Kia receives 43,000 applications for West Point auto plant

Kia Motors has received more than 43,000 applications for the 2,500 employees needed for its auto assembly plant in nearby West Point, Ga., the company said Monday.

The Seoul, South Korea-based automaker, a subsidiary of Hyundai, began its Internet-only application process Jan. 8 with a formal ceremony in LaGrange, Ga., minutes away from the $1.2 billion factory now under construction. The application period closed last Thursday.

Randy Jackson, director of human resources for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc., said about 75 percent of applicants came from Georgia. The rest are from adjacent states.

The executive, who attended a job fair last week in Columbus, said he was happy how the online process had worked. He thanked the Georgia Quick Start program — which set up an application and information Web site — as well as the state's technical colleges.

"We have not had anyone at all complain about the system. If anything we've been surprised," said Jackson, who has worked with Toyota's headquarters near Cincinnati and spent four years at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. He's been through several plant openings.

"Most automotive groups have kind of done . . . half online and half paper," he said. "What happens is you end up getting a lot of paper. You end up getting stacks and stacks and stacks of manual stuff, and it takes you forever to flip through it. And there's always room for human error when you do that.

"When you go 100 percent online, it's quick and fast and it assures everyone that they had an equal opportunity to get the application here. All you've got to do is get to a computer."

Kia will now begin reviewing the applications, with a first round of candidates being interviewed in March. Those who get through that phase will receive training and do exercises to determine if they have the proper team skills and mindset for automotive work.

The company expects to begin making initial job offers in April and will hire in several phases until each shift is covered.

Kia's plans are to begin production in November 2009. It will turn out 300,000 vehicles per year at full capacity. The Sorento sports utility vehicle, which is being redesigned for the 2010 selling season, is the vehicle the plant will produce.