Now that the plant is celebrating a milestone anniversary, it is interesting to look at how much Lincoln, Talladega County and the surrounding areas have changed as the company has grown.
Honda has planned a ceremony at the Lincoln plant May 11 beginning at 11 a.m. to open a time capsule from the April 25, 2000, groundbreaking and reflect on the past 10 years.
“When I voted on the incentives for Honda, that was the easiest vote I have ever done,” said Kelvin Cunningham, Talladega County Commission chairman. “It was a wise investment and we immediately benefited from the taxes funding education and the county as a whole. Not only are people moving in and making an impact on the economy, they are also spending money in the area on such things as gasoline and retail items. And the county infrastructure has improved since Honda came.”
The benefits Cunningham referred to include employing 1,200 local residents to work in the new plant and contributing $4.5 billion to the economy annually. Honda also pays the roughly 4,500 associates at HMA about $60 million in salaries each year.
According to Talladega County Economic Development Authority executive director Calvin Miller, Honda has attracted a total of 38 Tier-1 suppliers since breaking ground.
“The personal income per capita in the county rose 7 percent 2000-2006,” Miller said. “That was the highest in the state and the suppliers came with it. I hate to think where we would be had Honda not located here. Honda contributes $4.7 million in school taxes annually, as well as contributing to just about every organization in the county.”
Miller pointed out that Honda chose to handle the economic recession in a different way from its competitors. Instead of closing plants and laying off workers, Honda went to a four-day work week and reduced vehicle production while keeping its employees.
The Rev. Joseph Stafford Rowser Jr. of Pine Grove Missionary Baptist Church commends the company for this mindset as he watches his community flourish.
Rowser has been pastor at Pine Grove for about 17 years while serving as moderator of the Rushing Springs District of the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention to oversee roughly 50 congregations throughout Talladega and Calhoun counties.
He has seen Lincoln go from having no traffic light to four traffic lights and from having no fast food to all kinds of fast food thanks to Honda.
“I feel a tremendous amount of pride in having Honda in Lincoln,” Rowser said. “They believe in excellence, quality workers and producing a quality product. They treat their employees with dignity and respect. Honda also provides funding for all sorts of tax-exempt organizations to further community development. The announcement and the arrival of the Honda plant were a dream come true.”
Talladega County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lacey said the stability Honda has brought to Talladega County’s economy brings the community confidence and asserts the company’s health.
She also said that aside from being a great business, Honda provides educational opportunities to the faculty and students of the county schools.
“Because of their interest and support of our schools, outstanding opportunities for professional development have been afforded to our teachers,” Lacey said. “They have been instrumental in supporting our focus for 21st Century learning through technology, collaboration and teamwork. … They provide financial support through grant opportunities for our teachers and have a leadership role in the Talladega County Education Foundation. It is not uncommon to find employees from Honda volunteering their time in our schools throughout the county.”
Associates are given a bit of incentive to volunteer at different schools and organizations through the Honda Star program. Employees know that if they volunteer 40 hours in a specific teacher’s classroom, for example, that teacher receives $200.
Lincoln Elementary School principal Donna Hudson mentioned several cases when Honda associates will drop by to share a special day with the students.
“Honda has been so good to us monetarily by funding the purchase of technology like flip and digital cameras, orff instruments and artwork for our art program,” Hudson said. “But we also love it when the associates stop by to help us with AMSTI, deliver Christmas surprises, read with the children or deliver apples on Apple Annie Day.”
Talladega College President Billy Hawkins said his institution has enjoyed a positive and rewarding partnership with Honda.
As a result of Honda’s generosity in loaning two vans to the college for about six months, it was able to double enrollment from an all-time low of 280 students.
“Our long partnership with Honda began when they held their diversity training here,” Hawkins said. “Our professors were utilized in performing the training. Their volunteer program has also been a great asset to my administration because we now have three dorms repaired thanks to their free labor. Honda sent about 75 volunteers to help during the past two summers to work on everything from painting to drywall. They did anything necessary to get the dorms back up and running. Honda has been a true friend and I am looking forward to the continuation of our partnership.”
Lynne Hanner, director for institutional advancement at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, recalls Honda also utilizing the Alabama Industries for the Blind building for training, setting the precedence for the company’s high standard of excellence.
Echoing the words of many others, Hanner said she didn’t know what AIDB had done before Honda came to the community.
“Honda associates have volunteered on several occasions to do weekend work projects on our campuses — including Helen Keller School and the MGH Special Equestrian Arena,” Hanner said. “They have contributed to multiple projects such as our 150th Anniversary Annual Fund. Most recently, Honda provided resources for AIDB to hold public receptions in connection with the Helen Keller statue unveiling in Washington and the tour of her replica, making it possible for the statue to stop in Talladega.”
Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson said the development in Lincoln and the surrounding areas has been wonderful, bringing all sorts of infrastructure improvements along with new jobs and revenue.
He said developers were hesitant to start anything new when things were still in the planning stage, but once things were official, the Lincoln housing market took off.
“Honda led to the largest increase in new housing in Lincoln ever,” Watson said. “We have 20 new subdivisions, experiencing the most significant growth in single-family sales this city has seen. That laid the foundation for future growth such as a brand new water treatment plant with new ultraviolet light technology and widened roads as a tradeoff for the increase in traffic flow. It has meant significant wage increases and benefits for Talladega, Calhoun, Clay, St. Clair and Etowah counties, while putting us on the map in the automotive industry.”