Tennesse and Hankook representatives break ground together to celebrate the new plant and strengthened economic ties. Image: Hankook

Korean Tire Company Invests in Tennessee


Korean tire manufacturer Hankook held a groundbreaking ceremony on October 9th, 2014 for their new $800 million tire plant near Clarksville, TN. The plant will open in 2016 and will initially employ up to 1,200 workers. Hankook plans a second phase of development for 2018, which will nearly double the number of tire produced from 6 million to 11 million per year, and increase the number of employees to 1,800.

Hankook is the 7th largest producer of tires in the world, and plans to break into the top five soon. In 2001 they were ranked 11th, and have rapidly grown since then due to their global approach. From 2012 to 2013 Hankook reported 8.3% higher sales, with roughly 70% of revenue coming from overseas. They now sell tires in 185 countries and employ 14,000 people worldwide.

Hankook established its first overseas facility and R&D Center in Akron, OH in 1981. Today they have distribution centers in New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, California, and Oregon. When choosing a site for the new manufacturing plant, Hankook was drawn by economic incentives offer by the state of Tennessee, Montgomery County, and the city of Clarksville. Part of the incentive packages was a donation of the 469 acres where the site will be located.

Clarksville is located in Tennessee’s 7th district, which exported $65 million of goods to South Korea in 2012. The new facility is likely to increase that figure, not just to South Korea, but also to all of the markets where Hankook will sell the Tennessee-made tires. There is also a large chapter of the Disabled American Veterans in Clarksville, which the company has promised to help support through financial donations. Hankook CEO Seung Hwa Suh, extended a heartfelt thank you to two Korean War veterans at the groundbreaking ceremony saying, “Without you, I wouldn’t be here today.”

The number of jobs in the 7th district that are supported by goods exports to Asia increased 46% from 2007 to 2012. Recognizing that the new facility will deepen Tennessee-Asia economic ties, Senator Alexander (R-TN) told Asia Matters for America, “Hankook’s decision to build its first North American plant in Tennessee is further evidence that our state is the best state for the auto industry, and an ideal place for companies around the world to invest in manufacturing. I’m pleased to see this facility get underway and bring 1,800 jobs to Clarksville.”

Ethan Kannel is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a junior at Cornell University