Boshoku installing equipment, hiring workers

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Toyota Boshoku has hired 43 of the first 250 employees it hopes to have in place at its Itawamba County facility by the time production is under way in less than a year.
The Tier 1 automotive supplier will provide seats, door panels and sun visors to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi in Blue Springs, which will begin rolling out Corolla sedans next fall.
Announcing on Friday the restart of operations at the $46 million plant were several Toyota Boshoku officials, who joined local and state leaders, including Gov. Haley Barbour.
Shuhei Toyoda, the president of Toyota Boshoku Corp., was unable to attend the ceremony. But he said in a message relayed by senior management director Akira Furusawa, “Today, our project officially leaves hibernation stage and this is a moment to rejoice.”
Equipment has been ordered and will be installed this month in the 404,000-square-foot facility.
Masaki Katsuragi, CEO of Toyota Boshoku America, said, “We are ready to move forward and get to work in Mississippi. We appreciate the leadership of Gov. Barbour and the patience of the community in Itawamba County. We have begun and will continue to fulfill our promise to invest in the community and create new jobs in the region,”
The plant, off the Fawn Grove exit on U.S. Highway 78 in Itawamba County, is officially named Toyota Boshoku Mississippi, or TBMS.
Friday’s announcement comes nearly two years after Toyota Motor Corp. said it was delaying the opening of the Blue Springs plant because of global economic conditions and falling vehicle demand.
Boshoku’s restart follows the recent announcements by other suppliers, including Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi in Baldwyn and Diversity Vuteq in New Albany, that they are accepting applications.
TBMS originally said it would hire 500 workers for the plant, but that was when Toyota Mississippi was going to build the Highlander sport utility vehicle.
That was a completely new model that also required more parts, officials said. The current 10th-generation Corolla will be built through 2012, when the next-generation Corolla will be introduced.
“I think when they expand they’ll eventually have more than 500 people working here,” Barbour said with confidence, explaining that the 2013 model-year Corolla will require more new parts and more employees.
“I think the suppliers would prefer not to have to build a building and install equipment for parts that will only have to be changed again in about a year,” he said. “So Toyota will be getting parts for this-generation Corolla from some of its older locations elsewhere until the next model is built in Blue Springs.”
Other Tier 1 suppliers, as well as smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers, are waiting in the wings, Barbour hinted.
“There are a number of them that are going to wait until just before the model year changes,” he said, without revealing who they were or how many there were.
Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, confirmed that he and MDA staff members were in Japan recently to meet with suppliers.
“We wanted to better understand our role in the supply-chain process and to make sure we’re doing the things we need to be doing like site-readying and training preparation,” he said.
Toyota Mississippi in Blue Springs expects to have about 1,000 workers initially and 2,000 once it is fully operational. It has hired about 180 so far.
Suppliers are expected to employ another 1,500 to 2,000 people.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.