Troup County Commissioner Chairman Ricky Wolfe gave the LaGrange Rotary members a brief overview of the new Kia Motors bond agreement and an update on the status of new Troup County career academy at Rotary’s regular Wednesday meeting.
Wolfe said that Kia is already far ahead in fulfilling the objectives of its original agreement, which made it possible to enter into negotiations with the Hyundai-Kia group for a second agreement.
“The Hyundai-Kia group had said that they wanted to invest 1.5 billion in the U.S. auto market and it was going to be in either Montgomery, in their Hyundai plant, or in West Point,” Wolfe said.
Last February, Wolfe, along with West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson IV, Development Authority of LaGrange executive director Bobby Carmichael and other officials from the West Point Development Authority and bond attorneys entered into negotiations with the Hyundai-Kia group.
“We started with a list of expectations. Kia wanted the flexibility to expand not only themselves but their suppliers that are here or the suppliers that will come here,” Wolfe said. “They wanted a line of credit that they could use when the market conditions said that it was time to move.”
Kia has recently announced that by the end of 2014 they plan to introduce 55 models of cars in the U.S. market.
“Each car needs 3,500 parts in an exact sequence, at the exact moment that they are needed. Every 58 seconds a new car is produced,” Wolfe said. “The advantage to us is the expansion of the supply base.”
New income to Troup County would be the result of new suppliers coming into the area.
The team negotiated money to help West Point out with their infrastructure demands from housing the Kia plant, and fees for arranging for the bonds. Money will be going to both West Point and Troup County.
“Kia employs 6,000 employees with only 20 percent of them being Troup County residents,” Wolfe said. “They are under no obligation to hire any Troup County residents.”
From the very first meeting, Wolfe said that the community’s priority was for work-force development and public education.
Wolfe is concerned with the current school dropout rate of Troup County and the lack of public technical education that is available to high school students.
“Georgia ranked 48th out of the 50 states in graduation rates. Georgia’s graduation rate is 67 percent and Troup County’s graduation rate is 64 percent,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe went on to say that one third of Troup County’s students are dropping out of school while the GED numbers do not reflect that many of those individuals are even achieving graduation status.
Kia has agreed to include $3 million to help form a career academy in Troup County.
“A career academy is a place where students have an opportunity through a graded curriculum to find a match between what they want to do with their lives and what is offered in public education,” Wolfe said.
The academy will draw students from the three high schools and provide them with more choices. Not all students want to go on to college and presently they do not have many options. Wolfe said that’s why students become disillusioned and drop out of school.
Russ Moore is a consultant for the planning of the career academy. In the next six months the project will go through community assessment, curriculum development, identification of the best service mechanisms to deliver the curriculum and the actual design of the academy. Plans were expected to be complete by June 1, 2013.
“The academy must have a generic name, speaking to the community. We hope all industries and educational systems will participate in this academy,” Wolfe said.