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Sunday, November 15, 2009 - 10:53am

Kia Begins Mass Production

Kia Motors Georgia begins mass production today of the new Kia Sorento. The automaker is also hiring more workers to expand production.

Kia Motors in West Point, near the Alabama line, has already hired 1,200 employees to run one shift. Officials hope to roll out 300 to 400 Sorentos each day.

Kia is currently taking applications online for 1,200 more workers to run a second shift. Kia spokesman Randy Jackson says he is getting plenty of interest but is looking for one particular kind of employee.

He wants people he calls industrial athletes. "People who have energy, enthusiasm, are willing to learn, like change and teamwork," Jackson says.

Kia’s auto jobs are non-union and pay between $15 and $21 an hour. State officials estimate the economic impact of the auto plant will reach $6.5 billion and create 180,000 additional jobs with suppliers and support industries.

The new 2011 Kia Sorento will be in dealer lots in January of next year.

Governor Sonny Perdue today released this statement on the start of production at the Kia plant:

"Today is the culmination of years of teamwork by the state, local communities, and Kia as the first 1,200 employees officially begin full production of the Kia Sorento in West Point. The recent announcement that Kia is starting the hiring process for 1,200 more workers for a second shift is welcome news as well.

"The economic impact for West Point, LaGrange and all of western Georgia goes far beyond these immediate jobs; suppliers and support industries are creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars more in new investment. The beginning of full production today reminds us that Georgia is well-positioned to lead the economic recovery.

"We will continue to aggressively recruit new companies and new jobs to Georgia and create an environment where business can flourish.”

Click here to listen to Susanna Capelouto's Kia feature for NPR's Morning Edition.