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Westmoreland: Kia Plant a Model for Economic Development in Hard Times

Normally, a company’s second anniversary is something that one celebrates without much fanfare. However, in the case of Kia Motors’ U.S. manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga., there are thousands of reasons why we should celebrate.

When Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia began production of its vehicles two years ago, it revitalized the community of West Point, which had lost about 16,000 jobs over the past 20 years as the textile industry left the area.

After investments of more than $1 billion to build and expand its plant in West Point, Kia has trained and hired more than 3,000 employees.

But that’s just the beginning. On-site and local suppliers have added 7,500 other new employees in the region. That means Kia’s Georgia plant is responsible for the creation of more than 10,000 jobs, with even more to come.

Because of Kia’s success over the past several years and because of the hard work and dedication of workers at the West Point plant, Kia plans to boost its annual production to 360,000 vehicles in 2012. With that boost in production, it expects to hire an additional 200 employees.

I have had the opportunity to visit the Kia plant several times, and each time it amazes me. The plant itself is a marvel, filled with state-of-the-art equipment and with facilities so clean you could probably eat off of them. As you follow the production line throughout the plant, you see Kia team members working together to turn what are initially pieces of metal into top-quality Kia Sorentos and Optimas. It’s an amazing sight and is a true example of the spirit and the dedication of the American worker. When I speak with the employees at Kia, you can feel the pride they take in their work and how happy they are to be considered a Kia team member.

As our country continues to struggle through these hard economic times, jobs and the high unemployment rate are dominating conversations across the country. More than 14 million Americans are unemployed and are struggling to put food on the table for their families. That’s why those of us in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional district are celebrating Kia’s second anniversary. It’s because to us, this second anniversary means a second year of job creation — and the promise of more success in the future.

As the debate over job creation continues in Washington, I always remind my colleagues of the success story in a small Georgia town called West Point.

It is a shining example of what can truly be achieved through the hard work of the American worker and the investment of companies like Kia Motors.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) is a member of the Financial Services Committee.

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