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What are Two Huge Economic Coups Worth?

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman talks with B.M. Ahn, president of Hyundai Motor Company of America, after a helicopter inspection of the new Hyundai plant site in Hope Hull, March 4, 2002.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman talks with B.M. Ahn, president of Hyundai Motor Company of America, after a helicopter inspection of the new Hyundai plant site in Hope Hull, March 4, 2002.

AP Photo/Dave Martin

Our May issue for the year 2002 reported the April 1 announcement by Hyundai Motor Co. that it would build a $1 billion assembly plant on a 1,600-acre site just south of Montgomery.

Alabama edged out a final-round prospect in Kentucky, offering a $252.8 million incentives package, compared to Kentucky’s $123 million. Hyundai officials said the size of the bundle was not the deciding factor.

Neither did the Hyundai coup make a big difference, just six months down the line, in the race for governor. Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman was narrowly defeated, in his bid for a second term, by Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Riley.

Both candidates tried to get in on the Hyundai score, according to the May 2002 “Business & Politics” column by our political editor Bessie Ford. Riley joined a delegation of Alabama congressmen trekking to Korea. Siegelman and House Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) paired up on a separate tout trip.

“Siegelman reportedly practiced a few words in Korean on the flight,” Ford wrote. It might have impressed the Koreans, but it didn’t do much for Alabama voters, who historically have a deaf ear for the economy, noted Ford.

Siegelman’s re-election numbers sank during the last two years of his term, Ford also pointed out, in spite of an earlier blockbuster—a $580 million Honda plant announced four months after

Siegelman took office in January 1999.   

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