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Hankook breaks ground on Tennessee tire plant

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, calling it a “wedding of an extraordinary company and an incredible community,” helped Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. mark the start of construction on its $800 million car and light truck tire plant on Oct. 9 near Clarksville, in north central Tennessee.

With hundreds of acres already cleared at the site, Hankook Tire expects to start construction on the 1.5 million-sq.-ft. plant as soon as possible in order to begin production by January 2016, according to Hankook Tire CEO Seung Hwa Suh.

The plant is expected to employ 1,200 workers in the first phase, the company said, which represents annual output of 5.5 million car and light truck tires. The second phase, due on stream by 2018, will double capacity to 11 million units and create 600 more jobs.

Hankook's Clarksville plant will span 1.5 million square feet in the first phase. The entire site covers 469 acres.

Hankook said it plans to build a tire proving ground on the 469-acre site in the Clarksville Corporate Business Park that it picked last October after evaluating dozens of potential locations throughout the southern U.S.

The factory site is about nine miles northwest of the city of Clarksville, on land adjacent to Interstate 24.

Eutaw Construction Co. of Mississippi is the primary contractor for the land clearing.

Hankook's choice of Tennessee is supported by nearly $140 million in economic incentives from the state of Tennessee, Montgomery County and Clarksville, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. That includes a $16 million “FastTrack” Job Training Assistance grant from the State Funding Board that was approved Oct. 8.

The package of incentives includes the 469 acres of land donated by the city and county and $72 million from the state in incentive funds for training, construction of a training facility and a Korean cultural center in the Clarksville area.

Speaking at the groundbreaking on Oct. 9, Haslam noted that Tennessee has become known as the “state that makes things,” including becoming one of the leading states in the nation in vehicle assembly and component supply.

Hankook used the ceremony to honor Korean War veterans, a handful of whom were invited to attend the event.

Suh singled out veterans for their contribution to the freedom of his native county, at one point saying to those attending, “Without you, I couldn't be here today.”

Hankook Tire America Corp. recently donated $50,000 to the Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy and assistance group that provides services to American service veterans.

As a sponsor of the DAV's Mobile Service Office program, Hankook's contribution will help DAV provide free professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services.