EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct an error. 

JEFFERSONVILLE — After 17 months of preparation, Jeffersonville’s POSCO steel plant started operations in the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville on Friday with an hour long ceremony attended by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the CEO of POSCO, Oh-Joon Kwon and several other Indiana and South Korean representatives.

POSCO is the fifth largest steel manufacturer in the world, and its officials chose Jeffersonville for its second United States plant because of its proximity to transportation (rail, water and interstates), Indiana’s business climate and incentives from the state and local government, said Kwon. POSCO operates 312 facilities around the globe.

Officials broke ground on the Jeffersonville POSCO plant last April and on Sept. 17, the company finished the 86,000-square foot first phase of the eventual 136,000-square foot manufacturing and professional facility. The plant, which processes steel wire for fasteners, nuts and bolts used in the automative industry, currently has heat treatment, drawing and picking and coating capabilities for steel in its factory.

The last phase of the facility will be finished by Dec. 20 of next year.

The plant employs 18 manufacturing and management workers, five of which are locals, said Eric Chung, a marketing team leader for the Jeffersonville plant. Office workers are currently operating out of a satellite facility.

Eventually, the POSCO plant will be powered by 60 workers, who will earn an average wage of $30.10 an hour — well above Clark County’s $17 an hour average wage. The employees aren’t making an average of $30.10 an hour yet, Chung said, although he said he's not sure what the average wage is currently. He added that the company plans to give out raises by the end of this year.

During the ceremony, Holcomb emphasized the importance of POSCO choosing the Ports of Indiana.

“We know that as a global company, you could have chosen to literally locate anywhere in the world, and you chose Jeffersonville, Indiana, and we will be eternally grateful, not just for the jobs you’re creating, not just the opportunities that are going to come from those jobs, but the critical, the trust you have placed in us as Hoosiers,” he said.

To attract POSCO, the Jeffersonville City Council approved a $7.6 million 10-year tax abatement on real estate property and a $11 million 5-year tax abatement on personal property for the company. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation also offered the company $550,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $50,000 in training grants that can’t be collected until all the Indiana residents POSCO promised to hire are employed.

Kwon reassured the audience at the ceremony that POSCO gives back as well.

"POSCO always tries to pursue a win-win partnership in the regions that we work in, because our partner's success is our success," he said.

Later, Kwon presented a $30,000 check to Jeffersonville High School’s music program.

POSCO is just the latest steel manufacturer to join the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, which contains 15 steel-related companies in what officials refer to as its “steel-campus.” The port still has “several hundred acres” available for development and Ports CEO Rich Cooper, said that he hopes POSCO will attract more steel related companies.

“You know, it’s companies that come here and they see what this port has to offer in terms of transportation,” Cooper said. “It’s a transportation mecca, and it will hopefully cause POSCO to tell their neighbors back in South Korea, we need you to move here for various reasons.”

American and South Korean relations stayed on a good note during the ceremony, despite tensions at the federal government level. President Donald Trump threatened earlier this month to withdraw from a trade deal with the country amidst frustration with South Korea regarding their diplomatic approach toward North Korea. The Asian nation’s northern neighbors have upped their nuclear testing efforts over the past several months, often threatening to unleash them on the United States while doing so.

Jong-Kook Lee, the Korean Consulate General in Chicago, emphasized the importance of South Korea and the United States’ trade deal during his speech, saying it was the two countries’ “single most important agreement" together and that it had vastly increased trade between the two countries since it was signed five years ago.

Kenny Hwang, the president of POSCO AAPC, later said that the U.S. government’s policies could influence Korean businesses that work with the country.

“But as far as I know, I think we can solve this problem,” he said, adding that he doesn’t worry about how the issue could affect POSCO’s business in North America.

For locals interested in working at POSCO, the company is currently hiring, including account coordinators in marketing and sales, logistic planners, logistic coordinators and manufacturing workers.

Chung said that manufacturing workers aren’t required to have a “special degree,” but one in engineering or technology is a plus. Mostly, the company is looking for a good work ethic and a clean background.

Individuals interested in applying to POSCO can email Chung at hw.chung@poscoaapc.com.

Danielle Grady, a Southern Indiana native and a 2016 Ball State University graduate, is the business and economic development reporter for The News and Tribune. Basically, she writes about your favorite restaurants. Send story tips via email or twitter.

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