Thai auto parts maker opens plant in Kentucky



Thailand has enjoyed considerable success in attracting investment to the Kingdom from global auto manufacturers, including the Big Three American carmakers, but last week a Thai auto company turned the tables and invested in manufacturing in the United States.

Thai Summit America Corporation, a major auto parts manufacturer, broke ground on a $110 million plant in the “Bluegrass State” of Kentucky that is expected to become operational in early 2017. The company, which supplies stamped and welded parts to automakers, said it hopes to create 216 full-time jobs for Americans at the new facility.

Often referred to as “the Detroit of Southeast Asia,” Thailand has thousands of companies that manufacture parts and other components for vehicles, and that has deepened the industrial base of the sector and expanded the Thai role in auto manufacturing. Now, some of those companies are looking abroad for opportunities.

“The first day that they (Thai Summit officials) came in, we knew that they were somebody special,” said Kim Huston, president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency, the county where the new plant is located.

“We knew it was company that we wanted to be a part of this community. They were very gracious. They were very warm and they immediately felt like family to us,” Huston said.

The groundbreaking ceremony was also attended by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Thailand’s Ambassador to the United States Pisan Manawapat and Woody Iddhibhakdibongse, vice president of Thai Summit America Corporation.

“Manufacturing jobs are a critical component of the success of any state and of any community and Thai Summit, I think, is on the beginning of what will be a long and great partnership,” Governor Bevin said.

The plant is the second for Thai Summit in the United States. The company also operates a facility in Michigan that manufactures stamped automotive metal panels and modules for Nissan Altima and Lincoln Towncars. It also makes major exterior parts and structural welded assemblies. In addition, the company serves appliance, medical, and alternative energy original equipment manufacturers with tool and die manufacture, from design to refurbishment.

Thai Summit is expanding its international reach with manufacturing facilities in China, Indonesia, India,Japan Malaysia and Viet Nam.

Iddihibhakdibongse said that Thai Summit had considered choosing Tennessee and Indiana for the location of the plant, but Kentucky ultimately won the company over. He praised the people of Bardstown, the municipality where the facility is being built, for their friendliness.

“We will be a good citizen for our city,” he said.

Bardstown is also known as the Bourbon Capital of the World.