‘A great day for Alex City’ as Korens picks area for new plant

Lake Martin Area Industrial Development Authority Chairman Lester Sellers shakes hands with Korens CEO William Chin as Don McClellan of the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance looks on, after the papers that made the deal official were signed Wednesday. Mitch Sneed / The Outlook)

Chalk up another victory for Alexander City.

The Lake Martin Economic Area Economic Development Alliance and the city of Alexander City officially announced that Korens, a Korean-based auto parts manufacturer, will locate a plant here in what was the old Russell Corporation Yarn-Dye Building.

The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon at city hall, in front of the media and dignitaries from across the city, county and state.

“This is a great day for Alex City,” Mayor Charles Shaw said. “We are excited to have a company with these kind of people coming here. They are good people. It has been a long process – sort of like putting a puzzle together in the dark. Sometimes putting all the pieces together can be tough, but with a lot of hard work, we were able to get it done. We are thankful that they are coming.”

While an exact number of employees wasn’t released Wednesday, officials used the word “hundreds” on several occasions. The company is a supplier of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) coolers and EGR pipes, fluid transfer systems, oil coolers, common rail tubes and high-pressure brake lines for the automotive industry.

Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Don McClellan was beaming, after spending more than six months working on this agreement. He said the deal was a result of “a lot of hard work by a lot of good people.”

“They could have chosen anywhere in the United States to put this company and they chose Alexander City, Tallapoosa County,” McClellan said. “We are proud they did.”

McClellan introduced Korens President William Chin to the crowd, who took the podium with a “Howdy, y’all,” greeting.

Korens picked Alexander City over several possible sites, including the Lagrange, Georgia area. Despite being right in the backyard of a Kia plant, Chin said that the people in Alexander City sold him on the area.

“Today is a celebration,” Chin said. “It wasn’t easy picking a site, but one of the key elements that we looked at is the community and the people who make up the community. The atmosphere and the sense of community found here are impressive.

“During this process we visited the downtown area. We ate in your restaurants, we went to your park. We visited schools, and no matter where we went, the people here were friendly and welcoming. That means a lot.

“When you are a company from a foreign company, you want to know that people are accepting and welcoming. We got that feeling no matter where we visited.”

McClellan praised all the parties that took part in negotiations. From the Russell Corporation and Fruit of the Loom, who donated the building in hopes that a manufacturer like Korens could be recruited to all the city, county and state officials who took part. He had praise for the city council, Community Development Director Randy Thomas as well as all those who will be involved in helping train a workforce.

“We have cooperation between K-12 and Central Alabama Community College in preparing a skilled workforce,” McClellan said. “That’s one thing that we use when we are recruiting. When you are recruiting, everyone has land, some people have buildings or will build buildings and everyone does tax abatements.

“One thing that a lot of people are lacking and that’s a skilled workforce.  You have to have people who can program, who have to have trouble shoot and repair. We have the foundation for producing that kind of skilled workforce here.”

The city and EDA had been in negotiations with Korens Inc. for several months, hoping to bring the manufacturer to the Yarn-Dye Building.

While some work has been done there, the company will begin renovations of the building in the coming months, then begin equipment installation. No exact timeline was given, but McClellan said that late 2016 could be a target for beginning operation.

Chin said that Korens only other U.S. plant is located near Detroit, in Troy, Michigan, and it lists customers that include GM, Ford, Kia and Hyundai. That plant began operation in 2013.

Korens’ promotional material shows that 40 percent of its total sales are to Hyundai and Kia, with 38 percent to BMW. The company also finalized a contract with Ford to supply parts in recent months.

Commissioner T.C. Coley welcomed Korens on behalf of the county and other speakers included James Spann of the city council, Marshall Griffin of Alabama Power and the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance, and Lester Sellers, chairman of the Lake Martin Industrial Authority. It was Sellers who along with Chin signed the deal Wednesday.

Chin said that he looks forward to a long partnership here in Alexander City.

“We plan on being here for a long time and expect this to be a successful partnership,” Chin said. “As Korens grows, we want to see Alexander City grow along with us. That is our hope for the future.”