In an economy shaken by plant closings and layoffs, two new auto plants may be the hottest job leads in the South.
Volkswagen Group of America says it has received 65,000 applications for about 2,000 jobs at an assembly plant under construction in Chattanooga, Tenn. Kia Motors Corp. says it expects 43,000 applications next year when it begins filling 1,200 slots for a second shift at its newly opened plant in West Point, Ga.
On Nov. 16, the Kia plant launched commercial production with a single shift of 1,200 newly trained workers earning $14.90 to $20.80 an hour building Sorento crossovers.
In the first round of hiring, Kia was inundated with 43,000 job applications. Rather than comb through that pool a second time, the automaker will look for new applications, says Steve Daniel, director of Kia's nearby employee training center.
"Given the economy right now, Kia believes there may be an opportunity to see who else might be out there," Daniel says.
He says the prospect of a second shift could generate more than 43,000 applications. The economy has worsened since Kia's first application window in 2008.
Local workers also can see a modern auto plant along Georgia's Interstate 85 as solid confirmation of Kia's intention to invest in the United States.
The $1 billion plant has been in pre-production for several weeks. The company wants to produce 300,000 vehicles a year at West Point.
Volkswagen is spending $1 billion in Chattanooga and expects to start building a new mid-sized sedan in 2011. The factory will have annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles.
Volkswagen said last week that it had received about 30,000 applications for skilled and maintenance workers. It received an additional 35,000 applications for assembly jobs during a three-week recruitment window that ended Nov. 15.