WEST POINT, GA (WTVM) - With the addition of KIA and its suppliers, 7,000 jobs came to the West Point area. At first, residents tell News Leader Nine they were afraid the boom in business might affect their small town feel. But now, they say the opposite has happened. "People were a little bit down. We live in a great place. When it came to KIA, people said 'we have got a second chance,'" explained West Point resident Ellen Collins. It was a second chance to build up the town she loves.
We caught up with Collins at a local favorite, Roger's Bar-B-Que. Collins has seen her town transform. People are taking pride in their home and finally shopping locally.
KIA employee, Ryan Valentine, said, "Production is increasing. We are working overtime, so there are a lot of healthy signs. It is a good feeling."
It is also a good feeling for the Mayor of West Point, Dr. Drew Ferguson. In the last two years, 35 businesses have opened their doors. He says the initial investments in KIA are beginning to pay off.
"Our goal is to improve all segments of the community. Breaking the generational poverty that has been created due to the loss of textile jobs," said Ferguson.
Quality Director at Kia, Stuart Countess lived in the area 20 years ago. He said, "This is certainly a needed shot in the arm for the area. Not only do you have HMMG, but the supply base."
KIA representatives said thanks to the addition of the Santa Fe they expect to achieve their goal of 300,000 units produced this year. No new jobs were created by the switch, but employees are already working towards training to make the Santa Fe. Production will begin in just a few weeks. On October 1st the plant will launch a second shift.