The first vertical construction on a permanent building at the Bryan County Mega-Site could begin before the end of March, a Hyundai official told members of the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority during a meeting Monday in Black Creek.
Chris Smith, a Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America executive, said plans call for construction “to go vertical by the end of this month.”
The South Korean carmaker has set late 2024 or early 2025 as its target for beginning production of electric vehicles in Bryan County. Hyundai is investing more than $5.45 billion in its Metaplant, promising some 8,100 jobs when at full capacity while building 300,000 or more electric vehicles a year.
Smith, who came to Bryan County from Hyundai’s Montgomery plant to help the company with its site selection and has stayed on since, struck a positive tone during the meeting, which lasted roughly half an hour and included an executive session.
“Overall the project is coming along very well,” Smith told the board. “We’re very, very pleased with the progress and very, very pleased with the partnership with the JDA as well as with the four (Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham) counties.”
The state and four counties in the JDA are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to provide infrastructure for the site at the intersection of Highway 280 and I-16. Those improvements range from water and sewer to road improvements to what will eventually become a new I-16 interchange at Old Cuyler Road and a new Cuyler Road Extension.
If anything, Monday’s meeting in a double-wide trailer parked among a small compound of trailers not far from one of three concrete plants at the site, showed moving parts abound as work progresses. It also showed that as site preparations continue and temporary offices go up, local labor groups are looking for jobs for their members.
Both Smith and Eric Johnson, the JDA’s construction director, emphasized the scale of the project, saying it is both vast and involves various companies under the Hyundai umbrella – from Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America to Hyundai Engineering, which is the subcontractor, to Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Transys and Hyundai Steel – with each working independently.
Batteries for the vehicles will also be manufactured on part of the 2,900-plus acre site, some 1,700 acres of which has already been cleared.
An announcement on that agreement is expected to come from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, according to the JDA.
But the complexity and scale of the project and the number of companies involved in building out the Mega-Site means there’s no one entity to deal with when it comes to looking for opportunity, according to Johnson.
JDA Chairman Carter Infinger, who is also Bryan County Commission Chairman, and Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis, a JDA board member, suggested to Smith that Hyundai hold a workshop for unions and other labor groups.
“The jobs are not with the JDA, not with the Chairman of the Chatham County Commission, but I’m the one getting the calls,” Ellis said. “You (Hyundai) need to set up a separate town hall, because they’re calling us. I know they’re calling me, and I don’t have any answers.”
Hiring local vendors
Smith said Hyundai Motor Group wants to hire local.
“We’ve been working with Eric Johnson and working with the JDA, trying to hire as many local vendors as possible,” Smith said, adding, “we do realize how important it is to hire local.
“We realize the whole community is invested in the project and we want to be a part of the community,” he told the JDA. “We know there are tremendous advantages and benefits to hiring local, and we’ve been trying to work through that for several months now.”
Johnson said so far this year 58 vendors have used the JDA website to inquire about opportunities with Hyundai, but reiterated that the number entities at the site, with “each one with its own design team and each one with a separate subcontractor. It’s all sort of coming out piece by piece.”
That also means there’s a lot of work to go around for local contractors and other labor groups, officials said
Savannah Economic Development Authority Director Trip Tollison reminded union representatives Hyundai’s economic impact was bigger than the Mega-Site, with an additional 4,546 jobs and some $1.81 billion in capital investment in Hyundai supplier facilities in the four-county JDA of Bryan, Bulloch, Effingham and Chatham.
In addition to the Metaplant, Richmond Hill is adding some 1,578 jobs and another $926 million in investment from Hyundai Mobis at the Belfast Commerce Park while Bulloch County has Ecoplastic Corporation and Joon Georgia expected to add a combined 1,086 jobs and $522 million in investment.
Chatham has more than 1,100 jobs and $130 million in investment coming from Hyundai suppliers PHA and Seovon E-HWA, while Effingham County will be getting $300 million in investment and 740 jobs in $300 million from Sewon America.
The announcements, some dating back to November 2022, were consolidated on one screen of a JDA powerpoint presentation at Monday’s meeting.
“That’s a lot of opportunity on one page,” Tollison said.
The JDA met in executive session then later approved agreements with Hyundai on both an access road on the south side of the Mega-Site and a natural gas line.
Earlier that morning, Johnson, a Savannah architect who represented Bryan County in the Georgia senate until he resigned in 2009 to run for governor, noted that as work progressed, utilities were on schedule, adding “Georgia Power has already drilled under the interstate.”
Jeff Whitten is editor of the Bryan County New, which is owned by Savannah-based Morris Multimedia, which owns the Statesboro Herald, as well.