July 23--A South Korean company that makes floor mats and cargo trays for Kia, Hyundai and General Motors has chosen Columbus for its first U.S. plant, creating 65 jobs and investing $3 million in its facility.
AFS America LLC, a subsidiary of NVH Korea Co. Ltd., said today it will open a production facility and warehouse in Corporate Ridge Business Park in east Columbus. The timeline calls for manufacturing to begin by the fourth quarter of this year, with operations ramping up through 2013.
"The fact that we had an available building that they could move into helped set us apart from some of the other communities," said Brian Sillitto, senior vice president of economic development with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and the person who spearheaded recruitment of the company. "We've got in Columbus a portfolio of property with available buildings that other communities just don't have."
AFS America is a supplier for Hyundai Mobis, a major Kia supplier located adjacent to the main Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia assembly plant in nearby West Point, Ga. It also delivers parts to the Hyundai Motors Manufacturing Alabama factory near Montgomery, Ala.
It will be the first U.S. production plant for AFS America, although the company already has a warehouse in Troy, Mich., supplying General Motors factories, said AFS President Richard Park. He said the Columbus operation will employ nearly 30 at first, then progress toward 65 on its payroll by 2014.
The company is locating at 4825 Cargo Drive in one of two former Goody Products structures. Other companies now operating in Corporate Ridge Business Park are supplemental insurer Aflac, credit-card processor TSYS, ATM assembler NCR and health-care/nutrition product manufacturer Bayer Corp.
"Our plan is at first we lease that building, then we will purchase the building," said Park of the Columbus location. "We hope our business (gets) much better."
Aside from the property, Sillitto said Georgia's QuickStart training program was an incentive that helped the city land the company.
"There is the potential for property tax savings on the equipment, and also on land and building should they decide to acquire a building. That would be made available to them," he said.
This is the city's second exposure to NVH Korea, which in 2009 stopped a deal that would have brought a car mat and cargo liner called DongNam Tech to Columbus. The project was halted after NVH, which has been around since 1984, bought the smaller company.
At the time, DongNam was pledging to invest $29 million in a facility that would employ 350 people. The company had planned to locate in a 100,000-square-foot speculative building in Muscogee Technology Park on the city's east side.
Columbus continues to market that structure, said Becca Hardin, executive vice president of economic development with the chamber. The spec building was simply too big for AFS America, she said.
"We show it a lot. We've just got to find the right project for it," said Hardin, who on Monday was feeling good about landing the smaller Kia supplier.
"We are fighting for everything that we can get, especially in this economy," she said.
The Georgia Department of Labor will help the company with hiring, taking applications at its Columbus Career Center, 700 Veterans Parkway. Hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call 706-649-7423.
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