Blue Springs: Life goes on

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Trains still come through the valley east of downtown several times a day. Locals still hold court over coffee at Gentry’s Grocery.
And, despite the emotional roller coaster of having Toyota’s opening of a manufacturing plant first look like an imminent event and then repeatedly delayed, life in Blue Springs goes on.
“All the feedback I get is that it’s going to happen,” said Jason Warren, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Tommy Morgan Inc. Realtors in Tupelo. “I think everybody’s feeling like, when it happens, that’ll be great, but in the meantime we’re going to be all right.”
An initial burst of speculation reflected the prices that went to those displaced for the Toyota plant itself, and while delays and the slowed general economy have cooled the fever, some folks are holding out for a return of high prices.
“Some of my kinpeople wanted to buy some land from us to build a house,” said Odis Mathis, a retired truck driver and a regular at Gentry’s. “When I told them the price, they got mad. They haven’t been back.”
Considering the hot speculation early on, a pontoon boat for sale along Highway 9 may be a bitter reminder. Its name? “Miss Guided.”
For Mayor David Boland, Toyota’s delays mean a holding pattern.
“Nothing’s happening right now,” he said. “We’re just like everybody else. We’re waiting for something to happen.”
A few businesses have come and gone since Toyota’s initial announcement that the world’s biggest automaker would build automobiles in Blue Springs. A café served construction workers, but when no assembly workers took their place after the plant was finished, it closed. An art shop gave way to a used clothing store before both bit the dust.
Speculation about when – and, occasionally, whether – Toyota will begin production is always near the surface.
“I’ve heard that Toyota’s supposed to be making some kind of announcement around the first of April,” said Larry Bain, a driver manager for a trucking company. “I don’t know if that’s hearsay or what.”
“Back when this was first starting, I knew a lot of people that went online and made applications,” said Perry Hamblin, a retired truck mechanic. “As far as I know, none of them have been contacted. I have heard there were some that went to Kentucky to train, but I haven’t heard any more about that, either.”
Postmaster Gloria High is cautiously optimistic about Toyota’s eventual opening – even in the face of its current safety-related recalls.
“We’re hopeful it will happen. I think when Toyota gets all this settled that’s going on with them now, they’ll pick back up,” she said. “We need those jobs, don’t we?”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.