Honda Celebrates 10 Years In Alabama

LINCOLN, Ala. (AP) -- Jessica Meek Popham barely recognizes her hometown of Lincoln.

When Popham was a Lincoln High School senior 10 years ago, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama broke ground in her town -- an act that would soon change the face of the community.

"In 2010, the city of Lincoln is almost unrecognizable today," Popham said with tears in her eyes. "We have three new schools, a new football stadium, a recently renovated downtown all of it directly or indirectly because of Honda coming to Lincoln."

Popham, who is now a pharmacist and attended the Honda groundbreaking ceremony with other high school students 10 years ago, was on hand Tuesday for the company's observance of the anniversary of the event. With her were various local and state officials, including Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers. The event included the opening of a time capsule, which area students buried at the site a decade ago.

Darrick English, who is now a senior, was a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School when the capsule was buried.

"Back then, we were being taught in some of the oldest academic buildings in the state now we have three new schools," English said. "Now everywhere around us are signs of growth and progress. Nearly everybody in town knows someone employed at Honda. Its impact on our community is undeniable."

Stephen Woodry, vehicle quality department manager for Honda, was one of the several plant employees at the celebration. Woodry said he came down from Honda's Ohio facility in 2000 to help get the Lincoln plant off the ground. "It was a great experience to construct something from essentially scratch and see the hard work flourish to see associates being trained, learn the Honda way, and eventually become leaders," Woodry said.

Jennifer Fleming, a new-model purchasing and zone property leader at Honda, came to work at the Lincoln facility from Ohio in 2001. Fleming, who now lives in Gadsden, has watched the Lincoln area change significantly in the last 10 years.

"Certainly just driving into work, I've seen economic development and growth in subdivisions alone, it's been immense."

Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson said his town currently has 22 subdivisions that were built after Honda came to the area.

"We've never had that sort of development in Lincoln ever," Watson said. Honda's $1.4 billion manufacturing facility today covers more than 3.5 million square feet and employs more than 4,000 workers. The plant currently produces Accord V-6 sedans, Ridgeline pickup trucks, Odyssey minivans and Pilot SUVs. "Our 2 millionth Honda product will be built later this year," said Chuck Ernst, senior vice president of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.

Ernst said many people did not believe the plant could be constructed within 20 months or less as scheduled, but Honda employees and members of the community made the project a reality.

"Together, we did it," he said.

Riley agreed that it took a combined effort from Honda and the people of Alabama to make the plant a success.

"When you take an international company with a tradition of quality and combine it with what I think is the best workforce in America today great things can happen," Riley said.

Riley added that Honda has become the standard for the kinds of companies Alabama should recruit.

"When you talk about corporate responsibility, we point to Honda," he said. "Honda does it right."

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