STATESBORO - Hanon Systems’ newly announced commitment to build a factory in Gateway Regional Industrial Park brings the number of tier-one Hyundai Motor Group suppliers locating in Bulloch County to three and of new manufacturers of all types building in the county to five.
Their job creation commitments add up to a projected 1,566 employees and their promised capital investments within Bulloch to $937 million. All five projects have been announced within 16 months, and all but one in the 12 months since the revelation that Hyundai's electric vehicle Meta Plant America would be built at the four-county Joint Development Authority site in northern Bryan County.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued a news release around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday announcing that Hanon, a maker of “automotive thermal and energy management” equipment, which includes air-conditioning components, would invest more than $40 million in the factory and create 160 jobs. The release was datelined “Israel” because Kemp is there on a weeklong visit. But Hanon Systems, like Hyundai Motor Group itself, is based in South Korea.
"Georgia’s automotive and e-mobility industries continue to grow as we proudly welcome Hanon Systems to Georgia,” Kemp said. “As our state furthers its position as the EV capital of America, new jobs and opportunities like these are coming to hardworking Georgians all over the state and will continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, the Development Authority of Bulloch County was meeting at its headquarters, upstairs at the Queensborough National Bank, Statesboro branch. After hearing updates related to the previous four industries under development in the county, the DABC members went into closed session to discuss a memorandum of understanding with Hanon, then reopened the meeting and unanimously approved it.
“Statesboro-Bulloch County is honored by Hanon Systems’ decision to locate its new facility here,” said Billy Allen, chair of the DABC. “We are excited to welcome another automotive supplier to our community, particularly one that will be working closely with the Hyundai Metaplant and the electric vehicle industry. This decision is another example of the resources offered by our community and region to help companies succeed.”
Steve Rushing, attorney for the Development Authority, summarized the contents of the memorandum, or pending agreement, before the board voted.
Hanon Systems’ new facility will be built next to the Cardinal Glass plant at the Gateway site on 34 acres the DABC is providing Hanon in a lease-to-own arrangement. As is also the case for with the other Hyundai suppliers locating here, the authority is not giving the land away but selling it at a discount.
After “internally” valuing the land at $50,000 an acre, Rushing said, the DABC is offering it to Hanon for $25,000 an acre. So the company will pay, over time, $850,000 for a site the DABC considered to be worth $1.7 million.
Partial tax abatement
By maintaining legal ownership of the land and the facility to be built on it for 10 years, the tax-exempt DABC will provide it free of county government property tax to Hanon for that period of time. But as with the other recently announced industries, the company is expected to make payments to the county equal to the Bulloch County Board of Education share of property tax and the fire protection district tax.
The DABC also agrees to provide temporary facilities, such as office space, free to the company, up to a rental value of $10,000, and $20,000 worth of additional work force training through Ogeechee Technical College, outside of training the state will provide through its Quick Start program.
The Development Authority already funded an initial environmental study of the site at a cost of $17,625.
Additionally, the DABC is to apply for an EDGE Grant from the OneGeorgia Authority for up to $525,000 to assist Hanon.
The DABC will also make its bond-issuance power available to help finance the company’s investment here.
In exchange for all of this, the company is expected to meet the announced capital investment and job creation goals, with average wages at least equaling Bulloch County’s average wage, stated by the DABC as $21.65 an hour.
“If there is a shortfall, there is a calculation for a clawback,” Rushing said. “They would actually pay back a portion of the incentives.”
The authority and company expect to close on the deal by July 31, he said. The governor’s announcement states that the plant is expected to begin operations in May 2024.
Gateway Regional Industrial Park, on the west side of U.S. Highway 301 south of Statesboro, is the authority’s oldest current industrial park. The surge of new industries has filled the newer Bruce Yawn Commerce Park, on the other side of U.S. 301 at the I-16 interchange, and prompted the DABC to buy additional sites.
Meanwhile, the total number of promised jobs has increased further in a county with a low unemployment rate, as the Development Authority’s CEO Benjy Thompson acknowledged in an interview.
“There’s certainly that concern, but if we’re doing our jobs right we’re constantly looking for real estate opportunities for continued growth that matches the community’s growth, we’re constantly working with our partners to make sure that the workforce is trained and skilled and all the things necessary to fill these jobs that are coming,” he said.
Timelines for construction of the factories are short, with the Hyundai Motor Group Meta Plant itself still projected to start production in January 2025 and eventually employ 8,100 people. But he noted that the job creation numbers are for plants operating at full capacity, which will take time to reach.
“So we’re very happy about the success that we’ve had, but we’re not stopping,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to help these people get settled and ramp up over time, which is one of the things I think is important to remind ourselves. They’re not going to open next year and be at full capacity.”
Bulloch’s other 4 projects
• Aspen Aerogels, announced Feb. 17, 2022. Construction is underway on the 90-acre site in Bruce Yawn Commerce Park. The company’s commitment is for a $325 million investment and at least 250 manufacturing jobs. Although not linked to the Hyundai factory, Aspen’s plant will make aerogel insulation, which is used in and around electric vehicle batteries.
• Ecoplastic America Corporation, a supplier of injection-molded plastic automotive body parts to Hyundai Motor Group, intends to build a $205 million plant, promised to create 456 jobs, phased in over eight years, on a site owned by the DABC south of Statesboro. Site preparation is underway.
• Ajin USA, supplier of metal auto body parts to Hyundai, has committed to invest $317 million and eventually employ 630 people at its Joon Georgia plant. The site is 83 acres, beside the Aspen Aerogels site in Bruce Yawn Commerce Park.
• Not connected to Hyundai, revalyu Resources, headquartered in Germany, plans to build a PET plastic-bottle recycling plant on a 43-acre site in Gateway Regional Industrial Park. It is expected to create 71 jobs and require a $50 million investment in Phase 1, the only phase counted in the current totals.
Hanon, Ecoplastic and Ajin are all tier-one suppliers because they deal directly with Hyundai Motor Group. A tier-two supplier would supply materials to a tier-one supplier, and so forth.