.S. plant could save time and costs for Kumho Tire in providing tires to Hyundais and Kias in the U.S., according to the report.
Plans for the Macon-Bibb plant were redesigned during the worst of the recession, but Topping said its still destined for the Sofkee Industrial Park off Hawkinsville Road in south Bibb County. Its also at the same scale discussed in 2008.
The factory will make passenger tires largely for car manufacturers, with some aftermarket sales.
The latest effort parallels the 2008 agreements. However, the company previously announced it was creating 450 jobs at the local plant. Late Wednesday, Topping said the company revised that number to more than 300.
The (new) agreements have been signed with all the local folks and inked with the company, Topping said. All were doing is extending the agreement that was agreed to in 2008.
The economy was the only reason for the delay, he said.
To lure the company to Middle Georgia, officials dangled an enticing incentive package that included a 20-year tax abatement and job tax credits. The package also included a $3.9 million OneGeorgia grant, of which $2 million was used for grading at the industrial park.
Laura Mathis, director of public administration for the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said a water tank, water lines and road improvements are complete.
These improvements will serve any developments that come into the business park.
The only remaining part undone is a rail spur to serve Kumho, Mathis said.
We will be working with the state on those funds to see if they are still available now that (Kumho) is ready to move forward, she said.
The local property tax abatement approved by the county and school board would be $17 million over a 20-year period, officials have previously said.
The deal has not cost Bibb taxpayers, Topping has said, because the job credits and property tax breaks do not kick in until jobs are created.
Everybody has remained committed, Topping said. Its just the economy affected the industry and the company, and they had to halt activity on the project.
The formal announcement is expected to be made at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Central Georgia Technical Colleges Macon campus.
Local technical colleges and the states Quick Start training program will be instrumental in helping prepare workers for the new jobs.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251. To contact writer Linda S. Morris call 744-4223.