DongChun Ltd. hopes to have magnetic bumper plant up and running in St. Helens by early 2019

A magnetic safety bumper company was given the green light Wednesday, Oct. 17 to lease space and start manufacturing products in Columbia County.

On a vote from Columbia County port commissioners, a lease agreement was approved with DongChun Ltd., a Korea-based manufacturing company, for a 14,000-square-foot commercial space on Milton Way in St. Helens.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Port commissioners Larry Ericksen, Robert Keyser and Patrick Trapp discuss matters during a board of commissioners meeting Wednesday, Oct. 17. Port commissioners approved a lease with a company that manufactures bumpers, solidifying the company's move into Columbia County.

"DongChun Ltd. manufactures a product called a drive impact relax device (DIRED), which uses permanent magnets and electromagnets to absorb the shock generated in a collision," a news release from the Port of Columbia County (recently renamed from the Port of St. Helens) states. "The bumpers can either be retrofitted or included as part of the vehicle assembly process. It's a technology that DongChun Ltd. has patented worldwide."

Port commissioners first announced talks with the company in April and a few months later, the company solidified plans to open a new plant in the county. Port officials say DongChun hopes to eventually build a new plant, but a property owned by the port in St. Helens was deemed a better fit for the company's immediate needs.

Donchun plans to manufacture and assemble its patented bumpers that use magnetic pull to minimize damage during auto crashes and increase the chance of survivability, according to the company's website.

"This patented technology will be the next phase of automobile safety standards, on the same level as the safety belt and airbag," Gyeong-Su Kim, president and CEO of DongChun, stated in the news release.

Port staff said the company hopes to occupy the St. Helens site by December.SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A prototype of a magnetic bumper manufactured by DongChun Ltd.

"We plan to have the first assembly line up and running by the first quarter of 2019," Kim stated in the release. "The St. Helens facility will be a test bed to see the potential demand for the product."

Doug Hayes, executive director of the port, said the company met with the state's employment department to discuss its hiring needs.

"They've given them their specifications, they've also specified a desire for veterans, the handicapped and elderly to be added to the pool," Hayes noted.

Port commissioners approved the lease on a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Chris Iverson absent.

"I for one am thrilled to see us being able to do this lease with our friends from South Korea," Commissioner Larry Ericksen said. "I think it's gonna be [a] fantastic first foot in the door here in Columbia County. We look forward to many years working as partners with them and seeing them grow and expand in the county."

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