"They shared what they were doing in Tennessee that would help Hankook with other automotive growth sectors," Williams said, "and what the state could do to help us from an employment standpoint. ... The state is on fire with high-tech manufacturing jobs coming into the state."
Hyunbum Cho, chairman of the parent company, and Sooil Lee, CEO of Hankook Tire & Technology and president of Hankook Tire America Corp, were part of those discussions. When Cho told Gov. Lee that they were asking for help in recruiting top talent, Williams said Lee spoke about his Governor's Incentive for Vocational Education (GIVE) Initiative.
The program offers scholarships for graduating high school seniors to go to a vocational tech school and acquire a trade to make them more marketable for jobs like what Hankook will offer in Clarksville, Williams said.
Since creating GIVE, the state has invested $50 million in the program to support work force development through career and technical education, according to a November 2021 news release from the state. The first round of GIVE funding in 2019 served an estimated 8,000 students, and the second round will serve an estimated 7,500 students. The state said its expects the second round to help fund 27 programs and projects at 21 community and technical colleges in the College System of Tennessee.
Williams said Cho and Sooil Lee were very impressed with the program, and that was one of the factors in the decision to go forward with the two-phase expansion at the Clarksville factory, which opened in 2017.
Hankook plans to add 1,200 new employees to the nearly 1,000 current work force at Clarksville, with 800 of those at the PLT addition and 400 for the truck/bus radial tire unit.
The tire company expects to break ground on the expansions in early 2023 once it receives needed approvals, with production at the new phases to begin by late 2024 and reach full capacity by early 2026.