Hyundai passes through

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A barge floating up the Alabama River on Monday could be called a &uot;sea change&uot; for Selma and Dallas County.

Around 9:30 a.m. on Monday a 2,276-ton stamping press for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama slowly drifted under the Edmund Pettus Bridge on its way to Hyundai’s Montgomery plant. The stamping press, one of the largest in the country, will be used to compress steel sheets into various car components once the plant is fully operational in 2005.

Wayne Vardaman, president and CEO of the Selma-Dallas County Centre for Commerce, echoed Perkins’ words. &uot;It signifies the development to come. Hyundai is the catalyst for that development. It’s all tied together. The stamping press signifies that it’s happening.&uot;

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According to Bill Lang, public relations manager for Hyundai, more than 80 trucks are carrying parts needed for the stamping press from Mobile to Montgomery. However, the giant crown and stamping bed press were too large for road transport, which led Hyundai to the Alabama River. &uot;If we didn’t have the river, we’d have to find larger trailers,&uot; Lang said. &uot;It would be a slower process.&uot;

The giant crown, the top portion of the press that applies pressure to the steel, weighs 268,520 pounds. The stamping bed press, which is the bottom part of the press, weighs 262,171. The press generates 5,400 tons of pressure when stamping vehicle parts.

The stamping press left Tokyo on Feb. 5 and arrived in Mobile March 9. It began its journey up the Alabama River on Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive near the Burkville GE plant yesterday. It will be transferred to the Montgomery plant on Wednesday and Thursday.

Portions of U.S. Highway 80 will be closed Wednesday and Thursday night in order to move the stamping press. However, it will be closed around 10 p.m. at night to affect as few people as possible.

The arrival of the stamping press is the latest in a series of developments for Hyundai. The Montgomery plant had about 100 employees start on Monday, according to Lang. It currently employs around 450 people and is expected to have around 1000 by year’s end. By 2007 the plant is scheduled to employ 2000. Lang noted that about 1600 of those will be Alabamians and many from Dallas County.

The Montgomery plant is about 75 percent complete. Its completion is expected in May. Employee training and the assembly of parts will last from June to March 2005, when the plant’s official opening will occur.

In addition to the Montgomery plant, 23 tier I suppliers lie in surrounding areas. &uot;And that’s not counting tier II and tier III suppliers,&uot; Lang said. &uot;This shows that our plant has a much broader impact than Montgomery.&uot;