Magnetic bumper-maker to open plant in Columbia County
A South Korean-based vehicle bumper manufacturer plans to set up shop in Columbia County, with plans to eventually employ about 200 people.
Dongchun Co. Ltd. signed a letter of intent Wednesday with the Port of Columbia County — the agency in the process of undergoing a name change from the Port of St. Helens.
Doug Hayes, the port's executive director, confirmed Wednesday that Dongchun, which produces a product called a drive impact relax device (DIRED), is expected to sign a lease agreement with the port for a building in St. Helens this September.
Dongchun plans to eventually build a roughly 15-acre site in Columbia County, but will first lease an existing industrial building in St. Helens. The St. Helens site was previously leased by Black Hole Weaponry, but the business moved its operations out of the area a few months ago.
"They are hoping for two to three years to get things up and running," Hayes said of the company's temporary stay at the former Black Hole Weaponry building in St. Helens. "They would eventually hire about 200 workers."
"They are interested in a Columbia City property right now," Hayes noted for future development plans, but said the company will first lease a site in St. Helens.
The employment estimates are ambitious for a project in Columbia County, but Hayes said Dongchun, which already operates a manufacturing plant in South Korea, will build its U.S. presence over a few years.
"They want to hire locally," Hayes noted. "They'll fly two workers over to train local workers."
Port Commissioner Chris Iverson lauded the company's business plans.
"This is a magnetic bumper manufacturer with no pollution, no noise," Iverson pointed out.
DIRED markets its bumpers as "the world's first impact relaxation device using permanent magnet and electromagnets," and touts the products as potentially life-saving devices that protect drivers and passengers in the event of sudden unintended acceleration, loss of brakes, and engine stall.
According to company marketing materials, the bumpers use magnetic force to reduce impacts and damage during a crash.
DIRED company representatives first visited Columbia County in spring to tour potential sites. They returned this week to sign the letter of intent with the port and further solidify plans for a lease.