Competition Keen for Kia

A Kia official says Meridian, Miss., is the only place the company is seriously considering for a new manufacturing plant, although several other sites in the U.S. are also being examined.

If the plant is built in Meridian, it will have a major economic impact.

Merrianne Irby needs a better job. She currently works as a cashier and wants to move up in the world, but she says it's hard.

"A hard time, a hard time, there's nothing here anymore," Irby said.

That will change, however, if Kia decides to build its plant here. The plant could mean as many as a couple of thousand high-paying jobs, and that's a big deal, say local employment officials.

With unemployment in Lauderdale County alone at more than eight percent, having that many new jobs would make a significant impact.

"It would be our largest employer. I would say it would drop our unemployment rate to about six percent," said Bud Gilbert of the WIN Job Center, the state employment agency.

The only catch would be training the workforce. People in this area would have to taught to do the jobs required of them in a high-tech automotive plant, but Gilbert says that can be done.

"It's going to require a lot of training, but I'm sure the people currently working, it's in the future, that's part of it, setting up a training program for the people," Gilbert said.

Irby says it's a training program she would be glad to take part in, if it meant her getting a job that could pay $20 to $25 an hour.

"Oh yes, oh yes. Most people I know would, too," said Irby. "That's all they're talking about."

Now, she says she hopes, all the talk will turn into something concrete.

Apparently, Meridian's chief competition is in Hardin County, Kentucky.

It's a 1600 acre site that was considered by Hyundai when that company was looking for a location prior to selecting Montgomery, Ala.

Kia officials will be looking at several other states, in addition to Meridian and Kentucky, before making a final decision.

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