Hyundai going ‘full throttle’ on staffing, building Savannah EV plant

Georgia QuickStart breaks ground on onsite training center
ELLABELL, GA - FEBRUARY 08, 2024: Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America President/CEO Oscar Kwon, center, is joined by other VIPs during a ground breaking ceremony on Georgia Quick Start Training Center site near the plant, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, Ellabell, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

ELLABELL, GA - FEBRUARY 08, 2024: Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America President/CEO Oscar Kwon, center, is joined by other VIPs during a ground breaking ceremony on Georgia Quick Start Training Center site near the plant, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, Ellabell, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

ELLABELL — The Hyundai Metaplant under construction near Savannah has trained its first 500 production workers in anticipation of the electric vehicle manufacturing plant’s opening in early 2025 — if not sooner.

Those initial employees are learning skills in four Savannah-area training centers operated by QuickStart, a division of the Technical College System of Georgia. According to Hyundai Metaplant CEO Oscar Kwon, those employees, known as “metapros”, will begin building test cars in the months ahead prior to the start of full production.

Kwon’s update came during a Thursday morning groundbreaking ceremony for an onsite training facility. The QuickStart Hyundai Mobility Training Center of Georgia is adjacent to the Metaplant’s headquarters building on the 2,906-acre site along Interstate 16, about 20 miles west of downtown Savannah.

Once the onsite center opens in late 2025 the facility will become the training hub for the $7.6 billion project. Plans call for the assembly plant and a neighboring EV battery factory to employ 8,500 by 2030.

An artist's rendering of the QuickStart Hyundai Mobility Training Center of Georgia. The 89,000-square-foot facility is being built next to the Hyundai Metaplant near Savannah. (Courtesy of Georgia QuickStart)

Credit: Georgia QuickStart

icon to expand image

Credit: Georgia QuickStart

The 89,000-square-foot training center was part of the $1.8 billion incentive package used to attract the South Korean automaker in 2022.

“The Metaplant is not your everyday project … it’s a game-changing endeavor,” said Scott McMurray, deputy commissioner of QuickStart. “The training center is specifically designed to meet Hyundai’s training needs.”

Labor ramp up

Hyundai and QuickStart launched their training programs last summer at the state’s existing workforce development hub at the Chatham County Economic Development Site, formerly known as the Pooler Megasite, as well as at a temporary facility housed at a warehouse in the Savannah suburbs. More recently the program expanded to the Savannah Technical College campus and a shuttered elementary school in Bryan County near the Metaplant site.

Hyundai will also offer job training at three additional technical colleges: Ogeechee Tech in Statesboro, Coastal Pines Technical College in Waycross and Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

Hyundai’s appetite for workers comes amid an already tight Savannah area labor market. The metro area unemployment rate is scant 2.9%, better than the state’s historically low 3.4% rate.

Hyundai officials did not offer details on the pace of hiring but have said plans call for the Metaplant to produce 300,000 EVs a year in its first phase. A workforce study conducted by the Savannah region’s Joint Development Authority projected the region’s overall labor force demand is for 5,500 new workers this year and around 4,000 in each of the next three years.

ELLABELL, GA - FEBRUARY 08, 2024: Contractors work on the Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, Ellabell, Ga. The electric vehicle plant will hire more than 8,000 workers. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

icon to expand image

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

A majority of those laborers will be employed by Hyundai or one of its nine area suppliers, which together will hire more than 6,500 workers.

QuickStart’s expanded investment and presence in the Savannah area will be invaluable as the region grows its worker base, said Anna Chafin, the director of the newly created regional workforce development arm of the Savannah Economic Development Authority

“QuickStart will be an important partner to help us ensure our industries like (Hyundai) have access to the quality training they need for their employees to be successful,” she said.

‘Full throttle’

Thursday’s ceremony gave visitors a glimpse of the progress on the Hyundai Metaplant.

Construction began with site clearing in August 2022, three months after Hyundai and Gov. Brian Kemp announced the South Korean automaker had chosen the site for its first North American EV manufacturing facility.

ELLABELL, GA - FEBRUARY 08, 2024: Contractors work on the Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, Ellabell, Ga. The electric vehicle plant will hire more than 8,000 workers. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

icon to expand image

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Now 21 months removed from that announcement, 5,000 construction workers are transforming the property. Most of the assembly plant buildings are vertical and crews are prepping the location of the EV battery factory. The last building foundation pad was completed last month.

“Our friends from Korea only know one speed: Full throttle,” said Carter Infinger, chairman of the Bryan County Commission.

About the Author