Has it really been 10 years? Yes it has, and in that time all of northeast Alabama, Lincoln and Talladega County in particular, have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.
It’s easy to be appreciative of a company that is responsible for about $4.5 billion in our local economies, a company that pays approximately 4,500 associates a payroll of roughly $60 million per year. This is also a company that attracted 38 Tier 1 suppliers to work in Alabama, pumping out the parts and services Honda needs to build its automobiles.
It seems as though Honda started expanding as soon as it opened. It began building the popular Odyssey minivan and the engine to power it. It soon added a second assembly line and then added the Honda Pilot to its lineup. In only five years, this remarkable plant rolled out the one-millionth vehicle. Then, it added the Ridgeline truck, and soon after that the Honda Accord was being built in Alabama.
There are two exceptional reasons for such an amazing success story.
First, there is Honda, a car maker that produces high quality, high value automobiles. The success of this brand is based on vehicles that deliver what is promised at a fair price.
Second, there is a group of Honda associates who show up for work every day, committed to doing the best job possible. This mostly Alabama workforce is obviously skilled, able to adjust to high speed, highly technological work environments. There is another factor here as well — the ingrained work ethic of a people who want to earn a fair day’s wage by putting in a fair day’s work.
During the recent economic uncertainty, Honda did all it could to retain employees. Oh, there were traumatic decisions, the same as many other businesses have been forced to make in recent months and years. But Honda reduced workweeks and reduced production instead of just shutting down a factory and laying off workers. The effect was to keep that dedicated workforce so that when times got better, the training and skills would still be there.
It seems that every civic group and worthwhile endeavor in the region has a story to tell about Honda. Of course they pay taxes that benefit the schools. Of course they provide a huge payroll that supports families in this part of the state. Honda does more than that, though. They provide cooperative efforts with schools that include grants and programs that keep local folks ahead of the curve on new technology. Honda and its employees step forward to be involved in all sorts of civic efforts that improve the quality of life for the communities around the plant.
After 10 years, Honda has invested more than $1.4 billion in its Lincoln facility. It can produce 300,000 vehicles and engines each year. It employs more than 4,000 people.
All that is impressive. But the remarks made on April 25, 2000, by Hiroyuki Yoshno, president and CEO of the company, sum it up nicely:
“I am confident that Honda’s presence in Alabama will be good for the community. But I know — based on what we have seen already — that this community will be good for Honda.”
He was right. We are confident that shared benefit will continue for the next 10 years, as Honda and its plant and workers in Lincoln look to a bright future.