First seminar held to discuss welcoming families moving for Hyundai Metaplant

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 5:37 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Area leaders hosted a seminar Tuesday on how to welcome new neighbors from South Korea.

The expected influx comes as Korean automaker Hyundai continues building its electric vehicle site in Bryan County.

The seminar’s host said welcoming people from overseas for Hyundai’s Metaplant will require an active role from just about everyone in the Coastal Empire.

Jeanne Charbonneau knows what it takes to welcome new neighbors for an area Hyundai plant.

“You are going to have an active role, and be prepared for that active role,” Charbonneau said.

She was the point-of-contact for South Korean families at the automaker’s Montgomery, Ala. site for nearly two decades.

“This economic development project is going to change the landscape of these counties, in a good way, but you have to be receptive to that,” Charbonneau said.

Charbonneau shared her experience of working with families from abroad.

“The families particularly, in most cases, didn’t have a voice in whether they were coming here or not and it’s strain for them, at least initially,” she said.

Area leaders say Korean-owned businesses already have a foothold in the local economy.

“We’ve got some hairdressers that are already here. We have several churches that are already here. I think there’s a good base and it sounds like a lot of these families will come and open their own businesses as well,” Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Kathryn Johnson said.

The Savannah Economic Development Authority said more than 100 employees for Hyundai’s Metaplant have already moved to the area. They’re expected to stay here anywhere from two to five years.

They expect the number of families to grow when the site enters the production phase and more suppliers are announced.

Charbonneau said communities can prepare by increasing staff levels at English learning programs in schools and by having enough rental property available.

But her most important advice is just being a good neighbor.

“Know a little bit about their culture, know a little bit about their history,” Charbonneau said.

Locals now preparing for a transformation to the area.

“It’s really good to hear about this sort of thing from someone who’s done it before. I was surprised at how large and how big of a change this area is about to go through,” Richmond Hill resident Frank Vogel said.

If you couldn’t make it to Tuesday’s seminar, Charbonneau is presenting in Chatham, Effingham, and Bulloch counties in the coming days.

For details, click here.