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South Korean Auto Parts Maker Investing $128M to Build First U.S. Plant in Alabama

Wed February 22, 2023 - Southeast Edition #5
Made in Alabama

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Feb. 10 that Samkee Corp., a major South Korean automotive supplier, plans to invest $128 million to open its first U.S. factory in the Southeast state through a project that will create 170 jobs in Tuskegee and provide an economic boost for Macon County.

After completing agreements with state and local authorities, Samkee Corp. is ready to begin construction on the new manufacturing facility in the Tuskegee Commerce Park, where it will become the city's first auto parts manufacturer.

According to Made in Alabama, the online news site of the state's Department of Commerce, Samkee will serve as a Tier 1 supplier to Hyundai Motor Co. The new jobs at the factory will pay an average wage of just over $20 an hour.

"Alabama's auto industry is filled with world-class manufacturing companies from around the world, and Samkee will fit right in with that group," Gov. Ivey said. "We're proud that the company selected Alabama for its first U.S. production center and look forward to seeing it grow and thrive in coming years."

Founded in 1978, Samkee specializes in high-pressure die-cast aluminum components, including parts for engines, transmissions and electric vehicles. The company currently runs factories in South Korea and China.

Parts production at the advanced casting facility in Macon County is expected to begin during 2024.

"Samkee is a worldwide leader in quality manufactured aluminum die cast products," CEO Chi Hwan Kim said. "Our Tuskegee plant will allow our company to serve the North American market along with Hyundai's market growth for both combustion engines and transmissions as well as electric vehicle and battery parts."

New Plant to Be at Tuskegee Commerce Park

Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority, told Made in Alabama that local support for the project includes site work in Tuskegee Commerce Park, upgrades to the water and sewer system, and the installation of a new power substation.

"Samkee appreciated the local assets, spirit of cooperation and friendship developed over time with Macon County," he said, adding that the county and its stakeholders have teamed up to meet the manufacturer's needs. "We will remain partners going forward to see that they have a successful construction and manufacturing launch. and future growth in the North American market. This is obviously a big win for our community and its citizens."

The recruitment effort that eventually sold Samkee on Tuskegee lasted well over a year, Turnham explained.

The Utilities Board of Tuskegee also played a major part in the recruitment process, and Gerald Long, the board's general manager, said he looks forward to deepening the partnership with Samkee.

"Our utility will serve power, water, and sewer to the [factory]," he told Made in Alabama. "Their presence in our community will allow us to expand our system and resources to better serve them and all our customers at an even higher level of reliable service. We are proud to be a full partner in economic development countywide."

Canfield noted that Samkee's decision to build its first North American factory in Macon County reflects its confidence in the region's workforce.

Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute (AIDT), the state's primary workforce development agency, will help Samkee assemble and train its employees, according to Made in Alabama.

"The skilled workers in Alabama's auto sector have proved they are ready for any challenge the industry can throw at them, and they consistently turn out complex products of the highest quality," Canfield explained. "Samkee has come to the right place for its new U.S. industrial home."

Samkee's Impact Could Be Substantial

Samkee's manufacturing plant is expected to have a significant economic impact on Macon County, according to an analysis by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Alabama.

The analysis projects that the Samkee factory will generate $140.2 million in annual economic output in the county, contributing over $37 million to the county's gross domestic product while also generating $1.3 million per year in taxes.

Samkee's investment project is a signal that the state's rural counties are still a magnet for foreign direct investment, particularly within the auto industry.

Since 2015, overseas companies have invested more than $2 billion in growth projects in Alabama's rural areas, with auto-related projects accounting for a large share of the total, according to data from Made in Alabama.

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