A Sign Rarely Seen in Today’s U.S. Auto Industry ‘Now Hiring’

By Staff Report

Feb. 13, 2009

More than 3,000 people stood in line for hours outside a Georgia workforce training office this week to apply for $10-an-hour jobs at Korean auto parts supplier Sewon America.

That’s more than five times the roughly 600 positions that Sewon expects to eventually fill at its new factory under construction in LaGrange. Sewon will make stamped chassis and body parts for Kia Motor Corp.’s factory in nearby West Point when it opens in November.

Sean McMillan, a director with workforce training agency Georgia Quick Start, said he arrived at 6:30 a.m. Monday to find 200 people standing in line.

One woman had driven from Ohio the night before and slept in her car, says McMillan, who called the experience “sobering.”

“Many of these people, particularly locally, have watched Kia’s facility being built, and with that there’s been a lot of anticipation. As times have become tougher, I think the hope—and that’s a word you don’t hear a lot lately—has grown,” he said.

Sewon’s three-day hiring blitz was a bright spot in a week dominated by news of job cuts at Nissan Motor Co., General Motors and supplier BorgWarner Inc. But with all the excitement in LaGrange, there was also a dose of reality.

Sewon is hiring in waves. It will take on 300 workers this year in several groupings, and the rest later.

Indeed, of the 3,050 people who submitted applications, McMillan said he expects 80 to 100 to make it to the next round for the first wave: pre-employment training that starts next week.

From that group, Sewon will probably offer jobs to 25 to 30, he said. Others will have to wait for the next hiring wave later in the year.

Those odds led the LaGrange Daily News to observe that “ ‘American Idol’ auditions might be easier than landing a position at the new Sewon America plant.”

Filed by April Wortham of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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