Kia starts taking applications

The scramble to land one of 2,500 jobs at the Kia auto assembly plant in West Point, Ga., has begun.

Seoul, South Korea-based Kia Motors Corp., a subidiary of Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, began taking applications about 11 a.m today following a press conference attended by company and state officials.

Kia, which will manufacture the Sorento sports utility vehicle at its West Point factory, is accepting applications only via the Internet. The Web site is www.kiajobsingeorgia.com.

The company expects thousands of job seekers to flood its system over the next few weeks. As of Monday, about 9,000 people had signed up at the Web site to receive an immediate alert that applications are being taken.

"With an online system you never know where they're going to come from, but I do anticipate a lot of applicants," said Randy Jackson, human resources director with the 2.4 million-square-foot auto plant.

"Of course, people around this region are, I'm sure, going to populate it pretty heavily, too," he said. "It's hard to answer what the applicant flow is going to look like until we start seeing it come in and, of course, its closing down."

The $1.2 million facility is being constructed on 2,145 acres of land off Interstate 85 on the eastern edge of West Point. It is expected to open in November 2009, churning out 300,000 vehicles per year.

The plant site is about 10 minutes west of LaGrange, Ga., where Tuesday's online launch was hailed by state leaders. They included Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Michael Thurmond, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor.

Kia has been staging preparation work for the plant and the online hiring process out of West Georgia Technical College in LaGrange. Banks of computers have been set up at the school for job prospects to use. They also may visit any Labor Department office to receive help with submitting an application via the Internet.

The department's Columbus Career Center is located at 700 Veterans Parkway.

Georgia's Quick Start program helped Kia set up the computerized application system and its training center on the construction site.

The Kia Web site should not experience any problems from a deluge of applications submitted by those seeking a production or maintenance position at the plant, Jackson said.

"They've tested that up at Quick Start many times," he said.

Hiring, which will be done in phases, is expected to begin in April.

Several other auto parts manufacturers also are locating in the region. They are expected to employ collectively as many as 3,000 additional people.

The West Point plant will make a redesigned version of the Sorento. The current version of the SUV has a base price of $21,695, according to www.kia.com.