Kia Plant Driving Force Behind New I-85 Interchange

Fri May 09, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Matthew Willett



When Kia Motors America’s first assembly plant opens in West Point, Ga., later this year it’ll have the added distinction of having the biggest footprint in the country.

“People driving down the interstate are already having the ’Wow’ effect,” said Randy Jackson, Kia North America’s director of human resources. “It’s very visually striking, sitting right there by the interstate where people can drive by and see it.”

With a host of contractors and subcontractors working on the project Jackson said he’s handling all the media attention. And it’s been more than a little.

“Oh, I’ve talked to a lot of people,” he laughed.

The 2,245-acre (910 ha) site sits just off I-85 between Atlanta and Montgomery.

“The pad is 650 acres. That’s where the buildings will be sitting. We’ll have a stamping plant, a body and welding plant, a paint plant and an assembly plant, and we’ve got several suppliers that will be on the pad with us,” Jackson said.

And the complex is spurring construction throughout the region.

“[Parts supplier Hyundai] Mobus already started putting their building up on the pad, and there are still other suppliers who haven’t started yet,” Jackson said. He added that construction is moving quickly for such a large project.

“All the water and underground stuff, the cable, all the electric, that’s all in, and the power stations are all in and the inner roads have been finished. They’ve started pouring some of the cement parking lots and the steel is going up,” he said. “The assembly plant is just beginning roofing, and the paint and stamping plants have just finished their foundations, and the roofing started at the assembly plant. We’ll follow that with the siding. It’s beginning to look like a building,” Jackson said.

UK-based Amco is the primary contractor at the site, but a host of subcontractors are working, many from the Georgia area.

“Amco is our general contractor, but we have multiple subcontractors out there — Graham Brothers is out there. There are many of them; we’ve got well over 500 people out there working,” Jackson said.

And the state has joined the construction in the area, awarding an $80 million contract to C.W. Matthews for interchange construction on I-85.

“It’ll be a new interchange on I-85 at Gabbettville Road, and a frontage road that runs from State Route 18 to Gabbettville Road, which will be renamed Kia Boulevard. The frontage road will be called Kia Parkway,” said GDOT Third District Engineer Thomas Howell. “It was a design project, and C.W. Matthews will be the prime contractor. Arcadis is the design firm.”

The diamond interchange was a little challenging, he said, since the state’s timeframe for the bidding process was significantly shortened.

“We’re doing it in an extremely condensed timeframe,” Howell said.

Work at the site has begun, and Howell said it’s scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The plant itself is set to begin turning out Sedonas by November.

“We’re doing some innovative things,” Howell said, “using precast, prestressed columns and caps on the bridge in order to expedite the work. It’s a first in this district, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t done a lot of that in the state. The pieces are actually made at a yard and brought out instead of forming and pouring them on site.”

Howell said Matthews has started the bridge substructure work and completed another bridge across a creek on the frontage road. Howell said working with the largest contractor in the state has its benefits.

“They’re a good contractor,” he said. “Very well managed.”

Jackson said Amco was a natural choice for the Kia plant project.

“They’re experts in building facilities like this,” he said. “They have all the engineering expertise and have great expertise in bringing plants like this up, and they’re doing a great job for us.”

This project, he said, stands out for its size.

“I’ve been in the automotive industry most of my career,” Jackson said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of startups, and if I’m not mistaken, from the land purchase side this is probably the largest plant in North America. Most plants are sitting on 1,400 to 1,700 acres – 2,245 acres is quite a bit more.”

Kia has eyes on expansion at the site.

“We’re hoping that growth will allow us to do that. If we feel we’re growing our target will be to continue to grow,” Jackson said.

Growth isn’t enough to describe the effect on the surrounding countryside, a rural area situated on the state’s western line. Suppliers for the plant will stretch well into Alabama.

“All of our suppliers are beginning to come in around us, building new plants,” Jackson said. “Some have chosen to build in Troup County, in LaGrange at their industrial park, and some have chosen Chambers County, and the industrial park in Harris County has some. Most of them are within 10 to 15 miles of the plant, but some stretch out farther. Our tire supplier, for example, is located in Macon.” CEG