Hyundai Not Coming To Mississippi

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says Mississippi is out of the running for a $1 billion Hyundai Motor Co. auto plant and its 2,000 jobs.

Musgrove said Monday he was notified by Hyundai officials that Alabama and Kentucky are the surviving finalists.

Musgrove had traveled to South Korea twice to discuss the project. Hyundai announced last month that it was considering Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio as possible plant sites.

The company is expected to announce its decision in the coming months.

A delegation led by the president of Hyundai Motor Company, Kim Dong-jin, visited Mississippi in January. Hyundai officials also visited sites in the other states.

"It was a privilege to be one of the final four for this project,'' Musgrove said in a written statement. "We are aggressively pursuing additional opportunities to bring high quality, good paying jobs to the people of Mississippi.''

Mississippi had hoped to build on the success of attracting Nissan North American to Madison County, where a $930 million manufacturing plant is under construction.

Musgrove said Nissan and its suppliers have invested more than $1 billion in central Mississippi over the past 16 months. Nissan expects to employ 4,000 at the plant that is scheduled to begin operations in 2003.

"This proves Mississippi is competing in the global marketplace. Our economic development blueprint, Advantage Mississippi, has brought worldwide attention to our state. Companies around the world are realizing that Mississippi is serious about competing for jobs,'' the governor said.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., a leader in efforts to attract the South Korean car maker, had said earlier that Hyundai was looking at a site near Pelahatchie in Rankin County, about 25 miles east of Jackson.

Nissan had expressed concerns to state officials about Mississippi's ability to provide enough workers if another auto plant located in the region.

In December, days before Musgrove traveled to South Korea to meet with Hyundai officials, Nissan executives wrote the governor, urging him not to offer Hyundai a site within 80 miles of its plant in Canton, just north of Jackson.

Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said Monday that the senator was notified of the decision by a Hyundai executive.

"The company cited two primary reasons they made their decision _ the physical site and the availability of the work force within the area,'' Youngblood said.

Youngblood said Lott was disappointed but pleased "that Mississippi was able to compete for a project of this size and scope.''

Robert J. Rohrlack, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the state will benefit from the competition for Hyundai.

"As a major contender for another billion dollar project, we have shown the world that Mississippi is serious about economic development,'' Rohrlack said in a statement.

"Mississippi worked hard to convince Hyundai that we were the best location choice and we still believe this. It is more important than ever for Mississippi to focus on additional companies looking to expand or locate their operations,'' he said.

Hyundai is South Korea's largest carmaker. It makes the Accent, Elantra and Sonata, among other vehicles.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's office confirmed Monday that his state was also out of the running.