Hyundai suppliers making visits here

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

News on Hyundai’s move to Alabama, relatively quiet since the onslaught of media attention in April, has taken on a new tone — a quiet tone.

The South Korean company, scheduled to break ground in November, has made way for “tier one” suppliers seeking to find industrial sites near Hope Hull.

After Hyundai’s announcement, industrial leaders in Dallas County lauded it as a new era for Selma. They still feel that way, though little news has been released lately. And there’s a reason for it.

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“This is a very quiet process,” said Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority. “We are getting some site visits for the Hyundai plant, but it’s not something we can really talk about.”

According to the publisher of the Troy (Ala.) Messenger, a site visit publicized in that area may have cost the city a supplier.

Carrie Kurlander, spokeswoman for Gov. Don Siegelman, said site selection trips — and all industrial trips, for that matter — remain quiet because companies want to build a rapport with members of the community.

“For any relationship, there has to be an element of trust,” Kurlander said. “It’s a period of time when companies are just trying to get to know the communities, and they don’t want a lot of publicity.”

Siegelman has held fast to that philosophy in all his industrial announcements.

“Even if it’s positive news, this administration’s policy is that reporters are not going to get confirmation from us,” she said.

Vardaman did confirm that Selma has gotten visits from site selection teams related to Hyundai.

“We’ve had a lot of visits lately, and the visits are not just related to the automotive industry,” he said.

While news remains quiet throughout the site selection process, Vardaman said now is a perfect time for the people of Selma to remain positive. Johnny Jones, Dallas County’s probate judge and an active industry recruiter, recalled a story of Hammermill’s initial trips to Dallas County.

“One of the recruiters from that company came here and stopped at a service station,” Jones said. “There was a guy outside washing his windshield and he was asked what Selma was like. He said it was the greatest place in the world.”

According to Jones, those are the kinds of comments that help land industries. “It’s so important right now,” he said.

Vardaman said there are other ways Selmians can help in the recruitment of industries.

“The best thing you can do is just welcome people in a welcoming fashion,” he said. “Have your best foot forward at all times.”

Dallas County, Vardaman said, has excellent industrial sites. “We just don’t have the greatest reputation. The best way to overcome that is to be friendly and courteous. It’s common-sense stuff.”