EV parts supplier to build plant in Dublin

ATLANTA – The auto manufacturers either building plants in Georgia or already operating in the Peach State have attracted another parts supplier.

Korea-based Hwashin will invest more than $176 million in a new manufacturing facility in Dublin crafting chassis components for electric vehicles, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday. The plant will create more than 460 jobs.

The plant will supply both Kia Georgia’s auto manufacturing facility that opened in West Point in 2009 and the massive Hyundai Motor Group EV plant now under construction west of Savannah.

“Our goal to become the e-mobility capital of the nation is bringing opportunity to communities across the state,” Kemp said. “Hwashin is the latest to join our growing ecosystem of companies bringing good jobs to hardworking Georgians in this industry.”

“Hwashin aspires to shape a future global city focused on electric vehicles, drawing from our 50-year expertise and collaboration with Georgia and Laurens County,” Hwashin CEO Seo Jin Jung added. “This alliance seeks to position the region at the forefront of the evolving automobile industry.”

The new plant is due to begin production in late 2025.

As the market for EVs continues to grow, Georgia has pursued the entire supply chain, generating more than $25.1 billion in investments and 29,000 jobs since 2020.

The state Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team worked on the project in partnership with the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority, Georgia EMC, the Georgia Ports Authority, and the Technical College System of Georgia’s Quick Start program.

Former government payroll clerk pleads guilty of theft

ATLANTA – A former payroll clerk for the Milledgeville Housing Authority has pleaded guilty in federal court in Macon to stealing more than $575,000 by overpaying herself.

Jennifer Kay Smith, 49, of Eatonton pleaded guilty Monday to one count of federal program theft. Smith faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.

According to court documents, a coworker discovered that Smith had been stealing money from the housing authority since January 2021 by adding vacation time and sick leave on top of her normal work week so she was being paid for more than 40 hours per week.

Smith paid herself more than $40,000 above her regular salary in 2021 and more than $500,000 above her salary between Jan. 1 and Aug. 11, 2022. In all, she admitted stealing $575,014.50.

“Stealing taxpayer dollars is a crime that both erodes public trust and harms the affected federal program,” U.S. Attorney Peter Leary said. “Our office will hold accountable government employees who take advantage of their positions to commit theft or other crimes.”

The case was investigated by the Milledgeville Police Department, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Secret Service. Sentencing for Smith will be set by the court.

Alabama man charged with threatening Fulton County DA, sheriff in Trump case

Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis

ATLANTA – A federal grand jury has indicted an Alabama man on charges of threatening Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis and Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat because of their roles in the investigation of former President Donald Trump.

Arthur Ray Hanson II, 59, of Huntsville, Ala., is accused of calling the Fulton County Government customer services line twice on Aug. 6 and leaving voice mails threatening violence against the two officials. Hanson made an initial appearance in federal court in Huntsville on Monday and will be arraigned Nov. 13 on charges of transmitting interstate threats.

“Sending interstate threats to physically harm prosecutors and law enforcement officers is a vile threat intended to interfere with the administration of justice and intimidate individuals who accept a solemn duty to protect and safeguard the rights of citizens,” U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said.

“Our office will labor tirelessly with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to help ensure that law enforcement officials are free to serve our communities without the threat of physical attack.”

Hanson was indicted on Oct. 25. The case is being investigated by the FBI.

Willis assembled a special purpose grand jury in January of last year as part of an investigation into alleged attempts by Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

After the panel delivered a report recommending indictments in the case, Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted in August on racketeering charges for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to have Trump declared the winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes even though Democrat Joe Biden had carried the Peach State.

Labat oversaw the formal arrest of Trump and the taking of a mugshot of the former president at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta.

Primary, secondary ticket sellers at odds over state legislation

ATLANTA – A four-hour Georgia House committee hearing Monday pitted primary sellers of tickets to concerts and sporting events against secondary sellers.

Legislation introduced in the House this year would remove restrictions in current state law that prohibit ticket purchasers from reselling their tickets.

The bill is aimed at primary ticket sellers that prohibit consumers from reselling their tickets on the secondary market, state Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, told members of the House Regulated Industries Committee. Hilton said such restrictions create monopolies that drive up ticket prices.

“I care about consumers,” he said. “I want them to be able to resell wherever they want.”

“It’s important to give consumers a choice,” added Sean Auyash, a representative of StubHub, one of the nation’s leading secondary ticket sellers.

But representatives of the entertainment and sports industries argued the bill would benefit secondary ticket sellers that resell tickets at marked-up prices at the expense of musical artists and sports teams.

“This is not helping consumers,” said Mala Sharma, president of Georgia Music Partners, the state‚Äôs leading music industry advocacy organization. “This bill is only helping the secondary markets get their hands on more tickets.”

Peter Conlon, chairman of concert operator Live Nation Georgia, told the committee major artists including Taylor Swift make the best seats to their concerts non-transferable to protect their fans by keeping them out of the hands of secondary sellers.

“It’s the only thing that’s going to protect from fans really being gouged,” he said.

Ronald Gaither, a lawyer representing the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and Atlanta United, said a Cobb County court ruled in favor of the Braves last week in a lawsuit brought by a ticket buyer who challenged the team’s policy that seeks to discourage scalping by limiting fans from buying more than 19 tickets to a game.

“These seats are revokable licenses,” he said. “(When) you buy a ticket, that’s your seat. You don’t get any property rights.”

Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, the committee’s chairman, said in the age of technology, ticket buying and selling has become a complicated issue driven by big money.

“I think there is some middle ground in this,” he said. “The problem is to determine where that would be.”

Powell said he plans to hold at least one more hearing on the legislation before the next regular session of the General Assembly begins in January.

Kemp asking Georgia lawmakers to back another Savannah Harbor deepening

Savannah Harbor

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp urged members of Georgia’s congressional delegation Monday to support a request by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) for a study of the economic and environmental impacts of another deepening of Savannah Harbor.

The $1 billion Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) completed in March of last year was designed to accommodate containerized-cargo ships with capacities of up to 8,200 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). However, vessels with capacities of more than 16,000 TEUs are now calling at the Port of Savannah.

“GPA is vital to our national supply chain and as a job creator for our state,” Kemp wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, copies of which went to the offices of all members of the delegation. “It is critical we work together to ensure GPA can continue to accommodate ever-larger container vessels calling on our ports.”

The ports authority is asking Congress to approve the study as part of the Water Resources Development Act federal lawmakers are due to consider next year. The study would be undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kemp asked for unanimous support from the delegation’s Republicans and five Democrats.

“Leaders from both parties and from across Georgia provided a unified voice in support of SHEP,” the governor wrote. “It is time for us to provide that level of leadership again.”

Any deepening project Congress authorized is likely to take years to complete. The SHEP took 25 years to perform the various studies required and obtain the funding needed to deepen Savannah Harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet.