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Hanil E-Hwa expanding production line

The Selma Times Journal

Selma economic development and city leaders rolled out the red carpet Monday for 10 high profile Korean businessmen visiting Selma to learn more about the area and possibly bring in more business.

The entourage included Chairman H. C. Ryu, founder of Korean-based Hanil E-Hwa, a tier one supplier for Hyundai, and nine company presidents who are tier two suppliers – the link in the auto manufacturing chain that provides raw materials and engineering services to Hanil E-Hwa, according the Wayne Vardaman, president of the Selma-Dallas County economic development authority.

The group visited the 200,000 square foot Hanil E-Hwa facility in Craig industrial park to get a feel for plant operations and weigh the feasibility of expanding its manufacturing presence here.

They also took an extensive tour of Selma, led by Lauri Cothran, executive director of the tourism and convention bureau for the Center for Commerce.

“We showed them area schools, housing and gave them a good general overview of the city,” she said.

The visitors asked a lot of questions about culture, the environment, layout of the highways and things most Americans don’t think about or take for granted.

“They are very smart people and have a strong work ethic,” noted George Needham, an American who was helping out with interpreting, since many of the visitors did not speak English.

Since opening its facility in the former American Candy company building, Hanil E-Hwa has added on and doubled it in size, said Vardaman.

Hong Keun Kim, president of the Selma Hanil E-Hwa explained that his colleagues are here to look at the available labor market and to see if Selma might provide a suitable environment for future expansion plans.

Prior to coming to Selma, the Chairman and presidents visited the Montgomery plant on Sunday “to get a more intimate feeling of how they are running things,” said Kim.

At present, Hanil E-Hwa is projecting revenues of $80 million for 2006, said Kim. As they ramp up to add another product line, he anticipates revenues of $100 million for 2007.

“We are looking at growing bigger,” he said.

The company employs 190 at present to supply door trims, seats, head linings and other interior trims for Hyundai’s Sonata. The parts are shipped for final assembly at the plant in Montgomery.

In April, they will start ramping up to deliver parts for Hyundai’s Sante Fe, a new mid-size SUV the auto manufacturer is putting out to market.

“By the middle of this year we will need about 150 employees, for a total of

340,” explained Kim.

Currently, Hanil E-Hwa gets all of its tier two supplies from Korea. The visit by tier two presidents could translate into a supplier locating here.

Right now, it’s just too early to tell as they are in the “preliminary stages” of discussions, noted Kim.