Hyundai expansion to double number of employees

Hyundai Motor America plans to spend $150 million building a new North American headquarters on the site of its current offices — a refurbished factory — in Fountain Valley.

The project would take at least a year to build and would generate about 1,500 construction jobs. It would also double the space of the current headquarters and provide room to double the fast-growing auto company's corporate staff to about 1,400 employees, said John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai Motor America, the U.S. division of the South Korean automaker.

"This really cements our relationship with Southern California," Krafcik said. "We think this is the best place to plan and design our vehicles. It is still a center of innovation for North America."

The company still has to go through the entitlement process, gaining approvals from the city, but Fountain Valley is "going to try to make is as painless as possible," said Mayor Larry Crandall.

"We are excited that Hyundai has chosen to remain in Fountain Valley, expand and build a world-class facility," Crandall said. "Hyundai is not only a major employer, but also an excellent corporate citizen in our community and we are grateful to have them in Fountain Valley.

Construction on the new sales and marketing headquarters will start next year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. But first Hyundai has to move about 700 employees out of the 18-acre campus to a temporary headquarters. The automaker is looking at three nearby sites and will make the move early next year.

"The general sense is that this is in some sense lucky ground for Hyundai," Krafcik said. "We have come through some ups and downs, and it makes sense to reinvest in the land."

The automaker also has a factory in Montgomery, Ala., where it makes the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe SUV. Elsewhere in Southern California, Hyundai operates a design studio and finance unit in Irvine, an advertising office in Huntington Beach and a parts distribution center in Ontario.

Krafcik said the new headquarters would have more than 400,000 square feet of office and garage space and be among the most energy-efficient buildings in the state. Hyundai has yet to select an architect but intends to use a design that allows for more social interaction among workers.

"We have really been in a make-do situation here for years, using a refurbished factory for office space," he said. The company purchased the facility in 1989.

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