Many of those dreams have been realized during the 10 years HMA has been operating in Lincoln, and a ceremony Tuesday celebrated the success of the company and the community since they began a partnership with a groundbreaking April 25, 2000.
HMA Corporate Affairs and Communication Manager Mark Morrison welcomed everyone to Honda to celebrate 10 years in Lincoln, pointing out that the 4,000 associates working at Honda today have jobs that did not exist 10 years ago.
HMA Senior Vice President Chuck Ernst said it was hard to believe Honda had been located in Lincoln 10 years, and said the ceremony Tuesday almost felt like a homecoming the atmosphere was so friendly.
“It was a bit unexpected when the Lincoln schools students first presented us with the time capsule 10 years ago,” Ernst said. “Today we raise that capsule back to the surface to help us see how fortunate we are to have made so much progress. It is through the support and willingness to work together that everyone has shared that we have been allowed to achieve our goals.”
Ernst also shared a story from the early meetings when HMA was still only a dream and Ted Kennedy of BE&K Inc. told him the plant would never be built in 24 months because it was impossible. He said that was all he needed to hear.
Then the announcement came that the plant would need to be constructed in 20 months because the popular Odyssey minivan needed to be manufactured at the new plant as soon as possible.
The dream of a 10th major plant in North America became a reality in 2000, and the company’s momentum has continued to climb. As a second generation plant created by some of the top associates from Ohio and Canada in an originally Japan-based corporation, HMA expanded to include a second line of manufacturing by 2002 for the production of the Ridgeline truck and the V-6 sedan. Pilot SUVs are also constructed on the line with the Odyssey minivans for a total of four different models being produced at a rate of about 300,000 vehicles a year at HMA.
HMA President and CEO Nobuyuki Sanui said that others had predicted the community would be just as good for Honda as Honda would be for Lincoln 10 years ago. Through the help of neighboring counties and the state of Alabama, Honda was able to achieve its dream of building a plant in Lincoln.
But Sanui said the company still has dreams that are yet to be fulfilled in Alabama as it continues to grow.
The $1.4 billion investment covering 3.5 million square feet is a source of pride for more than just the Honda associates.
Jessica Meek Popham originally spoke at the Honda groundbreaking ceremony as a Lincoln High School senior. She has since earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo and holds a doctorate of pharmacy from Samford University.
Popham is now employed with the Rite Aid in Anniston as a pharmacist.
“As we celebrate this progress, it is a privilege to be representing Lincoln,” she said. “Lincoln in 2010 is almost unrecognizable as compared to Lincoln of 2000. We have four, yes four, traffic lights and all sorts of new development. We have three new schools, a recreation park and a newly renovated downtown. The dreams of this community have flourished.”
Darrick English, who attended the groundbreaking as a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, is now a graduating senior at Lincoln High School.
He recalled some of the cultural earmarks of 2000, from some of his favorite shows to the top songs on the charts. But he also recognizes the changes Honda has brought to Lincoln.
“We were in some of the oldest academic buildings in the state,” English said. “Now, everywhere around us is growth. New subdivisions are popping up and school enrollment is increasing daily. Honda’s impact on the community is undeniable, and we thank you for literally putting Lincoln on the map.”
Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson said having Honda locate in Lincoln was a dream come true for the community. He also noted that in communities where automotive plants have located previously, the second decade seems better than the first.
Senator Jim Preuitt encouraged the Honda associates to keep up the good work that has benefited Talladega, Calhoun, Etowah and St. Clair counties along with the rest of the state.
Representative Mike Rogers said Honda has been a really good investment for the community, and he said he felt confident the next 10 years would be bigger.
Gov. Bob Riley wanted to thank each associate at HMA individually for what they have done for Alabama’s reputation.
“Partnerships play a part, but the way to judge someone is by the success of what they do,” Riley said. “You have given us a reputation of cost effectiveness, efficiency and loyalty. You have brought us remarkable opportunities and have become our best salesman. Honda has become the standard for what we need to recruit into the state because of the way they treat people with respect. My dream is for Honda to start a third plant in Alabama.”
Ernst and Sanui said the support, encouragement and patience of the community made the Honda plant what it is today.
Ernst used the inscription on the time capsule to wish all those attending the ceremony success in whatever they strive for.
“This box is filled with the hopes and aspirations our students had for the community 10 years ago,” Ernst said. “The inscription on it reads ‘We plant our dreams. May they flourish abundantly.’ May all your dreams continue to flourish abundantly.”