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Groundbreaking at Kia Georgia site set

Pre-election day Kia plant groundbreaking set

SHANNON McCAFFREY

Associated Press

ATLANTA - Kia Motors Corp. will break ground on a new $1.2 billion assembly plant in Georgia on Oct. 20, Gov. Sonny Perdue said Sunday, putting to rest speculation that the South Korean company's involvement in an embezzlement scandal could scuttle its expansion plans.
The plant will be the first in the United States for Kia when cars begin rolling off the assembly line in 2009. It's expected to provide an economic boost to western Georgia. Some 2,893 employees will work at the plant in West Point, near the Alabama border, and another 2,600 jobs will be created at nearby parts suppliers, according to company officials.
Kia selected the Troup County location in March and a groundbreaking had been scheduled for April. But the high-profile scandal which engulfed Kia and its parent company, Hyundai Motor Co., in South Korea put the company's ambitious U.S. plans on hold.
The timing is particularly opportune for Perdue, a Republican seeking re-election this fall. The groundbreaking will take place just weeks before the Nov. 7 general election.
Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said the timetable was coincidental and the event was planned around the Kia chairman's availability.
"I am very excited to welcome the delegation from Kia Motors to West Point, and celebrate our partnership that will result in thousands of jobs for Georgians and the continued growth and success of the company," Perdue said in a statement released on Sunday.
State and local officials had cobbled together a $258 million incentive package to lure Kia to Georgia, which was reeling from plans to shutter a Ford Motor Co. and General Motors plants in the state. Perdue traveled to Seoul in March to sign a contract with Kia officials.
It was soon after that trip that the Hyundai-Kia auto family was beset by turmoil. Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo was jailed on embezzlement and breach of trust charges related to a $108.4 million fund that prosecutors suspect was used to pay lobbyists to seek government favors.
Chung, 68, was recently released from jail on bail and returned work after spending time in the hospital. Prosecutors decided to not file charges against Chung's son, Kia President Chung Eui-sun.
The company also weathered a partial strike by auto workers.
The new Kia plant in Georgia will build two vehicle lines and include an engine assembly line, paint shop training center and visitor center. Once fully operational the plant is expected to produce 300,000 cars a year.
The plant will be built on a 3,300 acre site at the intersection of I-85 and Webb Road in Troup County. A new interchange will be built off I-85 to make room for the plant.
The hefty state incentive package includes $75.9 million in job tax credits over five years, $20.2 million for a job training center on the site and $60.5 million to purchase and prepare the site.
West Point and Troup County are offering up $130 million in property tax abatements over 15 years.
Hyundai and Kia are aggressively expanding overseas production to meet the goal of becoming the world's sixth-largest carmaker by 2010.

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