SUMMARY: Well, according to sources close to the state representative’s efforts, he helped. Near assembly plants for both Hyundai and Kia, Chambers County has had a boom in new auto industry suppliers, which promises to create a total of 1,200 new jobs. Local officials say Laird played a role in a larger local effort to attract those industries.
ANALYSIS: Laird’s district represents all of Clay and Randolph counties, and the northern half of Chambers County. The other half of the county is covered by Distrct 38 incumbent DuWayne Bridges.
It’s an area that could use some jobs. The latest numbers from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations showed Chambers with a 13.8 percent unemployment rate.
Those numbers would be worse without the Korean auto industry. With a Kia Motors plant not far away in West Point, Ga. and Kia’s sister company, Hyundai, in Montgomery, Chambers County would seem like a good location for automotive suppliers.
Local officials say the local legislative delegation –- including both Bridges and Laird –- have been instrumental in attracting suppliers to Chambers County’s industrial park.
“They’ve been strong supporters and have helped us get several suppliers in the industrial park,” said Elinor Crowder, director of the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce. Crowder noted that the effort involved a number of local officials, including Laird, all working together.
Crowder noted that most of those businesses are “startups” and some are still in the process of getting established.
Two recent examples would include auto suppliers like Glovis LLC, which announced last month that it would set up shop in Chambers County, with plans to hire 200 people. Other suppliers, including, Daeki America, AJIN and DaeDong Hi-Lex have also set up shop -– or announced plans to do so -– in Chambers County’s Cusseta Industrial Park. Suppliers Daeil USA and Commercial Spring and Tool have also begun operations in Chambers County
In a story in the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, Valerie Gray of the Chambers County Development Authority said that industries attracted to the area in recent years add up to 1,200 jobs projected for the local area. Gray didn’t respond to The Star’s calls for more information on those estimates.
Based on press releases from the companies listed above, Gray’s estimate appears to be accurate. In announcing their operations in Chambers County, Daeil projected it would create 70 jobs; Commercial Spring and Tool, 75 jobs; Daeki, 80 jobs; AJIN, 450 jobs; MPTech, 250 jobs and DaeDong Hi-Lex, 103 jobs. Combined with the 200 jobs from Glovis, that comes out to 1,228 jobs created or expected to come online in the future.
What’s unclear is how many of those jobs are online now. Calls to each of the companies listed above, seeking estimates of current total employment, were not returned Thursday.
But Laird’s claim seems plausible enough. The only real question is how much credit goes to the local legislative delegation, and how much is due to the county’s luck in being near two major auto manufacturers.