Leehan named manufacturer of the year

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

VALLEY — Leehan America, the first Kia supplier to locate in Chambers County, is the county’s 2018 Manufacturer of the Year. The announcement was made during the noon hour at Valley Community Center and was the highlight event of the Chambers County Development Authority’s annual industry appreciation luncheon.

Formerly known as Daeki America, LLC, Leehan was established in the Chambers County Industrial Park in 2007. A tier one supplier, Leehan has a total of 160 employees. The company manufactures air cleaners, canisters, fuel filters and air elements for for both KMMG in West Point and HMMA in Montgomery.

“We targeted them after Kia announced they were coming to West Point,” CCDA Executive Director Valerie Gray said. “They have made their mark in Chambers County, and we are extremely grateful they are here.”

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The company’s groundbreaking took place on April 22, 2008. Daeki (now Leehan) was the second company to come to the industrial park, following the lead of Great Lakes Metal Stamping. Other plants in the park include Ajin USA, Wooshin, Dandong-Hi-Lex and Hantal. The industrial park employs well over 1,000 people.

Gray noted that Daeki made an investment of $7.4 million to open the plant and Leehan has followed that up with three expansions that totaled just under $20 million.

“They have invested $26 million here,” she said. “The company employs 160 people, 93 of whom work full time.”

The keynote speaker for the day, former University of Alabama and NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle, talked about growing up with the dream of playing pro football, realizing that dream and later discovering that God’s plan for him was to make a difference in children’s lives at the Big Oak Ranch near Gadsden. In his younger years, football was his life. “When God is not number one on your list, he’s not on that list,” he said.

Croyle joked that his body wasn’t designed to play football and that he experienced all kinds of injuries during his playing career. “I guess I was stupid enough to keep getting back up after I’d been hit hard,” he said.

He said that lots of people he meets asks him what it was like to play for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama, but he never actually played for Saban.

“I was recruited out of high school by Mike DuBose, played for Dennis Franchone, practiced for Mike Price and finished by career under Mike Shula,” he said. He talked about meeting his wife at Children’s Hospital. “She was from Jackson, Mississippi and knew nothing about football,” he said. “She was more into ballet.”

Croyle said that football is in his past and that God is No. 1 in his life now. He learned that one night late in his career.

“It must have been past 9 p.m. and I was reading my playbook,” he said. “I happened to look up and see that my wife was reading from her Bible. That got my attention. I realized she had been doing that for a long time, and I hadn’t noticed. I closed my playbook and started reading my Bible, too.”

Croyle said that it was time for him to step out of the boat like Peter did and have a life led by faith. Big Oak Ranch is an ideal place to do that.

“We have 21 homes, 11 for boys and 10 for girls,” he said. “Each house is led by a godly couple.”