Not all of the 8,500 employees expected to work at Hyundai Motor Group’s Metaplant America, nor the almost 6,000 more projected for the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing site’s suppliers across Georgia, will be working at those locations on the first day of production.
Instead, area economic development officials familiar with the project, such as Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, expect at least a five-year ramp-up to the full job creation numbers.
“We’ve known this was going to be a five- to seven-year hire-up,” Tollison told reporters Wednesday. “It’s not going to be overnight, right? We stress that to all the folks that we’re talking to. They’re not going to hire 14,000 people in one year.”
When reporters and news camera people were given a tour of the Metaplant construction site in northern Bryan County on Oct. 25, 2023, the first anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony, HMG Metaplant CEO and President Oscar Kwon told them the plant is “on track to start production in early 2025” and noted that his boss, Hyundai Motor Company Global President and Chief Operating Officer Josè Muñoz, likes to add, “if not sooner.”
The complex is being called a “meta” plant because it will include several HMG-affiliated suppliers and another corporation’s battery factory, and not just the vehicle assembly plant. Officials also say it may make electric vehicles under all of Hyundai’s labels: Hyundai, Kia, Genesis and Ioniq.
The Savannah Economic Development Authority, based in Chatham County, and development authorities in Bulloch, Bryan and Effingham counties participate in the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, or JDA, which together with the state of Georgia purchased and provided the site.
The incentive package, largest in Georgia’s history, also included $2.1 billion worth of tax breaks, the Associated Press reported in September.
Tollison, as well as Eric Johnson, the retired architect and former state senator who serves as project director at the site for the JDA and for the state, took part in Wednesday’s tour and spoke to reporters.
“Considering that we started the search process in January of 2022, to where we are today, no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined it would be like this. … It takes your breath away, quite frankly,” Tollison said, interrupted by trucks loaded with materials rolling past the steel framework of the painting and assembly buildings.
When the HMG plant itself was first announced in May 2022, the prediction was that about 8,100 jobs would be created there through a $5.54 billion investment. But the addition of the on-site battery plant in Hyundai’s joint venture with LG Energy Solution, announced in September, adds 400 expected jobs and boosts the total expected investment to $7.59 billion.
Off-site suppliers, Tollison said, represent a further $2.2 billion investment in nine different counties, for a total investment approaching $10 billion from Hyundai Motor Group and its suppliers.
Those parts suppliers are now projected to employ about 6,000 workers. So HMG, in information provided to media organizations, states that the Metaplant and off-site suppliers together will create a total of 14,476 jobs at full production.
So far, 290 hired
Company representatives said that 290 people have been hired to work at the HMG Metaplant, including 182 salaried and 108 hourly employees. Some are in training at other HMG plants, such as Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Montgomery and even in South Korea, according to HMG managers and area development officials at the Georgia site.
But those sources said they couldn’t predict how long those workers will work or train elsewhere before they’re actually needed in production at Metaplant America. HMG representatives repeated the “early 2025 … if not sooner” forecast and didn’t provide an estimate of how many people will be working there at start-up.
The count of 290 hires does not include 53 South Korean nationals, Kwon being one of them, reportedly assigned to the plant. Both HMG and its battery joint venture partner LG Energy Solution are headquartered in South Korea.
“I also want to say ‘thank y’all’ for your hospitality during the first year,” Kwon said to the tour group. “Most of us are only here for a short time, but our families have appreciated the warm welcome and acceptance as members of the community.”
Approximately 2,000 employees of contractors are now working to build the manufacturing complex, officials said, and those workers aren’t included in the job-creation figures.
For the production jobs, including those within the HMG plant, the battery plant and all affiliates, the average salary will be $58,105, the company stated in a slideshow for reporters. This was stated to be 25% higher than an average current Bryan County annual wage of $47,000.
Bulloch County’s comparable average salary, based on a $21.65 average hourly wage used in Department of Labor reports, would be $45,032, said Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County. So, the predicted Metaplant wage would be 29% higher than Bulloch’s average.
As of Thursday, the Metaplant’s career job search page, https://careers.hmgma.com/ listed 95 job descriptions. A “production team member” listing stated the salary as “from $22.40 per hour.”
Thompson did not attend Wednesday’s tour, but in a phone interview, he agreed with the prediction of five to seven years to achieve the full number of jobs.
He also noted that the nine counties where HMG supplier factories are being located include a few far afield of the four Joint Development Authority counties and their immediate neighbors.
“Remember that’s not just in the area, that’s a count of suppliers related to the Hyundai plant, and I only say that because we’ve had one announcement in Henry County, there’s another announcement in Dublin. …” Thompson said. “So not all of those 14,000 jobs are in the direct vicinity of the plant.”
Henry County, whose county seat is McDonough, is north of Macon and south of Atlanta.
Tollison had also called them “suppliers scattered all over the region and some outside of the region.”However, three Hyundai suppliers are now building plants in Bulloch County, at sites along U.S. Highway 301 south of Statesboro and near the I-16 interchange. They are Joon Georgia Inc., predicted to create 630 jobs; Ecoplastic America Corporation, projected for 456 jobs; and Hanon Systems, 160 jobs.