By Dennis Seid
MANTACHIE – Toyota Boshoku was the first supplier to announce it would support the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant in Blue Springs more than six years ago, and it is finally nearing its promise of 500 jobs.
On Thursday, Toyota Boshoku Mississippi, or TBMS, announced a $21 million expansion that adds 180 workers to its facility near Mantachie.
The company, which makes seats, door panels and other interior trim components for Toyota Mississippi already has quietly added 150 of those jobs. The remaining 30 jobs – mostly technical and high-skilled positions – will be filled starting in January.
“Toyota Boshoku is strengthening Mississippi’s position in both the domestic and global markets by expanding its operations and adding these new jobs to increase production capacity at its Itawamba County facility,” Gov. Phil Bryant said.
The expansion was done in conjunction with the launch of the new Toyota Corolla in August, as well as work for an unnamed automaker.
By spring 2015, the company will have invested $70 million in the facility, which opened in 2011 to support TMMMS.
Employment should reach about 420 by then, officials said. The Mississippi Development Authority originally provided $9 million in site preparation, infrastructure and workforce development training, but no extra incentives were provided for the latest expansion since the original agreement called for the company to create 500 jobs.
Toyota Motor Corp. announced in February 2007 it would build the Highlander SUV at the Blue Springs plant, and Toyota Boshoku later announced it would supply seats and interior trim. In the summer of 2008, Toyota said it would instead build the Prius hybrid car. But in December of that year, the global downturn in the economy forced the automaker to delay the opening of the Blue Springs plant – originally set to open in late 2009. Finally, in June 2010, Toyota said it would open TMMMS by October 2011 – and it would build the Corolla.
The changes also forced Toyota’s suppliers to adjust their plans, and Toyota Boshoku got off to a slow start.
“It didn’t go as quickly as everyone had hoped, but everyone stuck to their commitments,” said Itawamba County Administrator Gary Franks. “They’ve been a great corporate citizen and partner, and we’re proud that they’re here.”
The expansion at the TBMS won’t add any production space to the 400,000-square-foot plant.
But it does involve vertical integration, with more work done in the Mantachie plant than before the expansion. For example, some components that were being shipped from Kentucky are now made in-house. And the polyurethane foam used for the seats had been coming from Canada. That work is now being done at TBMS.
Teruo Suzuki, Toyota Boshoku America’s president and COO, said, “We look forward to future growth and our continuous commitment to Itawamba County and the great state of Mississippi.”