Automaker says it’s not yet ready to hire

TUPELO – Job seekers must wait a little longer before applying for one of the roughly 4,000 positions needed to staff Toyota’s Blue Springs plant and its suppliers.
Although the automaker has resumed work at the facility and will start producing the Corolla in 2011, Toyota won’t take applications for several more weeks.
“In a relatively short period of time there will be an announcement about hiring the 2,000 employees to work the two shifts here,” said Gov. Haley Barbour during Toyota’s celebration Thursday at the Blue Springs site.
Barbour said that announcement would come in “the next few weeks.” But actual hiring won’t start until fall, said Toyota Mississippi’s vice president of administration, David Copenhaver.
Before the plant’s construction halted in December 2008 amid an economic downturn, the region’s WIN Job Centers were accepting applications online and in person. But that process stopped when Toyota put its project on hold.
“We’re working with the WIN centers, and very shortly we will be very public about when that system will be up and running,” said Barbara McDaniel, manager of government relations and corporate affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.
WIN stands for Workforce Investment Network and is under the state’s Department of Employment Security.
Tens of thousands of people applied for jobs at Toyota’s Blue Springs plant before the company put the plant on hold. DES spokeswoman Dianne Bell said those still wanting jobs with the automaker will probably need to reapply.
This time, an estimated 100,000 people are expected to seek jobs with the plant, said David Rumbarger, president and CEO of Tupelo’s Community Development Foundation.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr., a former Community Development Foundation chairman, said finding jobs for residents is a top priority and Toyota’s good news comes at an important time.
“The best thing about this announcement is what it would mean to families that are unemployed or underemployed,” he said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to really provide some important life-changing jobs for people in our area.”
In addition to the jobs offered by Toyota, its seven announced suppliers also will need workers. Suppliers provide parts, services and components to the main manufacturing facility.
Before the December 2008 construction halt, suppliers had planned to hire a combined 1,840 employees. Now, it’s unclear what the final number will be.
Spokesmen for two suppliers, Toyota Boshoku Mississippi and Vuteq – whose companies originally anticipated creating a combined 1,130 jobs – told the Daily Journal on Thursday that staffing now depends on new assignments from Toyota.
That’s because the companies were set to supply parts and equipment for Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid.
“The bottom line is that Toyota will source who their suppliers will be by the end of July at the latest,” said Chris Spence, president of diversity for Vuteq, which does injection molding and glass assembly.
“Once we’re sourced with ‘x’ jobs or parts, then we’ll be able to determine what our hiring needs are,” Spence said. “But until such time, frankly, your guess is as good as mine.”
Some suppliers will hire through the WIN Job Centers, others will recruit directly. Spence said Vuteq applicants should send requests to inquiry@diversityvuteq.com starting next week.
When hiring does start, Toyota officials said they’ll have some of the best workers in the world.
“Who better to build the Corolla than the people of north Mississippi,” said Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America.
Inaba compared the region’s work force to the Corolla itself, saying both possessed “strength, dependability and reliability.”

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal