Kia opens training center in West Point, Ga.

Full-scale hiring is still a few weeks away. But Kia Motors officially opened its state-of-the-art training center Tuesday morning in nearby West Point, Ga.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was among the high-powered executives and state officials who showed up to "test drive" the facility that will train the $1.2 billion plant's work force.

South Korea-based Kia Motors Corp. is constructing its 2.4-million-square-foot auto assembly plant on more than 2,000 acres of land directly off Interstate 85. The center is on the site at 900 Gabbettville Rd.

The completion date for the factory is November 2009. It will employ nearly 3,000 production, maintenance and administrative workers. A redesigned Sorento sports utility vehicle is expected to be made there, with workers turning out 300,000 copies per year at full capacity.

The Kia Georgia Training Center is outfitted with high-tech robotics, welding and electronics labs, the company said, and will allow workers to train on equipment that will be found in the actual auto plant. Pre-employment assessments also will done at the center.

In February, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia said more than 43,000 people filed online applications to work at the West Point plant. Company officials said some hiring would begin in April, with workers being added and trained in phases.

The pay range for Kia production workers will be $14.90 to $23.50 per hour, while maintenance and tool and die employees will be paid $20.80 per hour to start, topping out at $27 per hour, the company has said. A rotating shift premium will add $1 per hour.

The Kia training center has been developed with help from the Georgia Quick Start program.