Plastics suppliers ride a Korean wave along I-85

27. November 2013

For David Lyons, the off-the-grid deep-sea-fishing vacation was a welcome and well-deserved break. Project manager for West Point, Georgia’s development authority, Lyons has spent the last few years swept up in the whirlwind of investments and projects accompanying the Korean automotive manufacturing beachhead that’s being established in the American Southeast.


In a month-and-a-half-span, West Point, a city of approximately 3,400 people that covers only 4 square miles, announced two new automotive supplier projects: a $35-million 350-job investment by seat, transmission, and axle maker Hyundai Dymos, and a new $15-million 150-employee operation by Korean compounder KOPLA. It was while the latter deal was announced on November 19, that Lyons took one week to “decompress”, as he told Plastics Technology.


The I-85 connection
Lyons and West Point sit at the Northern reach of rapidly filling automotive corridor between Georgia and Alabama staked out on either end by Korean automotive OEMs Hyundai and Kia. Only a 95-mile stretch of Interstate 85 separates Kia’s plant in West Point from Hyundai’s operation in Montgomery, Alabama with annual vehicle capacity exceeding 700,000 units between the two sites. (Check out for a map of all the OEMs in the Southeast).


KOPLA is investing $15 million to open its first U.S. based manufacturing facility in West Point, with the 100,000-square-foot greenfield facility to be situated on 20 acres and expected to create 150 jobs by 2018. Lyons said ground has not yet been broken.


Established in 1997, KOPLA produces compounds from polyamide 6 and 66, PBT, PET, PC, PP, and ABS, offering glass fiber reinforced, mineral filled, impact resistant, and flame-retardant grades. In 2000, KOPLA started second plant in Hwasung-City, South Korea with two 125-mm single-screw extruders and a 60-mm single-screw line. By 2007, its overseas sales had topped $5 million. According to GoBiz Korea, its major customers include HVCC (Visteon), DWCC, SL, INZI, and Daewoo.


One year ago, Kia completed a $100-million expansion that boosted annual capacity in West Point to 360,000 vehicles, with three shifts. That capital funded “major investments in additional machinery, equipment and production upgrades for the future,” the company stated in a release.


Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc. (KMMG), which is located on 2,200 acres in West Point, began mass production four years ago on Nov. 16, 2009. This September, the company estimated that its West Point facility is responsible for the creation of more than 14,000 jobs in the region, 3,000 of those directly from Kia. Approximately 7,000 jobs have been created by Georgia-based suppliers with 4,000 positions resulting from new plants and added shifts from suppliers just across the Chattahoochee in Alabama.


Indeed, the last few years have seen a rash of automotive related announcements in the region, many of which involving plastics. At this pace, development authorities like David Lyons will likely continue to earn their vacation time throughout the South, aiding suppliers to Korean, U.S., Japanese, and German OEMs.


October 15, 2013: Yachiyo of America Inc. announces plans to open a manufacturing plant in Carrollton, Georgia. The new 130,000-square-foot facility will employ more than 200 and represents a $30 million investment. Yachiyo manufactures plastic fuel tanks and sunroofs.


October 16, 2013: DENSO says it will open a shipping plant warehouse in Montgomery, Alabama, investing $2.2 million and creating at least 45 new jobs. The new location will warehouse and ship HVAC units and other parts for North American customers. Start of operation is scheduled for April 2014.


October 3, 2013: Palmetto Synthetics, a producer of polyester, nylon and other specialty polymer staple fibers, announces a $1.1 million expansion of its existing operations in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, generating 20 new jobs.


March 26, 2013: Hayashi Telempu North America Corp., U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s Hayashi Telempu, announces new manufacturing site in Frankfort, Kentucky, creating 103 jobs and investing more than $10.7 million. The company is a tier one automotive supplier of interior trim and carpet.


August 2012: AMTEX, another Hayashi Telempu subsidiary, establishes a new facility in Jasper, Alabama. The company purchased 60 acres, with phase one of the expansion to include a new 145,000-square-foot facility that triples its current Jasper operation and will create 110 new jobs.


July 2012: Korean automotive parts supplier, AFS America LLC, announces plans to open a manufacturing facility and warehouse in Columbus, Georgia, creating 65 jobs and investing more than $3 million. That facility produces floor mats and cargo trays. 

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