Hyundai to open $20M research studio at Bozeman’s Montana State University

Stephanie Gray, Dean of Gallatin College; Abraham Kim, Executive Director of the Council of Korean Americans; Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce; John Robb, CEO of Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.; Gov. Greg Gianforte; John Suh, Founding Director of New Horizons Studio, Hyundai Motor Group; Scott Osterman, Director of the Department of Commerce; Jason Carter, VP of Economic Development Montana State University; Mark Sharpe, Director of Innovation Campus, MSU; Dick Harte, Board Chair of Innovation Campus, MSU

The Hyundai Motor Group announced on Thursday that it will be opening its new research and development headquarters in Bozeman.

The New Horizons Studio will be located at Montana State University and represents a $20 million investment by Hyundai as well as 50 new jobs over a five-year period. The studio will be located at MSU’s Innovation Campus and is estimated to be 12,000 to 15,000 square feet.

The Bozeman location is the third New Horizon Studio the company has opened across the country with its main office in Silicon Valley and another research and development office in Boston.

The studio’s focus is on researching the development of “ultimate mobility vehicles” that can “traverse off-road terrains with unprecedented mobility, through a combination of robotics and wheeled locomotion technology,” according to the company’s website.

John Suh, head of New Horizons Studio and vice president for Hyundai Motor Group, said the vehicles being researched could be used for everything from managing rangelands to exploring extra-terrestrial terrain.

“The mission of New Horizon Studio is to develop a new type of vehicle for future customers who want or need to travel over terrains that are challenging or difficult for conventional vehicles,” he said. “What makes it new is a combination of robotics and car design, and this results in vehicles of unprecedented mobility … that’s why they call them ultimate mobility vehicles.”

By operating on the MSU campus, Hyundai will have the ability to work closely with undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and professors on campus, something Jason Carter, MSU vice president of research, economic development and graduate education, said he is excited about.

“Here at Montana State, we have world-class faculty, world-class researchers, and world-class students. These are hardworking and innovative and itching individuals ready to partner with industry partners on the most challenging issues of our time,” he said.

Gov. Greg Gianforte, who joined Suh and other stakeholders at MSU to welcome Hyundai to Montana at a press conference at the campus Thursday morning, said the company coming to Montana fits in with his plan to bring more business to the state.

“Available workforce is key to business growth. And that’s why the state and our university system are working with individual companies and key industries to build employer and industry-specific workforce pipelines. And I’m thrilled that this lab will be an epicenter for public-private partnerships to help achieve those goals,” said Gianforte, a Republican. “As we welcome Hyundai’s job-creating facility to Montana, know that we’re committed to continuing to foster an environment where businesses and our people can thrive and grow and prosper.”

Growth is putting pressure on housing affordability across Montana, and recent survey results note housing is a significant concern in the state. In Bozeman, the median cost of a single family residence is $905,000 and rising, and a city official recently told legislators businesses were having trouble attracting and retaining talent.

At the event Thursday, Montana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd O’Hair echoed Gianforte’s message of the Hyundai deal as a win for the state.

“I think it’s important that you recognize the significance of this announcement to the state of Montana. Hyundai is a respected global company with a recognizable brand name and has chosen Bozeman, Montana, for its next venture,” he said. “We should not underestimate the power that presents and the opportunity that presents to Montana and particularly to Bozeman.”

At the press conference, Gianforte touted the multiple tax initiatives his administration has introduced as a way to grow business in Montana, but Suh said the decision to come to Montana was not based on any financial breaks, but rather, the overall attitude of all the stakeholders.

“Collaboration between the state government, local government, Montana State University and this community is all moving in concert, and moving collaboratively … and in the long run I think that is the most important thing,” Suh said.